With a unique outdoor venue for 10,000 screaming fans and about 700 of the country's best swimmers competing for a spot on the world's greatest swimming team, the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials -- was an incredible event to witness. As one of the volunteers for the meet, I was assigned the job of running correspondence between the NBC news media center and NBC executive Dick Ebersol and his sports team in the grandstands.
The physical venue was amazing as well. Two Olympic size pools were made to sit (above ground) in a huge parking lot in Long Beach, Ca. Stands were built up around the pools. One pool was the competition pool, the other was the warm up -down pool. Since the pools were built above ground, fans had many stairs to climb just to get into the venue. After the trials were over, both pools were packed up and sold to swim teams in the U.S.
I was so excited since this was to be my first time to see Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin, Brandan Hanson, Aaron Piersol, Katie Hoff, Jason Lezak, Genny Thompson and among others Gary Hall swim. I had seen them on television but the power in the water that these world class swimmers exhibit is breath taking. During the week, I witnessed 11 new world records set. The momentum in the grandstands when a swimmer is ahead of the world record time is unbelievable. The entire crowd screaming...... is just thrilling. I was literally stunned when Michael Phelps set the new world record in the 400 IM. With all the hype about Phelps meeting Mark Spitz for the first time, it was very exciting as well to witness Spitz award Phelps with the gold medal.
Later, I was able to take my children with me into the media center for a news conference with Michael Phelps and Bob Bowman (Phelps coach). Phelps had performed incredibly that day, but according to his standards, he was not pleased. It appeared to me that he was not only gifted in swimming but his focus to succeed was off the records as well. The drive to super-seed his own best time was totally amazing.
This past year in January, my son swam in the Grand Prix meet in Long Beach. Phelps and all the top national swimmers were there as well. A really cool thing happened. One of David's friends was swimming in the same prelim heat as Phelps and his friend actually won that race beating Phelps!! This young swimmer was all over the LA Times sports section the next day. The downside to his winning was the next night he would have to go off block number 4 with Phelps to his right!! Oh my, he was a a basket case. Phelps was kind to let him win the day before, but he came back in full force for finals. But for one shining moment this young swimmer was the star. One moment he and many of us will never forget. Its really cool when the world class swimmer doesn't always have to win!!!! Not many swimmers in the world can say they beat Michael in a race and with the 2008 Olympic Trials around the corner, this fan believes Phelps will continue to go down in the record book as an all time great!!!