Pittsfield swimmer is world champion
When he's not busy doing post-production work, adding visual effects to television shows like Game of Thrones, or in movies such as the Fast and Furious series, Pittsfield resident Craig Crawford, 44, is competing as a world-class swimmer.
Last Sunday, Crawford took home a world championship in the 200-meter individual medley in the 40- to 44-year-old age group at the World Masters Swimming Championships in Montreal. He finished with a time of 2 minutes, 19.35 seconds. Christian Frick finished second with a time of 2:21.16
The world championship is the culmination of intense training Crawford put in with members of the Pittsfield YMCA Masters Swim Club.
"[It took] months of swimming, then a two-week taper prior to the games, Crawford's coach Daniel Rogacki said. "Reducing yardage, and increasing speed while really perfecting his technique."
Rogacki and Crawford co-coach the team together after Rogacki re-started it four years ago. The team had seven members compete in the world championships. There were 6,000 swimmers in Montreal representing 97 countries. The swimmers ranged ages 25 to 94.
While Crawford put in the necessary work to be successful, he did have a small disadvantage in training compared to his international counterparts. The lap length of the pool at the YMCA is half the size (25 meters) of a regulation Olympic-size pool (50 meters).
The native of Canada admits that swimming longer laps increases endurance, but he made up for the shorter distance by training with his tri-athlete friends, Mark Snowise and Steve Foley, along with teammate Michael Carter.
"They train in distance and it helped my fitness level," he said. "I'll swim 2,000 meters while training, but they push me to 3,500 meters."
The training regimen led to Crawford a No.1 seed in the IM, a second seed in the 50-meter breaststroke and first in the 200-meter breast heading into the games. Despite his high seeds, he said has was not sure what to expect once the games began.
"I have confidence in what I could do, but I was entering a competition with international swimmers," he said "All I could do is swim my best race, hope for a good outcome and see what I could I do."
"I just told him to swim his own race and good luck," Rogacki said. "He's a veteran. He knows what he's doing. You don't get to this kind of competition too often."
Despite some initial nerves, Crawford more than held his own in Montreal. The 200 IM was the first event he competed in and he won the world title. He placed fifth in the 50 breast with a time of 31.04, less than two seconds behind first-place finisher Andriy Kulyk (29.46).
In the 200 breast, Crawford narrowly missed a world title, finishing second in 2:32.17. Andre Wrasse won with a time of 2:32.13. The 50 and the 200 breast times were Canadian records for his age group.
"I'm really happy with that result," Crawford said. "I give a lot of credit to Dan. He's such a great guy and definitely motivates every one to train. He's an integral part of my success."
He added that, his wife Tracy, was key in helping him balance his training schedule, work and raising their two young children.
Crawford plans to compete in the 2017 games in Guadalajara, Mexico. He said the friendships he made with the fellow swimmers added to the overall experience.
"It's such an exciting event... . A neat community to have athletes come from around the world," he said. "I've got four new friends, two from Germany, one from England and a guy from Russia."
Other members of the Pittsfield YMCA Masters Swim Club that competed were Duncan Ryan Mann, 61, Michael Carter, 47, Steve Kolis, 59, Cynthia Gardner, 63, Mary Dickson, 62, Joanna Florio-Jefferys, 56 and Suzanne Towne 49.
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