FINAL Update from Olympic Trials

July 5: everyone has safely returned to the Bay Area this morning.

Yesterday, July 4, was a memorable day of swimming!  Before going to the evening finals, Maya and her family went to a reception for the swimmers and families that were a part of the National Junior Team trip to Australia this past January.  It was nice to meet the parents of some of the swimmers and hear about their plans.  Most of the boys on the team (who were usually 2 years older than the girls) are getting ready to head off to college and it was interesting to hear where they were going. 

At finals, Maya sat and watched with Junior Team member Ashley Evans from Arizona.  The USA Swimming Foundation provided everyone with a small American flag and either a red, white, or blue t-shirt, which the spectators donned for the session, giving the evening a distinctively patriotic feel.  The crowd was the largest and rowdiest of the week and it appears that the swimmers were starting to relax and blow off steam now that most of them had completed their events.  Before finals began, the athletes got the crowd started in "the wave" which continued until NBC began televising the event.

We will remember Michael Phelps’ 200IM WR and Dara Torres’ win in the 100 Free as a 41 year old.  Another swim worth mentioning was 13 year old Madison White of CROW in the 200 Back - qualifying for semis and improving her time in the evening (2:13.33) - an effort which would have finished 5 or 6th in the 2004 Trials Finals!  Keep your eye on this young talent from Pacific Swimming. 

Maya and Molly are looking forward to getting back in the Ridgway training pool on Monday!

July 3: things are starting to wind down for us, and there are just a few days left in the meet now.  Coach Tony returned to Santa Rosa last night, and Molly and her family left this afternoon.  Before she left, Molly swam a personal best time in a 100 Breast time trial, going 1:10.29.  Maya was going to swim a 100 Fly time trial today hoping to set a faster time (she nearly matched her lifetime best 100 Fly in her 200 Fly split) but she woke up today with a slight fever and body aches, so that plan was cancelled. 

We all went to finals tonight and enjoyed watching Elaine Breeden’s and Kathleen Hersey’s 200 Fly qualification.

July 2: <evening> Amanda again dropped significant time, going 2:11.05 and finishing 12th overall.  She came within 0.62 seconds of qualifying for the 200 Fly finals - a tremendous effort!  We hope you had a chance to see it on TV.  Amanda’s prelim swim is our video posting for today.

Another very interesting race to watch was the womens’ 200 IM final. Coughlin pushed the pace hard in the first 50 (0.7 under WR pace) but all of the swimmers went out fast. Hoff and Kukors caught up on the breast stroke, but all three appeared to be hurting on the last 50.  Hoff’s conditioning allowed her to prevail.  Kukors led Coughlin into the final wall for second place but instead of gliding in and touching with her left hand, Kukors took an extra stroke and touched with her right (her left hand could not have been more than 12 inches from the wall!)  That finish allowed Coughlin to slip by, taking 2nd by 0.08 seconds.

<morning> great news from this morning’s prelims - Amanda Sims qualified for the 200 Fly semi’s tonight in a personal best time of 2:11.93!  She finished 13th among this morning’s swimmers -- that puts her in the 2nd semi final heat.  This race will be broadcast on the USA Network tonight - so make sure to watch if you can!

Also, in the same event, Maya DiRado won her heat and set a personal best time of 2:14.57, moving up to 33rd place from her initial seeding of 72nd.  The time was more than 1 second better than her time coming in. 

July 1: another fabulous day of swimming.  Although there were many great races, last night’s finals were the first session wherein a world record was not set.  While no world records were set in today’s prelims either, US Swimming depth was on display.  In both the women’s 200 Free and men’s 200 Fly, a sub 2 minute performance was required to advance from prelims.  As a point of comparison, in 2004 Kate Dwelley of the Terrapins qualified 7th for the 200 Free Olympic Trials finals with a time of 2:00.5.

Maya DiRado swam in the 4th to last heat of the 200IM (the fastest non-circle seeded heat) and placed 3rd in the heat with a personal best time of 2:17.18.  This was good enough to move her up from her seeding of 35th to a final placing of 23rd.  A 2:15.6 was required to advance to the semi-final round. She was pleased with her result and talks about it (and other things) in the video which follows.

We saw two more world records tonight - the women’s and men’s 100 Back (Coughlin and Piersol).  In another indication of US Swimming domination, Haley McGregory, who held the 100 Back WR briefly yesterday, failed to qualify for the Olympic Team, finishing 3rd.  Similarly, in the men’s race Ryan Lochte swam the 3rd fastest 100 Back time in the world this year and also was shut out of the event by upstart Matt Grevers.


June 30:  after last night’s 2 world records, you might expect somewhat of an emotional letdown this morning. Instead, the fast swimming continued without a pause!  For us, the major highlights were another 2 world records set in the prelims of the womens’ 100 Back, and then Molly Hannis’ outstanding swim in the 100 Breast. 

In the 100 Back, Hayley McGregory broke Natalie Coughlin’s world record swimming in lane 4 in the next to last prelims heat.  Coughlin, waiting to swim in the same lane of the last heat, had a close up view of her record getting taken away from her.  Maya was sitting near Natalie’s fiance and CROW coach Ethan Hunt during McGregory’s race.  Maya asked Hunt, "what do you think Natalie’s going to do?"  Hunt just smiled.  As it turns out, McGregory held the record for less than two minutes.  Coughlin reestablished the world record by outswimming McGregory’s last 50.  Very cool to watch.

Some other notable performances by Pacific Swimming athletes included Madison White in the 100 Back, Chelsea Chenault in the 400 Free, and Kasey Carlson in the 100 Breast (Kasey qualified 9th for the semi-finals tonight).

In the 100m Breast, the Neptunes’ Molly Hannis came into the meet seeded 40th.  She swam in lane 1 of heat 10 and came in 2nd in the heat with a personal best time of 1:10.43, dropping almost 0.6 seconds.  Although only the top 16 move on to the semi finals, Molly’s time remained in the top 16 until the very last heat finished and she ended up 23rd overall.  Her time allowed her to join her teammate Maya DiRado on the 2008-2009 US National Junior Team.  We hope you enjoy the following video recapping the last 18 hrs.



June 29: <evening> We hope you all had a chance to see tonight’s finals and semis on NBC - 2 world records and an American record were set!  Not only did Phelps and Hoff set new standards, but the second place finisher in each event pushed them very hard (Lochte’s 2nd place was #2 performance ever, Beisel’s was 3rd fastest women’s performance ever in the event).  We expect many more records to be set this week. USA Swimming and Omaha should be commended for putting together a fabulous event - not only does it work well for the spectators at the pool and watching on TV,  but it is an ideal environment for very fast swimming.

Tomorrow Molly Hannis will swim the 100 Breast while Maya and Amanda have an off day comprised of doing some workouts and watching the swims.

<morning>Maya DiRado finished in 29th place in the 400IM this morning, swimming about 1 second slower than her best time coming in.  Fueled by all the adrenaline of the big event, Maya felt that perhaps she got off too fast in the fly, and that probably cost her a bit in the remainder of the race.  While she was a bit disappointed with her swim, we are all looking forward to seeing some incredible performances tonight - we think that up to 3 world records could be set. The Qwest Center is a fantastic and dramatic setting for great performances -- when the crowd is into it, the roar is deafening.

Also this morning, Amanda Sims finished 28th in the 100 Fly, swimming about 0.5 seconds off her lifetime best.

It’s clear this is coming together to perhaps be the fastest meet in history (including any previous Olympic Games).  For example, all 16 qualifiers and the first alternate for the Women’s 100 Fly swam under 1 minute (only 2 years ago, there had only been 25 US women ever who had ever broken 1 minute).  In the women’s 400IM, the 8th fastest prelim time from the 2004 Trials would have placed 25th in this year’s trials.

Molly and Maya are doing another warmup this evening before finals - we’ll update you on our impressions later.

June 28: while we’ve only been here about 30 hours, it already seems like a long time.  Following are a few somewhat disconnected thoughts about Omaha and our time here so far.

Walk to Pool - the pool is about ½ mile to the north of our hotel. It’s less than an easy 10 minute walk to get there. As you walk to the pool, the ConAgra Foods world headquarters is to your right (with very impressive display of American flags) and with the Missouri River a few hundred yards beyond that. To your left is downtown Omaha.
Omaha’s reason for being is that it is the commercial center of a vast agricultural region. There are really no other large cities within 6 or 7 hours drive in any direction (Kansas City to the south, Denver to west, Chicago to the east). The offices and production operations of food processing, packing, shipping, and financing companies are major employers. For example - besides ConAgra, the Union Pacific Railroad and Mutual of Omaha (duh), are headquartered here.
Apparently to help diversify its traditional economy, the City of Omaha has recently invested heavily to create an attractive setting to host conventions and major sporting events. They just finished hosting the college baseball World Series last week and will be hosting the NCAA women’s volleyball final four in December. The Olympic Swimming Trials appears to be a huge deal here, with coverage on the cover of the daily paper and prominent attention on local TV news, including a 1 hr long primetime special on the local NBC affiliate.
Atmosphere – it’s been very relaxed so far. Everywhere you go (at the hotels, at restaurants) you run into the swimmers, loud and laughing (while the coaches appear to congregate mostly at the brew pubs). 

As we get closer to the competition, you can sense that the mood may be about to change. This morning I stood by the door to the arena as swimmers arrived for registration. Many were talking loudly and excitedly as they approached the building, but became suddenly quiet as they passed through the large sliding doors decorated with immense images of USA Swimming’s big names. Seeing the foyer to the arena for the first time – cathedral like with marble floors and the ceiling three stories above – the athletes encountered an unfamiliar landscape, a sign they were now passing into new territory in the course of their swimming journey.

And finally, our video posting of the day...


June 27:  today was scheduled to be a travel day topped off with check in and a short workout at the Qwest Center.

Maya DiRado and Coach Tony Scott arrived in Omaha in the early afternoon.  Before Maya could get to the pool, a freak storm blew through downtown Omaha!  Alarms and warnings were broadcast through the area and our hotel directed everyone to take shelter in the big ballroom.  We were in there with many other swimmers.  When the storm blew through, it sounded like a freight train was passing by the hotel.  It was only a tiny bit scary, but mostly a novelty.  Lots of rain and large chunks of hail fell for about 15 minutes, and blown leaves and minor flooding were evident everywhere.

Afterwards we walked down the five blocks to the pool.  As we got there, people were turning back, telling us that the pool had been closed.  But we kept on since we were hoping to at least get Maya checked in.  As we arrived, we saw debris all over the sidewalk in front of the arena, and many swimmers were exiting the building.  Then we noticed significant damage to the uppermost portions of the arena.  We learned that the pool would be closed for the rest of evening to inspect the damage, but that they were planning on opening tomorrow on schedule.  Luckily, it did not appear that anyone was hurt or that the damage was anything but cosmetic.

Molly Hannis arrives tomorrow. The Cal women are also at our hotel (so Amanda Sims is staying here too).  Maya ran into Shaila Yoder of CROW and several of her National Junior team friends.  Our hotel is directly accross the street from a trendy shopping / dining area called Old Market.  Looks like a great place to be!

Following is a short video of our first few hours - hope this begins to give you a feel for what its like: