Silvers medal at top meets

Emily Silver sizes up the pool before the 2003 state championships at the King County Aquatic Center. Silver and her older sister Helen have gone on to star with the prestigious Cal-Berkeley program. - Review file photo
Emily Silver sizes up the pool before the 2003 state championships at the King County Aquatic Center. Silver and her older sister Helen have gone on to star with the prestigious Cal-Berkeley program.
— image credit: Review file photo

Helen wins a national title in backstroke; Emily has a solid relay.

The Silver sisters are living up to their name.

Former Bainbridge High School swimmers and state champions Emily, 19, and Helen, 21 added to their impressive resumes with medals in two championship meets this summer.

Emily was part of the U.S. National 4x100 relay team that placed third at the ninth annual FINA World Championships July 24-31 at Parc-Jean Drapeau on Saint Helen’s Island in Montreal, Canada.

At the ConocoPhillips U.S. Summer National Championships in Irvine, Calif., a week later, Helen won her first national title in the 100 backstroke. She added a bronze in the 200 backstroke and teamed with Emily to finish second in the 400 medley relay.

Emily was also on the 400 and 800 relay teams that finished first, and she placed fifth in the 100 freestyle.

Their success helped their team, California Aquatics, finish second to Longhorn Aquatics after finishing ninth at the championships last year.

Emily, who made the U.S. team thanks to the personal best she set in a sixth-place finish in the 100 freestyle at the U.S. World Championshp Trials in Indianapolis last April, said the trip was “a really good learning experience.”

“It’s hard for people to understand how hard this is to make this team,” she said. “To be able to go and compete at this one relay was so rewarding. Making the World team was something that I’ve been working for ever since I was young.”

She did a bit of shopping and sightseeing when the team had some free time, even having lunch at a cafe in Old Montreal.

“It was really hot and humid, but it was really beautiful,” Emily said. “The venue was actually on an island right out of Montreal and you would take the bridge or the Metro which goes underwater, which took you right to the venue.”

Helen said her success at Nationals was timing, as her own swimming was peaking by the time the event came around.

“I was swimming as fast as people in the World Champion­ships, so going into the meet I had a lot of confidence in what I could do,” she said.

But she felt off on the first day, and lost out on second place in the 200 backstroke by a few seconds, to a 15 year old. By Sunday, she felt like herself, and came in first in the 100 back with a time of 1:03.62.

“I was seeded third going into the finals, and I felt like I got this close once, I don’t want to lose it again,” she said. “Going into it I was like, ‘No one is going to beat me. I’m not going to let anyone beat me.’”

The Silvers are looking forward to the upcoming season at the University of California-Berkeley.

Helen, a senior and Emily, a sophomore, are excited about their team’s chances after three straight top 10 finishes at the NCAA Champion­ship meet.

They lost Olympic gold medalist Natalie Coughlin to graduation, but welcome a promising freshman class, including Jessica Hardy who broke the world record in the 100 breaststroke semifinal at the World Champion­ships with a time of 1:06.20.

Emily said one of the highlights was watching Hardy make history in Montreal.

“It was amazing,” she said. “I had goosebumps, I started crying. It was so exciting to be in the stands and be part of (the) USA and see her go and break the record, to look at the board and be completely shocked by this.”

“We have a really exciting freshman class,” Helen said. “I’ve been here three years, and I really value this team and I value where it’s going. I have one more year and I want to leave a legacy and just be able to say I helped shape this team.”

The two roommates, training partners and best friends want to add some more accomplishments before Helen graduates.

Is the Olympic team in their future?

“I’m going to keep swimming until I’m done with school,” said Emily, who is planning on trying out for the 2008 Olympics in Bejing when she graduates. “I know I want to travel when I’m done with school because you can’t just take a year off with swimming to study in Europe.

“You just keep swimming until it’s over,” she continued. “I think you have to decide when you want to stop, so that could be anytime in your life. It’s really up to what a person wants to do.”

“It’s funny, because I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with swimming,” said Helen, who will graduate with degrees in art and art practice next May and continue to train with the team in hopes of making next year’s Nationals.

“I thought about going for the 2008 Olympics, but I don’t know. It’s all up in the air. I’m just focusing on this year. (But) I’m sure next March after NCAAs, I might feel differently.”

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