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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats loaded with Olympic talent

    UA senior Darian Townsend launches himself through the water during a Feb. 1 meet against Texas at Hillenbrand Aquatic Center. Townsend and four other current Wildcats are set to compete in the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing this summer. Five Arizona alumni and five additional swimmers with Arizona ties could join them in China.
    UA senior Darian Townsend launches himself through the water during a Feb. 1 meet against Texas at Hillenbrand Aquatic Center. Townsend and four other current Wildcats are set to compete in the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing this summer. Five Arizona alumni and five additional swimmers with Arizona ties could join them in China.

    Looking back on the historic season for the Arizona swimming program, it shouldn’t be a surprise that both the men’s and women’s squads were crowned national champions, especially considering how many Olympians dotted the roster.

    Six current Wildcats will represent four different countries in the upcoming Beijing Olympic games this summer, with the possibility of an additional two after the June 29-July 6 USA Olympic Trials. Four swimmers will compete in their first Olympics as sophomores Jean Basson (South Africa), Joel Greenshields and Jake Tapp (Canada) are slated to compete for their respective countries, as is Brazilian junior Nicolas Nilo. Seniors Albert Subirats (Venezuela) and Darian Townsend (South Africa) will compete in their second Olympics.

    Having so many Olympians should help toward building the program’s future, but UA head coach Frank Busch doesn’t see it that way.

    “”I hope that it helps us, but more importantly I hope we do a great job of preparing these guys for the Olympics,”” Busch said. “”To me (that’s) more important than anything else right now because these are people that have dedicated a whole lot of time and effort into something, and I just want to see them be successful.””

    The significance of having the ‘Olympic swimmer’ prefix attached to their name isn’t something they take lightly.

    “”(Swimming in the Olympics) is something I’ve been wanting to do from about 10 years ago,”” Basson said. “”Watching the

    Olympics on TV inspired me to work hard and make sacrifices to come over to America because I knew there was no way I could qualify for the Olympics by staying there. I’ve always wanted to go to come to the UA because so many other South African swimmers have done well there.

    “”I’ve got high expectations (for Beijing),”” Basson added. “”I swam the second fastest time in the world in the 200 free (at the South African Olympic Trials) so that really opened my eyes as to what I could achieve.””

    The international flavor of the swim program should assist the Wildcats with bringing in even more top-tier talent from around the globe and the nation, but again, Busch deferred from that possible impact and shifted the focus back to his athletes.

    “”I don’t think of it in terms of what they can do for us, I think of it in terms of what we can do for them,”” Busch said. “”We just need to try and help them get in the best shape they can be in so they can swim faster than they ever have before. That’s what our focus is on right now.””

    Having Olympians isn’t new for Arizona swimming, as five former Wildcats have already qualified for Beijing. Simon Burnett will swim for Britain and Juan Veloz will represent Mexico. South Africans Ronald Schoeman, Ryk Neethling and Lyndon Ferns will also compete in China and, along with Townsend, the South African quartet hope to defend their gold medal in the 4×100 meter relay after they set a world record in the event at the 2004 Athens games.

    “”I hope we can get all four guys swimming fast again, and if we do that anything is possible,”” Townsend said. “”We’ll be going in knowing that we’re the defending Olympic champions and hopefully we’ll defend our title.””

    Although Arizona is already well represented for the Beijing games, more Wildcats could join the pool party in the coming months. Additional Arizona swimmers are likely to qualify during the July 29-July 6 USA Olympic Trials as senior Lacey Nymeyer and junior Lara Jackson should qualify for relay events and could potentially compete individually, depending on their performances. Former Wildcats Whitney Meyers, Amanda Beard and Adam Ritter will compete in the USA Olympic Trials and all are expected to be major factors in the qualification process.

    “”It’s humbling, (having so many Olympians on the team),”” Busch said. “”All of a sudden it puts things into perspective and then you go, ‘Holy smokes, this pool is loaded with talent.’ “”

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