By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Friday, February 15, 2019
There isn’t much that separates Clark Beach from his identical twin brother, Ethan.
Both swim the 200 backstroke at the University of Florida. Both are studying construction management as future careers – planning to work with their dad and eventually take over his construction company.
“We’re incredibly competitive with one another; always have been even when we were really little,” Clark said. “That carries over into our academics as well as athletics.”
Aside from the scar on Clark’s stomach and that they wear different goggles, the confusion over who is who carries over to the swimming pool – until they actually swim.
As a member of the 2018-19 U.S National Team and 18 & Under World Cup roster that competed at the 2016 FINA World Cup meets in Tokyo and Hong Kong, Clark is beginning to separate himself in the sport from Ethan – although he continues to be his brother’s biggest cheerleader and supporter.
“He’s working hard, but he knows he needs to work harder on his mental game; that’s what’s keeping him from reaching the next level,” said Beach, a sophomore at Florida. “But I know he can do it. He’s really talented.”
Working hard is definitely something Beach attributes to his steady rise in the national and international ranks over the past year or so – that and the progress he’s made through lifting and working with 1988 Olympic gold medalist (100 butterfly) Anthony Nesty, head coach at Florida.
A shining example of hard work, dedication and perseverance, Nesty finished 21st in the 100 fly at the 1984 Olympics but spent the next four years of life dedicated to improvement, and returned in 1988 in Seoul, Korea, to win gold in the same event.
“I’m sure some of that (Nesty’s) tenacity and determination has rubbed off on me over the past year that we’ve worked together,” Beach said.
Beach also attributes the building of trust between him and Nesty as the key to his continued time drops – and his continued increase in confidence and belief in himself.
“He’s really helped me improve my mental game,” Beach said. “Focus has always been a weakness for me – letting outside influences and distractions get in my head and take me out of my game.
“But Anthony has helped me focus on one particular part of my game and that’s made a big difference. I see that continuing to improve.”
The Beach brothers’ road to Gainesville – they always intended to swim together in college, even as kids – started in summer league in their Chesterfield, Va., hometown when they were 9. Two years later, they were swimming full-time at Quest Swim Club.
“We both looked up to Ryan Lochte, so we knew we wanted to go to Florida,” said Beach, who was recruited by Gregg Troy before he retired from Florida in 2018.
As a backstroker (like his idol Lochte), Beach knows he’s going to need to continue to improve if he wants to find his way to the front of a very talented, deep field of U.S. athletes.
He said knowing that his biggest national competitors are putting in serious work every day in the pool gives him all the motivation he needs to push himself further and further during his training.
“Keeping in mind that the U.S. has the best group of (male) backstrokers in the world – and knowing that Ryan (Murphy) pushes himself to be as good as he can be every day – makes me want to do the same,” he said.
“I see each of these meets – Olympic Trials (2016), NCAAs and Nationals last year and now World University Games (this summer) as an opportunity to learn, gain confidence and get better leading up to Trials next summer.”
Speaking of 2016 Trials, Beach said the meet was overwhelming for him, although he went to Omaha with the sole intent of gaining more big-meet experience.
With his appointment to swim the 200 backstroke in Naples, Italy, this summer at World University Games – his first senior-level international meet – and two (2019, 2020) NCAA meets under his Speedo, he knows he’ll be more than prepared next year at Trials.
Having recently revealed that he has long dreamed of competing at the Olympics – “what swimmer hasn’t? – Beach said he is now starting to really believe that he can take the next step and compete in Tokyo in 2020.
But he knows it won’t be easy by any means.
“The work that I’ve done with Anthony – being able to focus and picture how I want a race to go before I swim and then shutting off my mind and trusting in my training – has definitely helped me become a better swimmer, but I still need to get faster to be a true threat at Trials next year,” he said.
“Before big races, I would tense up and lose sight of what I wanted and how I was going to accomplish it. But now when I take the blocks, I’ve done all my mental work and I’m focused and ready to compete. I’ll need to keep improving upon that and continue to get stronger physically and mentally to be a true factor at Trials in 2020.”