Michael Phelps’ swan song in Charlotte ended with another second-place finish Saturday night.
But two swimmers who train locally – Josh Schneider and Nick Thoman – both won individual gold medals at the Charlotte UltraSwim in the same events in which they hope to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in six weeks.
It was a banner night for swimming at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center, which was packed to the gills once again for an evening headlined by Phelps’ final appearance (assuming the 14-time Olympic gold medalist keeps his promise to retire after the London Olympics).
“The fans have gotten more and more involved over the last couple of years and you see that,” Phelps said of his last Charlotte competition. “There weren’t too many empty seats in the house, if any… You do get kind of worked up. I heard the crowd every single stroke of the way. It was definitely a cool way to swim my last race.”
Phelps was second in the 200-meter butterfly to China's Wu Peng.
In the past four UltraSwims, Phelps has entered 15 individual events and won six of them (40 percent). He finished second in both his events at the 2012 UltraSwim. It’s obvious he doesn’t try to peak for the events in Charlotte. Nor does Ryan Lochte, who is now considered just as good a swimmer as Phelps but who is in the middle of a brutal training period and keeps finishing back in the pack at the UltraSwim.
Schneider, meanwhile, was very sharp Saturday. A playful sprinter and fine athlete who swims for SwimMAC Carolina’s Charlotte-based Team Elite, Schneider won the 50-meter freestyle in 22.1 seconds.
Schneider did it without taking a single breath, which is his usual strategy for swimming’s quickest race. Afterward, the former football player from Cincinnati sounded extremely confident.
“I think I’ve got a ton in the tank,” Schneider said. “I think I’m going to shock a lot of people in the 50 free [at the Olympic Trials].”
Schneider’s teammate Cullen Jones – an Olympic gold medalist in 2008 – was sixth. Nick Brunelli, also a SwimMAC Team Elite member, was fourth.
The 100 backstroke is Thoman’s best event and he won it in 53.77 seconds. His teammate, Eugene Godsoe, was third as he continues to have an excellent meet. Ryan Lochte, who is expected to be a major factor in the race at the Olympic Trials, was eighth.
“It was a good swim,” Thoman said. “I took it out the way I wanted to and tried not to die too hard at the end. That’s kind of the way I want to race it in Omaha at the Olympic Trials."