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Swimmers tune up before trials

U.S. Olympic hopefuls will compete in three meets ahead of Omaha competition June 29 to determine who will be going to Beijing.

June 06, 2008|Lisa Dillman | Times Staff Writer

Whether it's a pool in Omaha or Charlotte, N.C., or closer to home on the campus of USC, the concept is still the same for those swimmers with Olympic experience or those looking to make their first U.S. squad.

Call it a final dress rehearsal.

This weekend, there will be three significant swim meets around the country serving the dual purpose of fine-tuning and experimentation set against the backdrop of the U.S. Olympic swim trials, which start in Omaha on June 29.

Most prominently will be a test event in Omaha, the Mutual of Omaha Swimvitational, at the Qwest Center. Distance events were held Thursday, but the main competition runs today through Sunday.

Leading the field is Michael Phelps, who will be swimming a lighter schedule than usual, four events, the 100-meter backstroke, the 100 butterfly and the 100 and 200 freestyles, though it's always subject to last-minute changes.

Last month in Santa Clara, Calif., Phelps competed in finals of three individual events in one session, the final day, and won all three, beating Aaron Peirsol for the first time in a backstroke event.

Phelps' only real moment of disappointment in Santa Clara came earlier in the meet in a race he won, the 400 individual medley, and he seemed unusually bothered by his backstroke leg in the medley. Still, he finished second to Peirsol later in the 200 backstroke and then beat him in the 100 backstroke

Peirsol is not scheduled to be in Omaha, nor will another Phelps' rival, Ryan Lochte, who is expected to compete in the UltraSwim meet in Charlotte, along with Cullen Jones, Amanda Weir and Kara Lynn Joyce.

Others on hand in Omaha will be Katie Hoff and distance star Kate Ziegler. In Thursday's races, Ziegler won the women's 1,500 freestyle in 16 minutes 13.93 seconds and Tom Koucheravy won the men's 800 freestyle with a time of 8:06.31.

Meanwhile, the field at the Janet Evans Invitational at USC, today through Sunday, also features a handful of Olympians: Natalie Coughlin, Jason Lezak, Dana Vollmer, Tara Kirk, Larsen Jensen and Klete Keller. Also expected to swim are Ben Wildman-Tobriner, the world champion last year in the 50 meters, and Jessica Hardy and Rebecca Soni.

Preliminary sessions start at 9 a.m. and finals are scheduled for 5 p.m.

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lisa.dillman@latimes.com

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