The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, March 7, 1994 - 7
Continued from page 1
By the time he reached eighth
,grade, Royce realized that
swimming was his sport and started
to concentrate solely on it. He
visited a friend at the Peddie
Academy in New Jersey the next
summer and came back to Texas
sasking his parents if he could go to
"He had a really good friend
who went (to Peddie) who used to
live in Houston, and Royce went up
and spent two weeks with him and
swam with (Peddie coach) Chris
Martin," Margret said. "He came
home and said, 'I'd like to go to
Peddie to school.' People in the
south don't send their children to
boarding schools, so we laughed a
lot and said, 'right.'
"After about six weeks at the
senior high school here, he wasn't
doing very well, and we said maybe
we should check into (Peddie)."
Royce believes his parents
decision to let him go to Peddie was
a turning point in his life. He had
been hanging out with the "wrong
crowd" and skipping school in
order to show his parents up.
When he finally got his wish to
go to Peddie, his life started to
change both in and out of the water.
His grades improved, and his
swimming got faster and faster.
"I got to go up to Peddie and from
there things changed," Royce said. "I
got with my former coach Chris
Martin and turned my life around. I
*got school back together, got my
swimming back together and made
the Olympic team in 1992.
"If I wouldn't have gotten out -
the year after I left a friend of mine
got shot at - who knows what
would have happened. It's like the
stories you hear all the time. It was
hard going away from home, but I
don't regret it at all."
. Of course, Royce did get out,
and his swimming started to
improve dramatically under the
tutelage of Martin. In the three and
a half years he was there, Royce,
along with good friend and 1992
Olympic gold medalist Nelson
Diebel, helped lead Peddie to three
straight high school national
In fact, Martin - who is now
*the coach at Florida - said it was
Royce who really took the program
at Peddie to the level of national
dominance it held.
"The men's program was built
on the back of Royce Sharp,"
Martin said. "Royce set standards of
:.training and commitment every
single day. There were times when
be'd even intimidate people. There
*were people who said, 'I can't work
Royce may have lifted the
kprogram, but he knows that Martin
made him the swimmer he is today.
In Royce's words, Martin
transformed him from a swimmer
who did not have fast enough
times to swim for a Division III
college into the swimmer who
would set the American record in
the 200-meter backstroke (1:58.66)
at the 1992 Olympic Trials.
Martin used Royce's discipline
to turn his choppy stroke into a
"We tried to create an
environment where doing the
extraordinary was the norm and
Royce jumped all over that," Martin
said. "In all the years I've coached,
I've never coached a kid that spent
more minutes in the pool and paid
"He has a really high pain
tolerance. I have trained him
sometimes within an inch of his life.
There was one time we trained him so
hard that I had to take him out of the
pool, feed him ice cream and wrap
him in a blanket. He had swum every
bit of energy out of his body."
Royce's commitment to long
hours of training - a standard
which he started at Peddie -
continues at Michigan.
He swims more yardage than
any other backstroker in the nation,
if not the world. He enjoys doing
10,000 yards a day of backstroke
(about two hours), because it not
only builds up his heartrate and
threshold, but because it builds up
his confidence as well.
He also enjoys using this
distance ability to have fun at
college dual meets. Royce has been
known to swim the 1,000-yard
freestyle event using the backstroke
In fact, this year he beat all the
freestylers to the finish line at the
Michigan State meet.
"If I can beat freestlyers, that's
great," Sharp said. "I like
swimming long events. It's my
talent, and I might as well show it
Despite his unorthodox stroke,
Royce is able to use his strength ,
and endurance to increase his speed
as he pulls himself through the
water. Martin tried to alter the
stroke early in Royce's career, but it
slowed him down Although it may
not be pretty or smooth, it gets the
"It's definitely not poetry in
motion, but he has a very good
rhythm to his stroke," Urbanchek
said. "We don't score in swimming.
He would get fours in artistic and
sixes in technical merit. We have a
lot of pretty swimmers who just
can't go fast."
Fast, however, is not a problem
His performance at the 1992
Olympic Trials in Indianapolis
qualified him for the Olympic
Games in Barcelona. Unfortunately,
Sharp did not perform as well as he
had hoped. His morning swim was
not good enough to reach the final
heat, and he had to settle for a very
disappointing 11th-place finish at
What could have been another
obstacle for Royce has become a
springboard towards meeting his
He now says that it was a great
learning experience towards his
ultimate goal - a gold medal at the
1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
"For me now, (the experience)
was great. I've been there, and it's
another building block toward a
gold medal which is obviously the
ultimate goal," Royce said. "It was
a learning experience, because I
didn't swim as well as I wanted to.
"As an amateur athlete, you
don't see all the cameras all the
time. So, if you get to a situation
like the Olympics where there are
millions of people watching, you try
to shut your mind off it, but you
have to look around and experience
it. So, that was a learning
Royce's greatest memory of the
Olympics involved his friend
Diebel. His gold-medal swim in the
100 breaststroke pumped Royce up
for his swim and was an Olympic
moment that both Royce and his
parents will not soon forget.
"When you are watching, you
just try to stay calm, because you
still have to swim," Royce said.
"But I like to use teammates to get
me ready so it got me psyched up."
"It was unbelievable because we
had known Nelson for a long time,"
Margret said. "I saw him between
You don't know it
yet - but we
prelims and finals, and I gave him a
hug and said, 'Nelson, this is your
race.' and he said, "I got it."'
After Barcelona, Royce came to
Michigan. Although he graduated
from Peddie in 1991, he deferred his
admission to the University for a year
in order to train for the Olympics.
Royce's first season as a
Wolverine saw him help the team to
a school-record 788 points in
capturing the Big Ten title, and a
second-place finish at the NCAA
Individually, he was named Big
Ten Freshman of the Year after
finishing first in the 200-yard
backstroke (Big Ten record
1:42.72) and 200-yard individual
medley, as well as second in the
At NCAAs, Royce finished third
in the 200 back, fourth in the 400
IM and tenth in the 200 IM.
After this years' early-season
problems, Royce came back and
again won the 200 backstroke at
Big Tens and finished eighth in the
200 and 400 IMs.
However, he was neither rested
nor shaved for the meet because he
can make NCAA qualifying times
without being fully prepared. This
strategy will allow him to peak at
NCAAs in three weeks, where he'
hopes to win the 200 backstroke
and set the short-course American
record. Sharp would also like to
improve in his other events.
"My goal is to hopefully set the
American record (200 backstroke)
short-course so I can have both of
them," Sharp said. "I'm only 3.4
seconds from there and I usually
drop when I shave. I don't think its
out of my line.
"I hope we can get our 400
medley relay going and get second
or try for first. I want to score
higher in my two other events -
try to move into finals in the 200
IM and up higher in the 400 IM."
Royce's goals, however, do not
end with the college season. As
Urbanchek likes to say, Royce sets
his goals high and is never satisfied.
He hopes to win the 1994 World
Championships in Rome this
summer and then the gold medal in
Atlanta in the 200-meter
backstroke. He also has Spain's
Martin Zubero's world record in the
200 back (1:56.57) as a goal,
whether it be now or in the future.
"He can definitely be the best
backstroker in the world," coach
However, Royce's greatest
achievement may be his victories
outside of the water. He turned his
life around, and if everything goes
according to his plan, people will be
seeing this story of overcoming
adversity up close and personal,
after he wins a gold medal in
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