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Peacock battles back from injury

Eager to start final collegiate swim season

August 6, 2013
By PETE SISK - Special to the Breeze , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Stephanie Peacock has had her share of ups and downs in the recent past. Right now she's looking to build on her latest success.

The Cape Coral resident won a gold and a silver medal in swimming at last month's World University Games in Kazan, Russia. Her time in the 1,500 meters wasn't her career best, but the 16:04.44 was still a World University Games record for the event.

For the Bishop Verot High School graduate, it was a great comeback from a concussion and resulting illness that caused her to miss most of her junior swim season at the University of North Carolina.

"It was really nice to finally see some success after those months of not being able to swim," Peacock said.

Peacock had just broken her own NCAA record in the 1,650-yard freestyle and added an NCAA mark 9:28.92 in the 1,000 free at the Ohio State Invitational in early December. Later that month she had the concussion.

Peacock said she was practicing the backstroke on her own when she misjudged the distance to the wall of the pool and struck her head. For some time, doctors were unable to diagnose the medical problem that followed the concussion. As a result she missed most of the season and was unable to defend her NCAA title in the 1,650 that she had won as a sophomore.

Finally, it was determined that Peacock's problem was causing her to swallow air instead of breathing normally, giving her both pain from a distended stomach and not getting enough air into her lungs to swim in the demanding distance events.

"It was one of those things that I really didn't care what the diagnosis was going to be as long as it was something that they could figure out," Peacock said. "I was out for about seven or eight weeks. It set me back a lot.

"I had so much support from my family. My family's all back here in Florida so my parents were wishing they could be there with me through all of it, all the tests I had to go through. They called me every day, asking how I was feeling.

"My coach there (UNC's Rich DeSelm) was so supportive. He never made me feel guilty once for not being able to swim, missing all these important meets," Peacock said. "I had the support of my team, my coach back here (Mac Kennedy) was always calling, so I felt like I always had so much support."

She's now on medication to help regulate her breathing. Based on her results in Russia, it's really paying off.

"I probably had a solid two and a half, three months of conditioning before the Russian meet," Peacock said. "I went to a few meets before Russia just to see where I was at. Each meet that I swam I got faster and faster. I still don't feel that I was at my peak in Russia, which makes me happy because I know that I can go faster.

"To be able to win in Russia was a huge confidence booster. It was nice to see that I could do that after minimal training."

Peacock has known the highs and lows of competitive swimming before. She didn't do well enough in the 400 and 800 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials to make it to the 2012 London Olympics, then set records in last summer's U.S. Open. Her 8:24.30 in the 800 broke a 25-year-old record set by former Olympic star Janet Evans. She also won gold at the U.S. Open.

It wasn't the first time Peacock broke one of Evans' marks. Evans held the record in the 1,650 for 22 years before Peacock bettered her time at the 2012 NCAA Championships. Then Peacock broke her own record in December at Ohio State.

It wasn't her first trip to the World University Games. Peacock captured a bronze medal in the 400 meters at the 2011 WUG in China.

The NCAA uses yard distances in its meets as opposed to the metric distances used in international competition. The 1,650-yard freestyle is comparable to the 1,500 meters, the 1,000-yard freestyle comparable to the 800 meters.

The Olympic Games have not offered the 1,500 meters as an event for women, although it is possible it could be added for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Either way, Rio is a ways off. Closer on the horizon is Peacock's return to Chapel Hill, N.C., for her senior season with the Tar Heels.

"Yeah, Rio in the long run, but I like taking things one step a time," Peacock said. "So right now I'm looking forward to college season, getting the training that I need . Just stay focused and have a great last conference and NCAA meet. Then after that go into the summer and all that stuff.

"It was really tough not to be able to go to conference and the NCAA with my team (this past season). I'm really looking forward to this year. It's my last year. I'm going to make the best out of it. I'm really excited."

Shortly after she gets back to North Carolina on Aug. 17 the team will begin conditioning and strength training on dry land for a couple of weeks before getting back in the pool. It'll take about a month for the team to be up to speed in the water.

Not that that's an issue for Peacock. She has continued training at home this summer after her return from Russia.

"I'm excited to see what can happen this year and in the coming years when I have more training behind me," Peacock said.

She knows how to deal with frustration. She's had her share.

"It makes me really excited to get back and train. You'll have your ups and downs, and you just have to work through it," she said.



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