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OMAHA, Nebraska, July 2. OPEN water star Andrew Gemmell can now add Olympian to his list of accomplishments after surging down the stretch to victory in the men's 1500 free at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. Meanwhile, distance rookie Connor Jaeger placed second in what Michigan has said is just his fifth 1500-meter freestyle swim ever.
Chad La Tourette was the rabbit, pushing an intense pace throughout the initial stages of the race before Jaeger caught up to him with 12:26.91 splits. Gemmell and Jaeger then continued to stretch their leads over La Tourette, making it a two-man race to the wall. In one of the closest finishes ever in the event's history at Trials, Gemmell claimed a 14:52.19 to 14:52.51 triumph. The difference in time, just .32 seconds. The record for the closest finish is a tie between teammates Alan Somers and George Breen back in 1960 with matching 17:40.0s as Somers drew the judge's decision win that year.
Gemmell won the national title in this event last summer, while also being part of a gold medal in the inaugural 5K open water team event at the 2011 FINA World Championships. Internationally, he placed fifth in the 1500 free back in 2010 at the Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, and vaulted from a 26th-place finish in this event at the 2008 Trials. His performance cutting a huge amount of time from his lifetime best of 14:57.29 in prelims, pushed him to fourth in the world rankings. Only Sun Yang (14:42.30), Tae Hwan Park (14:47.38) and Gregorio Paltrinieri (14:48.92) have been faster.
Jaeger became an instant Twitter hit during prelims after breaking 15:00 for the first time in 14:59.97, but to the feet, after losing count and not hearing the bell before stopping at the 1600-meter mark. He finished a close second with his 14:52.51, and is now fifth in the world rankings ahead of Daniel Fogg (14:55.30).
La Tourette wound up falling to third with a 14:57.53 as he could not keep up the initial pace. He finished fifth in the event at the 2011 World Championships, and took silver at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships. He also finished third in the event in 2008 behind Peter Vanderkaay (14:45.54) and Larsen Jensen (14:50.80) with an eerily-similar 14:57.50.
Vanderkaay, already on the squad by way of a win in the men's 400 free on night one, checked in with a fourth-place 15:03.37. Arthur Frayler (15:04.69), Ryan Feeley (15:10.52), Michael McBroom (15:14.85) and Sean Ryan (15:16.18) comprised the rest of the top eight.