U.S. Olympic Trials: Omaha Is the Hollywood and Red Carpet of USA Swimming

venue-Olympic Trials

U.S. Olympic Trials: Omaha Is the Hollywood and Red Carpet of USA Swimming

By Annika Hobson, Swimming World College Intern

Walking around the streets of Omaha, Nebraska while the United States Olympic Trials is being conducted, swim fans have many chances to see their favorite swim stars. The swimmers can be seen milling about the venue preparing for their races and around town, some with their eyes on Tokyo. Just as popular culture magazines depict celebrities being just like us, pro swimmers and up-and-coming swimmers prep for meets just like we do. On the other hand, the production of the meet is not your typical swim meet, as its level mirrors Hollywood’s award shows in its enthralling energy and buzzing environment.

Just Like Any Other Swimmer

To prepare for a long meet, such as the eight days of events at U.S. Olympic Trials, swimmers must purchase a variety of essentials. From last minute toiletries to snacks you can find, swimmers roam the rows of a grocery store. For example, roaming the aisles of a Target, you could cross paths with Townley Haas and the Texas men’s swim team. To further prepare, the swimmers must fuel themselves for their races. The pro swimmers eat at a range of places from Chipotle, a favorite of Michael Andrew, to local restaurants. In between prelims and finals and at the end of the day’s events, the pool quickly clears out as all the Trials swimmers head back to their hotel rooms to get some much-needed rest and recovery.

High-Production Value

Like any big event in Hollywood, Omaha presents the U.S. Olympic Trials in an exhilarating manner. From an impressive and bright lights show to entertaining announcers, Trials exudes a high-production value. The live event leaves the audience craving more swimming and makes the television audience wish they could be in Omaha.


Similar to Hollywood awards shows, the U.S. Olympic Trials for 2021 has multi-time Olympians Brendan Hansen and Kaitlin Sandeno as live hosts to add excitement to the finals session. Hansen and Sandeno interview the newly minted Olympic athletes, entertain the audience and help to create an environment that is conducive to fast swimming by pumping the swimmers up.

Guest Appearances

To further add to the enticing environment, there are many surprise guest appearances. Specifically, the 2021 Trials have been honoring the Olympic swim team of 2000, so various athletes from Aaron Peirsol to Megan Jendrick have spoken about the thrills of being an Olympian. The biggest guest appearance came with a roar of applause as the big screen showed Michael Phelps. Phelps not only was a member of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Team, but is the most decorated Olympian in history. The standing ovation for these Olympians rocked the stadium.

Lifetime Achievement Award

In addition to honoring the 2000 Olympic team and Phelps’ first Trials from the stands, legendary coach Eddie Reese received acknowledgement for his prolific career. Reese, the head coach for the University of Texas men’s swimming team for 43 years, has coached more than 20 gold medalists. Reese’s career as a swim coach will be recognized as extraordinarily successful for years to come. USA Swimming’s honoring of Reese at his last Olympic Trials before retirement is swimming’s way of presenting a lifetime achievement award.


Flocking around the athletes, you can see fans with joyous faces meeting their role models. Similar to Hollywood stars, the swimmers happily wave to their fans with a smile and give autographs. A few lucky fans may even get a keepsake. For example, after her 100 breaststroke final at the 2021 Olympic Trials, Lily King gave a young fan her first-place medal to instill excitement about the sport of swimming in new generations. For young swimmers seeing their favorite athletes compete at a top level is a thrilling event that will not be forgotten.

While there may not be limos in front of the CHI Health Center, the venue for the U.S. Olympic Trials, there are Toyota courtesy cars picking up swimmers. While there are not billboards donning popular movies and television shows, there are banners welcoming the athletes, giant archways with pictures of premier athletes, and a plethora of images of the athletes decking out the CHI Health Center. While you may not see the swimmer’s parade across a red carpet as Hollywood stars do, you can see them excitedly exit the blue tunnel to walk onto the pool deck to swim fast finals races.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.