WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
July 25, 2012
Surrounded by the grandeur of historic buildings and pageantry that can only happen every four years at the Summer Olympic Games, Vlad Polyakov, who grew up training at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex with some of the best swimmers in the world, will be the first South Florida Aquatic Club swimmer to compete in London.
The 28-year-old St. Thomas Aquinas High School alum will make his third Olympic appearance for Kazakhstan at the Games. He also competed in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008.
Polyakov will compete in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke prelims and semifinals on Saturday, the opening day of swimming, one of the most popular events along with track and field, soccer and gymnastics. While he is not a medal favorite, he is favored to make the championship final on Sunday night.
SOFLO teammates Alia Atkinson of Jamaica and Arlene Semeco of Venezuela will also compete over eight days of pool swimming in multi events. The open water 10K events are Aug. 9-10.
Several swimmers including Polyakov and Michael Phelps will not march in Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies to rest for Saturday events. Phelps will compete in the 400-meter individual medley.
The Opening Ceremonies are expected to be one of the best in the history of the Games. Former Beatle Paul McCartney has been heard practicing on-stage this past week by several athletes and coaches. Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) is organizing the Opening Ceremonies entitled The Isles of Wonder. The production is expected to be very British, of course, featuring James Bond movie star Daniel Craig and soccer hottie David Beckham. Legendary boxer Muhammad Ali is also expected to have some involvement as well. Ali is in London for the Beyond Sport Ambassadors award ceremony.
On Wednesday, U.S. fencer Mariel Zagunis, a two-time gold medalist in sabre, was named the U.S. flagbearer for Friday night. She was chosen by her peers at the Games and is the first fencer to carry the flag since 1968. In 2004, she was the first American fencer to win an Olympic gold in 100 years. Her parents were 1976 Olympians.
London is the first city to host the modern Olympics there times. In 1908, the Games were reassigned to London from Rome after Mount Vesuvious erupted. After 12 years of Olympic moratorium because of the war, the 1948 Games were held in London.
The Games will feature 10,500 athletes and coaches from 204 nations in 32 sports competing for 302 medals. In addition to Atkinson, Polyakov and Semeco, SOFLO coaches Chris Anderson and Bruno Darzi will be on the pool deck. Former Douglas and Coral Springs Swim Club swimmer Nick Schwab will make his Olympic debut for the Dominican Republic.
China, which surpassed the U.S. in gold medals four years ago in Beijing, will again challenge the U.S. for Olympic supremacy, only not in swimming where the U.S. is favored to maintain its longstanding tradition of dominating the sport. Australia and Brazil will win their share of swimming medals.
Phelps, who won a record eight gold medals in 2008, is entered in seven events. If he wins three medals of any color, he will surpass Russian gymnast Larissa Latynina, who won a record 18 medals in 1956-1964 as the most decorated Olympian. Phelps mom, Debbie and two sisters will be cheering him from the stands in what he insists will be his final Olympic Games even though his mom keeps saying she wants to go to Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Teenager Missy Franklin is expected to be women swimming’s breakout star of the Olympics. She is already being called the female version of Phelps, only with more of a bubbly personality.
Swimmers have been practicing at Olympic Park Eton Manor, a sports and leisure venue in Leyton, London that features five indoor swimming pools side-by-side-by-side-by-side-by-side, three 50-meter pools and two 30-meter pools.
“Unbelievable pool, warm up was mind blowing…damn, the Olympics is awesome,” tweeted Schwab.
There will be around-the-clock coverage on NBC, NBCSN, NBCSP, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, Telemundo and NBCOlympics.com live streaming every sport and social media including Twitter. It will be the most media exposure the Olympics has ever had, more than 3,500 hours.
July 28, Saturday: Morning session, MEN: 100-meter breaststroke, 400-meter freestyle, 400-meter individual medley heats; WOMEN: 100-meter butterfly, 400-meter individual medley, 4×100-meter freestyle relay, heats; Evening session, MEN: 100-meter breaststroke semifinals, 400-meter freestyle final, 400-meter individual medley final; WOMEN: 100-meter butterfly semifinals, 400-meter individual medley final, 4×100-meter freestyle relay final.
July 29, Sunday: Morning session, MEN: 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter freestyle, 4×100-meter freestyle relay heats; WOMEN: 100-meter backstroke, 100-meter breaststroke, 400-meter freestyle heats; Evening session, MEN: 100-meter backstroke semifinals, 200-meter freestyle semifinals, 100-meter breaststroke final, 4×100-meter freestyle relay final; WOMEN: 100-meter backstroke semifinals, 100-meter breaststroke semifinals, 100-meter butterfly final, 400-meter freestyle final.
July 30, Monday: Morning session, MEN: 200-meter butterfly heat; WOMEN: 200-meter freestyle, 200-meter individual medley heats; Evening session, MEN: 200-meter butterfly semifinals, 100-meter backstroke final, 200-meter freestyle final; WOMEN: 200-meter freestyle semifinals, 200-meter individual medley semifinals, 100-meter backstroke final, 100-meter breaststroke final.
July 31, Tuesday: Morning session, MEN: 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter breaststroke, 4×200-meter freestyle relay heats; WOMEN: 200-meter butterfly heats; Evening session: MEN: 100-meter freestyle semifinals, 200-meter breaststroke semifinals, 200-meter butterfly final, 4×200-meter freestyle relay final; WOMEN: 200-meter butterfly semifinals, 200-meter freestyle final, 200-meter individual medley final.
August 1, Wednesday: Morning session, MEN: 200-meter backstroke, 200-meter individual medley heats; WOMEN: 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter breaststroke, 4×200-meter freestyle relay heats; Evening session, MEN: 200-meter backstroke semifinals, 200-meter individual medley semifinals, 100-meter freestyle final, 200-meter breaststroke final; WOMEN: 100-meter freestyle semifinals, 200-meter breaststroke semifinals, 200-meter butterfly final, 4×200-meter freestyle relay final.
August 2, Thursday: Morning session, MEN: 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly heats; WOMEN: 200-meter backstroke, 800-meter freestyle heats; Evening session, MEN: 50-meter freestyle semifinals, 100-meter butterfly semifinals, 200-meter backstroke final, 200-meter individual medley final; WOMEN: 200-meter backstroke semifinals, 100-meter freestyle final, 200-meter breaststroke final.
August 3, Friday: Morning session, MEN: 1500-meter freestyle, 4×100-meter medley relay heats; WOMEN: 50-meter freestyle, 4×100-medley relay heats; Evening session, MEN: 50-meter freestyle final, 100-meter butterfly final; WOMEN: 50-meter freestyle semifinals, 200-meter backstroke final, 800-meter freestyle final.
August 4, Saturday: No morning session; Evening session, MEN: 1500-meter freestyle final, 4×100-meter medley relay final; WOMEN: 50-meter freestyle final, 4×100-meter medley relay final.
August 9, Thursday: Women’s Marathon Swimming 10K.
August 10, Friday: Men’s Marathon Swimming 10K.
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org