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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 25, 2009

Swimming: U.S. trials for 2012 Olympics return to Omaha


ERIC OLSON
AP Sports Writer

OMAHA, Neb. The U.S. Olympic swimming trials will return to Omaha in 2012, with a temporary pool again being set up inside the Qwest Center.

USA Swimming announced Thursday that the trials to choose the U.S. team for the London Games would be held June 25-July 2.

The 2008 trials were held at the Qwest Center for the first time, averaging more than 12,000 fans each night over eight days. Nine world records were set in the temporary 50-meter competition pool. A warmup pool will also be installed in the convention center that's attached to the 17,000-seat downtown arena.

The convention center also will host a 100,000-square-foot sponsor and fan experience area.

"The event here in 2008 was the best swimming event that we have ever held," USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus said at a news conference. "So for us, it was an easy decision to want to return."

Wielgus said his organization received many inquiries from other cities about hosting the trials.

"We told them we wouldn't put it out for bid until we exhausted every effort to return the event here to Omaha," he said. "There were a lot of challenges along the way. We tackled those one by one, and now we're in position to have a clear running field to have an event in 2012 that will exceed the event that was here in 2008."

The biggest challenge will be the trials' possible two-night overlap with the College World Series, which will be played at a 24,000-seat stadium now under construction near the Qwest Center.

The 2012 CWS best-of-three finals are set for the evenings of June 24-26, and city officials are preparing for major traffic problems.

"The key was to figure out how we can put on both events so both the NCAA and USA Swimming think they're the only events in town," said Jack Diesing, who heads the CWS' local organizing group. "At the end of the day, everybody realized there was great synergy. We decided we were going to make this work come heck or high water."

In addition to the nine world records, 21 American marks were set at the '08 trials and, according to USA Swimming, 44 percent of the competitors swam personal bests at the meet.

Michael Phelps set two world records as he began his bid for his record eight gold medals in Beijing.

Wielgus said he's certain swimmers and coaches will be pleased to return to Omaha.

"They know where they're going to stay, where they're going to eat, where they're going to warm up," Wielgus said. "Coming back to Omaha relieves an enormous amount of stress for the athletes and coaches."

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On the Net:

USA Swimming: http://www.usaswimming.org