With 23 gold, three silver and two bronze medals, Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. Back in the 2000 Sydney Summer Games, however, Phelps was known only as the youngest member of the U.S. relay team under swim captain Josh Davis.
Davis, a five-time Olympic medalist and nine-time U.S. champion, brings his talents to Oklahoma Christian University this fall as the head coach for the new intercollegiate men and women’s swimming program.
“Racing in the Olympics was a lot of fun, yet at the same time a lot of pressure,” Davis said. “However, it was all those years of hard work that prepared me for that moment. So, at OC, we want to prepare with a lot of hard work so whatever pressure comes about in our swimming or in our lives, we are better prepared for it.”
Oklahoma Christian is one of three universities in Oklahoma offering intercollegiate swimming. The team will train during the 2016-17 year and begin competing in the fall of 2017.
“Of course, everyone watches the Olympics and thinks ‘wow,’ but he actually knows all those people,” Oklahoma Christian Sports Information Director Murray Evans said. “This is as big-time a hire as we could possibly have. In a few years, I could see OC swimmers being in the Olympics.”
Davis was the only man from any nation to win three gold medals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, taking part in the 4×100-meter freestyle, 4×200-meter freestyle and 4×100 medley relay teams. He also served as the U.S. flag bearer at the opening ceremonies for the 1995 World Olympic Games.
In addition, Davis won the 200-meter freestyle every year from 1996 to 2002,and claimed titles in the 400-meter freestyle and 200-meter backstroke.
“When I read the article about OC hiring Coach Davis and starting a team, I couldn’t call the athletic department fast enough,” sophomore Tess Brunkhardt said. “I left a message asking what I needed to do to join.”
Brunkhardt and the Oklahoma Christian team will train in the Payne Athletic Center pool and use the Edmond YMCA Recreation and Aquatic Center for larger competitions. Its first conference meet is set for Feb. 2018.
“My Olympic coach’s goal was always, ‘let’s get better, let’s make progress over the next four years,’” Davis said. “So, that’s my main goal at OC. Let’s have each swimmer make progress each of their four years here. Our goal is to be competitive in conference as soon as possible and ultimately have people qualifying for the DII nationals in three years.”
The addition of swimming brings Oklahoma Christian’s number of varsity sports to 16. The university also offers men and women’s soccer; men and women’s cross country; men and women’s basketball; men and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field; men and women’s golf; baseball and softball.
“Swimming will change your life,” Brunkhardt said. “It’s hard, it’s exhausting, but it builds you up in every aspect of your life. The swim team has a great year ahead of them and I am glad I get to be a part of it.”