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Duel in the Pool

United States Swimming put on quite a show last weekend in Indianapolis. The pool in Indy is arguably one of the nicest facilities in the world, and proved it was the perfect venue for a meet of this sort… except for the bleachers up high, next time I’m taking a portable seat with a back.

As you can see, USS decked out the pool like a rock concert, and the atmosphere was incredible just WAITING to get in the facility.

In all my years associated with the sport of swimming, I’ve never witnessed anything like this, and I must say, I’m VERY glad I went. This was a first-class operation, and made me very proud to be a small part of the history of the organization. I even had a chance to visit with other Olympians the night before at an Alumni reunion. We also were able to meet some of the delagation from Australia Swimming, and you could tell they were very excited about the event as well.

At the start of the festivities, the Australian team walked out first, and if you’ve ever been to the IUPUI Pool, you can see how much work went into this show. The athletes could certainly feel it too, as they ALL walked out with smiles on their faces, to an excited crowd that was very happy to see the Australian swimmers who made the long trip for this meet.

Leading the way out to a THUNDEROUS welcome, was former Auburn swimmer, and good freind of ours, Scott Tucker. It was so cool to see him walk out, and I could only IMAGINE how it must feel to him to recieve such a welcome. Our buddy Dave Denniston followed in the line of great swimmers and I was fortunate to be sitting next to his parents, and could feel how proud they were of their son, as they should be.

I’m not going to go through the meet event by event, but I’m going to post a few highlights. The first event was the women’s 400 free relay, and dispite what eveyone was saying, the Australians showed they CAME TO PLAY!!! This picture is the final exchange with the Aussies with a commanding lead over US Veteran swimmer Jenny Thompson. All seemed lost, until…
… Jenny dove in… swam an AMAZING race, and here is the finish. All I can say is my EARS HURT it was so loud in there. If this was how it was going to be the entire meet, I think we were all going to pass out from the excitement. What an absolutely amazing race, and with the US winning, it made it all the better.

The next event, the Men’s 400 Free Relay was like a grudge match between the US and Aussies, with the title of fastest team going to the winners. Our buddy Scott Tucker was leading off this race, so we were hoping he could give the US a slight advantage…
… yep… he did! The US team went on to win the race, and were on their way towards taking a commanding lead in the points.

Scott was such a hero for his lead off swim, they even interviewed him and put him on the BIG BOARD.

Just a little note… there was this kid there. 17 years old… pretty good swimmer… oh yeah… WORLD RECORD in the 400 IM. This is Michael Phelps finishing and checking out his time. He had an incredible meet, nearly breaking another World Record, missing it by .03 seconds in the 100 fly, but settling for an American Record. He really is an amazing swimmer, and simply a pleasure to watch.

Of course, nothing could match the excitement of watching Dave Denniston swim. Although, you could say Dave has had better meets, just taking part in this was fantastic.

I was able to talk to Dave about his meet afterwards, and although he was very disappointed with his swims, he has been trying some new things in training and they just didn’t work.

This is such a good lesson for swimmers to learn. In order to become a champion, you have to risk things. Risking things means taking chances, and if you really want to succeed, sometimes you have to take chances when others wouldn’t. Dave, and his coach, Dave Salo, were trying some things that worked very well for other swimmers on the Irvine Novaquatics team… swimmers like Scott Tucker, but they just didn’t work for Dave.

Simply put, they’re going to change what they’re doing, and start again. I absolutely admire the courage of both Dave Denniston, and Dave Salo for being brave enough to take a chance. WHAT IF their tactics allowed Dave to go faster than he ever did before? Then this article would be much different.

As far as Dave D. goes, everything is an experiment that leads to the ultimate test, the Olympic Trials next year. Once that’s completed, then the Olympic Games. Everything up to that point is simply gravy, or… a lesson to be learned. Again, it takes great courage to try things when you can easily go about the same old thing, and swim pretty darn fast anyway. In order to become a champion, sometimes you have to think differently, and take a chance.

I could write so much more about Dave D., and things I witnessed at the meet AFTER he swam. But I won’t embarrass him. All I can say is, I hope my children grow up to be as good a person as Dave is. As I sat next to his parents, we all watched Dave’s actions after his races, and I could see how proud they were of him as well.

You’re going to have to watch the meet on TV to get the final score and to see all the races. Don’t miss it. All-in-all, best swim meet ever in the history of the world. Is that going too far? Sure… maybe so. But I’m telling you right now, the next time one of these come around, you better grab some tickets early, because they’re just going to get better.