Two-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov and four other members of the South Florida Aquatic Club will compete overseas for the first time as SOFLO swimmers this weekend.

Polyakov of Kazakhstan, Arlene Semeco and Leo Andara of Venezuela, Marco Camargo of Ecuador and Loai Tashkandi of Saudi Arabia will be joined by six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg for the first of three meets in what’s regarded as the world’s greatest swimming tournament.

The opening meet is June 5-6 in Monaco followed by June 9-10 in Barcelona, Spain and June 12-13 in Canet en Roussillon, France.

U.S. National Youth Team member Lindsey McKnight, 16, will represent the U.S. in the Barcelona meet and then join her Nike-sponsored SOFLO teammates for the Canet meet.

Lohberg left Coral Springs on Thursday and will join his swimmers in Monaco on Friday.

“I am excited,” Lohberg said. “This is the first time we will show ourselves on the international stage as SOFLO.

“We have got three meets to swim well. By the looks of the psych sheets it seems everybody is here and I mean everybody. This is the year to travel and have some fun times. It is typical because next year is the year before the Olympics and no one wants to travel. They like to stay home and train.”

Polyakov will be the most rested and acclimated after spending a week in Slovenia at Kazakhstan’s national team training camp in Ljubljana.

Polyakov was scheduled to fly into Monaco on Friday. He plans to compete in all three meets.

“We are going to be fully-rested going into the meet,” Polyakov said. “The last time I was fully-rested and shaved was last August.”

Polyakov and the rest of his SOFLO teammates are excited about the end of the high-tech suits. It will be the first major international meet where swimmers will return to competing on an even playing field wearing FINA-approved suits.

“This is the first time I am shaved and competing in a meet without the fast suits,” Polyakov said. “I am looking forward to posting up some good times. For me, this is a good checkpoint and gauge to swim fast against some of the world’s best swimmers.”

Polyakov calls the Canet meet “a mini-world championships.”

Polyakov said he is ready to put himself back to where he was before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and re-establish himself in the world rankings.

“I am really excited,” Polyakov said. “I am kind of relaxed because it is a different kind of pressure. If I produce great times it will help my confidence and put me back in the rankings. If this meet doesn’t show much then it is a good checkpoint for us to go back and correct things enough for the Asian Games.

“I love these meets and I like to swim fast here. Every time I felt fast I had a good meet. I am happy Michael is here with us. I have never done this meet without him.”

Polyakov is gauging himself for the Nov. 12-27 Asian Games in Guangzhou, China and Dec. 15-19 FINA Short Course World Championships in Dubai.

 “I have been looking for that breakthrough race in the last couple of years. Of course, I want to perform well at big meets, but I just want to have this one incredible race and re-establish confidence in myself and people.”

Said Lohberg: “This is a good chance for him to get back into top, world-class level, which should happen at the Asian Games and World Short Course and that is what we are aiming for. Swimming-wise he is 100 percent back.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at




The South Florida Aquatic Club’s youth swimmers will be well-represented at major international meets this month.

Lindsey McKnight, 16, a member of the U.S. National Youth Team, will make her international debut in Barcelona when the national youth team competes at the Mare Nostrum Tour’s second stop in Barcelona, Spain on June 9-10.

McKnight and the U.S. youth team will compete against some of the world’s top swimmers including Rebecca Soni, Katie Hoff and Dana Vollmer.

McKnight is scheduled to leave Coral Springs on Sunday for Philadelphia where she will meet other U.S. team members before departing for Spain.

“I am so excited,” McKnight said. “I can’t wait to meet all the new people and all the swimmers from around the country.”

In Barcelona, site of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, McKnight is scheduled to compete in six events: the 50, 100 and 200-meter freestyles, 50 and 100 breaststroke and 200 individual medley. She met all qualifying times at various designated meets by USA Swimming, the sport’s national governing body.

“I am going in pretty confident,” McKnight said. “I feel great in the water right now. I have been resting a little bit. I want to get out there and race.”

McKnight has been studying the psych sheets for the meet.

“We get to compete against everyone like Natalie Coughlin,” she said. “All the great Olympians will be there. I’ve been looking at the psych sheet. It’s great motivation to swim against them and other people my age.”

Unlike the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials where McKnight went “for fun and great experience,” she is kicking it up another notch for Barcelona.

“I am going to race against them,” McKnight said. “I am getting closer and closer to really being with them. I have a totally different mindset than I had at Trials.

“Now I am going to these meets with a good chance of making finals. I would love to be in a few finals, that is definitely one of my goals.”

McKnight has never competed in a swim meet outside the United States. She was outfitted with her red, white and blue U.S. team uniform, suit and gear in late May.

“That totally got me excited, all the stuff, and it hit me where I was going,” McKnight said.

“This is definitely the biggest meet I have done so far. Making the Olympic trials and going to Barcelona are the two biggest things I have ever done.”

The national youth team is a stepping stone to prepare top young swimmers to make the move to the U.S. national team.

Its mission is to identify top swimmers, ages 13-18, in the U.S. and support their development and preparation to eventually represent the U.S. in the Olympic Games and other major international events. It gives the young swimmers a chance to experience the demands of competitive swimming on a national level. The team currently has 105 of the nation’s top young swimmers.

National Youth Team head coach Jack Roach, a former Marine who coached in the Florida Gold Coast early in his career, is impressed with the U.S. roster. Roach is based in Colorado Springs.

“This is going to be a great international training field for the team and will prepare them for other international meets at the end of the summer,” Roach said.

After competing in Spain, McKnight will join several of her SOFLO teammates and six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg for the June 12-13 Canet en Roussillon meet in France, the third and final leg of the Mare Nostrum 2010 Tour, regarded as the world’s greatest swimming tournament.

In the Caribbean, SOFLO’s Keegan Boisson-Yates, 14, and Tyla Martin, 12, were selected by the Amateur Swimming Association to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the June 26-July 2 Caribbean Island Swimming Championships in Havana, Cuba.

Both are among the top age group swimmers in the Caribbean and coming off the CARIFTA Championships where Martin was high point award winner after dominating the 11-12 age group events.

Sharntelle McLean of Trinidad and Tobago, who has trained with SOFLO at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex in the past, also was selected to compete in the CISC event.

The CISC is a biennial aquatics championship held in even years. They are organized by Central American and Caribbean Amateur Swimming Confederation and features age group competition for teams from Caribbean island nations. The last time the meet was held in Cuba was 1982.

Sharon Robb can be reached at