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After Beijing, Michael Phelps swore that he was done, finished with the grueling 400 meter Individual Medley. A day or so ago, Phelps dodged speculation about whether he would swim the 400IM again, even refusing to answer when he would shave his fu manchu mustache so as not to give away the time of his first event in the US Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha.
The 400IM was the first event today. You start with 100m Butterfly, and it is nice to get that over with because swimming Fly when you're tired is no fun at all. Then you swim 100m Backstroke. Back lets you breathe a lot more, but isn't quite as restful as it seems in Esther Williams flicks because you have to kick like blazes. Then comes 100m Breaststroke, which to my mind is even more grueling than Fly, and your legs are already burning. And finally you can open up with 100m crawl, the fastest stroke, if your arms aren't already full of
lead lactic acid. I have swum a 200IM, but I've never even attempted the 400.
Phelps, Chase Kalisz and Kevin Webster represented the North Baltimore Aquatics Club, where I swim, so it was fun to track them on the Omega Timing site. Webster looks to be about 23, and Kalisz is 18. I wondered if Kalisz was one of those kids zooming by in the afternoon practices, but apparently he swims in the mornings.
Most heats had ten swimmers, and Kevin Webster swam in the ninth of twelve heats. For the first two lengths he was sixth, then in the third he was fourth, then he was second, behind Zach Lierley for the next four lengths. But Webster had faster crawl splits, and won the heat on the last length with 4:24.84. I didn't think that time was going to qualify him for the finals, but it is nice to come from behind and win your heat.
Phelps and Kalisz swam in the middle lanes of the tenth heat, and I read later that it was impressive that Kalisz was there at all:
Kalisz is one of 24 NBAC swimmers that will head to Omaha in late June for the 2012 Olympic trials, yet the fact that he is still able to dive in the pool is somewhat of a miracle.
It has been 10 years since Kalisz literally crawled down the hallway of his home in Harford County to tell his mother, Cathy, and father, Mike, that he could barely move his arms and legs.
Kalisz and Courtney, a former NBAC All-American swimmer, had run in the Bel Air 5K Town Run the day before.
"He had run a 5K race … and he came in one night and said he had some soreness in his thighs," said Mike Kalisz, the athletic director at Hereford High School. "We thought it was just some residual soreness because of the running. The following night, he literally couldn't walk. We took him right to the pediatrician. He was semi-paralyzed. I mean this all happened in the span of 48 hours."
Dr. Steven Dannefelser told Chase's parents that their son was suffering from Guillain-Barre syndrome, an acute disorder of the nervous system, which causes weakness and often paralysis of the arms, legs and sometimes face. By the time Chase got to Sinai Hospital, his arms, legs and hands were paralyzed, and his lungs were also affected.
In the first length, Phelps was second and Kalisz was seventh. Phelps moved to first on the next length, and Kalisz was fourth over the next two lengths, then third, then second. For the last half of the race, Phelps and Kalisz were one and two, with the teenager gaining ground. Phelps finished in 4:14:72 and Kalisz finished in 4:15.78, just over a second back. They were the fastest so far.
In the eleventh heat, Tyler Clary managed 4:15.88, Michael Weiss overtook Robert Margalis for second with 4:19.05, and Margalis finished third with 4:19.33.
Ryan Lochte swam in the final heat, and might as well have been alone, as no one was within five seconds of him halfway through. Lochte finished in 4:10.66, four seconds faster than Phelps. These are just heats, so the goal is to make it to the finals, but Lochte swam that well without anyone pushing him.
So the top eight seeds for tonight's 400 IM final: 1. Ryan Lochte, 2. Michael Phelps, 3. Chase Kalisz, 4. Tyler Clary, 5. Tyler Harris, 6. Michael Weiss, 7. Andrew Gemmell, 8. Robert Margalis.