Olympic Trials Will Be Swimming’s Premier Showcase

lucas oil stadium, olympic trials
Photo Courtesy: Mykal McEldowney on X

Olympic Trials Will Be Swimming’s Premier Showcase

For swimmers, coaches and any family or friends in the building supporting those with bona fide Olympic hopes, the nine days of racing at the U.S. Olympic Trials will be emotional and stressful. Athletic careers will come down to one race, sometimes to tenths of a second or even hundredths.

At the last Olympic Trials three years ago, five different swimmers missed the team in an individual event by less than two tenths and did not make the trip to Tokyo. This time around, Lucas Oil Stadium will be the site of joyous celebrations with teammates as well as heartbreaking reunions with family members for those who come up just short. The cruel nature of the selection meet and the immense depth of U.S. swimming means that such anguish is inevitable. That is the reality of Trials for so many.

But plenty of swimming fans will be watching Trials without any personal connections to the swimmers. Sure, many will have their favorites, with Katie LedeckyCaeleb DresselRyan Murphy and especially Indiana-native Lilly King among the veterans of two Olympics apiece with plenty of support. These fans will seek autographs and photos before and after sessions as they create lifelong memories. For those experiencing Trials for the first time, the moments will be surreal: that really is such-and-such swimmer that I’ve seen on television!

This year’s Trials could be the most-attended swim meet in history, and at the very least, it will become only the sixth domestic meet in the United States to support a crowd above 10,000 fans, joining the 2004 Trials in a temporary stadium in Long Beach, Calif., and the last four meets held in Omaha, Neb. Now, bringing the meet to an NFL stadium should give even more NFL fans the chance to revel in the experience.

The Indiana Sports Corporation unveiled the completed competition pool last week. The Swimming World crew is not yet in Indianapolis, but we could only marvel at the photos trickling out on social media from locals. One image showed a videoboard for swimmer introductions that stood the entire height of the stadium.

The Indianapolis Colts, the normal occupants of the venue, were part of the unveiling, with Colts mascot Blue shown in a pair of videos jumping into the pool and then throwing a football from the upper deck into a small float in the pool.

Swimming fans deserve this. Those who follow swimming year-round and in the years between Olympic Games deserve to see their favorite sport on display in this almost-over-the-top manner in front of thousands of joyous fans, broadcast live in prime time for nine consecutive evenings on network TV.

lucas oil stadium, olympic trials

Photo Courtesy: Mykal McEldowney on X

Those who care about swimming deserve to see this in person. Young swimmers who watch Trials from the stands will be inspired to pursue swimming even further, to set high goals and put in the work to achieve those goals, to perhaps be part of Olympic Trials as a competitor four years or eight years from now or even just to reach the state or sectional level for the first time. Seeing the most elite swimmers up close provides that spark to thousands of young swimmers at each Trials.

That’s why I have emphasized to so many people in my own life who care about swimming that they should make the trek to Indy. Don’t worry about breaking the bank to attend the whole thing; two or three days is sufficient while watching the rest on TV. You will leave wanting more and remembering the adventure for years.

Twelve years ago, I attended my first Olympic Trials for three days. I was already writing the occasional article for Swimming World, but I was there as a fan. I will never forget walking into the venue during the heats of the women’s 100 freestyle and making sense of the differences between the arena on TV and in real-life. Almost immediately, I ran into the small group of swimmers from my home area (Charleston, S.C.) who were competing at Trials. My first Trials finals was the men’s 200 breaststroke, when little-known swimmer Scott Weltz scored a major upset victory while Clark Burckle finished second, denying favorites Eric Shanteau and Brendan Hansen spots on the team, although both had already made it in the 100 breast.

That week, I met dozens of people I admired for the first time, including my future Swimming World bosses, former publisher Brent Rutemiller and current editor-in-chief John Lohn. Those three days reinvigorated my passion for swimming and reporting on swimming, and it’s a big reason why I’m getting ready to travel to Indianapolis to report on my third consecutive Olympic Trials and ninth consecutive USA Swimming selection meet.

Nine days of racing will determine the composition of the U.S. Olympic team bound for Paris, but the experience of Olympic Trials will be a magical one for thousands more, a long-awaited celebration of the sport with preparation, competition, setup and hype at a maximum.

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1 month ago

America certainly makes this into a Premier sporting event and entertainment. Deservedly so!
Pity that in our own much smaller way Australian swimming doesn’t emulate that!

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