Olympic gold medalists and the next generation of swimming stars were at the George F. Haines Swim Center’s poolside when the 2014 Arena Grand Prix Series came to Santa Clara June 19-22.
In his second swim of the season, 22-time Olympic medal winner Michael Phelps – who retired after the London Olympics, but has since changed his mind and returned to the water – hit the pool with high expectations. The most decorated Olympic swimmer in history, who has regained his passion for the pool, fell a little short of some of his prior record-setting performances. Although Phelps raced to a tie with Tom Shields in the 100-meter butterfly, he lost to Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian in the 100-meter freestyle in Friday’s events. On Saturday, Phelps finished second in the 200-meter freestyle behind Yannick Agnel, who won the gold medal in the event in 2012. In his final race, Phelps dominated his heat during the preliminary race during Sunday’s 200-meter individual medley, but finished third in the finals behind the eventual grand prix men’s winner and gold medalist Conor Dwyer and Chase Kalisz.
“I think we’ve been coming to this meet for a long time,” Phelps said on Thursday. “And, I think being able to come back here – you know, I’ve had so many great memories in my career and I can remember so many challenging swims here, but great swims here. It is always nice to be able to come to sunny California, swim outside and be able to swim with the fans that we have here. There’s always a great support system that comes in the stands here whenever were here and I’m just excited to hopefully swim faster than I have been … I’m having fun and that’s the biggest and most important part … I haven’t smiled so much in the pool during workouts in a long time.”
Also falling short of a first place finish was gold medalist Missy Franklin who came in second behind Simone Manuel in the 100-meter freestyle. Franklin, however, took the top spot in Saturday’s 200-meter freestyle, but finished third behind Olympic medalist Elizabeth Beisel and Elizabeth Pelton in the 200-meter backstroke. On Sunday, Franklin finished first in the women’s 100-meter backstroke.
Dwyer received a $10,000 bonus and a one-year lease on a BMW as part of his prize package for winning the six-competition grand prix series. Olympian Katinka Hosszu racked up the most points for the women for the prize money, but Caitlin Leverenz, a bronze medalist in London, received the BMW for being the top point-getting eligible racer for the women.
Locally, Santa Clara Swim Club’s A team took second place in the men’s 4×100-meter freestyle. The team of Sam Shimomura, Michael Nunan, Aidan Burns and Eric Ress, swam the relay in 3:28.56, 47 tenths of a second behind the top finishing Mexico A team. The same team finished third in the men’s 4×200-meter freestyle, swimming in 7:40.60, 8.75 seconds behind winner Wisconsin Aquatics A and Mexico A.