Aug. 10, 2004
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
With less than a week to the first day of competition at the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, this year’s competition in the pool will definitely have a Garnet and Gold flavor to it as four current and former Florida State University swimmers will be competing for their respective countries.
Sporting the Seminole symbol will be current athletes Chris Vythoulkas (Nassau, Bahamas) and Golda Marcus (Coral Springs, Fla.), while recent graduate Wickus Nienaber will join Stephen Parry on the list of FSU alums. A native of Coral Springs, Marcus will swim for her native El Salvador, while Nienaber will carry the flag for Swaziland and Parry is a member of the Great Britain contingency.
“I’m really excited to be going to the Games. I’m proud to be representing my country and I’m really looking forward to the experience more than anything else,” Vythoulkas said. “This just proves that all the training has paid off. It’s going to be pretty cool to see all the big names swim and see the records fall. It’s just going to be a great experience and that’s what’s exciting for me.”
Also making the trip to Athens to serve as a coach for the Swaziland team will be Florida State head coach Neil Harper. This will be Harper’s fourth Olympics as a competitor and coach. As a member of the Great Britain squad, he competed in 1984 and 1988 then came back in 2000 as one of former Seminole Brendon Dedekind’s coaches for the South African team.
Athens will be the second Games in a row for Nienaber following his inaugural trip to Sydney in 2000. The 2004 Atlantic Coast Conference champion in the 100-yard breaststroke, Nienaber will be competing in the 100-meter version of the event, which is scheduled for the first day of competition on August 14.
Olympic rookies Vythoulkas and Marcus can find some comfort in a familiar face when they take to the water at the Olympic Aquatic Centre as the duo will swim their events on the same day. Vythoulkas participates in the 100-meter backstroke the same day (August 15), that Marcus swims the 400-meter freestyle. Four days later Vythoulkas hits the water in the 100-meter butterfly while Marcus races in the 800-meter freestyle.
“It has definitely started to sink in that I’m going to be swimming at the Olympics, but I’m just trying to think of it as another race,” Marcus said. “I’m trying to keep everything in prospective, because if I think about it too much that’s when I get more nervous.”
The Seminole with the best chance to pick up some hardware is Parry. A veteran of international competition, he took sixth in the 200-meter butterfly at the 2000 Games in Sydney. Ranked in the top 10 in the world in the event, he placed fourth at last year’s World Championships in the 200 fly. Prelims of the event are scheduled for August 16 with the finals the following day.
“I’m doing my job with Wickus, Chris and Golda as long as I can keep them light hearted and in a good mood,” Harper said. “If I’m there and I’m stressed out and feeling the pressure, it’s only going to make things worse for them. I want them to learn from my experiences so they can enjoy everything and make the most of their opportunity. I’m going to be very active with Wickus, Chris and Golda, but I will let Steve come to me. He learned a lot of things at Florida State so FSU and I are a safe haven for him. I’m there to reassure him and tell him the things that will help him.”
Seven current and former Florida State student-athletes will be participating in the games. Opening ceremonies for the 31st Olympic Games are Friday, August 13, with the majority of the competition beginning the following day. The competition runs through August 29.