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Ray Cave
August 01, 1960
—and then go on swimming. With this credo, Mike Troy has become the best butterflyer in the world and a sure bet for Rome
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August 01, 1960

Swim! Swim Till It Hurts

—and then go on swimming. With this credo, Mike Troy has become the best butterflyer in the world and a sure bet for Rome

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Purposeful and fleet as a herd of migrating sea lions, the finest swimmers ever to represent the U.S. will converge next week on Detroit's Brennan Pools to race for positions on the U.S. Olympic team. A few of them will be aging medal winners from the 1956 Olympics: Frank McKinney, George Breen, Carin Cone. But the great strength, and possibly all of the 1960 team, is going to come from the group of youngsters which has torn swimming's record book to shreds in recent weeks.

In all this splash of newcomers, the one most likely to win an event at Detroit and go on to beat the strong Japanese and Australian swimmers at Rome is a handsome, gregarious, onetime fat boy from the University of Indiana named Michael Francis Troy.

Mike Troy eats six scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and a quart of milk for breakfast, but he isn't fat any more. He is burning every calorie in the effort to retain his recognized status as the best butterfly swimmer in the world. Troy has the shoulders of a football tackle, which he used to be. With them he powers the violent overhead thrashing that is the mark of the butterfly, that variation of the breaststroke in which the arms are brought forward out of the water and the legs kick vertically, like a dolphin's tail. The rest of his 6-foot 1�-inch, 175-pound frame tapers down from these shoulders as if streamlined by a marine engineer.

He also has what his coach, Indiana's James (Doc) Counsilman, calls "a rare intuitive feel for the water; an instinctive reaction to push back when the pressure of water is felt on the hands." At the appropriate time, Troy can turn his genial, smiling-Irishman's disposition into one of nervous determination, and he has an almost masochistic eagerness to endure against fatigue and even pain in competition.

With this combination of ability and personality, Troy has broken five American and world records in the past four months. None of his victories or records match in importance his Olympic trial race next week. There is only one Olympic butterfly event, the 200-meter, and only two Americans can qualify. Troy has worked for two self-sacrificing years to be one of them.

The locale of this summer's preparation has been the 50-year-old Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house near the Indiana campus at Bloomington. This also happens to be Troy's fraternity. The house has been rented for eight weeks to 20 swimmers who are there for special training under Counsilman.

Some are members of the IU swimming team, one of the finest in the country. These include 1956 Olympian McKinney, whose backstroke eminence is being challenged by a whole poolful of his juniors. (One is an 18-year-old future IU swimmer named Tom Stock, who is also training with Counsilman.) Another Indianan is Alan Somers, holder of two American freestyle records. Swimming each day in friendly competition with Somers is Breen, who is hoping to improve his 1956 bronze medal performance. They are the best U.S. distance free-stylers. They will be joined at Detroit by Lieut. (JG) Jeff Farrell, the U.S.'s best freestyle sprinter. Two of the country's better breaststroke swimmers, Ken Nakasone and Chet Jastremski, are also in Counsilman's crew.

Mike Troy knows that a Californian named Lance Larson or any one of half a dozen others can beat him if he makes one false stroke. Thus tension runs high at the Phi Kappa Psi house as the trials approach. Troy's room, a cluttered, third-floor cubicle, has its symbols of the tension as well as the usual memorabilia of a college junior. Pinned to a bulletin board are a photograph of a pretty girl in a bathing suit, stubs from the Indianapolis "500," phone numbers, addresses and even a dangling nylon stocking.

But all this is mere camouflage on what might be called the Wall of Troy. What really matters to him are the battle insignia: a sign reading "The Olympic Games begin August 25. Be there"; a list showing the best times of the world's five fastest butterflyers; a chart of his own best times; and above everything on the board, in garish, black letters a foot high, the word: PAIN. "That reminds me to swim until it hurts," Troy says, "and then swim some more."

Doc Counsilman gives Troy and his training mates plenty of opportunity to test such a credo. He has them on a regimen that would demoralize a monk. They awake each morning at 6 a.m. to the clanging of a bell which the souvenir-hunting Indiana team stole from Yale. "You want to train, but you dread that morning workout," says Troy. "I lie in bed and I hope that somehow they'll forget me. They never do. Lots of guys sleep in swimsuits so they can stay in bed longer. Sometimes they go three days without taking them off."

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