WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
July 1, 2012
Dara Torres is one race away from making her sixth Olympic team.
The Coral Springs Swim Club swimmer put together back-to-back solid races in the preliminaries and semifinals of the 50-meter freestyle Sunday in front of 12,406 fans at the U.S. Olympic trials in Omaha.
Torres, at 45 the oldest swimmer in the field, finished second in her semifinal heat in 24.80 seconds and is seeded third going into Monday night’s championship final.
Torres needs to finish first or second to punch her ticket for the London Olympics, a record sixth Olympic appearance.
“I’m in the finals, in the top eight, I’m ecstatic,” Torres said.
Unlike her morning swim, Torres had a great start and turned it on to the finish just behind top-seed Jessica Hardy. In prelims, she made the semifinal cut in 25.00 seconds, finishing fifth on the last morning of trials prelims.
Both times are the fastest Torres has swum since the 2009 World Championships in Rome according to her coach Bruno Darzi.
Her mom and 6-year-old daughter Tessa Grace watched from the stands.
“It felt pretty good,” Torres said after prelims. “I just tried to conserve my energy since it’s a little hard for me to recover. I know it sounds silly. It’s just one race. But as you know when you’re older you just don’t recover as quick. So, it’s hard.
“It’s been a lot of hard work. I really love this sport and that takes a really big goal. I am just trying to have fun with this.”
Torres, who bought a $5,000 starting block (winged track starting block being used at the trials) to work on her starts at her Coral Springs Aquatic Complex home pool, was also rocking her new Australia-based Engine swimsuit. Former swimmer Roque Santos is Director of Engine USA which launched its swimwear in the U.S. during this week’s trials.
Jessica Hardy is seeded first in 24.56 followed by Christine Magnuson in 24.72, Torres, the American record holder, Madison Kennedy in 24.96 and Kara Lynn Joyce in 24.97.
Torres is 30 years older than the youngest swimmer who swam in morning prelims. To put it in perspective, Torres competed in three Olympics before Missy Franklin was born (1984, 1988, 1992).
Kelsi Hall of Miami Swimming was 13th in 25.58. South Florida Aquatic Club’s Tiffany Oliver was 37th in 25.92 and Jessie Alcaide 74th in 26.35.
In other races Sunday night:
Women’s 200-meter backstroke: Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklin qualified for her fourth individual event and seven overall, a record for a U.S. female swimmer. Franklin got out to a great start and led at 29.99 at the first 50. She maintained the lead at the 100 in 1:01.46 and was a full body-length going into the last wall in 1:33.58. She was less than a second off world record pace and won in 2:06.12, fastest time in the world this year. Franklin potentially could win a record seven medals in London in individual and relay events.
“It felt really good, 200 back is my favorite event,” Franklin said. “It was a perfect way to end the meet. It was awesome. Seven events hasn’t set in yet. It still feels like a dream. I still can’t believe it’s happening.”
The Gators Elizabeth Beisel was second to qualify for her second event in 2:07.58.
“I knew exactly where I was,” Beisel said. “I took a look on my last turn. I knew it would come down to the last 50.”
Naples Elizabeth Pelton, in her last race to make the team, finished third in 2:08.06. Teresa Crippen was sixth in 2:11.79.
Seven teenagers were in the backstroke championship final.
Men’s 100-meter butterfly: In the fourth and last head-to-head showdown, it was no contest as four-time Olympian Michael Phelps won in 51.14 and Ryan Lochte was third in 51.65. After a bad start (last off the blocks), Phelps headed into the wall at 23.62. Phelps was sixth as he turned turn and just punched off the wall and raced home to win by 18/100ths.
“I wasn’t happy after that race, my stroke was off and I got off to a bad 50,” Phelps said. “I said so many times I wasn’t going to swim eight events. I guess we are going to try something. It’s the same exact program I had in 2008. As a whole, I saw I could handle this kind of pressure at this event. It gives us a lot of confidence. I need to be better than this to win the events I want to be able to win.”
Tyler McGill, 24, in his last shot at the team, was second in 51.32, the top two fastest times in the world this year
Said McGill: “I just came here and did what I needed to do. My coach and I said I was going to London this morning and I stayed with the plan.”
Lochte was all smiles after the race. “That race was for fun. I took that 100 fly as a training swim after the triple last night. I went back to training and had practice this morning. Now I get ready for London. When I am fully-rested I will be a lot better in London.”
Women’s 800-meter freestyle: Fifteen-year-old Katie Ledecky, after finishing third in the 400, became the youngest swimmer on the U.S. team as she made her first Olympics with the second fastest time in the world this year in 8:19.78. Favorite Kate Ziegler was second in 8:21.87.
“This is unbelievable,” Ledecky said. “A year ago I didn’t even have the 800 cut for this meet. I was really surprised how fast I went out, I wasn’t expecting it. I just went with it.”
Ziegler made her second Olympic team. “This is the first meet in a very long time had a fun time I couldn’t be happier.”
Men’s 50-meter freestyle: In a huge upset in the Splash and Dash, Cullen Jones, considered an underdog coming into trials, topped an impressive field including Nathan Adrian, to win in 21.59. Twelve years after tying for the gold medal, Anthony Ervin, at age 31, successfully completed his comeback with a second place just 1/100th of a second behind Jones. Adrian was a disappointing third in 21.68.
“I couldn’t let 2008 happen again, third in 100 and third in the 50,” Jones said. “I had a ‘couldn’t be beaten mentality’ and went out and did it. My coach stayed on me all year and I had some great training partners.”
Said Ervin, “I am just so happy. I got to give credit to all the people to support me the whole way. It’s been an incredible journey and the journey continues.”
FLORIDA GOLD COAST RESULTS
Women’s 50-meter freestyle: 37. Tiffany Oliver, SOFLO 25.92; 47. Rhi Jeffrey, Unattached FGC 26.07; 74. Jessie Alcaide, SOFLO 26.35; 96. Harper Bruens, Swim Fort Lauderdale 26.53; 102. Brittany Selts, Miami Swimming 26.58.
Men’s 1500-meter freestyle: 54. Joey Pedraza, Davie Nadadores 15:56.40.
DAY SEVEN NOTES
U.S. Olympic coach and former University of Michigan coach Jon Urbanchek announced he is retiring after 50 years of swimming at age 75. He was inducted into the Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale in 2008. Urbanchek is currently coaching world-class swimmers in Southern California…Ryan Lochte, who has more than 130 pairs of shoes, showed off his new pair of red, white and blue stars and stripes high tops with wings for heels. He also wore a pair of sparkly green high tops with emerald rhinestones. Speedo, which made the shoes, is selling flip flop versions for $24.99…Connor Jaeger of Michigan will never live this down. The distance swimmer, competing in the 1500-meter freestyle, lost count and swam nearly an extra 50 meters before realizing he swam too long. Unlike USA Swimming, FINA prohibits counters in the water so it was easy to do when Jaeger was in such a zone. He qualified second in a best time 14:59.97…Micah Lawrence of SwimMAC announced she is returning to Auburn in the fall…Gary Hall Sr. and Gary Hall Jr. of The Race Club were medal presenters for the men’s 50-meter freestyle…Clearwater 14-year-old Becca Mann qualified for four finals including Sunday’s 800 where she finished fifth in 8:28.54, a best time and national age group record breaking the 1978 mark.
TWEETS OF THE TRIALS
“And you thought last night was amazing? Wait until tonight.”—NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines
“Walking through the Aquazone and just sat in the brand new BMW M6. I gotta get me one of these!”—Ricky Berens
“Swimming fans are the best.”—Rebecca Soni
“Let’s go Dara, let’s go!!”—Keegan Boisson-Yates, SOFLO future Olympic hopeful
“Excited to be presenting awards for 800 free. All I’m going to be repeating on my walk “don’t trip, don’t trip.”—Brooke Bennett
“Way to close out trials like a true champion. You made everyone proud especially Mama Phelps.”—Debbie Phelps
“And NBC goes to commercial in the middle of the women’s 800 freestyle final at Olympic Trials. Typical.”—Janet Evans
DAY EIGHT TRIALS SCHEDULE
Evening session: Women’s 50 Freestyle Final, Men’s 1500 Freestyle Final
Finals, 8-8:30 p.m.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com