Courtesy: George Washington

GW's Pone Savors World University Games Experience

By Atlantic 10 Conference

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By: Eric Detweiler, GW Athletics Communications

Two weeks in Italy flew by for Emils Pone.
 
The GW swimmer headed home to Latvia after the World University Games earlier this month with three personal-best times and a new understanding of what it takes to compete vs. the best in the world.
 
"It definitely opened my eyes," Pone said. "Now I know what I need to do and how it's going to be. I have to perform under pressure in the big meets in order to accomplish my goals."
 
Coming off a breakout collegiate season in which he won six gold medals at the Atlantic 10 Championships to help the Buff and Blue win a third straight conference title, Pone carried lofty expectations into the international meet and performed well facing a decorated field.
 
The rising senior finished in the top three of his heat in all four of his individual events, with a pair of wins, racing in front of packed crowds at Piscina Scandone in Naples. He set best times in the 100m (57.24 seconds) and 200m (2:04.69) backstroke and 200m individual medley (2:05.34) and also competed in the 400m individual medley (4:33.38) and 400m medley relay (3:51.78).
 
"To me, by getting that experience we had already accomplished the goal," said GW head coach Brian Thomas, who designed Pone's summer workout program to prepare for the meet and stayed in close contact with him as he trained back home in Latvia. "Being able to get into that sort of environment and see how you respond and learn from it is really the most important thing."
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 Pone admitted feeling the butterflies as he got started in a meet that featured a handful of Olympians and a slew of NCAA qualifiers, but he settled in and got more comfortable with the long-course pool and strict pre-race routine followed at world-class events as the week went on.
 
It was no coincidence that Pone put together his best swim – he dropped more than four seconds off his previous best in the 200m back to finish 28th overall – on the third day of the competition.
 
Pone said it helped to be able to get some advice from former Colonial teammate Gustav Hokfelt, who represented his native Sweden at the meet. (Hokfelt's top performance was a 12th place finish in the 50m back in 25.46 seconds at his second World University Games.)
 
"Mostly, it was basic things he reminded me of," Pone said. "It's a seven-day meet, so it's really hard to stay focused and engaged and keep your readiness for that long of a time.
 
"It might seem obvious, but taking care of your recovery and proper warm-up are so important."
 
Beyond the pool, Pone appreciated the fanfare of the World University Games.
 
The competitors were housed on a pair of cruise ships with the athletes' village in the surrounding port. The Colonial standout had a couple of off-days during the meet to take advantage of the luxury accommodations before spending the day after he was done competing sightseeing around Naples and the nearby ruins of Pompeii.
 
"Italy is such a beautiful place," Pone said. "There's so much history there."
 
Afterward, Pone headed back to Latvia for a well-deserved break before he returns to Foggy Bottom.
 
The meet capped a tremendous year for Pone. After his starring effort at the A-10 Championships, he claimed a pair of individual medals at the CSCAA National Invitational Championship.
 
He set conference records in the 200 IM (1:45.66) and 400 IM (3:47.52) and had a hand in a pair of program-record relays. (Plus, there's his continued excellence in the classroom, which was recognized with A-10 All-Academic and CSCAA Scholar All-American honors.)
 
Earlier this summer, he won four gold medals at the Latvian Short Course Championships, as well.
 
"It was fun seeing his progress this year," Thomas said. "He certainly took a step upward in terms of the level of his swimming, and I hope, for him, it was a bit of light bulb moment, knowing that he can compete at a world-class level and that he has it within him to take another step toward it."
 
The memories made in Italy will no doubt help Pone's push for more improvement.
 
"This is what it's all about," Pone said. "We do sports to compete, and to get to do it at one of the highest levels was really great. I just hope I can do more (meets) like this in the future."

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