Swimmers, consider yourselves warned: One Fitter & Faster clinic with Cammile Adams is not going to turn you into a side-breathing Olympic butterflier.
“It’s not a magic fix, and it doesn’t work for the majority of swimmers,” notes the veteran of two Olympics, who first experimented with the technique at a coach’s request as an age-grouper. “I was having trouble getting the timing of the breath right with the double kick. So I tried the side-breathing once in practice, got it right and it’s stuck ever since.”
Her signature side-breathing fly stroke evolved during her time as an age-grouper at the Woodlands swim team in the suburbs of Houston. It was one of her first experiences with being coached by someone other than her father, who oversaw her training until the age of 10.
She says that the lure of ribbons and trophies encouraged her to race the 200 fly, a race that strikes fear in the heart of many an age-grouper. “Most of the time there weren’t enough 200 flyers, so I figured that even if I finished last, at least I’d get a ribbon. Those were the prettier colors anyway. I didn’t mind finishing last as long as I finished. Plus, there was usually only one heat, so I didn’t have to wait around.”
Adams managed to make National Junior Teams for USA Swimming every year of high school. “I got to go somewhere awesome every single year, and that kept me swimming and excited,” she explains. “I always tell (junior national team director) Jack Roach that he saved me.”
The summer after her junior year, she got the swimming world’s attention with a fourth-place finish (2:10) in the 200 fly at the 2009 World Championship Trials, where she also competed in the 400 IM and 400 free. She continued to show her versatility by winning the Texas 5A state championship in the 500 free and making the finals in the 100 fly as a high school senior.
After considering many of the swimming powers of the SEC, she settled on the Big 12 and Texas A&M, which presented the best of both worlds: a well-respected academic institution and a swimming program on the rise, thanks to coach Steve Bultman and NCAA champions Julia Wilkinson and Alia Atkinson.
She says that although she and twin sister Ashley, a distance swimmer, took their A&M visit together, they made their decisions separately. “We were driving home from practice one night, and realized we had both made our decisions. So I said, ‘On the count of three, say it.’ We both said A&M. We called Steve before we even told our parents.”
She made an impact as a freshman, winning the 500 free and 200 fly at the conference championships, breaking school records in both at NCAAs that season. But she says her breakout swim came the following winter at the Austin Grand Prix, where she broke 2:10 in the 200 fly for the first time, clocking a 2:06. “That’s the race that I’ll never forget,” she says. “It’s right up there with the Olympics for me. I shocked myself with that swim. It gave me the mental edge I needed to put myself on that next level.”
It sure did. She won the 200 fly at the 2012 Olympic trials the following summer and placed fifth in London. The following year, she finished seventh at Worlds but bounced back at the 2014 PanPacs by winning her signature event. She also capped her collegiate career with her second consecutive NCAA title in the 200 fly.
Four years after her Olympic debut, Adams won the 200 fly at Trials again — after a brief disqualification in prelims which was quickly overturned — and improved her placing in the Olympic final, finishing just off the podium in fourth place.
After finishing her undergraduate classes, she returned to Charlotte, N.C., to resume her Olympic preparation with David Marsh. Cammile hung up her goggles after getting her PR in the 200-meter butterfly (2:05.90) and finishing 5th at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Even though Adams had to postpone her “real world” teaching job until after Rio, she got plenty of practical teaching experience as a Fitter & Faster clinician, teaching young swimmers how to hone their butterfly skills.
As for teaching her signature technique, Adams says, “I’m fine with kids trying side breathing.” But there are caveats: “It works best for a certain body type. It’s better for bigger bodies that have a harder time getting their hips up high.”
She likes to focus on making the butterfly effortless. “You do the work underwater and then your recovery should be as easy as possible.” How does a swimmer do that? “By swimming quietly with no splash.”
In other words, make your splash by turning in consistent performances, not with “strugglefly.”