OMAHA – Michael Phelps continued his utter dominance at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials Wednesday night at the Qwest Center and qualified for his third individual event by winning the men’s 200-meter butterfly.
Phelps set his first-ever world record in the 200-meter butterfly in March 2001. Since that swim, no swimmer has come close to challenging him. Phelps has produced all of the top ten all-time performances in the event and was over 1.5 seconds faster than the second place finisher Wednesday.
But for a team best known for having the fastest swimmer in the world, the trials have proven that the talent pool at Club Wolverine is much deeper than Phelps alone.
Club Wolverine and Michigan swimmers represented four of the top eight swimmers in the 200-meter butterfly. In addition to Phelps (1:52.20), Davis Tarwater (1:54.46) finished third, junior Matt Patton (1:56.98) finished fourth and senior Alex Vanderkaay (1:57.25) finished sixth.
Only the top two finishers qualify to make the U.S. Olympic Team. Though Tarwater, Patton and Vanderkaay all finished below second place, their coach Bob Bowman said they have much to be proud of.
“When you get to this level, that’s a huge achievement,” he said. “Less than one 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.”
Since Phelps broke the record in the event, the times of swimmers around the world have been improving. When Phelps first broke the record in 2001, his time was over three seconds slower than he swam Wednesday. Four years ago at the Olympic Trials, former Michigan swimmer Tom Malchow qualified for the Olympic team with a time of 1:57.37. This year, the top seven swimmers all swam faster than that time.
During the women’s 200-meter individual medley, Club Wolverine swimmer Kaitlin Sandeno swam the final race of her career. Sandeno – a two-time Olympian who won two bronze, one silver and one gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games – finished eighth overall in the event. And at age 25, she has decided to retire. In the last few weeks leading up to the trials, Sandeno battled through a cold, a knee injury and then bronchitis. After finishing the race Sandeno couldn’t hide her emotions, trying unsuccessfully to hide her tears while she talked to the media.
“These are tears of joy,” she said. “Obviously, I wish I had swam a little better but I tried, you know, and that’s the only thing you can do. I just hope I made everybody proud, not giving up.”
The women will compete in the 100-meter freestyle and the 200-breaststroke and the men will compete in the 200-meter individual medley and backstroke Thursday. The trials will continue through Sunday night.