|OMAHA, Nebraska, June 30. KRISTEN Heiss, a rising senior at Texas A&M University, has been gracious enough to blog for Swimming World from time-to-time during the U.S. Olympic Trials as she competes at the meet.
Heiss also will be joining Swimming World this next year as an editorial intern with the web site, so we are excited to debut her work today:
The word I have been hearing on deck is "electric" to describe the atmosphere at the 2008 Olympic Trials, and it is definitely a fitting adjective for the pool in Omaha. When I first walked into the Qwest Center and saw the pool, I got chills just from envisioning the thousands of fans and swimmers that would soon fill the empty seats.
This is my first Olympic Trials, and one of the first things I noticed as an athlete was the feeling of energy, and at the same time, tension among the athletes. The knowledge that there are only two swimmers chosen for each individual event for the Olympic Team brings to light an extra motivation and competitiveness in the athletes, and the results, although subtle, are apparent on deck. Walking around, one can almost feel the athletes sizing each other up as competition, with each knowing that the other could possibly take away his or her spot on the team. Although not all of the athletes at the meet are concentrating on making the Olympic Team, the tension on deck is still undeniable.
Besides the athletes setting a slightly different tone for this meet, the Qwest Center and the set-up of the Trials make the meet more high-strung. There are Army Guards stationed frequently throughout the hallways, the locker rooms, and the warm-down pool to check the credentials of the athletes. Before each race, the athletes must check into the waiting area. Then, for each heat swum in prelims, semi-finals, and finals, the swimmers are marched up onto the pool deck for their race. Walking up behind the blocks to see a crowd of 12,000 ready to watch the race is not something that most swimmers are used to. In fact, having 12,000 spectators is something that most of the swimmers here will only get to experience once in their swimming career.
There have been several diversions put in place to try and help us relax around the pool. There are many swimmers that are taking advantage of the free massage therapists that have been provided for all athletes. Or if a massage isn't what a swimmer is looking for, Rock Band, Dance Dance Revolution, and video games are available for the swimmers in the athlete lounge set up by the warm-down pool.
Among all of this, one thing is certain: the meet is designed for the swimmers to swim fast, and fast swimming has definitely been happening. With four world records already broken by the second morning, the next six days are going to be exciting.
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