And just like that, the Olympic Trials have wrapped up. The rest of the swimming in the CenturyLink Center will consist of Masters Nationals, not quite the rabid excitement we saw for the past eight days. Tonight, we saw the end of an era, as Dara Torres failed to make a sixth Olympic team. Jessica Hardy won the 50 free, as expected, while Kara Lynn Joyce put together one spectacular performance after a lackluster meet to finish second. Takes some serious mental toughness to pull that out after not even making the semi-finals of the 100 free. Shout-out, too, to Christine Magnuson, who, like Joyce, rebounded strongly after a rough week in the 50 free, but she ended up a disappointing third.
Meanwhile, the crowd in Omaha witnessed a fantastic race in the men's mile, while those of us at home watched about one-third of the race on NBC. Though I'm sure disappointed I didn't get to see much of the race, the race itself didn't disappoint. Chad La Tourette showed the guts I expected from him early on, but he paid the price down the stretch and faded to third. Andrew Gemmell and Connor Jaeger, meanwhile, duked it out to the last 50, when Gemmell pulled away down the stretch. Having sat right in front of Andrew Gemmell's mom for three days, I knew the Gemmell camp carried confidence into the final and into the great swim we just saw. No, those times won't medal in London, but both have the potential to go faster, as they showed with some too-fast final 50 splits, and they could definitely get into the final heat.
Meanwhile, now I must give my overall thoughts on the long week we just witnessed in Omaha. The U.S., as a whole, looks set up to go faster in the majority of events in London after many athletes prepared to peak a month down the line. In contrast, four years ago we saw nine world records in Omaha. While the suits helped, no question, athletes then found themselves swimming slower at the Olympics. After watching some lackluster times in certain events and feeling the buzz on the deck, I really feel confident about the potential that this team carries into the meet.
One big piece of news came out today involving the greatest swimmer that has ever lived. Yep, Michael Phelps pulled out of the 200 free race in London, allowing Ricky Berens to move up as an individual 200 free swimmer and Davis Tarwater to finally make his first Olympic team after so many years of close calls. Phelps felt too restricted in his potential Olympic program and felt that his body couldn't quite handle 17 swims this time around. Phelps won four times this week, for a total of 13 career Trials wins. Phelps, I believe, has firmly established that he has returned to the conversation for the best swimmer in the world. No, he still has not regained the title outright. But he beat the reigning king twice this week. Not to mention that Phelps hadn't touched in front of this man in a major race in two years. More to come across the pond, including who emerges as the final number one.
Once my disappointment of Trials being over subsides, I will be back later on this week with my thoughts on what this Trials meant to me. But let me say that it means a lot. Some of my best memories from the Olympic saga four years ago came in Omaha, and the montage of the highlights from 2008 Trials last night allowed me to relive those moments I watched from the TV. The lack of records at this meet meant that each individual swim did not leave as much of an impression, but the meet as a whole sure did. I just experienced the best weekend of my life. And really quickly, thank you to everyone I met in Omaha and everyone who took the time to talk to me. That alone meant more than anyone could possibly imagine.