The metamorphosis of Hugo González

European Champion in the 200-meter swimming event, Hugo González de Oliveira is preparing to swim the 100 butterfly this weekend in Budapest. At 22, the best swimmer in Spain defines his Tokyo Games program by altering the schemes that marked the beginning of his career. That yesterday he erased himself from the 200 back to concentrate on the 100 butterfly – proof that he hardly played as a juvenile – is a sign of metamorphosis. Against his training in the midfield, he wants to adapt his Olympic calendar to prioritize events that demand more power: the 100 backstroke, the 100 butterfly, and the 200 styles.

The almost three years of experience in the United States have changed the vision that Hugo González had of himself and of competitive swimming. When, after passing through Auburn, he joined the team at the University of California at Berkeley in 2019, he did so as a backstop player with a predilection for the 200-meter tests. This is how the technicians of the Spanish federation had labeled him since the Rio Games cycle. This is how he had competed in the 2017 Indianapolis Junior World Cup, where he became the most awarded Spanish swimmer in history in this category with two golds. in 100 and 200 back and one in 400 styles.

Enrolled in a degree in computer science and linguistics, his admission to the university coincided with a time of maximum pressure in the swim team led by David Durden. Accustomed to the iron schemes of national federative swimming, he thought that there they would ask him to do the same thing he had been doing in recent years: focus on his back, swim 10 kilometers a day or more in long sessions aimed at strengthening endurance, and deepen your specialization. He was perplexed when before a test at the Pacific University Conference the technicians told him that, since there were good espaldistas in the team and there were no bracistas, it would be best for him to swim the breaststroke. If there is a style in the antipodes of the back and the crawl, that is the breaststroke. The style that was worst given to Hugo González.

Engrossed in the collectivist climate that prevails in American college swimming, the boy accepted the challenge. With great success, to his surprise. Not only did he set the Pacific 12 Universities Conference rally record in the 400-yard stroke event. He swam the 200-yard breaststroke — the traditional unit of measurement in US college competitions — in 1 minute 51.63 seconds and set the fourth fastest time in the country.

Thanks to his versatility and ambition, Hugo González became a key part of the team that he helped raise to the top. After five years of dominance by the Texas Longhorns in the NCAA finals, the California online swim team prevailed in 2020 and 2021.

For years, in the coaching environment of the Spanish federative sphere, the notion spread that the universities of the United States were a crusher of European talent. Testing in 25-yard pools was said to have nothing to do with Olympic-class competitions in 50-meter pools and that the specific needs of college tournaments conspired with Olympic readiness. There were technicians who tried to persuade Hugo González not to train in the United States. But he went his own way and is delighted. The metamorphosis strengthened him.

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