Monday, May 17, 2010

Charlotte UltraSwim From the Deck

The Charlotte UltraSwim was an amazing experience for me. As Garrett put it in the recap video I did with him on Saturday night, I was in swim geek heaven. I’d never been to any meet with Olympians swimming, so it was quite something to see Phelps, Lochte, Berens, Soni, and Knutson all warming up when I got to the Mecklenburg Aquatic Center on Friday afternoon. I recognized coaches and swimmers around the deck and was in awe of what I saw, because of the names and soon enough because of the times they posted. Almost immediately, Phelps pulled off another Phelps Phinish in the 200 free, taking out Peter Vanderkaay by just four one-hundredths of a second. Quite possibly the best weekend of my life, here were some of the highlights:

I was walking through the warm-down area on Saturday morning when Felicia Lee tapped me on the shoulder. “Excuse me, aren’t you David?” It turns out Bob Bowman, her coach, saw my Morning Swim Show interview and told her about it, and she saw it, so she recognized me on deck. Wow.

Elizabeth Beisel’s hilarious. Duh.

I said that Beisel was “slacking off” Sunday morning for swimming only two events, when she swam three on Saturday. I told her coach, Chuck Batchelor, that he was getting slack, especially since Missy Franklin did swim three (consecutive) events that morning. I also gave Beisel a hard time for forcing a re-seed of the 400 free finals since she late-scratched.

In addition to their duels over toughest event schedule and in the 200 back specifically, where Franklin just held off Beisel, the two girls had a competition to see whose coach was loudest. Batchelor had his familiar high-pitched whoop which made it very clear when one of his swimmers was swimming, while Franklin’s coach, Todd Schmitz, screamed for his swimmers at unheard of volumes. Even when the doors were closed, one could hear both from the media room on the opposite side of the facility.

People on the deck at swim meets often talk about how laid-back Aaron Peirsol is. I experienced that myself. During the C-Final of the 100 fly, I walked into the warm-down pool and saw Peirsol, who was supposed to be in the B-Final, which would begin in about 45 seconds. “Umm, aren’t you in the next race?” I asked. “Yeah; did they send you to come get me?” replied Peirsol with a chuckle. He then casually got up, slowly walked to lane one, put his cap on, and dove in (and dropped several places from his prelim swim).

I met Nick Thoman two weeks prior to the meet at a Fitter and Faster clinic in Charleston, SC, where I live. I asked him about UltraSwim, and he told me he wanted to go 53.7 in the 100 back, and he was looking forward to racing a great field. He remembered me at the meet and remembered the prediction he gave me. In the meet’s most highly-anticipated race, he went 53.70 and held off Michael Phelps to win the thing. I was very excited for him, as was the rest of the house.

Since the Long Beach Grand Prix, I have asked Bob Bowman a bunch of questions on Facebook, mainly about what he expects from his athletes. As anyone who is familiar with Bowman knows, he doesn’t tell anyone what he expects or give away any secrets. I introduced myself at the meet and continued asking questions about his athletes’ swims. I was walking to the media risers before finals on Saturday, and I passed him. He asked me, “What, you’re not gonna ask me any questions?” I replied, “I know you wouldn’t answer them!”

An interesting note about me and Bob Bowman: I first met him at the Swim With The Stars camp in 2007. I asked him questions such as “What is Michael swimming at Nationals?” He asked me if I was an undercover reporter for Swimming World Magazine. At the time, I wasn’t, but less than three years later, here I am, working at a swim meet for Swimming World Magazine!

I met and interacted with a bunch of athletes and coaches on deck, and I wanted to give them recognition for making this weekend so awesome: Bradley Ally, Conor Dwyer, Ryan Lochte, Gregg Troy, Kris Kubik, Natalie Coughlin, Matt Grevers, Mark Gangloff, Tyler McGill, Brett Hawke, David Marsh, Cullen Jones, Josh Schneider, Monty Hopkins, Nate Boyle, Bill Pilczuk, Bob Bowman, Chuck Batchelor, Felicia Lee, Elizabeth Pelton, Elizabeth Beisel, David Plummer, Aaron Peirsol, Nick Thoman, Dagny Knutson, Todd Schmitz, George Bovell, Rebecca Soni, Peter Vanderkaay, Mike Bottom, Chloe Sutton

It was awesome as well to finally meet Garrett McCaffrey and Mike Gustafson, who I’ve talked plenty of swimming with but never in person.

Meeting Rowdy Gaines was truly special. I’ve watched his coverages of swim meets, especially the Olympics, all of my life. He is an extremely nice guy, and, like me, he genuinely loves swimming.

Thanks also to all of the people from USA Swimming and SwimMAC Carolina who hosted me, a 16 year old “swim geek,” and were awesome.

Shout-out to Gold Medal Mel, Mel Stewart, who helped me get my media credential and get into the meet when I got there on Friday.

Finally, a big thank-you to a man I’ve never met in person, but he’s the guy that gave the huge opportunity I had this weekend: Jason Marsteller. He first let me write on the Swimming World website in July, and since then I have become a correspondent and have been covering meets for him since January. He got me the media credential and let me write articles from this weekend, while constantly giving me tips to make my writing more worthwhile and credible. Thanks, Jason!

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