MCGILL: Rocky-Inspired Parsemain Knocks Out Competition in the Pool
The Word on the Herd -- Jan. 26, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- There are similarities between the fictional movie character, Rocky Balboa, and Marshall University senior swimmer Chloe Parsemain.
They’re both fighters, although Parsemain not in the literal sense. The French-born MU student-athlete could’ve once been viewed as undersized and an underdog, although she worked tirelessly to shed both labels.
Parsemain once shared a message from another account on the social media website Twitter that read: Every champion was once a contender who didn’t give up.
“That’s why Rocky is my (favorite),” Parsemain tweeted in response.
Now a senior at Marshall, the native of Fos-sur-Mer, France, is excelling in the butterfly and freestyle. Last weekend, in an event at James Madison University, Parsemain won the 100 fly to set a pool best time of 56.19, which broke a four-year old record.
It is almost like there should be dissyllabic chants of “Chlo-e! Chlo-e!” cascading down from the stands. And for the longest time, Parsemain said, she hadn’t seen any movies in the Rocky franchise.
“What’s Rocky?” Marshall swimming and diving coach Bill Tramel remembered Parsemain saying a couple years ago. “She had no idea what Rocky was.”
The swimmer faked the movie knowledge for a while.
“I could pull like two or three quotes and I know he runs up the steps, I know the songs, I know he fights some Russian,” Parsemain said. “For like a year and a half, our sophomore year, (my roommate) believed I watched all of the Rocky movies and I never did.”
Then along came "Creed," the 2015 movie that is the seventh in the "Rocky" series. After that, Parsemain binge-watched the rest of the "Rocky" films. She was hooked. She found inspiration. She found a little-engine-that-could to push her to be more than she was.
“They are like the best movies ever,” she said. “They get you so hyped. They get me so pumped, I love it.”
Parsemain’s home is a small port town that hugs the Mediterranean coast. As a young child, her maternal grandfather, who was a fisherman, wanted to take her out on his boat. That’s when she learned to swim.
She thought she was too short for running and hated tennis because of the heat. She found a fit in the water.
“I liked swimming,” Parsemain said. “I did it and stuck with it. I’m kind of hard-headed. If I commit to something I never really quit.”
Still, she didn’t think highly of her own skills. When Tramel initiated recruiting, Parsemain saw herself as someone who “wasn’t very good” and didn’t “have much stamina.”
“Bill was the best coach,” she said. “He wanted to get me better. He said he knew how.”
She was contacted in April of her senior year and decided to pursue swimming in the United States. She decided to delay following in the footsteps of her father, who is a family doctor.
“I was only 17 and not ready for the stress of med school,” Parsemain said. “I didn’t even have a driver’s license.”
She committed to Marshall without seeing the campus. She wanted a school that had her major, obviously, and she wanted to avoid cold weather, if possible. She put Huntington, West Virginia, into Google maps and did a little research.
“I picked Marshall because it was the greatest fit for me,” she said. “I had never seen the campus. I was just like, ‘let’s go.’ I didn’t know where West Virginia was. No regrets.”
Parsemain has evolved as a swimmer here. The results were not promising at the outset.
“It was not good,” she said. “I was terrible. I won my first college event in the spring of my sophomore year against a team that was not very good. I won my first real competition a year ago.”
She recently came across the times from her first college meet and couldn’t believe what she saw. She immediately texted her head coach in astonishment.
“What are these times?” she said in her message to Tramel.
Thundering Herd volunteer assistant Kacey Preun, who swam at Marshall from 2011-15, has witnessed Parsemain’s maturation during her four years on campus and under Tramel's tutelege.
“She was good but not fully committed,” Preun said. “Then she worked out all summer, she lifted, she got a lot stronger. It was all in the head, too. She was committed – this is what I’m going to do. She went from this small, tiny thing to being this jacked girl who committed on her underwater; she committed to getting faster.
“She went from barely scoring points to scoring how many points? Getting how many medals? That’s one hard-working girl. She decided to reach her full potential.”
Preun said Parsemain was “a little cocky” before she found much success in the pool. That’s changed now.
“She can be whatever she wants to be,” Preun said. “Lots of the younger swimmers look up to her. Who wouldn’t?”
Parsemain and the Thundering Herd return to the pool on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., as they welcome the Vanderbilt Commodores of the Southeastern Conference.