Former McCallie School star and current University of Michigan swimmer Sean Ryan earned a gold medal in the 2013 World University Games in the men's 1,500-meter freestyle Friday in Kazan, Russia.
Ryan, a Hixson resident, delivered the United States' first gold in the Games, which run through Wednesday.
"I just wanted to stay relaxed and swim my own race," Ryan said after the event, according to USA Swimming. "Some of the racers got ahead of me at the beginning, but around the halfway mark I made my move and was able to separate from them for the rest of the race.
"This win was something special."
Ryan's strategy to pace himself early proved effective, and his closing burst pushed him to a 14:57.33 finish. The gold was Ryan's first career international individual medal.
The World University Games is a multisport competition organized every two years for university athletes by the International Sports Federation.
Ryan is slated to participate in the open water championships next week in the World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. He's entered in the 10- and 5-kilometer races and also may get to defend his 2011 world championship in the three-person 5k pursuit race.
McCallie coach Stan Corcoran recalled Ryan's disappointment at not being at full strength last year when the Olympics were held -- he hurt a shoulder at the end of the 2012 NCAA season and lost weight from an illness in May -- but praised the swimmer's response.
"Sometimes when you have disappointment it's hard to rebound from that," Corcoran said, "but I think Sean's done a really good job of getting back in the pool and working hard this whole year. He's on the national 'A' team [top six] in both the mile and in the open water, so he's back where he was two years ago."
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