Earlier this evening my little (well, now not so little) cousin made a big splash today at the US Swimming Olympic Trials. With a time of 48.46, Nathan Adrian qualified as the first teenager on the 2008 US Swim Team, locking down a position for the 4x100free relay. I can tell you, my aunt and uncle are pretty darn happy!
But that wasn’t where all the drama took place. To actually get into the finals to swim for a spot, a swimmer needs to swim through the heats, then swim through the semifinals, before swimming the finals the day after. So a swimmer needs to swim three times well enough to get a spot on the team (Note, this is why what Michael Phelps is doing in his quest for 8 golds is so difficult is because he needs to swim each of his individual events three times! If they were all sprint events that would be a different story, but he’s swimming a lot of 200m and 400m events, which is a lot of mileage!).
Back to the story, Nathan swims a personal best of 48.89 in his semifinals but ties for 9th place. Unfortunately 9th doesn’t get you into the finals. Then the magic begins to take place. Ryan Locte, one of the best swimmers in the world in backstroke and the individual medley, scratches from the race. Now this was likely done as a strategic move, as he was ranked 5th going into the finals. This means that Nathan is now in 8th place!
Not so fast. He tied with Alex Righi with the same time. So how does one solve this? My suggestion of having them perform in front of Simon Cowell and the other American Idol judges wouldn’t likely be internationally accepted, so they’ll have to do it the good ‘ol fashioned way: (cue the “duh-duh-duh!!” sound effect and quick camera zoom to my face) Swim-off!
A swim-off consists of having the two (or more, depending on how many swimmers end up with the contested time) compete head-to-head in the same event. With the thousands in the stands, and only a lane divider between the two of you, you can cut the tension with a knife. (Can you imagine if you tied for 8th in swimming the 1500m? I hope someone suggests my idea)
Obviously, Nathan edges out his competitor and finds a spot in the finals. With this, he’s got nothing to lose, and everything to gain. (This brings back memories of when I qualified for the BC provincials in the 100free, coming 4th in our region. Usually only the top 3 get to go, but I swam under the provincial qualifying time, opening up a spot for me. I ended up swimming under 58sec for the first in my life, and making the finals in 8th place. Lucky for my opponents, I stayed in 8th..)
So as we now all know, Nathan swims out of his mind and takes another 4 tenths off his PB, and ends up in 4th. Ladies and Gentlemen, my cousin is going to the Olympics.
Although ending up 4th means he’s not considered an alternate and will go to the Olympics, the question remains to whether Michael Phelps, who swam under 48 in the preliminary heats before dropping the race, will be selected to be part of the relay. However, as results from Athens has shown that a relay member can take part in the prelims, and NOT swim in the finals, and still get a medal in the event. We shall see…
But in any case, congrats Nathan, and may they never use my idea to decide ties in swimming! All the best on the upcoming 50 free race as well!
Here’s also listed on NBC as a “dark horse”
You can also watch his 100m Short Course Win here