Friday, July 25. 2008
After Melbourne, I went back into training to prepare for the USA Olympic Trials which would be held in October of 2007. Sometime in 2006 the International Olympic Committee had determined that the 10K open water swim would be introduced as an Olympic sport in Beijing. I didn’t have one of those pivotal life-altering moments when I found out, rather the reality of the Olympics seemed to grow steadily in the beginning of 2007. I stopped focusing on the 25K race, and with my coaches John Dussliere and Gregg Wilson, I mapped out a plan for making the Olympics in the 10K.
Going into the 10K USA Olympic Trials in 2007 I was not the favorite to win. Chip Peterson was the clear favorite, followed by Fran Crippen. I was supposed to get third or maybe fourth behind Chad LaTourette. At the race the top 2 Americans would qualify for the World Championships (which would be the Olympic qualifier) to be held in May of 2008. Third place, as is often the case in swimming, was essentially no different than last place.
In preparation for USA Olympic Trials I decided to make a few sacrifices to ensure that I would be at my best for the race. I recognized that life in Santa Barbara was full of distractions and that I needed to go somewhere that I wouldn’t be tempted by friends, family and the town of Santa Barbara itself. I decided to go up to Colorado Springs and to the Olympic Training Center for most of July, August, September and October leading up to the race. John Dussliere (coach at Santa Barbara Swim Club) came up a few times to coach me, but he had responsibilities to the rest of the swim club program that kept him from working with me full-time. Gregg had his hands full as the UCSB coach. Diana stayed at home to continue working as a preschool teacher for most of the time I was away. That summer and fall I spent a lot of time alone in the water.
Obviously, the race in October went well. I swam most of the race in 4 to 8th place, and took the lead with about 1500 meters to go. Chip Peterson and I pulled away from the pack with 800 meters left and I touched him out by 1 second at the finish.
Now that the American Open Water Trials were completed the confusion about how to qualify for the Olympics began. Since the 10K would premiere in Beijing the International Olympic Committee wanted to limit the number of participants to 25 men. They created a bizarre selection process that would make you very confused, but for the purposes of this post the only thing that was important was that I placed in the top 10 or that I beat the other American (Chip Peterson) at the World Championships.
During the fall of 2007 and early in 2008 I went back to training in Santa Barbara, but I soon found that swimming in Santa Barbara was not as ideal as it was in Colorado Springs. Training at the Olympic Training Center took away the temptations of home, and without those temptations I logged many hours of lonely swimming in February, March and April. (Coach John came up a few times, but even when he was on deck I was the only athlete in the water).
In May the USA Open Water delegation went to Seville, Spain to compete in the World Championships. I had made quite a few sacrifices to get into the race at all and now I had one opportunity to make the Olympics. However, if I failed to place in the top 10 in that race my career would be over. Seemingly it would have been an anxious time, but I felt a tremendous peace leading into the race (a future post on nerves, peace and joy, with a bit of a faith testimony, coming sometime soon). I swam the race of my life and got 7th, nearly touched 4th and was only a few seconds behind 3rd.
The lack of anxiety I felt before and during the race made the post-race tension peculiar. Because the final sprint to the finish line had been very close between 4th through 13th place the officials didn’t want to prematurely announce places. The key was to finish in the top 10 and because so many of us touched at essentially the same time we had to wait for 15 minutes after the race to discover who would be an Olympian and who would be watching the race from home. My 7th place finish put me on the team, and that’s the story of how we got here. Next post from Singapore.
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