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By John Lohn
OMAHA, Nebraska, June 29. IT'S like clockwork. Every four years, a surprise name or two is named to the Olympic Team at the United States Swimming Trials. Basically, an athlete comes out of nowhere, eliciting a bunch of head-shaking and frantic flipping through media guides for any information available. That scenario has played out a few times this week, but never bigger than what went down Friday night at the CenturyLink Center.
With all eyes on a three-man clash between Eric Shanteau, Brendan Hansen and Clark Burckle, Scott Weltz sent shockwaves through Omaha by winning the 200 breaststroke in 2:09.01, the fifth-fastest time in the world this year. Wait, who won? Yep, this guy named Weltz took down Shanteau and Hansen, two fellas with plenty of international acclaim.
A product of the University of California-Davis, Weltz's name was hardly mentioned — if at all — heading into the Olympic Trials. For that reason, his advancement to the championship final of the 100 breaststroke, in itself, was a surprise earlier in the week. After he won a title at the Olympic Trials, mouths had to be picked off the ground.
Weltz put together an unreal back half to his race, splitting 1:05.59 for the final 100 meters. That effort made it look like the rest of the competition was going backward. Only Japan's Kosuke Kitajima and Ryo Tateishi, along with Hungarian Daniel Gyurta and German Marco Koch, have been faster than Weltz this year. That's some pretty good company.
“I didn't swim my own race in the 100 breaststroke, and today I had to go out easy and come back,” Weltz said. “I feel like I didn't take a single hard stroke in the first 100. When I turned, I wasn't a body-length behind and I said, 'I can do this,' and I built in the third lap and brought it home. So I just had that in my mind at the 100. I knew I could do this.”
So, who is Scott Weltz? Well, he's not a guy who has a hefty collection of NCAA titles and plenty of international experience. Rather, he's done things in an unconventional way when it comes to earning an Olympic berth. Four years ago, he was only 30th in the 400 individual medley, 37th in the 200 breaststroke, 63rd in the 200 individual medley and 66th in the 400 freestyle. That means he failed to advance out of the preliminary round in any of his events.
At UC-Davis, Weltz had a strong career and was named the Big West Swimmer of the Year in 2009 after winning both individual medley events and the 200 breaststroke. Still, he barely made a dent at the NCAA Champs, taking 15th place in the 200 medley and 16th in the 200 breast.
Weltz, who serves as a volunteer assistant coach with the UC-Davis women's swimming team after being on the men's team that was cut in 2010, is no stranger to controversy. On top of surviving the drama of a cut team, his age group club also has undergone some serious issues. Silicon Valley Aquatics (formerly known as San Jose Aquatics) was formerly coached by Andy King. King has been convicted and sentenced to prison for 40 years after molesting at least four girls during the course of 30 years. Weltz managed to move past all of the surrounding drama in his swimming life to focus on training and making the Olympic squad this year.
After his latest 200 breaststroke, though, many more people are going to know Weltz. Included in that group is Hansen, who earlier in the week was the winner of the 100 breaststroke. Always appreciative of a superb performance, Hansen had nothing but accolades for Weltz.
“That's not what I wanted,” Hansen said. “Bu if I was going to get beat, I wanted it to be by someone who went really fast. I gave it my all and didn't make any mistakes. It just wasn't there. That was a big swim by a guy with little experience.”
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