Piranha Olympic Series

The Piranhas have always given back to it’s members and provide educational opportunities.  Since 2007 the Piranhas have periodically brought in Olympic Swimmers, free of charge, as guest speakers for the swimmers and parents of the Team.  This page is dedicated to that effort.

Diana Munz – 2000 and 2004 Olympian

2000 – Gold Medal – 4 x 200 Freestyle Relay, Silver Medal – 400 Freestyle
2004 – Bronze Medal – 800 Freestyle 


Garrett Weber-Gale – 2008 Olympian

2008 – Gold Medal – 400 Freestyle Relay, 400 Medley Relay

Rebecca Soni – 2008 and 2012 Olympian

2008 – Gold Medal – 200 Breaststroke, Silver Medal – 100 Breaststroke, 4 x 100 Medley Relay
2012 – Gold Medal – 200 Breaststroke, 4 x 100 Medley Relay, Silver Medal – 100 Breaststroke

piranha_archives_9   piranha_archives_11

I hope everyone enjoyed the day as much as I did on September 28th and left as inspired as I did. I think it is great that the Piranhas can offer this sort of “enhancement” to the Piranha program and for free, no less. I didn’t meet an Olympian until I was racing them and this was after I graduated college. I truly enjoyed, and I think I speak for everyone, Rebecca’s charm and charisma when she was teaching the kids in the pool and speaking in the gym. I personally enjoy hearing stories from the people who lived them and this was no different. What she was thinking before her Olympic race, what was going through her mind during the Olympic final and her thoughts afterwards. I feel like she was letting us into her innermost thoughts and feelings. Overall, I thought the best information that came from the visit was her humble beginnings as a swimmer. Her stories about not wanting to swim at the age of 10, taking a nap in the locker room to avoid practice but then getting to a point later on where she never wanted to miss practice. The night before her visit I was doing some research and I was specifically looking for Rebecca’s results as an Age Grouper. Those are usually not newsworthy so you seldom hear about them.  Although I didn’t know what I would find, I was surprised (pleasantly so) to find out that she was not a ‘great’ age group swimmer. Above average, yes, but by no means was anyone crowning her as the next Olympic Gold Medalist as a 12,13 or 14 years old. So I started my introduction as I did with asking the group about her rankings as an 11/12 and 13/14 year old. Ironically enough, Rebecca had no idea she was not ranked in the top 100 all-time for USA Swimming in those events at those ages. I hope this resonated with the parents and swimmers in the audience that not being the best or even close to it at 10, 11, 12, 13 or even 14 does not mean you cannot be a great swimmer at 16,17, 18 years and beyond.

Thanks Rebecca!


Kim Vandenberg – 2008 Olympian

2008 – Bronze Medal – 4 x 200 Freestyle Relay

The day started out at 10am with about 60 wide eyed 11/under Piranhas on deck waiting to hear from an Olympian. Kim Vandenberg made an appearance this past Saturday to run a swim clinic for the Piranha Swim Team. Kim is a 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist and multiple International medalist at every big International meet you think of. On this morning it wasn’t Australians or Europeans waiting to race, but a captive audience of eager 7 to 11 years old. Kim started her clinic on land with a short dry land warm-up on deck where she utilized very functional and deliberate body movements (not your grandparents stretching routine) to warm the kids up. Some of the movements could have been mistaken for the latest dance moves. She then dove in the water and demonstrated a few freestyle and butterfly drills as the kids watched from the side of the deck. Once she was done it was the kids’ turn. All the drills Kim performed had to do with body rhythm and awareness, length of stroke and body position in the water. She spoke to the kids about how important it was to pay attention to technique and NOT rush through drills. I really hope that statement sounded familiar 🙂 After about an hour it was the 12/over’s turn to do the same. Although a bit quieter and smaller in number, the older swimmers received the same great clinic and message from Kim. Once everyone towelled off and dried up, it was time to hear Kim speak. The best way I can describe Kim’s personality is that she is genuine and real. Her love of swimming was obvious and her message of perseverance and sacrifice is something all swimmers and athletes can relate to and learn from. As Kim said, “If you love what you do, the sacrifices aren’t as big a deal.” and in regards to confidence, “it took years of failing and not reaching my goals to realize that.” If there is one thing I have learned as a coach from meeting and hearing Olympians speak, is that they are human and “put their pants on one leg at time” like the rest of us; they just decided to maximize their ability and desire. The Question and Answer session fielded such hardball questions as “What is your favorite stroke?” and “Did you swim in the Olympics?” but the best question of the day was “If 30 year old Kim can speak to 12 year old Kim, what would she say?” Her answer was, and I am paraphrasing, “be confident.” The day ended with autographs and pictures. Kim signed over 200 autographs for the kids in attendance with a bright smile for every picture. Thanks for a great day Kim!!

2017  Josh Davis & Maya DiRado

Josh Davis – 1996 & 2000 Olympian
1996 – Gold Medal – 4 x 200 Freestyle, 4 x 100 Freestyle Relay, 4 x 100 Medley Relay
2000 – Silver Medal – 4 x 200 Freestyle, 4 x 100 Freestyle Relay

Maya DiRado – 2016 Olympian
2016 –  Gold Medal – 200 Backstroke, 4 x 200 Freestyle Relay, Silver Medal – 400 IM, Bronze Medal – 200 IM


Elizabeth Beisel – 2008, 2012, 2016 Olympian

2012 – Silver Medal – 400 IM, Bronze Medal – 200 Backstroke

I couldn’t think of a better way to put a capper on week three than with a visit from 3 time Olympian Elizabeth Beisel!  Too bad we couldn’t do something like this every three weeks.  I seem to say this every time we bring someone in, but she was the best guest speaker we’ve had, and we’ve had some great ones over the years.  I really hope everyone enjoyed the day as much as I did.  Not only was she down to earth and charismatic, she was gracious and showed humility, virtues I wished all great athletes embodied.    

In so many ways she is an ordinary person but ordinary people do extraordinary things every day!  Her stories about being sick before her first final at the Olympic trials in 2008, getting injured before the 2016 trials, playing the violin, playing pranks on people (well, Michael Phelps to be exact), resonated with me.  Being nervous, playing an instrument, injury, etc are things that happen to regular people all the time.  I think the message that will stick with me the most is when she spoke about believing in herself and if you don’t believe in yourself behind the blocks, no matter how you prepared, you will never swim up to your potential.   This statement is true for everyone in every walk of life.

Remember, ordinary people do extraordinary things every day!  

Katie Hoff – 200, 2004 Olympian

2004 – Silver Medal – 400 Freestyle, Bronze Medal – 400 IM, 800 Freestyle Relay

Thank you Katie for an awesome day!!



Olympic (2020 Tokyo) Silver medal winner Paige Madden held a teaching clinic for the Piranhas on Sat March 5, 2022

Paige Madden was our guest on Friday and Saturday, March 4th and 5th.  On Friday night Paige visited with swimmers informally after a later practice, then she had dinner with all the coaches at the Y.  At 10:45 sharp on Saturday, Paige suited up and led off with questions for the 7-11 year old swimmers, then dove in the pool and invited the swimmers to join her.  They all were so attentive and followed Paige’s instructions very specifically and enthusiastically.  The session ended at noon, the swimmers got changed and Paige met them (and the newly arrived 12/Overs) in the Y lobby for comments and tips about growing up a swimmer and of course, swimming in college and the Olympics. After signing caps and photocards, and having photos taken, Paige was back on the pool deck with the 12/Over swimmers.  The afternoon session was also a real treat to witness.  The swimmers really had some fun and learned so much!  Paige’s comments and instruction were very relatable to this age group, and the swimmers really connected with her.  We all hope we can invite her back again in the future.

Paige with the 11/under group



SWIM ACROSS AMERICA with Olympians Elisabeth Beisel and Craig Beardsley, April 23, 2022

The lucky Piranhas who attended the clinic, led by Elisabeth and Craig, had a lot of fun and learned so much from such experienced swimmers.  For their part, the swimmers did very well – great swims, plenty of attention to improvement techniques, and a true sense of respect for their Olympian guests (who were also lots of fun).  Questions, autographs and photos followed the pool clinic.
Thanks to all the families for supporting Swim Across America Fairfield County and thank you to the SAA FC for putting on this wonderful event.