Ryan Lochte edges out Phelps in Austin meet

Sara Beth Purdy

Hundreds of swimmers descended on the University of Texas last weekend for the Austin Grand Prix. This meet, which was hosted by USA Swimming at the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center, is one of seven national Grand Prix meets sponsored by the official US swimming organization which sponsors the Olympic team. Each swimmer who competes and places in the top three during the final heat receives points based on their performances. At the end of the series, the swimmer with the highest point total is crowned the Grand Prix Champion.

This weekend featured several prominent swimmers including Olympic stars Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Eric Shanteau along with Texas alumni Ricky Berens and Dave Walters. The Grand Prix marked an important milestone in the training schedule for all Olympic hopefuls. With the 2012 Olympic Games in London only a year and a half away, these athletes have already begun their preparation training.

Many different races took place featuring outstanding performances across the pool. Olympian Kathryn Hoff was also seen throughout the weekend along with several up-and-coming teenagers hoping for their time in the spotlight. Despite the immense amount of talent on the pool deck, it was evident who the crowd was there to see.

The cheers from fans packed into the grandstands drowned out the announcers as Michael Phelps stepped onto the starting block for the 200-meter individual medley. Approximately 10 years ago, a younger Phelps broke his first world record at the same place. He has since broken his own record; however, his time of 1:57.39 still stands as the pool record at the
swim center.

This race was highly anticipated all weekend because of the impressive line-up that was in attendance. Phelps was joined on the starting block by both Lochte and Shanteau, all Olympians attempting to make it
to London.

Phelps’ famous arm stretch and flapping preparation drew eyes momentarily away from the shocking hot pink Speedo that Lochte chose to race in. As the buzzer sounded, the crowd followed the progress of these two standouts as they charged through the water — both trying to prove something. Lochte was attempting to show that he has what it takes to stay on top of the swimming nation while Phelps was trying to show he has what it takes to rise again.

The event proved to be an exciting one as Lochte took the lead early on closely followed by Phelps through its entirety. In the end Lochte finished first, edging out Shanteau, who overtook Phelps during the breaststroke portion of the medley.
Lochte was positive about his progress throughout the weekend, especially after his performance in the 200-meter IM.

“[The meet] is good preparation for what’s coming later on,” Lochte said. “[It’s] a great stepping stone.”

While the weekend produced no surprise records or controversial finishes, the chance to see some of the best swimmers in the sport’s history so close to home was an incredible experience. The times turned in across the board, while a bit slower than eventually desired, were unbelievable.