Some Places Give Swimming an Occasional Pat on the Back

INDIANAPOLIS, IN., June 29. INDIANAPOLIS gives the sport a big hug … and has been doing so for more than 20 years.

Although landlocked and bereft of a year-around warm climate, Indianapolis could easily claim the title, “Swim City, USA.” In those past 20 years, the city has been host to no fewer than four Olympic Trials, four National Championships, three U.S. Opens, nine NCAA Women’s Championships, six NCAA Men’s Championships, three U.S. Masters and the inaugural Mutual of Omaha “Duel in the Pool” pitting the United States versus Australia.

The site of choice has been the Indiana University Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI. Built in time to host the swimming and diving competition for the 1982 National Sports Festival, the pool remains recognized as one of the fastest in the world. Indeed, the Natatorium has witnessed 11 world records and 90 American records. Names of swimmers who have become U.S. Olympians at the IU Natatorium are painted on one wall of the facility.

“Indianapolis,” says Olympic great Jenny Thompson, “is my favorite place to swim fast.”

Adds Stanford University men’s coach, Skip Kenney: “I just think it’s the best place to hold a swim meet.”

That said, Indianapolis will try to improve upon its record and reputation this Oct. 7-11. That is when the 7th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) – expected to draw more than 900 swimmers from more than 120 countries – will come to the city.

Only this meet will not take place at the IU Natatorium, but in Conseco Fieldhouse, the NBA home of the Indiana Pacers.

In less than two weeks, an eight-lane competition pool and a six-lane warm-up pool – containing a combined 475,000 gallons of water – will be built on the floor, transforming the Fieldhouse into the world’s largest natatorium with a seating capacity of approximately 11,000. The depth of the competition pool (two meters) and the decking will combine to elevate the pool and bring even those fans seated in the balcony of the Fieldhouse close to the action.

“It’s just an awesome facility,” said Ed Moses, America’s premier breaststroker, who visited Conseco Fieldhouse in late March. “To swim in front of thousands of people in this arena, I don’t think I will have ever experienced an event like this before.”

Moses, Thompson, teenage superstar Michael Phelps, Lindsay Benko and Josh Davis have committed to competing in the World Championships, providing they qualify for the U.S. team. Yana Klochkova of the Ukraine and Slovakia’s Martina Moravcova also have announced their intentions to compete in Indianapolis at the Worlds if they qualify through their national federations.

“I am very aware of the tradition of swimming in Indianapolis,” says Klochkova. “I look forward to putting on a show for the fans they will never forget. I am so excited to swim inside an NBA arena. I would never have thought that was possible. Only in America.”

Thompson, winner of more Olympic medals (10, eight gold) than any other female in Olympic history, has indicated the World Championships likely will be the last meet of her storied career.

“It would be a highlight of my career if I can have that be a great experience,” says Thompson.

Coming six weeks after the conclusion of the Athens Olympic Games, the World Championships (25m) will allow the world’s elite swimmers to extend the international focus on their sport and on their own Olympic notoriety. A worldwide telecast will carry the competition to more than 100 countries. In the United States, ESPN will broadcast more than 10 hours of live and tape-delayed competition.

“It’s going to be really exciting to swim in a big arena,” says Thompson. “You’ll be able to hear the crowd, it will be high energy, the swimmers will swim fast and the crowd is going to love it.”

Crowds in Indianapolis always have loved swimming. For example, the 2000 Olympic Trials were a sellout – six months in advance. So was the Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool.

The prominence of Indianapolis in swimming is an outgrowth of the city’s amateur sports initiative that began 25 years ago with the formation of the non-profit Indiana Sports Corporation. ISC’s mission was, and is, to use amateur sports as a means of stimulating economic activity while enhancing the city’s national and international reputation.

As a result of that initiative, more than 400 national and international sporting events have taken place in Indianapolis during the last 25 years. The city also is home to a number of prominent sports associations, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the National Federation of High School Associations, the National Youth Sports Corporation, U.S. Diving, USA Gymnastics, US Rowing, U.S. Synchronized Swimming and USA Track & Field.

ISC, Indiana Swimming and Indianapolis-area swim clubs are also skilled in the management of events. The ability to call out a small army of volunteers to support swimming events always has been one of Indianapolis’s major assets.

“Efficiency and hospitality are trademarks of Indianapolis when hosting national, international and Olympic-related events,” says Stanford University women’s swim coach Richard Quick.

In addition to the swimming competition during the World Championships, Indianapolis also will host the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) World Clinic. Approximately 2,000 international and national top-level, college, high school and age-group coaches are expected to attend the clinic, which will offer business, educational and motivational sessions.

Then, once the swimming competition ends, the FINA World Sports Medicine Congress will convene on Oct. 12-13. Doctors, students, athletes, coaches and others will discuss popular topics in sports medicine.

2004 FINA World Swimming Championships
When: Oct. 7-11, 2004.
Where: Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Ind.
Ticket Information:
Broadcast Information: ESPN will carry more than 10 hours of coverage. Check local listings.
Background: This will be the first time a FINA World Championships has taken place in the United States. More than 600 swimmers from more than 120 countries are expected to participate. The “short course worlds” are a biennial event, most recently being staged in Moscow (2002) and Athens (2000). Each of the five days will include morning heats and evening semifinals and finals.

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