WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
July 27, 2010
Let the 2012 Summer Olympic Games countdown begin.
Tuesday marks the two-year (730-day) countdown for South Florida Aquatic Club athletes and coaches training for Olympic glory at the 2012 London Games.
The $14.5 billion extravaganza will feature 10,500 athletes including 575 Americans from 205 nations competing in 26 sports and 300 events.
The motto for the July 27-August 12 event is “Live As One.”
A two-year Countdown Clock will launch on Tuesday on the homepages of TeamUSA.org alerting fans on a continual basis to the remaining days, hours and minutes until the start of the Games.
London is celebrating the milestone on Tuesday by starting a search for Olympic volunteers and opening some of the venues to local athletes. They will test facilities where they will be competing after the Opening Ceremonies on July 27, 2012.
Former Olympic track champion Michael Johnson will sprint on a temporary track in the 80,000-seat main stadium. British cyclist Sir Chris Hoy will try out the velodrome and former NBA player John Amaechi will shoot some hoops at the basketball arena.
Closer to home, SOFLO head coach Michael Lohberg and SOFLO CEO Chris Anderson will start their planning phase for the club’s Olympic hopefuls.
Lohberg sent eight athletes to the 2008 Beijing Games—Dara Torres, Vlad Polyakov, Anne Poleska, Leo Andara, Arlene Semeco, Sharntelle McLean, Erin Volcan and Josh Laban.
Anderson coaches Jamaican Olympians Alia Atkinson, a two-time Olympian and Natasha Moodie.
Lohberg said the “countdown” mentality is already on athletes’ minds.
“The people that are, think or believe they are candidates for Trials and want to swim faster are definitely getting into the mode,” Lohberg said. “Let’s say maybe not 100 percent yet because this is the end of the season but when they walk in the door on Aug. 16, Julie, Vlad, Leo, Arlene, Dara, they are ready.
“Right now, I am not pushing the concept because you want to give them a chance to recover and recuperate, that’s why Vlad was on a month’s vacation,” Lohberg said. “That’s why we gave Julie a half a year to do something else from swimming. We give Dara time to rebuild and so forth. When they come back then it really starts. It’s going to be a long stretch.”
Lohberg said for him as a coach, the planning begins next week.
“The planning is the key,” Lohberg said. “Not just the workouts, but the whole concept of where and when the meets are. With the international swimmers we have I need to build their meets into the program. They have a different agenda than the U.S. swimmers do. Meets like the Pan Pacific Games and Pan American Games next year are important to them, too. It all has to be incorporated into the plan but the ultimate goal is definitely to make the team.”
Lohberg said he is getting excited about the Olympic Countdown.
“I know as soon as I take my piece of paper to start penciling in things, the excitement will start building from that point on,” Lohberg said.
Two-time Kazakhstan Olympian Vlad Polyakov has been swimming in some fun races during his relaxation time. At 26, it may be his final Olympic journey and he wants to enjoy every minute.
“This is about the time where all the elite swimmers will sit down with their coaches and make a plan. I do feel like this is the time swimmers will be serious about training again.
“I am really excited but I am trying to take it step by step,” Polyakov said. “I want to see how I am improving and getting better. The first step is going to be the Asian Games in November in China. Michael and I have set some high goals for that meet. We are trying to re-establish ourselves in the world. That’s why it is so important to swim well at every meet we set our mind to.”
Polyakov is also thankful Lohberg, who missed the 2008 Games after being diagnosed with aplastic anemia the week before he was scheduled to leave, is back on the deck coaching full-time.
“It is amazing the old Michael is back,” Polyakov said. “To be honest, I haven’t seen this Michael since 2007. Olympic year he was busy but you could tell he was getting sick. I am very happy he is back. I feel this comeback Michael and I planned are for both of us. It was so awesome at Mare Nostrum when I went 2:12. We hugged each other. It was the feeling of ‘finally, we did something.’ It was a great start.”
SOFLO’s Elle Weberg, an All-American at Florida Atlantic University, is a 2008 Olympic hopeful. After a two-year layoff, she is back in the pool motivated more than ever. Lohberg changed her breaststroke five months ago and she is still adapting.
“I am ready to go. I already took two years off, I am not taking any more time off,” Weberg said. “I am excited about being here. I call Michael my magical wizard. He knows everything. It’s scary.
“I am excited we are two years out from the Olympics,” Weberg said. “That’s why I am here. I am 25. I am not doing this to pay for college any more or for my parents. I am here because I want to be.”
KEY OLYMPIC FACTS
The Aquatics Centre will be the venue for Swimming, Paralympic Swimming, Diving, Synchronized Swimming, Water Polo and the Aquatics discipline of Modern Pentathlon.
Location: South-east corner of the Olympic Park
Capacity: 17,500 for Swimming and Diving events; 5,000 for Water Polo
New or existing?: New, permanent venue, with temporary extension during the Games.
The Aquatics Centre will be the ‘gateway’ to the Olympic Park, with more than two-thirds of spectators expected to enter the Olympic Park over a vast bridge that runs over the top of part of the venue.
The venue was designed by acclaimed international architect Zaha Hadid. It features a spectacular wave-like roof that is 160-meters long and up to 80 meters wide, giving it a longer single span than Heathrow Terminal 5.
During the Games
The majority of spectators will be seated in two temporary wings that will be taken down after the Games.
It will have a 50-meter competition pool, a 25-meter competition diving pool, a 50-meter warm-up pool and a ‘dry’ warm-up area for divers. The Water Polo competition will be held next to it in a temporary 5,000-seat venue with competition and warm-up pools.
A new riverside environment alongside the Aquatics Centre has been created for visitors by widening a 550-meter stretch of the river to the south-west of the venue by 8 meters.
The two venues will be close to each other in one of the most compact areas of the Olympic Park. To make the best use of the space available, some back-of-house facilities, such as space for broadcasters, catering and security will be shared between the two venues so they run as efficiently as possible.
After the Games
The Aquatics Centre will be transformed into a facility for the local community, clubs and schools, as well as elite swimmers. The two temporary wings will be removed, leaving 2,500 seats – although it will be possible to increase the capacity to 3,500 for major competitions.
The Aquatics Centre will also have a creche, family-friendly changing facilities and a cafe alongside a new public plaza in front of the building.
Getting ready for 2012
2008: Construction of the Aquatics Centre begins two months early.
2011: Construction of the Aquatics Centre due to be completed and a test event is scheduled.
2012: More test events; London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com