relax after the school year ended, CAS sophomore and NYU men’s swimming team member Graham Chatoor was preparing for yet another test — the 2019 Pan American Games.
Representing his home country of Trinidad and Tobago, Chatoor competed in the 400-meter and 1500-meter freestyle races and cemented his name in the history books. On Aug. 6 and 10, Chatoor placed 13th overall in the 400-meter and 15th in the 1500-meter freestyle races with times of 4:02.77 and 16:13.84, respectively. The 1500-meter time set a national record in Trinidad and Tobago.
Chatoor has been competing for Trinidad and Tobago internationally since he was 13. Since he was already registered as a swimmer, all of his officially recorded race times were automatically used to determine whether he made the cut.
“I think Graham had expected to go [to the Games] for a while, so when he officially qualified we were happy for him,” CAS senior and men’s swimming captain Davis Looney said. “It was a matter of how fast he could go, not whether he could qualify.”
Once the semester concluded in May, Chatoor returned to Trinidad and began a training regime, leading up to the Games. Trevor Miele, Chatoor’s swimming coach at NYU, has had experience working with swimmers who compete internationally and is familiar with the difficulties of this time period.
“We’re not allowed to coach in the offseason. It’s an NCAA Division III rule, so we can’t,” Miele said. “International swimming is — of course — in meters, and college is in yards, so definitely training should be a little different for that, but we’re not allowed to help with it. The NCAA kind of handicaps us.”
The Pan American Games were a new and exciting experience for Chatoor. Despite his experience in previous international events, he had never lived in a “games village” for athletes, let alone competed on a stage as large as the Pan American Games. The extended length of the games also brought a new set of challenges for Chatoor.
“I was there for about five days before my first race, so it was good to chill,” Chatoor said. “But trying to keep fit during the week [between the two races] was rough, because I had to keep my fitness up without getting too tired before the 1500.”
The races themselves were a mixed bag for Chatoor. He struggled in the qualifying round of the 400-meter race — his first appearance in the Games — and placed 17th, but a strong showing in the final catapulted him up four spots to 13th. Chatoor also struggled early in the 1500-meter race, but was once again able to overcome and finish strong.
“I personally don’t have a lot of trouble concentrating, I just sing a song in my head and keep going,” Chatoor said. “But that day, the guy next to me was making my life hard, getting up beside me and then falling behind, but eventually, I got past it.”
After pushing through this initial challenge, he went on to break Trinidad and Tobago’s record time for the 1500-meter race.
“It’s a big confidence booster for sure,” Chatoor said. “I got messages from a bunch of my friends on the [NYU] team and my coaches after.”
The excitement from friends and coaches went beyond text messages as many of them had been anticipating race day for months and had been supporting him since his qualification. Many actively followed his races online due to lack of broadcasting options.
“I followed Graham’s races primarily through coverage on Twitter,” NYU swimmer and CAS senior Hannah Bub said. “I am so proud of Graham for how well he swam and I can’t wait to see how he does in this upcoming season.”
NYU’s upcoming fall season brings high expectations for Chatoor as he looks to emulate his success at the Games and return to the Division III finals in the 1500-yard freestyle. As a first-year, Chatoor finished fourth at the NCAA Championships.
“The goal with Graham is to get him back to NCAA’s, and to be top eight in the country and vie for the championship,” Miele said. “That’s the next step for Graham. As a team, we want to be one of the top teams in the country, so we should be top ten, fighting for a place in the top five.”
Chatoor and the rest of the NYU Swimming and Diving Team return to action on Nov. 8 as they take on Princeton University, Stevens Institute of Technology and Drew University at the NYU Fall Invitational at Palladium Athletic Facility.
A version of this article appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019, print edition. Email Benjamin Michael Davis at [email protected]