How Olympic Trials Veterans and Rookies Get Ready for the Big Dance

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Temarie Tomley, Swimming World College Intern

Like most swimmers, I’ve been counting down the days until the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. There has been a countdown on my phone that now says only three weeks and 323,633 seconds until it all begins. I’ve also had the Omaha pool set as my phone’s wallpaper for over a year and a half now– it’s crazy to think it’s almost upon us.

Most swimmers who qualified are fine tuning and race-prepping for Trials. It’s an exciting time for any swimmer whether going to Trials or their own championship meet.

For myself and my college teammates, our professionalism increases with Trials just around the corner. This means that we are focusing even more intensely on what’s best for us as swimmers.

It means taking that extra time before or after practice to do things such as roll out and stretch. It means getting the work done right and really paying attention to stroke technique, hitting heart rates, race rates, stroke counts, breathing patterns, and pace times every practice.

Granted, every person’s preparation is different. Some people are still trying to get their Trials cuts, while others are training hard looking towards Trials or even the Olympics. When it comes down to it, you do what you need to do. You know your body best and know how best to prepare, whether it’s getting really focused or keeping it light and fun. There’s no right or wrong way to train as long as you’re confident in what you are doing going into the meet.

I was able talk to a few talented swimmers from around the country about how they are preparing for peak performance at Olympic Trials:

Bridget Blood, a rising senior swimmer at the University of Alabama, will attend her second Olympic Trials this summer. Her main focus over the next few weeks is racing.


Photo Courtesy: Justine Panian

“The past few months have just really been grinding and building a good base to taper, so I’m really looking forward to stepping up and swimming some fast 100s and 200s and putting together four good 50 splits for my 200 breast,” Blood said.

Unlike Blood, who is training at her college pool, some swimmers are leaving their usual training environments and going to a place with a little less oxygen– the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. It is common for swimmers to go and train at the OTC before big meets to reap the benefits of altitude training.

Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, and Conor Dwyer are just a few notables who are currently training there. Also joining this elite training group with Coach Bob Bowman is Jay Litherland.

Jay Litherland World University Games 2015

Photo Courtesy: Gwangju Summer Universiade Organizing Committee

Litherland, a junior for the University of Georgia this fall, told me a little about what he’s doing to prepare.

“Altitude training in Colorado Springs with the very best in the sport is a feeling like no other,” Litherland said. “It motivates me to race them in the pool and it also helps me think about the small things such as mental training, recovery, and getting the right nutrition leading up to trials.”

Focusing on things outside of the pool can have a big effect on what’s going on in the pool.

Wisconsin’s team is just now leaving the OTC. Chase Kinney, a rising senior for Wisconsin, told me a little about what her team is doing to prepare for Trials after getting back from high altitude. “We are now focusing on sharpening up and getting ready to swim fast. All the hard training is done, so now we’re looking forward to the fun part of the summer,” Kinney said.

Chase Kinney, Caroline McTaggart, Rebecca Millard, Paige Kremer-23587202916

Photo Courtesy: Andy Ringgold/Aringo

This summer is especially fun for swimmers as all the greatest athletes begin coming together to race and compete. And it is not just elite and college swimmers who are looking towards Trials.

Club teams are also taking all the necessary steps to best prepare. Matthew Marquardt swims for the Mercy HealthPlex Seawolves club team in Cincinnati, Ohio and will be joining Princeton University’s team in the fall. This upcoming Trials will be his first. “While the main goal is to have fun and gain experience for the future, I want to be able to compete,” Marquardt said. “The main focus right now is on pace, stroke tempo, and leg endurance.”

Swimmers at all levels all around the country are getting ready! So with only three weeks and 323,633 seconds left, what are you doing to prepare? Whether you are going to swim, watch, or support teammates, this is the time to get the details right!

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7 years ago

Totally get’n geared up to watch! My pre-Olympic Trials watching routine is pretty serious, though I am try’n to leave a little room for horse’n around to make sure I’m loosey-goosey ready to watch on the big day! Getting my laptop and wi-fi tuned up and in super-sync mode is high on my priority list. It’s imperative to make sure that the livestream comes across with an absolutely solid performance. I’m also working on my eye resistance training. In the past I kinda concentrated on other areas… to my detriment… not gonna let that happen this time around! Three weeks out and I am actively straining my eyes staring at the computer screen for hours at a time with limited interval rest. My taper for this is gonna be crucial, but I think – knowing my body and really zeroing in on the eye “issue” I’ve had in the past – that just completely resting my eyes two days prior to Trials is going to be my Ace. From that point, I think I am going to be good-to-go… watching hour upon hour of swimmers in heat upon heat. I’m feeling really good, not overly confident – tech glitches happen! – but pretty darn happy with where I am in my training to watch this Olympic Trials. I guess if I had any last minute self-talk preparation to give it would be: you’ve watched a lot of people watch swimming over the years, now it’s your time to watch, it’s your time to shine in watching! #watching4thegold #gobigwatchingorgohome