The Need for Speed

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Vladimir Morozov lives in a sprinter's world broken up not into minutes and hours, but shaved into fractions of a second.

"You have to do everything fast.  You have to think fast," said the freshman swimming prodigy.

Morozov, Vladimir   2011 da.jpgThe Russian torpedo will swim the 50- and 100-yard free for USC at this weekend's NCAA championships in Minneapolis.  The sprints will last approximately 20 and 40 seconds respectively, but first place glory and runner-up agony can be decided by a hundredth of a second. 

"Any mistake you make, you lose .1, which is pretty significant," said Morozov, who lost Pac-10's because he touched the wall with his arm bent instead of fully extended.

Vlad's craving for speed starts weeks before a race.  He'll change his diet, hydrate and watch past races.

He trains his body to act in explosive bursts.  He works on controlling his breathing.  And, he gets the adrenaline coursing through his veins by visualizing his competition. 

He is a finely tuned speed machine, so that when he steps up on the block, "You can't think about anything.  The mind goes blank."

The clock starts on the gun, which means the tenths of a second are counted from a swimmer's first reaction.

"It's kind of a given.  Either you have it or you don't," he said about a fast start.  "I have a faster reaction than most of the guys because I'm smaller."

And then he hits the water...

"The muscle memory is taking over," he describes.  "The only thing I'm thinking about is how I can go faster."

"I don't take a breath.  Don't lift my head.  I just go as fast as I can."

Morozov pulls at the water, while maintaining stroke discipline.   He knows the wall is coming, but he cannot see it. 

He has to make the most important decision of the race acting on instinct, while working in the dark.    

"Extend into the wall or take an extra stroke.  You kind of have to think about that," he admitted.  "You glide into the wall and hope that it's there."

Morozov is the USC record-holder at both distances, but he struggles explaining the technical difference between a great sprinter and a good one.

Instead, he favors the inner game of swimming.

"Competitiveness.  It just depends what kind of a sportsman you are."
(Photos by Dan Avila)
Morozov at block 2011 da.jpg

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