By Sharon Robb
November 11, 2015—A Who’s Who in swimming will compete at the 2015-16 Arena Pro Swim Series opener Thursday at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center in Minneapolis.
U.S. Olympic gold medalist Claire Donahue of South Florida Aquatic Club will be joined by Elizabeth Beisel, Hilda Luthersdottir, Dan Wallace and Arkady Vyatchanin of Gator Swim Club, Ryan Lochte of Daytona Beach, St. Augustine’s Vien Nguyen, Melanie Margalis of St. Petersburg, Pavel Sankovich of Club Seminole and Bolles alum George Bovell as part of a strong Florida contingent.
Olympic champions Missy Franklin, Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Nathan Adrian, among 50 national team swimmers, make the three-day meet one of the most attended by top name swimmers.
An added bonus for international swimmers training for the Rio Summer Olympics is that the meet is a FINA-approved competition where swimmers can achieve qualifying times for the 2016 Olympic Games including SOFLO’s Lisa Blackburn, a national record holder for Bermuda. At 43, Blackburn is the oldest swimmers in the field. Erika Erndl, 37, of T2 Aquatics is also entered.
Blackburn will compete in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter breaststroke and 200-meter individual medley.
Donahue, who has been training well at her new training base in South Florida, will swim the 50-meter freestyle and 100- and 200-meter butterfly events.
Also entered in the 100 butterfly is 2012 Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder Dana Vollmer, who has returned to the pool after giving birth to her first child.
SOFLO swimmer Kile Aukerman, 22, will compete in four events: 50-meter freestyle, 100- and 200-meter breaststroke races and 200-meter individual medley.
Phelps is scheduled to compete in six events over three days. He is entered in the 100- and 200-meter butterfly, 200-meter individual medley, 100- and 200-meter freestyle and 100-meter backstroke.
Among his events, Lochte, 31, is entered in the 400-meter freestyle, an off-event for the SwimMAC swimmer.
Thursday’s events are the 200-meter freestyle, 100-meter breaststroke, 100-meter butterfly and 400-meter individual medley.
Prelims are 10 a.m. and finals 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The meet will be live streamed at usaswimming.org.
The Arena Pro Swim Series is the first of seven stops. The circuit will award a record $350,000 in total prize money. The top three finishers in each event win $1,000, $600 and $200. The overall point series winners will earn an additional $10,000 in bonus money and one-year lease for a BMW.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com