On Thursday, before the Charlotte UltraSwim began, Mayor Pat McCrory declared he wanted Charlotte to be a "swim hub."
I found that comment a little too sunny, but hey, that's what mayors do, right? But there's no doubt it's more possible now than it was Thursday, after Charlotte pulled off the best UltraSwim of the 25 that have come so far. Michael Phelps praised the meet lavishly in his post-meet press conference Sunday after he finished his races.
Would Charlotte as a major swim hub really be possible? Yes. Cities like Indianapolis and Omaha have a major edge over Charlotte in terms of tradition and facilities when you talk about hosting the biggest meet on American soil -- the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials, which comes only once every four years. (Omaha had it in 2008 and likely will get it again in 2012).
But Charlotte could do it. The dream among the swim community here would likely be to hold bigger meets than the UltraSwim at Time Warner Cable Arena. You'd be amazed at what they can do with temporary pools these days -- that's what Omaha did in 2008, just put a huge one on at a major arena and then got more than 10,000 people to show up every day.
Charlotte has taken major strides in this direction with the formation of Mecklenburg Aquatic Club's Team Elite, a place where post-college swimmers can train for the Olympic dream full-time (it produced 2008 Olympians Mark Gangloff and Cullen Jones).
There would still be much to do -- infrastructure, dollars, etc. -- and it's questionable whether the community at large would get behind it. This is a NASCAR and Carolina Panthers town, ultimately. Swimming made its biggest splash yet this weekend, but that was partly due to weird circumstances (Michael Phelps returning to his first competitive meet since Beijing after the 3-month "bong photo" suspension).
Nevertheless, it was really cool to see. Charlotte has produced a great crop of swimmers over the past few years (Ricky Berens, Scot Robison, Lauren Smart and Jared White are all current NCAA stars, and there's more than that coming down the pike in the 16-18 age group).
It'd be nice to see those guys swim a few more huge meets here from time to time rather than always going off somewhere else to do so.
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