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Virginia graduate (2011) and swimming legend Matt McLean has conquered that interior battle like few others. In a specialty, distance freestyle, which demands mental discipline, he has ascended to the top of the national and world rankings thanks to a gargantuan 6-foot-6, 220-pound frame and a cerebral, measured mental approach. After second- and third-place finishes in the 400- and 200-meter freestyle races at the National Championships two weekends ago, he will compete at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona later this month.
â€œThis is a man thatâ€™s got all the tools,â€ said Jon Urbanchek, a former coach of McLeanâ€™s.
(Virginia Swimming video featuring Matt McLean, not directly related to this story)
But he, like the supporters and coaches who watch him race, is merely a spectator in the controversy which has engulfed 31-time ACC Coach of the Year Mark Bernardinoâ€™s sudden retirement. Supporters of Virginia athletics have witnessed the outcome â€” Bernardinoâ€™s abrupt departure and the wave of skepticism from swimming alumni which followed it â€” but seemingly no one save the Virginia athletics department or Bernardino himself knows what transpired beneath the surface. And as McLean balances his frustration with Bernardinoâ€™s retirement with his anticipation for the pinnacle of his swimming career, he bears examination as the quintessential Bernardino swimmer.
â€œI think that Mark has done more for the Virginia program than possibly any coach has done for any other program in the country,â€ McLean said. â€œHe gave 35 years of his life completely to the program, and he held certain values so close that he wouldnâ€™t sacrifice them for anything. Honor, Integrity, Loyalty.â€