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Chapter 16: I love you – and I mean it!

Posted on 27 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

 

 

 

“If you ask me to give you three words to describe this team, I’ll use three that Ray Lewis used a few weeks ago: faith, hope and love. Those are biblical words, but those are probably the three most important words in the English language. Faith in each other and in whatever greater thing you believe. Always hopeful. You can be discouraged, but there is no such thing as being disheartened. Love is what holds the universe together. It’s a selflessness that you put others before yourself. That’s the ultimate team quality. We’ll need a lot of all three to get us where we want to go.”

– John Harbaugh (December 2012)

 

 

 

 

AFTER A THIRD CONSECUTIVE LOSS in the NFL, if there’s not some palpable tension in the air then you’ve probably got a football team that’s far too comfortable.

Head coach John Harbaugh’s tireless optimism and foundational principles would be tested with the New York Giants coming to town in Week 16 and the home crowd coming back to the stadium after booing and exiting early in the shellacking by the Denver Broncos.

Harbaugh’s core, old-fashioned philosophies about faith, hope and love were drilled into the team in this time of adversity. For the most part, the media didn’t believe. The fans were restless, and the team was that had been 9-2 with dreams of a bye and an AFC Championship home game was a mere shadow of its former self. Now they were just trying to make the playoffs at 9-5 while staring down the defending champs on Christmas weekend, knowing that Cincinnati would be playing to get into the playoffs the following weekend. The losing streak would’ve been four games had it not been for a 4th & 29 miracle in San Diego.

Make no mistake about it, the Ravens were not playing well, and they weren’t healthy.

Sure, Harbaugh used the “us vs. them” mentality and also said that people outside the building didn’t believe. But that only goes so far if the core philosophy isn’t grounded in self-belief and integrity in the work ethic that backs it up.

Harbaugh’s enthusiasm is tireless, and his optimism never ceases. In the first year, many players found it almost hokey, corny in many ways. But it’s what John Harbaugh believes and what his family has preached for his half century on the planet.

Let’s be honest: “Who’s got it better than us?” is implicit in its optimism, right?

His father’s famous refrain, which his brother Jim had adopted with the San Francisco 49ers, and made famous – “Who’s got it better than us?” – with the retort, “Nobody!” had almost become part of the NFL vernacular.

It assumes happiness and steadfastly conveys success and gratitude. And if you woke up and said it every morning – and more importantly, really believed it – you would also be eternally optimistic.

That’s the faith and hope part of the equation.

The love was probably the easiest sell on his players. It’s hard to find a John Harbaugh speech or press conference where he doesn’t convey the value of “team” and “sticking together” as core values. The friendships that had sprung from battling together

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Phelps says he’ll never swim 400IM again

Posted on 25 April 2014 by WNST Staff

By BETH HARRIS Associated Press

MESA, Ariz. — Michael Phelps’ comeback meet was cut short Friday when he failed to advance to the 50-meter freestyle final.

The 18-time Olympic gold medalist used the morning preliminaries at the Arena Grand Prix to fine-tune his butterfly stroke instead of doing freestyle like everyone else. He finished seventh in a time of 24.06 seconds, missing out on the eight-man evening final.

Phelps didn’t even make any of the three consolation finals because he was 42nd overall; only the top 32 qualify for those, so his first competition since retiring after the 2012 London Olympics ended early.

“I don’t think there will be enough scratches,” coach Bob Bowman joked about the possibility of Phelps getting into any of the finals.

Phelps ended up in the sprint because none of the day’s other events — 400 individual medley, 200 freestyle and 200 backstroke — are ones that he plans to compete in during this comeback. He dominated the 400 IM during the height of career, but he vows he won’t swim the grueling event anymore.

“I’m putting that out there: I am never swimming the 400 IM again,” he said.

Bowman jabbed him, saying, “Kind of like, ‘I will never swim again.’”

At that, the longtime friends laughed.

Phelps had insisted he was done with swimming after London and frequently pointed out he had no intention of swimming past the age of 30. He turns 29 next month, and would be 31 by the time of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Phelps tread lightly when pressed about his intentions toward a possible fifth Olympics. He was 15 at his first games in Sydney in 2000, when he was the youngest member of the entire U.S. team. He didn’t medal, but went on to haul in 22 medals over his next four games, including a record eight gold in 2008.

He repeatedly emphasized he’s having fun this time around and feels more relaxed than ever.

“I felt like a kid and that was the coolest part about it,” he said. “It’s a good starting point, being able to get some races back under my belt.”

Phelps’ goal Friday was to take just three breaths in the one-lap race; easy enough for a sprinter but not for a swimmer who specialized in distances ranging from 200 to 400 meters during his career.

“It’s weird for me not to breathe,” he said. “I’m used to breathing every single stroke.”

He gulped air every second or third stroke, and halfway through he took two consecutive breaths.

“As soon as I did that, I was like, ‘Man, I wonder if I can hold my breath the whole way,” he said. “I was like, ‘No, I don’t think so, so I snuck one more at 15.”

Afterward, Bowman told him, “You don’t really know how to swim a 50.”

Phelps replied, “I guess that’s a good thing.”

He finished second to Ryan Lochte in the 100 butterfly on Thursday, tying the fourth-fastest time in the world this year.

Next up for Phelps is high-altitude training in Colorado next month. He’s entered in Grand Prix meets in North Carolina and California, although his presence hasn’t been confirmed yet.

 

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My best 2012 Baltimore sports story is Jessica Long…and yours will be too!

Posted on 31 December 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

Perhaps you already know parts of the story of local swimming sensation Jessica Long. Maybe you’ve seen her on the evening news or you’ve seen her honored locally or even nationally on the ESPY’s or as the 2006 James Sullivan Award winner.

As a journalist here for 29 years, I’ve had the privilege of knowing some special athletes and people around sports. The Baltimore connections and heroes are among some of the greatest names in the sports universe from Johnny Unitas and Brooks Robinson to Ray Lewis and Cal Ripken not mention from Michael Phelps back to Babe Ruth. But the story of Jessica Long is better than any of them because of what she doesn’t have.

Jessica Long doesn’t have legs.

While all eyes and focus were on Baltimore’s worldwide star Michael Phelps this summer during the Olympic Games from London, another local swimmer & world-class competitor was waiting in the wings to make her third splash in the Paralympic Games, which followed the Closing Ceremonies in England.

Jessica Long first gained local and national attention as a 12-year old at the 2004 Athens games and now has been through the Beijing and London games and is emerging as a model, spokesperson and inspiration to people all over the world. Oh, and she’s turns 21 in February but her eyes have seen the world in a big way and this past year and this unfolding story I’m about to tell is incredible, heart-warming and still doesn’t have an ending – happy or otherwise.

Then again, almost everything surrounding Jessica Long always seems to turn out with an immense level of happiness and smiles all around. This blog will end with a video of her surrounded by Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, John Harbaugh draped with her Paralympic gold medals and you’ll see her mantra for the coach in regard to the Baltimore Ravens’ playoff run:

“Pressure is a privilege,” she says.

*        *       *

The Paralympics Games attract an all-too-small fraction of the attention of the sports and media spotlight so it’s up to people like me in places like Baltimore to tell you about my favorite sports story of 2012 and hope to inspire you as we enter 2013.

My favorite Baltimore sports story of 2012 is about Jessica Long and you’ll soon find out why.

This story is lengthy because it needs to be and contains various links and pictures that I personally hope you check out and read as you begin another year. Your 2013 will probably begin with two legs so think about the courage of Jessica Long and her amazing narrative

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Is Michael Phelps a hero or a zero? Depends on who you ask…

Posted on 31 July 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

The every-fourth-year hubbub about the Olympics and swimming and local connections is underway and once again this week Michael Phelps has entered the worldwide sports consciousness every night as the most decorated athlete in United States history.

So if you’re a provincial, “local” Baltimore sports fan you’re almost obligated to cheer for the kid from Towson wearing the red, white and blue on behalf of our country as well as our community.

After all of the tape delay fiascos from England this weekend – I wrote my two cents here — I started thinking about Michael Phelps as being the unique sports figure of our time in Baltimore. Oh, sure we have some hometown sports heroes like Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken and Ray Lewis, who will all have plenty of bronze likenesses and memories in our community and “time will not dim the glory of their deeds” but Phelps’ accomplishments trump all of them on his stage when you consider his competition around the planet and the scope and magnitude of the Olympics.

And unlike the Orioles, Colts or Ravens, most people have never been anywhere near a pool where Michael Phelps has swam a lap. The closest approximation to a “cheering crowd” for Phelps happened four years ago when the remnants of a Baltimore Ravens preseason game watched him swim for gold inside the stadium about 30 minutes after the football game ended.

You can see my view of it here:

So on Saturday afternoon before Phelps took his first turn in the pool vs. Ryan Lochte, I put up one simple, open-ended sentence for tens of thousands of our @WNST Twitter followers and our Facebook community. It was:

Michael Phelps is ___________________.

There were hundreds of comments across social media and by my count far more than 50% weren’t just negative they were downright personal and abusive in some cases. And this was on Facebook, where people sign their names and add their likeness to their criticism.

Perhaps it’s gold medal envy?

Maybe it was the DUI

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NBC & WBAL should be ashamed of lame tape delay Olympics coverage

Posted on 29 July 2012 by Nestor Aparicio

For those of you who have followed my radio career since 1991, you know that I’m a patriotic fan of American sports and the Olympics always seems to capture my attention in at least some small way.

This year, with local hero Michael Phelps back in the daily consciousness, it makes sense that I’d be interested in a Baltimore guy who has already made plenty of history but is trying to nab these three medals to be the most decorated athlete in the history of the world.

He’s from Towson. WNST is in Towson. I’ve attended two parades in his honor. As I said on my Facebook page, he’s kinda a big deal around here.

On Saturday, I began my morning after the Opening Ceremonies at 4 a.m. Immediately, I saw live tweets coming Andrea Kramer and others from London regarding Michael Phelps being in the pool for heats. I turned on NBC before sunrise and watched some early morning pool action. Phelps wasn’t strong but made the finals and I was intrigued by a Lochte vs. Phelps showdown “later tonight.” I downloaded the NBC schedule and saw that the finals were actually happening around 1:30 p.m. our time. The website even has a “your time” vs. “London time” setting.

I literally built my day around watching Michael Phelps swim for a gold medal.

Sometime around 2 p.m. I realized that NBC’s main feed was strangely nowhere near a pool and was more in “female pitch” time, doing feel good pieces on the gymnastics team and showing the already-tired Youtube girls swim team video of “Call Me Maybe” for the fourth time. I thought maybe the schedule on the web was wrong.

Sometime around 2:20 p.m. I became a little suspicious and I had the audacity to open my laptop on Facebook and Twitter and found out within 20 seconds of the end of the race that Ryan Lochte had defeated Michael Phelps soundly.

Within minutes, the global assault on NBC – via #NBCFail — had begun and I was among the millions who were duped into thinking that the biggest sporting event of the day – held in the middle of a sports Saturday in America no less – would be suppressed and embargoed by the network that paid billions of dollars to have exclusive “live” coverage of the London Olympics.

What a strange, stupid decision the folks at NBC made – a mandate to embarrass virtually everyone associated with anything “news” for their whole company.

Then, keeping with the rank and file mandate of some NBC exec in New York, on the 6 p.m. newscast WBAL-TV opted to “pretend” that the race hadn’t happened yet, speaking of it in the future tense. They even did a live shot at Meadowbrook and asked the reporter to drum up “people can’t wait for the race” rhetoric when every 15-year old who swims at the club had known the result for four hours.

Just monumentally embarrassing, especially for a local television station that uses “Live, Local and Latebreaking” as a trite mantra to attract people with gray hair who still think news doesn’t happen until 6 p.m.

God bless Sarah Caldwell (who I like a lot) but if some suit in New York told me to do the nightly “news” and then asked me to stare into the camera with integrity and pretend I didn’t know who won four hours after it was over?

Does anyone over there have a brain?

Twenty minutes later an almost contrite Gerry Sandusky offered to give the result only after pleading the viewership to turn the station off for a few seconds if they didn’t want the result.

Where is Dan Joerres or someone on TV Hill to call “bullhockey” on these goofy local news embargoes, especially when the Baltimore local news leads without giving the Michael Phelps result on the network that had the live rights to it?

The equally corrupt jokers next door at WJZ-TV and the CBS Locals must’ve been howling with laughter in the newsroom.

It’s 2012. There’s this little thing called the internet that allows us to share information in a free society.

But this isn’t as much about the embarrassment of WBAL-TV – heck the AM 1090 radio side proved their mettle as a news organization back during the 2006 “Free The Birds” walkout when the audio broadcast was essentially a 75-minute chant without nary a word of a protest of the Orioles that day – it’s really amazing that anyone associated with NBC’s news operation would bless this style of “journalism” regarding sports.

I guess nothing shocks me anymore – at the local or national media level — especially when a bunch of suits in New York smell freshly printed green money without regard to the customers.

But who exactly are they trying to appeal to by withholding the live events and pretending that anyone would tune in at 9:40 p.m. to watch a swimming race that everyone in the world had access to the result of if they cared enough to care about who won the race more than seven hours earlier?

Yesterday NBC Sports got what it deserved – a failing grade and a 2012 new media spanking in real time called #NBCFail.

In 1968, it was called “Heidi.”

In 2012, it’s called trending.

When will these guys learn they’re not really in control of information anymore?

The world – from wars to storms, from swimming results to the corruption of corporate money in our society to guys dressed up as The Joker on shooting sprees in Aurora – goes on in real time.

Not in tape delay.

 

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Phelps favored to win more golds than Lochte in London

Posted on 26 July 2012 by WNST Staff

Courtesy of Bovada, (www.Bovada.lv,  Twitter: @BovadaLV).  Included below are the Gold Medal counts for the US, who will win the most Gold Medals, a plethora of Men’s Hoops odds, swimming, track and field, and much more

Total Gold Medals for Team USA at the 2012 Olympics

Over/Under                    38.5

Most Gold Medals at the 2012 Olympics

USA                             4/7

China                            7/5

Russia                          25/1

Great Britain                  33/1

Total Medals for Team USA at the 2012 Olympics

Over/Under                    103.5


Men’s Basketball Props

Basketball – Men’s – Odds to win the Gold Medal

USA                                         1/8

Spain                                        13/2

France                                      28/1

Argentina                                  28/1

Lithuania                                   33/1

Russia                                      33/1

Brazil                                        40/1

Australia                                   100/1

Great Britain                              250/1

China                                        400/1

Nigeria                                      500/1

Tunisia                                      1000/1

 

Basketball Men’s – Odds to win Silver

Spain                            4/9

France                          7/1

Argentina                      7/1

 

Basketball Men’s – Will USA and Spain meet in the finals?

Yes                              4/5

 

What will be the average margin of victory for the USA Men’s Basketball Team at the 2012 Olympics?

Over/Under                    25.5

 

What will be the largest margin of victory for the USA Men’s Basketball Team?

Over/Under                    45.5

 

What will be the smallest margin of victory for the USA Men’s Basketball Team?

Over/Under                    12.5

 

Lebron James – PPG for the tournament?

Over/Under                    17

 

Lebron James – APG for the tournament?

Over/Under                    4.5

 

Lebron James – RPG for the tournament?

Over/Under                    6.5

 

Kobe Bryant – PPG for the tournament?

Over/Under                    13.5

 

Kevin Durant – PPG for the tournament?

Over/Under                    17

 

Carmelo Anthony – PPG for the tournament?

Over/Under                    13.5

           

Historical Matchups – Who will Average More Points Per Game

(Whole Tournament) 

Lebron James                            -2

Michael Jordan (1992)                +2

(Note: Jordan averaged 14.9 pts per game)

 

Kevin Durant                              +1

Charles Barkley (1992)               -1

(Note: Barkley averaged 18 pts per game)

 

Kobe Bryant                              -.5      

Karl Malone (1992)                     +.5

(Note: Malone averaged 13 pts per game)

 

Historical Matchups – Who will Average More Assists Per Game

(Whole Tournament)

Chris Paul                                 Pick

Magic Johnson (1992)                Pick

(Note: Magic averaged 5.5 assists  per game)


Game 1 Lines

USA                 -24.5                -8000               167.5

France              +24.5                +1400

 

Total Points – Team USA

96

 

Total Points – Team France

71.5

 

Margin Of Victory

USA by 1-5                               18/1

USA by 6-10                              10/1

USA by 11-15                            6/1

USA by 16-20                            9/2

USA by 21-25                            4/1

USA by 26 or more                    1/1

France by 1-5                            50/1

France by 6-10                          200/1

France by 11-15                         250/1

France by 16-20                         300/1

France by 21-25                         350/1

France by 26 or more                 400/1


Odds to win Gold Medal

Swimming – Men’s 400m Individual Medley

Ryan Lochte (USA)                    2/3

Michael Phelps (USA)                1/1

 

Swimming – Men’s 200m Individual Medley    

Ryan Lochte (USA)                    4/5

Michael Phelps (USA)                6/5

 

Athletics – Track – Men’s 100m

Usain Bolt (JAM)                        7/10

Yohan Blake (JAM)                    3/2

Tyson Gay (USA)                       10/1

Justin Gatlin (USA)                    20/1

Ryan Bailey (USA)                     20/1

Asafa Powell (JAM)                    25/1

Christophe Lemaitre (FRA)          50/1

 

Athletics – Track – Men’s 400m

LaShawn Merritt (USA)               1/1

 

Athletics – Track – Men’s 110m Hurdles

Aries Merritt (USA)                     5/4

 

Athletics – Track – Women’s 100m Hurdles

Lolo Jones (USA)                       33/1

 

Athletics – Track – Women’s 100m

Allyson Felix (USA)                   7/1

 

Athletics – Track – Women’s 200m

Allyson Felix (USA)                    1/2

 

Soccer – Women’s

USA                             7/4

 

Soccer – Men’s

Brazil                            3/2

Spain                            12/5

 

Tennis – Men’s Singles

Novak Djokovic                          3/2

Roger Federer                            2/1

Andy Murray                              9/2

 

Tennis – Women’s Singles

Serena Williams                       3/2

Maria Sharapova                        4/1

Victoria Azarenka                      5/1

Venus Williams                         40/1

 

Tennis – Women’s Doubles

Williams/Williams (USA)            4/5

 

Miscellaneous Props

Who will win more Gold Medals at the 2012 Olympics?

Michael Phelps (USA)                -175   (4/7)

Ryan Lochte (USA)                    +140   (7/5)

 

Who will finish higher in the Men’s 400m Individual Medley?

Michael Phelps (USA)                +130   (13/10)

Ryan Lochte (USA)                    -160   (5/8)

 

Who will finish higher in the Men’s 200m Individual Medley?

Michael Phelps (USA)                -130

Ryan Lochte (USA)                    EVEN

 

Will Usain Bolt (JAM) win both the Men’s 100m and 200m Gold Medals?

Yes                  +125   (5/4)

No                    -175   (4/7)

 

Will the USA win both the Men’s and Women’s 4x 400m relays Gold Medals?

Yes                  EVEN

No                    -130

 

Will the USA win both the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Gold Medals?

Yes                  -600   (1/6)

No                    +400   (4/1)

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Phelps, Lochte set for another showdown

Posted on 26 June 2012 by WNST Staff

OMAHA, Neb. — (AP) Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps stayed on course for their second showdown at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials on Tuesday.

Lochte qualified fastest in the 200-meter freestyle preliminaries, exploding off the final turn to take the lead and cruise into the wall at 1 minute, 48.14 seconds. He’s the world champion in the event, having beaten Phelps for the title last year in Shanghai.

Charlie Houchin, a 24-year-old from Raleigh, N.C., who was 77th in the 200 free at the 2008 trials, was second-fastest at 1:48.15. Swimming in the heat before Lochte, Phelps qualified third at 1:48.31. He is the Olympic champion and world record holder.

Lochte got the better of Phelps in their first final at trials when he won the 400 individual medley on Monday. Phelps finished second, and they both secured spots for London.

Phelps has set himself up for another eight-event program in London — something he insisted he wouldn’t do again after the Beijing Games.

“It’s not an easy program, but we’re going to try to do some things here,” he said. “The biggest thing is really how I hold up all week. I was definitely happy with getting last night out of the way early. It wasn’t the easiest race. But this morning felt pretty comfortable, so hopefully we can just keep everything rolling for the rest of the meet.”

Can Phelps repeat his historic haul of eight golds?

“Anything can happen,” he said. “You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time.”

Also moving into the 16-man evening semifinals were Conor Dwyer (fifth) and Peter Vanderkaay (sixth). They already earned berths on the U.S. team in the 400 freestyle Monday night.

Davis Tarwater, who narrowly missed making the 2008 Olympics when he was third in the 200 butterfly, was eighth. Ricky Berens, bidding for his second straight Olympic spot, was ninth.

2008 Olympian Garrett Weber-Gale didn’t advance, finishing 24th. Austin Surhoff, the son of former major league baseball player B.J. Surhoff, tied for 66th.

Budding star Missy Franklin and two-time Olympic champion Natalie Coughlin advanced in the 100 backstroke prelims.

Swimming her first event of the eight-day meet, Franklin was the top qualifier in 59.54 seconds, easily moving the 17-year-old from Colorado into the evening semifinals.

“I had some first-race jitters,” she said. “But I’m super, super happy with my time. It felt awesome.”

Franklin saw the sign under the massive scoreboard above the pool as she stroked to the opposite end of the pool.

“It was U.S. Olympic Team. Talk about motivation. That helped me get my tempo up the last 25,” she said. “I was nervous for my first race. But right now, I feel good.”

Franklin led a quartet of teenagers who represent the U.S. future in the event. Rachel Bootsma, an 18-year-old from Minnesota, was second at 59.69, making her and Franklin the only women to go under 1 minute.

Elizabeth Pelton, an 18-year-old from Connecticut, was third at 1:00.55. Olivia Smoliga, a 17-year-old from suburban Chicago, was fourth-quickest at 1:00.66.

Coughlin advanced in fifth at 1:00.71. She was the first woman to break 1 minute in the event and formerly held the world record.

The top 16 in the semifinals move on to Wednesday’s final, where only the top two earn berths for next month’s Olympics.

World champion Rebecca Soni led the way in the 100 breaststroke, coming on strongly over the final 50 meters to win her prelim heat in 1:06.33.

Breeja Larson showed no nerves in her first Olympic trials, turning in the third-fastest time in the world this year to qualify second-quickest at 1:06.52. The sophomore at Texas A&M didn’t start swimming competitively until age 17 in her hometown of Mesa, Ariz.

Jessica Hardy, who won the 100 breast at trials four years ago only to lose her spot on the Olympic team because of a failed doping test, was third at 1:07.25. Hardy served a one-year ban after an arbitration panel agreed with her contention that a tainted nutritional supplement was to blame for her positive test.

Still, she battled anger and depression during the fight to clear her name.

“This is the first time I felt like I can actually have a happy ending,” she said. “I can relax and finally have fun and feel grateful.”

Soni caught Hardy’s time as she was waiting to come on deck.

“She did really well. It gets you kind of pumped up,” she said. “The times are getting faster and faster every year. I definitely have to keep my ’A’ game going.”

Amanda Beard, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 breast, qualified seventh for the evening semifinals. The 30-year-old mother of one is trying to make her fifth Olympic team, but the 100 is not her best event and she will have to pick up the pace to make the eight-woman final.

“I think my chances are great,” she said. “But this isn’t my life. My life doesn’t just revolve around swimming. I won’t be too devastated walking away and saying I competed at my fifth Olympic trials. I’ll look at it as a success and go on a nice vacation with my family.”

Also advancing in 13th was Ariana Kukors, a three-time medalist in the world championships. 2000 Olympic champion Megan Jendrick, who gave birth to her first child eight months ago, finished 22nd.

 

 

 

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Phelps set to begin final Olympic Trials

Posted on 24 June 2012 by WNST Staff

OMAHA, Neb. — (AP) The first Nebraska showdown between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte came at the edge of a curtained-off interview room, not far from the temporary pool where the U.S. Olympic swimming team will be decided.

Phelps rubbed at his thick mustache, which looked like something out of the Village People, and queried Lochte on his smooth face.

“I had one, but I had to shave it,” Lochte said, extending a hand to his rival.

“C’mon, man, you’ve got to keep it as long as you can,” Phelps replied, breaking into a big smile beneath all that hair.

The meeting Saturday between swimming’s two biggest stars was downright cordial. Expect it to be much different when they get in the water at the Olympic trials, which is being held at a temporary pool set up in a 13,200-seat arena along the Missouri River, just as it was in 2008.

Phelps is a 14-time gold medalist trying to put an appropriate finish on his brilliant career at the London Olympics. Lochte is the guy standing in the way, a laid-back Floridian who beat Phelps twice at last year’s world championships and keeps saying over and over again, “This is my time.”

“Michael Phelps definitely set the limit,” Lochte said. “But, I mean, he’s human. He’s not a fish or anything like that.”

Phelps has already hoarded more gold than any other Olympian, and he’s clearly regained the motivation that faded away after the Great Haul of China, where he toppled Mark Spitz’s iconic record by winning eight events.

As he was winding down from six weeks of grueling training in the Colorado mountains, he wondered why he kept getting up so early instead of seizing the chance to sleep in. Then, it hit him: He’s excited about the trials. He’s pumped about what he can do in England. He’s driven to end his career with one more dynamic performance.

“We’ve done everything. We done a lot of amazing things, a lot of cool, exciting things,” Phelps said, sitting next to his omnipresent coach, Bob Bowman. “Now, it’s just time to have fun. I’m a lot more relaxed that I’ve ever been. We’ll see after this week what size cherry I want to put on my sundae.”

Lochte has entered a staggering 11 events at the trials, though he’ll surely drop several of those and perhaps use others just for training purposes in the preliminaries. Phelps has entered seven races, including the 400-meter individual medley on the very first day of the trials.

Phelps and Bowman were coy about their plans, refusing to say if the swimmer will actually compete in the grueling race he won at the last two Olympics but vowed never to swim again after Beijing. He brought back the 400 IM over the past year and entered it at the trials, potentially setting up his first clash with Lochte, the defending world champion in that event.

“We’ve got a couple of hours to decide, don’t we?” Phelps said, chuckling.

Bowman chimed in, saying they actually had another day to make the call.

“OK, we’ve got 24 hours,” Phelps said. “In 24 hours, we’ll let you guys know.”

He even skirted a question about when he would shave his mustache, fearing that would reveal his plans.

“I can’t give that away,” Phelps said. “If I say I’m doing it tomorrow, then you’ll know I’m swimming the 400 IM. If I say I’m doing it Monday, that means I’m not. It will come off when the rest of my body hair comes off.”

Lochte and Phelps will certainly face each other in two of their best events: the 200 IM and the 200 freestyle. Phelps is the defending Olympic champion in both races (a two-time defending champ, in fact, in the medley). But Lochte took them both at the 2011 worlds in Shanghai, beating Phelps by a total of about a half-second and setting a world record in the 200 IM, just to rub it in.

With that triumph still fresh, Lochte is itching to race Phelps as many times as possible in Omaha, starting with the 400 IM.

“He’s the world’s best swimmer ever,” Lochte said. “I love racing against him. It’s fun. He’s one of the hardest racers in the world. He’ll go toe-to-toe with you until the end. That’s excitement for me. I really hope he does swim that.”

Another of the top contenders, Tyler Clary, is also very interested in what Phelps decides. Last year, Clary finished second to Lochte at worlds with Phelps on the sideline, but the dynamic changes if all three are in the event. Only the top two earn spots on the Olympic team.

Asked if he expects Phelps to compete in the 400 IM, Clary replied somewhat nervously, “My expectations are no, but stranger things have happened.”

No matter what happens, the Phelps-Lochte rivalry figures to be the defining storyline of these eight days in Omaha — even at a meet that also features 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin, rising star Missy Franklin, and two 40-somethings taking one more shot at glory, Dara Torres and Janet Evans.

“For so long, it was just him beating me,” Lochte said. “Since 2008, I changed some things in my training and my eating habits, and I’ve gotten a lot faster. Now, especially going into this meet and hopefully London, this is probably going to be one of the biggest rivalries ever.”

Lochte stopped eating junk food — except for an occasional order of potato chips — and added a Strongman-like routine to his weight-training program. He’s noticed a big chance in his practice sessions, finding that where he once was thrilled to put together two good days in a row, now he can go weeks at a time with no letup.

He’s respectful of Phelps, but not intimidated to race against him day after day.

“I love a challenge,” Lochte said. “For me to be in the same era as him, in the same events as him, to be able to race him to the finish, it’s awesome. I love it. I get soooo excited when I’m stepping on the blocks and trying to race him.”

Rest assured, that sort of talk is pumping up Phelps. He seems to hear everything that anyone says about him — Bowman has a lot to do with that — and can turn even the slightest of slights into a reason to go faster.

Heck, Phelps still remembers what former Australian national coach Don Talbot said about him before the 2003 world championships, something about “being unproven on international ground.”

“What did that do? It motivated me,” said Phelps, who at that meet set world records in different events on the same day. “Obviously, it frustrates me sometimes, but I just use that as motivation. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned in my career. I’ve never once said anything publicly about anyone. I never will. That’s how I am. I let my swimming do whatever needs to be done.”

Ahh, this is getting good.

Even the other swimmers, who are mostly focused on their own Olympic goals, can’t wait to see how Phelps vs. Lochte turns out.

“They push the best out of each other,” Clary said, “every time they get in the pool.”

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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Loyola Wins Again and a National Record is Broken at the MIAA Swimming Championships

Posted on 09 February 2009 by WNST Staff

As expected, the Loyola Dons won their sixteenth consecutive MIAA swimming title this past weekend, led by several All-American performances from breaststroke specialist Sean Roddy and freestyle phenom Hugh Davison.

And as their coach, I’m also very proud to say that the Calvert Hall Junior Varsity squad captured the MIAA JV championship. The JV aquacards were led by John Fox’s incredible victory in the 100 breaststroke and strong performances from freestyle specialist Justin Brier, freshman IMer Steven Roberts, sophomore sprinter Rob Walker, and distance swimmer Trey Guillott.

In one of the fastest meets I have ever been a part of, both competing and coaching, MIAA swimmers put on a show Saturday night. In fact, Michael Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman was in attendance to witness the fastest meet in MIAA history. Loyola, McDonough, and Calvert Hall could have easily beaten most local colleges. It was THAT fast.

Every single MIAA meet record was broken, except for the 100 backstroke record which is held by Mt. St. Joe alum and former Olympian Tom Hannan.

The highlight of the meet was the ‘A’ Conference finals of the Men’s 50 Freestyle. After swimming a blistering 20.26 in prelims, McDonough’s Giles Smith did the unthinkable. Smith broke a national high school record in the 50 freestyle, touching the wall in 19.74 seconds!

There were countless All-Americans and it would take forever to post them all. Even kids who earned third and fourth place were swimming All-American times. Here are some other quick highlights from the meet:

-In the ‘B’ conference, St. Paul’s Austin Surhoff, BJ Surhoff’s son and a future Texas Longhorn, swam a meet-record and automatic All-American qualifying time in the 200 IM (1:48.68).

-Loyola’s Sean Roddy, a future LSU Tiger, set a meet record in the 100 breaststroke, registering a time of 55.66, also good enough for All-American.

-Loyola’s Hugh Davison and McDonough’s Drew Cosgarea tied for first in the 200 freestyle. Both swam a meet record and All-American time of 1:38.89. To put things in perspective, a 200 yard freestyle is 8 laps in a regulation pool. Davison won the 100 freestyle in a meet record time of 46.26 and Cosgarea won the 500 freestyle in a meet record time of 4:29.42. Both swims were also All-American qualifiers.

-To cap off an incredible performance, Giles Smith set a meet record in the 100 butterfly, setting the mark at 48.82 seconds.

-Despite coming in third place behind other-worldly performances by the relay teams from McDonough and Loyola, the Calvert Hall 200 Freestyle Relay broke a 15-year-old school record. The team of Pat Seipp, Will McLennan, Nick Girken, and Dave Roberts touched the wall in 1:27.17, good enough for All-American. In the lead off leg, Seipp swam his 50 in 21.32, which qualifies him for All-American consideration.

In two weeks, the Dons and the Cardinals will compete against the best swimming programs on the east coast. The 2009 Easterns will be held at La Salle University starting February 20th.

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Michael Phelps fallout continues with 3-month suspension

Posted on 05 February 2009 by Nestor Aparicio

Our Alex Thomas has called it Waterbong Gate and it’s certainly continues to seemingly have no end as Michael Phelps has been suspended from competitive swimming for three months by USA Swimming and Kellogg’s has dropped its sponsorship.

Read more here…

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