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TAP Chatham Athlete of the Week: Jess Gorham

By Ed Barmakian

Monday, February 17, 2014 • 10:30pm

CHATHAM, NJ - Frank DiGiacomo understands the mindset that drives Jess Gorham.

"When I was her age, I'd reach a goal and I'd be happy about it for 10 seconds," the Chatham Swimming Coach said. "I always knew there was more I was capable of. Jess is never satisfied. She wants to be as good as she can be."

If Gorham has anything to say about it, she'll be trying to swim her fastest at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as a member of the Canadian team.

"All my girls have a chance (to make the Olympics) if they're willing to put in the work," DiGiacomo said. "Jess is one of those kids every coach dreams about having. She is a real student of the sport."

Two years ago, Gorham qualified for the Canadian Olympic trials held in Montreal. She didn't make the team, but that doesn't mean she won't be back. She is a Canadian citizen, who has been living in the U.S. since she was five.

"I want to go back to the Olympic trials in two years," said Gorham, who is headed to the University of Vermont. "My goal is to make the NCAA championships in college."

Gorham's' immediate goal is to win four straight Public B state championships for Chatham. She did her part on Friday, winning the 50 freestyle and the 100 backstroke and also swimming on the winning 200 and 400 freestyle relay teams for the Lady Cougars against Summit.

Those points helped Chatham win its fifth straight state sectional crown and advanced the team to the state semifinals against Mountain Lakes on Friday.

Jess Gorham is the TAP Chatham Athlete of the Week.

"I absolutely love swimming for Chatham," Gorham said. "Swimming for my club team is more individual, where you are swimming for the best times. In high school, you're not swimming for a time, you're swimming for points and the whole team is rooting for you."

After winning her two individual races, Gorham sought out DiGiacomo for advice on how she could swim faster. So far, her person-best times are 24.25 in the 50 freestyle and 58.4 in the 100 backstroke.

"I talk to as many kids as I can about how they swam, but she will seek me out after every race," DiGiacomo said. "We try to correct technique so we can get her swims perfect. The girl is a workhorse. She wants to be as good as she can be."

Gorham swims for both the Scarlet Aquatics Elite Division and Chatham, which puts her in the pool every single day of the week. She swims from 6 to 9 p.m. every night during the week, practices on Saturday morning and then on Sunday evening.

"I get off one week in August," Gorham said. "Basically, it's a love-hate relationship. I want to quit, but I love competing and I love racing. It's worth it in the end."

Gorham considers Amanda Beard, a veteran of four Olympics for the U.S., a role model.

"Beard said that what separates good swimmers from great swimmers is that the great ones push past the pain," said the 17-year-old senior. "I'm never satisfied with my time. I'm happy, but I'm not really satisfied. I always know that I can do better."

Gorham is being pushed in the 50 freestyle by her younger sister, Emily, a freshman. She was second in the 50 free and the 100 butterfly in the sectional meet.

"She's two inches taller than me and one of my biggest competitors," Gorham said. "She pushes me and makes me a better swimmer. Me and my sister are best friends. It makes me proud to see her do well."

 

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