Chad Carvin’s performance at the National Swimming Championships was the kind of moment that brought forth emotion from every corner of the aquatic center at Erie Community College.
There was no hoarding the happiness on Sunday. His mother Judie wiped tears from her eyes as she talked about her son’s unprecedented comeback. A coach from another local team said he had “goose-bumps” watching Carvin swim to victory after victory.
And Carvin? The 22-year-old from Laguna Hills was simply taking quiet satisfaction in merely being back in the pool, swimming his first long-course mile race in about two years and cheering for his friends from the sideline.
Carvin punctuated his marvelous comeback with one final exclamation mark Sunday, winning the men’s 1,500-meter freestyle by nearly a 10-second margin, finishing in 15 minutes, 29.44 seconds.
Ordinarily, all of this would be a major accomplishment by itself, considering Carvin became the second man since Mark Spitz to win four individual events at one nationals. But not many swimming champions have to take a tiny pill each day to strengthen the heart.
A little more than a year ago, Carvin wasn’t worrying about heat assignments, the concern was whether he would need a heart transplant after receiving a devastating diagnosis of viral cardiomyopathy. Instead of preparing for the Olympic trials, he was bedridden and feared for his life.
The happy ending, really, already occurred months ago, once Carvin’s health returned.
As for Buffalo? “It’s very exciting,” Judie Carvin says. “It’s like frosting on a cake. I never thought I’d be here again.”
Neither did her son. Friday, Carvin won the 200 freestyle (1:50.42) and 400 individual medley (4:21.77) with about 45 minutes separating the events.
“That’s what I’m most proud about--it’s one thing to swim one event at night and win,” he said. “But to go from the emotional high of winning one event and having to turn around and get emotionally high for another event is hard to do. It’s nice to know I still have the toughness it takes.”
His other title came in the 400 freestyle (3:52.19) on Saturday. The victory in the 200 freestyle earned Carvin a trip to the Short Course World Championships in April at Gothenburg, Sweden.
Carvin also won three more honors on Sunday--for the most points, the Sandy Neilson-Bell Comeback Award and the Phillips Performance Award for the most outstanding single performance.