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Morales has kept proper perspective

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Charles Whisnand

There’s only one standard of success for a world record holder at the Olympics. Anything less than a gold medal is considered to be a failure.

That’s what Pablo Morales faced at the 1984 Olympics. So even though Morales broke his own world record in the 100-meter butterfly at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, he was considered to be a failure because he didn’t win. It was the unfair reality.

Eight years later at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, Morales was considered to be a sentimental success story because he won the gold in the 100 fly. He was called the “comeback kid” because at the age of 27, considered old for swimming, he won the individual gold that eluded him after being out of competition for three years.

The irony: Morales was really no more a failure in 1984 than he was a success in 1992. So it’s no surprise that Morales has developed a perspective from his experiences that now helps him as a coach.

Morales is the head coach of the University of Nebraska women’s swim team, which will compete today in a meet with the University of Nevada and Fresno State in Reno. Morales brought his team to the Carson Aquatic Center on Thursday to train for the meet.

During his career, Morales won three gold and two silver medals in the Olympics. Along with the individual gold in 1992, Morales also won two golds on relays. In addition, he had a stellar career at Stanford.

But Morales said he’s just like any other coach who can refer to his life experiences. “I think every coach regardless of his specific background uses those specific life experiences,” he said. “That’s something that I try to do.

“A lot of successful coaches have a knowledge about what it takes to get to a certain level regardless of your experience. It’s all a matter of learning from your experience.”

In 1984, Morales was up against a freak of nature, the 6-7 Michael Gross of West Germany in the 100 fly. Morales swam a personal best, beating his own world record. But he had to settle for the silver behind Gross, who set the world mark.

Morales said he had a goal to swim to his personal best and to win. “You sort of got a mixed feeling in that instance,” Morales said.

But as the world record holder, the disappointment of not winning could not be denied. “You set your sights on the biggest prize which is the gold medal,” he said.

His experience is really no different than any other athlete, who will eventually face some kind of adversity, Morales said. Every athlete goes through the mixed emotions that he went through, he said.

“For the most part you’ve got to do that with every race you swim,” said Morales about dealing with mixed emotions, win or lose. “Everybody who swims regardless of the level goes through the same thing. It’s not always a smooth road.”

In 1992, Morales won with a time that was slower than what he had in 1984. Morales summed up his fortunes. “It was just the timing,” he said.

“That was very satisfying considering where I came from,” said Morales about his individual gold in 1992. “Nothing short of winning the race was going to be satisfying.”

Morales then took a moment to regain his perspective. “Let me withdraw that,” he said. “The whole experience in 92 was satisfying. I had a perspective in that year that I didn’t have before. Regardless, obviously I hoped the outcome would be the gold medal.”

In 1986, Morales swam in the World Championships in Barcelona and remembered how excited the city was about eventually hosting the Olympics. “That’s great, too bad I won’t be swimming there,” said Morales about what he thought at the time.

But Morales’ heart was set on a comeback. He said he didn’t want to “attempt a comeback and realize it really wasn’t in my heart. I knew if it was in my heart, everything would fall into place. I knew it was what I wanted to do.”

Morales went on to earn a law degree from Cornell and was briefly in the legal profession. But Morales realized he wouldn’t have as much satisfaction from the legal profression as he would have working with “young individuals in a sport that you love.”

In his third year as coach at Nebraska, he has been building the program from scratch. In his first year, Nebraska was nothing more than an intramural program, but Morales hopes to eventually build it into a national power.

He brought his team to train in Carson City as a result of his relationship with Carson Tigershark coach Jim Puleo, who got to know each other through their club coaching experiences.

Morales said he was impressed with the Carson Aquatic Center. “It’s a great facility,” he said.

Contact Charles Whisnand at cwhisnand@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1214.