WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
June 29, 2012
In a pressure-packed atmosphere, South Florida Aquatic Club’s Tiffany Oliver swam a career-best time on one of swimming’s biggest stages Friday night in Omaha.
On the fifth day of the U.S. Olympic swimming trials, the Florida State junior won her heat in the 100-meter freestyle in a best time of 56.71. Her splits were 27.33, one of her fastest, and 29.38.
Oliver, 19, finished 54th among a field of 133 swimmers in her Olympic trials debut.
Oliver will swim the 50-meter freestyle prelims on Sunday along with SOFLO teammate Jessie Alcaide and five-time Olympian Dara Torres of the Coral Springs Swim Club. At 45, Torres is going after a record sixth Olympic team.
Oliver will be joined by FSU teammates CJ Hendry and Kaitlyn Dressel in the sprint event.
“This was a mental breakthrough for me,” Oliver said by phone from Omaha. “That was one of my faster opening splits. Usually at big meets I get nervous and let my nerves overcome me.
“I am really happy to go a best time at trials. Now I get ready for Sunday. I am more excited about the 50, it’s shorter.”
Oliver is fitting in nicely at the meet that features the nation’s best swimmers.
“It was really shocking at first to be here,” Oliver said. “All the great stars are here. It’s been entertaining seeing everyone you see on TV or read about. I see new people every day. I saw Cullen Jones and Jason Lezak warming up. They warm up in crowded lanes just like us.
“Of course, I feel like I belong here. I like racing here. When I walked in the door I didn’t realize it was an arena and there was a pool where the basketball court was. I just thought wow I have never seen that before, an indoor pool in an arena. I didn’t think it would be like this.”
Oliver isn’t even thinking about down the road in another four years at the next trials for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. But she admits she is getting stoked for the collegiate season in the fall.
“I like to take it step by step.” Oliver said. “I am motivated for the fall and the start of college season. I would like to think hopefully, I will make it in another four years.
“I am glad I am here. It’s been a great experience. I’ve learned a lot. It’s great seeing all the fans. I didn’t know swimming was so popular here but it is.”
In front of a sellout capacity crowd of more than 14, 103 at CenturyLink Arena in Omaha on Friday, there were a few surprises in the finals and semifinals on the fifth night.
In the much-anticipated men’s 200-meter individual medley semifinals pitting Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps, Lochte swam the fastest time in the world this year in a textile-best 1:55.51 in the first semifinal. Lochte and Phelps were stroke for stroke after the first two legs. Lochte pulled away slightly during the breaststroke leg. They both cruised into the wall on the freestyle. Phelps was second top qualifier in 1:56.66. Lochte’s training mate Conor Dwyer was top qualifier in a best time in the second semifinal and qualified third overall in 1:58.32.
The men’s 100-meter freestyle final featured six Olympians in the field.
California’s Nathan Adrian, 23, led from start to finish to win in 48.10. Cullen Jones, 28, of SwimMAC was a surprising second in 48.46 and is the first African-American swimmer on the 2012 U.S. Olympic swim team. Matt Grevers, Ricky Berens and Jimmy Feigen were third, fourth and fifth to qualify for the relay and Jason Lezak, 36, is going back to the Olympics on the relay after finishing sixth in 48.88.
“Making the team is the hardest part,” Adrian said. “I thought I wouldn’t be nervous going into it, but I was nervous as ever. It’s quite a relief to be on the team. I just followed the race plan for the last 50 meters. I put my head down and did not breathe to get to the wall.”
Added Jones: “It means a lot to be going back after 2008. I wanted to represent the U.S. I am really happy I pulled that out. I am ready to do it again.”
Texas A&M head women’s coach Steve Bultman, former coach at the now-defunct Mission Bay in west Boca Raton, is all but assured a spot on the Olympic coaching staff after qualifying his second swimmer on the team.
Texas A&M Aggies’ Cammile Adams won the 200-meter butterfly in 2:06.52, fastest time in U.S. history. Kathleen Hersey of Texas was second in 2:07.72.
“My coach is big about swimming your own race, doing your own thing and taking it out there I feel good,” Adams said. “That’s what I did. I like bringing it home, so I wanted to keep things exciting.”
Sentimental favorite Teresa Crippen of the University of Florida was fourth in 2:09.45 and missed her shot at making the team.
“If it weren’t for Coach Shoulberg, University of Florida and family, I wouldn’t have been in the pool at all the last two years,” said Crippen, who lost her brother Fran to a tragic drowning during a FINA-sanctioned open water event in United Emirates two years ago.
In other races Friday night:
Men’s 200-meter breaststroke:
The U.S. men’s team is going to have four different breaststrokers in London. In the 200 final, Scott Weltz, 25, of San Jose, shocked the field to win in a best time 2:09.01, third fastest in U.S. history, followed by Clark Burckle of Louisville in 2:09.97. The 100 Olympic breaststrokers and favorites coming in, Eric Shanteau and Brendan Hansen finished third and fourth respectively in 2:10.05 and 2:10.25. Both were noticeably disappointed after the race. Burckle took it out fast in the first 50 at 29.05 and held it at 1:02.11 at the 100. Shanteau flirted with the lead briefly at 150 meters while Hansen faded to fourth. Four swimmers were bunched together coming down the stretch with Weltz and Burckle surging ahead in the final 20 meters. Burckle just outlunged Shanteau to the wall for second. Weltz was 37th in the trials four years ago.
“I owe it all to my coach,” said Weltz, an assistant coach at UC-Davis where he trains. “Ever since day one I told him I wanted to come back. He never stopped believing in me.” Weltz was so excited he climbed over the touchpads to get out of the pool. “Before the race, my whole body was kind of tingling. It just felt different. I just thought it’s time.”
Said Burckle: “Right now I am in shock. I looked up at the board and thought I was fourth. I was disoriented for a minute and didn’t know. I am so proud of what I did.”
Amanda Beard, 30, advanced to the finals in the 200-meter breaststroke finishing fifth in the semifinals in 2:25.90. Beard, trying to qualify for her fifth consecutive Olympics, did not make the team in the 100 breaststroke. Rebecca Soni is the top seed in 2:21.45.
Eleven-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin, 29, advanced to the finals of the 100-meter freestyle, as the No. 7 seed in 54.48. She took it out fast but similar to her other races, faded down the final stretch and finished sixth. Coughlin, trying to earn her third consecutive Olympic bid, did not make the team in the 100 backstroke. Amanda Weir, Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt and Jessica Hardy are the fastest qualifiers. Coughlin still has a shot at a relay.
In the men’s 200-meter backstroke semifinals: Tyler Clary (1:55.88) and Nick Thoman (1:58.92) were top qualifiers in the first heat of the semis. Ryan Lochte (1:55.73) and Bolles’ 16-year-old Ryan Murphy (1:57.39) finished 1-2 in the second heat.
FLORIDA GOLD COAST RESULTS
Women’s 200-meter breaststroke: 43. Mhyria Miller, Florida Keys 2:34.33; 77. Emily Kopas, Davie Nadadores 2:37.44; 114. Emily Norton, St. Andrew’s Swimming 2:44.55; Julie Stupp, PAQ, DNS.
Women’s 100-meter freestyle: 54. Tiffany Oliver, SOFLO 56.71; 58. Rhi Jeffrey, Unattached-FGC 56.78; 99. Jessie Alcaide, SOFLO 57.50; 130. Lindsey McKnight, St. Andrew’s Swimming 59.22.
Men’s 200-meter individual medley: 116. Samuel Smiddy, AK Sharks 2:13.40.
DAY FIVE NOTES
Before Friday night’s finals, the U.S. team had 28 members on its Olympic roster including 16 first-time Olympians…At age 34, Naples Erika Erndl made her second semifinal in the 100-meter freestyle…The Anderson family will be in full force in London with sisters Haley in the 10K open water event and Alyssa on the 800-meter freestyle relay…There was a Trojan Swim Club swimmer in every one of Friday’s events and five past or present Gators in the pool…Matt Grevers changed his mind about scratching from the 100-meter freestyle so David Walters will not move up on the alternate’s list. “I’m very confusing, I apologize,” Grevers said. “I really want to be on that relay very badly.”…Texas A&M’s Breeja Larson is the surprise star of the trials. USA Swimming failed to include her biography in its media guide. Her first name is pronounced Bree-yah. Larson is enjoying her newfound celeb status. “Lots of autographs,” Larson said. “Having a lot of little girls pronounce my name right, I’m like, ‘Sure I’ll sign your shirt.’”. Larson also said the trials is the first long course meet she has tapered for…NBC’s live coverage on television was not in-sync with its live streaming webcast. Several Twitter complaints about NBC breaking away before the women’s 200 butterfly race was completed to switch to the gymnastics trials then 20 minutes later NBC switched back to the Lochte-Phelps semifinal. After that race, the TV network returned to the gymnastics while the live streaming stayed with the swimming…TV ratings for NBC’s trials coverage dipped on Thursday night with 6.2 million viewers…At least nine members of the USA Swimming staff have lost their homes because of the Waldo Canyon wildfires in Colorado Springs. The Olympic Training Center and offices have been shut down.
TWEETS OF THE TRIALS
“I love when my parents officiate the trials through the TV.”—former SOFLO swimmer Leonie Davies
“I made it, 2012 Olympian. No time to celebrate since I am swimming the 50 tomorrow.”—Nathan Adrian
“What a night. Going to London for a second event. Still got a lot of work to do, but stoked to be on this historic relay.”—Ricky Berens
“I live to fight another day.”—Natalie Coughlin
“Decided to swim the 50 even though I had my doubts. Can’t go anywhere but up at this point.”—Rhi Jeffrey
DAY 6 TRIALS SCHEDULE
Morning session: Men’s 50 Free H, Women’s 800 Free H, Men’s 100 Butterfly H, Women’s 200 Backstroke H.
Evening session: Men’s 50 Free SF, Women’s 200 Breaststroke F, Men’s 200 Backstroke F, Women’s 200 Backstroke SF, Men’s 200 IM F, Women’s 100 Free F, Men’s 100 Butterfly SF.
Prelims 6:30-8 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Finals, 8-9 p.m. ET, NBC
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com