WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
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 firstname.lastname@example.org