Hawkeye Distance swimmer Divan feeling just divine


Nick Divan embraces pain, and why shouldn’t he? The Iowa junior is a distance swimmer, and pain is listed in bold on the distance swimming job description.

Divan has arguably put himself through even more pain than a typical distance swimmer would because of an unconscious action he developed as a 4 year old.

His stroke.

A small twitch in his life-long freestyle stroke slowly caused a calcium growth to develop in his left shoulder over the years. In June 2007 — after his sophomore season at Iowa — the pain finally warranted medical attention, requiring arthroscopic surgery to remove the calcium deposit from his acromioclavicular joint.

Doctors told Divan it would be six to eight weeks before he could go back to swimming of any kind. In a few months, he started to feel his shoulder approach pre-surgery form. But the pain was immense. He kept in mind what his club coach Bill Rose always said to his club team back home in Mission Viejo, Calif.

“Get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Divan headed back to Iowa City to work out with teammates, although he had to sit out the fall season while continuing to rehabilitate his shoulder. Before long, the pain in his shoulder was barely noticeable. As doctors predicted, he was stronger than before.

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He decided to use his redshirt to take a semester off from school in the spring of 2008 and headed home to train with his club team in preparation for the U.S. Olympic Trials. Divan spent a few weeks at home tweaking his stroke with Rose to prevent shoulder damage in the future before heading on with the club on a series of training trips.

First, they headed to a renowned training center called La Loma in San Luis Petosi, two hours outside Mexico City.

“The training facility was amazing. The living conditions were not,” Divan said. “We all thought our beds were going to collapse, and one guy’s did. But we got comfortable being uncomfortable.”

The high-altitude training continued throughout most of January, and the club — the Mission Viejo Natadors — headed home for another month of training in preparation for workouts in Colorado Springs at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. In March, the group of eight distance swimmers from Mission Viejo spent 21 days in Colorado Springs, with Rose dictating intense daily practices. Every passing day brought Divan closer to his goal of competing in the Olympic trials.

In June 2008, Divan arrived at the trials in Omaha’s Qwest Center and was admittedly blown away.
“The Qwest Center was ridiculous,” Divan said. “The pool was like a drug. You got in and you couldn’t not swim fast.”

Divan was joined by several Iowa teammates in Omaha, including sophomore captain Conor Dwyer. Dwyer has built on this summer’s momentum to put together a stellar year, being named Big Ten Swimmer of the Week twice.

“All of us who went to the trials learned we can’t be intimidated in these big meets. Everyone got there the same way,” Dwyer said. “It helped mostly that everyone there swims at such a high level. It’s just great competition.”

At any level, Divan is a distance swimmer — he knew there would be pain at the Olympic Trials. That point was driven home just minutes before Divan’s first and only swim of the week.

He was in the second heat of the mile preliminaries and winced when he heard the announcer tell the crowd midway through the first heat, “All right, folks, this is 1,100 [meters]. This is the part when they’re really starting to hurt.”

“I just looked at the guys around me,” Divan said. “I thought, ‘Why would he say that with another group of milers up next?’ ”

Divan posted a personal best that day, and he says the experience translates well to preparing for the Big Ten championships this week.

“I didn’t expect to win. I just went out to make best times and beat people. It worked out pretty well.”

Divan has one year of NCAA eligibility left and plans to graduate with a degree in interdepartmental health studies in May 2010.

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