Maybe majoring in Physics at Cal-Berkeley gives Josh Prenot a better understanding of how to glide through the water efficiently. Or maybe, it’s just a combination of his athleticism and competitive spirit.
Whatever the case, the 23-year-old from Orcutt found himself in Lane 2 of the Rio Olympics Aquatic Center on Tuesday night racing in the 200-meter breaststroke semifinals. Back home, his friends and family were planning to gather and watch his Olympic debut from the Abel Maldonado Youth Center.
Swimming in the first of the evening’s two semifinals, he touched the wall second in 2:07.78, behind Japan’s Ippei Watanabe, who set an Olympic record in 2:07.22. Great Britain’s Andrew Willis swam a 2:07.73 in the second semifinal, so Prenot enters Wednesday’s final with the third-fastest semifinal time.
“The swim was good, a lot better than prelims,” Prenot said afterward. “Stroke counts were real low this morning because I was just chillin’. The Olympics is everything I could have expected, and more. Unbelievable. I’m two races in and I still can’t believe I get to be part of this team. It’s awesome.”
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The U.S. men’s basketball team was at the natatorium cheering on the American swimmers — Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky won golds earlier in the night — and Prenot posed for a photo with Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors.
Prenot said he is getting more comfortable coming from behind in races. He was not in the top three after the first 50 meters.
“In the past, I always had to be on the lead or ahead of second-place guy, but I’m settling into being comfortable being behind,” he said. “That’s how Michael (Phelps) built his career. That’s when I have my best race.”
Asked if can go faster in the final, he replied: “I was faster at trials, there’s more left.”
Although Prenot, 23, is an Olympic rookie, he came into these Games with high expectations.
He was one of the breakout stars of the U.S. Olympic Trials in June. Prenot broke the American record in the 200 breaststroke in 2:07.17, which is the second-fastest time in history, just a tenth of a second off the world record set by Akihiro Yamaguchi of Japan in 2012.