Members of the U.S. swim team for the Summer Olympics stood together Monday night and relished the moment.
Everything they got they earned over eight days at the U.S. Olympic Trials. They repeated at different times how the Trials might be tougher than the Summer Games.
Now they will have to refocus — and fast.
Team USA has just 26 days between the completion of the U.S. Trials and the July 28 start of the swimming competition at the London Games. That window was almost two weeks longer between the 2008 Trials and the Beijing Games.
“I'm comfortable with our Trials being so late, because right now the rest of the world has to wonder if they can get there again,” said Gregg Troy, the U.S. men's coach. “We know where we are at. Our athletes are in a good spot.
“We have 21 great days planned for them. I think we're going to respond really well. It's competition, and we like to compete.”
The 2012 U.S. Trials wrapped Monday night before a crowd of 9,609. That pushed the eight-day, 15-session total to a record 167,048, bettering the 160,063 for the 2008 U.S. Trials in Omaha.
The team of 26 women and 23 men are scheduled for a brief training session Tuesday morning in the CenturyLink Center pool. They will have a short break before their domestic training camp starts in Knoxville, Tenn.
Frank Busch, the national team director for USA Swimming, said they will train in Knoxville until July 14, spend eight days in France and then travel to London on July 23.
The trick along the way will be maintaining the intensity that got them to and through Omaha while also dialing back some of the physical demands.
“That's kind of where the black magic of coaching comes in,” said Tyler Clary, who made the team in the 200 backstroke and 200 butterfly.
“The thing is, the people that are on the team have all put in enough training to be able to hold on to a taper for a very long time. So at this point what we're doing is just more aerobic maintenance than anything.”
The U.S. Trials were the latest for any country that will have swimmers at the London Games. For perspective, Australia held its Trials in March.
Still, second-time Olympian Ricky Berens called it “a perfect amount of time” for the powerhouse U.S. team that will be led by Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt.
“We're probably just all going to jump real hard for the next two weeks and then come right back down,” Berens said. “I think it'll be a good position for everybody.”
When Omaha was first negotiating for the 2012 U.S. Trials, dates were among the challenges. Mark Schubert, then the national team head coach, wanted to start sooner to match the same Trials-to-Games time frame as 2008, but Omaha had to work around College World Series dates.
Busch downplayed it all Monday, saying American swimmers have been exposed to similar schedules through their careers. Teri McKeever, the U.S. women's coach, said it's also not like it's some kind of surprise.
“We've known for four years that this is the format we're going to use,” McKeever said. “The athletes have known, the coaches have known, and it's just like when people were worried about finals being in the morning in Beijing. Well, it worked because the coaches made it work and the athletes made it work.”
There was news before Monday's last two finals: Phelps decided to opt out of the 200 freestyle, cutting his workload for the Summer Games to four individual events and three relays. That takes away the pressure to try to match the record eight golds he won in Beijing.
“Yes, we won't hear the number eight again after this press conference,” said Bob Bowman, Phelps' coach with the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. “As Michael said all along, it wasn't going to be eight. He's said that for the last four years.”
Bowman said the decision was made late Sunday night. In determining which event to drop, Bowman said they looked at how each fit into his program.
U.S. OLYMPIC SWIM TRIALS
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“What this allows him to do,” Bowman said, “is focus all of his energy to the 4x100 relay on the second night of the meet without having to do two 200 frees the night before.”
That also eliminates one of the events in which Phelps and Lochte will go head-to-head in London, leaving only the 400 IM and 200 IM. Phelps is the two-time defending Olympic champ in both events.
Troy said it's great that American sports fans again will sink their teeth into the rivalry — and the sport should embrace it. But he added that others around the world are pretty good in those events.
“I don't believe that Michael or Ryan have carte blanche, that it's just the two of them,” Troy said. “There are other guys out there who are capable, and I think Michael and Ryan are both ready for those challenges. It just adds to the mix. Racing is fun. That's why these guys do it.”
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