Olympic gold medalist brings new life to local swim team (USA)
With her bright purple hair, high-fives, and big smile, Rhi Jeffrey may not look like your typical swim coach. But the woman who won Olympic Gold in the 4×200 Freestyle Relay at the 2004 Olympics has been coaching swimming for more than 10 years.
Last April, Jeffrey brought her expertise and passion to Portsmouth when she took over Cannonball Swim Club. Under her leadership, the team — with members from southern Maine, Portsmouth, North Hampton, Hampton, Stratham, Brentwood and Exeter — has risen to new heights.
The 2017–18 winter season recently came to a close at the TSSA Championship meet. CSC swimmers established five new meet records — a quarter of all new records over the weekend — and, despite being the second smallest team competing at UNH’s Swasey pool, finished fifth overall.
Three members of the team — Sophia Dmytruk (12), Harper Levitsky (8) and Kenzie Patch (14) — achieved maximum points. The team had 18 first-place finishers and came second in the “average points per swimmer” calculator (they were beaten by Dover’s SSA by just 0.26).
In the 12 months since Jeffrey took over, CSC has won all of its meets and seen more than 12 percent of the team qualify for the New England Age Group competitions (swimming’s Junior Olympics). Patch and Dmytruk will be swam at the Eastern Zone SC Championships in Webster, N.Y. (a competition open to just the top 2-3 swimmers in each event from the New England area). Patch is also the team’s first New England Seniors Championship Qualifier.
So what has turned the fortunes of this little team?
The kids know the answer: Jeffrey and her fellow coaches, Kirsty Nichols and DJ Poulin.
As one 10-year-old team member says: “They’re super hot on technique and stamina, but they make it fun. And they really care about us.”
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