North Texas Daily

Making a splash: Claudia Kitching breaking molds and records with Mean Green swimming

Making a splash: Claudia Kitching breaking molds and records with Mean Green swimming

February 15
16:23 2017

Claudia Kitching doesn’t fit the mold of the average swimmer.

“She’s small,” senior captain Abbie Imes said.  “But [she] has the strongest legs I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Instead of the tall, broad and muscular physique many swimmers exhibit, Kitching is the exact opposite. In fact, she looks more like a gymnast, because that’s where she got her start.

At a young age, Kitching’s parents took her to gymnastics classes before enrolling her and her siblings in swimming at age 6. And even though she didn’t have the physical appearance of a swimmer, she adapted — and hasn’t stopped swimming since.

Born in London, Kitching moved to France when she was 11 years old. She qualified for the 2012 British Olympic Trials and placed third at the 2015 French Open Championships in the 200m breaststroke, and was a finalist in the 100m breaststroke.

“Back at home we all know each other,” Kitching said. “We would meet like twice a year for the France championships, so we were pretty familiar with our opponents. [When] I came here, I didn’t have any idea who I was racing against.”

While swimming in France, Kitching swam only individual breaststroke events because swimmers were specialized at an early age. Along with swimming the 200-yard and 100-yard breaststroke, Kitching also competes in the 200-yard individual medley and the breaststroke leg of the 200-yard relay.

“I have worked more on my other strokes since I have been [at North Texas],” which has helped on my 200 [individual medley,]” Kitching said. “I don’t really do relays in France either but they’re a lot of fun to race.”

Recruited by the former North Texas head swim coach, Kitching’s first two seasons with the Mean Green have been nothing short of impressive.

Kitching holds the second-fastest time in school history for the 200-yard breaststroke and the third fastest in the 100-yard breaststroke and was one of four swimmers to represent North Texas at the USA Winter Nationals this past December.

“She’s really grown as an athlete,” interim head coach Brittany Roth said. “She’s become a student of the sport, figuring out ways she can get faster. It’s really been an entire process over the last two seasons.”

Having teammates that consistently push her has also been a benefit.

Fellow French teammate, junior Sarah Vaisse, also swims the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke with Kitching. When they’re in the water, it’s always a contest to see who finishes first.

“They play off each other and they compliment each other,” Roth said. “They work hard and they’re really great friends. Claudia pushes Sarah to have a better 200. Sarah pushes Claudia to have a better 100.”

Despite setting records and dazzling in her first two years at North Texas, Kitching faced an unexpected obstacle when she first arrived in Denton —she didn’t know what races she would compete in.

That’s because the U.S. is the only country that swims short course yards — every other country swims long course meters. Due to the change, Kitching had to change her stroke to account for the shorter distances swam in the U.S.

“I had no idea about my yard times, so my times didn’t mean anything to me,” Kitching said. “It took me a little while to adjust.”

But after almost two full seasons, those issues have vanished.

Kitching will be competing with the rest of her team in the Conference USA Championships in Atlanta at the end of the February, swimming one event each day: the 200-yard individual medley, 100-yard and 200-yard breaststroke and the 200-yard relay.

In her junior season, Kitching is in the prime of her collegiate swimming career. Having been in the pool most of her life, Kitching will face one of the most difficult decisions next spring when her eligibility is up.

Either continue swimming or hang up the goggles for good.

“I’ve done it for so many years, I’d like to move on from it,” Kitching said. “It’s given me so many opportunities, but there’s a lot of work that goes into it. I still have a year and a half left, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Featured Image: Claudia Kitching, North Texas junior breaststroke swimmer, poses for a portrait Feb. 13 at the University of North Texas Recreational Center. Kitching is the third-fastest performer in school history for the 100 breaststroke at 1:01.88, second fastest for 200 breaststroke at 2:13:18 and 10th fastest for the 200 individual medley. Tomas Gonzalez

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Morgan Price

Morgan Price

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