OMAHA – Michigan men’s swimming and Club Wolverine coach Bob Bowman understands the ups and downs that come with the U.S. Olympic trials. Just the top two finishers in each event can qualify for the U.S. Olympic team, and in a sport where the difference between winners and losers is measured in hundredths of a second, ups and downs are inevitable.
“You know, it has to be really disappointing for it to be really great,” Bowman said. “That’s just the reality of it, and you can’t have one without the other.”
And this year was no exception.
Swimming superstar Michael Phelps dominated the headlines during the trials by setting world records in the 400- and 200-meter individual medleys and winning each of his eight events. Phelps will now have a chance to break the record for most gold medals in one Olympiad. Swimmer Mark Spitz holds that record. He won seven gold medals at the 1972 Munich Games.
Phelps fell one medal short of tying the record in 2004, when he won six gold and two bronze medals. Phelps was pleased with his overall performance in the trials and often expressed his excitement about competing with Team USA.
“I’m ready for the challenge that lies ahead of me,” he said. “And this is probably going to be the strongest men’s and women’s team that we’ve ever seen.”
A shocking moment came Thursday night when former Michigan swimmer Scott Spann, who transferred to Texas after last season, won the men’s 200-meter breaststroke. American record holder Brendan Hansen failed to even qualify for the Olympic team, finishing fourth. Hansen had cruised to victory in the 100-meter breaststroke and was favored to win the 200-meter after winning the semifinals by 0.64 seconds and leading the field in the finals through the first 150 meters. Hansen added nearly three seconds to his best time and Spann dropped 0.39 seconds to swim a career best.
“I’m in shock,” Spann said. “I can’t even process that I made the team. This is unbelievable.”
Club Wolverine will be well-represented in Beijing. Along with Phelps, Peter Vanderkaay, Erik Vendt and Allison Schmitt also made the U.S. Olympic team. Rising Michigan senior Matt Patton and senior Alex Vanderkaay came close to qualifying in the 200-meter butterfly but finished fourth and sixth, respectively.
Despite the disappointment of missing the Olympics, Bowman again put their effort and performances into perspective.
“I just think when you get to this level, that’s a huge achievement,” he said. “Less than 1 percent of the people even come to this meet. To be in the top eight in your event, you’re in the best in the world.”