Swimming has traditionally been a sport where young athletes excel. Unburdened by grown-up concerns, they can put all their seemingly unlimited energy into training. But the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Nebraska, torpedoed that assumption. There were some great successes by old-timers.
UCSB graduate Jason Lezak, at the relatively ripe age of 32, qualified for his third appearance in the Olympic Games by finishing second in the 100-meter freestyle final. In the semifinals, Lezak set an American record of 47.58 seconds-eight-100ths off the world record held by Alain Bernard of France. Garrett Weber-Gale, 10 years younger than Lezak, edged him in the final.
Lezak, a resident of Irvine, has collected four Olympic medals-two golds, a silver, and a bronze-all in relays. He figures to compete in the 400 freestyle and medley relays at Beijing. It would be the crowning achievement of his career to notch an individual medal in the 100 free. But maybe he’ll be back in 2012 and 2016 if he can be like Dara Torres.
Torres upstaged superstar Michael Phelps at the trials by winning both the women’s 100 and 50 freestyles at the age of 41. She set an American record in the latter race and will be competing in her fifth Olympics.
“She gives me hope,” said Jeff Farrell of Santa Barbara. “I might try to qualify for the  London Games.”
Farrell was a gold medalist at the 1960 Rome Olympics. He is 71 years old. He can swim a lap within seconds of the times he recorded in his prime. “I’m about two seconds slower at 50 yards,” he said. At the Masters National Championships at Austin, Texas, in May, he won six events and broke his own age-group world records in the 50 free, 100 free, and 100 individual medley.
“I’m faster than I was at 70,” said Farrell, who had open-heart surgery two-and-a-half years ago. He made history in 1960 when he competed in the Olympic Trials six days after undergoing an appendectomy. Swimming on guts, he was unable to qualify for the individual 100 but did make the relay teams, where he anchored the U.S. to a pair of golds.
ON THE TRACK: I saw a number of the tri-counties’ athletes go through the Olympic Track & Field Trials last week at Eugene, Oregon (see my account at independent.com/tracktrials08). After I departed, Jordan Hasay of Arroyo Grande created a sensation in the women’s 1,500 meters. With her long blonde ponytail flying, the 16-year-old runner-soon to be a senior at San Luis Obispo’s Mission Prep-set a national high school record (4:14:50) and qualified for the finals. Oregon’s fans started a chant urging her to run at UO when she graduates.
Hasay is coached by Armando Siqueiros, a physician and former distance runner himself. He warns against pushing the petite athlete too hard, too fast. “It’s a matter of being patient and sticking with the game plan,” he said. “Seven years from now, she’s going to be as good as Shannon Rowbury.” Rowbury, 23, was the runaway winner of the 1,500 at the trials.
ON TO BEIJING: Hometown volleyball virtuoso Todd Rogers and partner Phil Dalhausser rose to the top of the international beach rankings by winning three straight tournaments overseas (Paris; Stavanger, Norway; and Moscow). The other U.S. men’s tandem to qualify for Beijing is Jake Gibb/Sean Rosenthal. The women will be represented by defending champions Misty May-Treanor/Kerri Walsh and Nicole Branagh/Elaine Youngs. They hope to be laden with hardware when the Association of Volleyball Professionals returns to Santa Barbara on September 4-7. : Adam Duvendeck of Santa Barbara has been chosen by U.S.A. Cycling to compete in the team sprint at Beijing. He was on the three-man team in that whirlwind race at Athens four years ago. : Mark Warkentin, who will pursue a medal in the first Olympic open-water swim, won the Semana Nautica three-mile swim off East Beach last Sunday. : Two members of UCSB’s Big West champion women’s swim team went far in the Olympic Trials: junior Katy Freeman finishing 10th overall in the 200 breaststroke semifinals and sophomore Anne Marie May recording the 12th fastest time in the 50 freestyle.