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Pool prep under way for US swimming trials

By ERIC OLSON,

AP Sports Writer

Updated May 24, 2012

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) For the next six weeks, it's all swimming all the time at Omaha's CenturyLink Center.

Installation of the warm-up and competition pools for the U.S. Olympic Trials began early Wednesday. Some 50 workers will put in 18-hour days the next 10 days to create optimum conditions for swimmers bidding to make the American team that will compete in London. The trials run June 25-July 2.

"We are very optimistic that we'll have world records," said Myrtha Pools president and CEO Kevin McGrath. "The technology is designed to be real fast. ... You still have Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte and some fantastic athletes. It's really good to have really fast swimmers."

Myrtha manufactured and installed the seven pools that will be used in London. This is the third U.S. trials for Myrtha.

The stainless-steel pools, costing about $2 million each, were designed in Italy. Some 40 tons of material was sent to Omaha via ship, rail and truck.

Specially trained workers from five countries are in town assembling the pools - there are 12,500 nuts and bolts - with the goal of having them filled with a combined 1.7 million gallons of water by June 4.

"That's an Olympian feat in itself," McGrath said. "Everything - all the pieces, the parts, the layout, the sequencing - everybody has a part. It's quite rehearsed."

In 2008, the warm-up and competition pools were assembled separately, and the jobs took a total of 25 days. Arena scheduling commitments required that the work be condensed into less than half the time. McGrath said there are only about 10 more workers on the job than in 2008. He said if the crew were doubled, workers would get in the way of each other.

McGrath said there will be greater pressure on the pools' mechanical and filtration systems because the number of qualifiers has increased from about 1,200 in 2008 to more than 1,700 this year.

The water inflow and outflow systems have been redesigned to decrease waves.

"Turbulence in the water slows down swimmers, any kind of friction," McGrath said. "If we can take off a tenth or a thousandth of a second, that's a lot."

The other major difference from the 2008 trials will be the use of Track Start starting blocks. According to Myrtha, the platform allows swimmers to start with the back leg at a 90-degree angle, considered the ideal position for launch.

Every aspect of the trials will attempt to duplicate conditions in London, event CEO Harold Cliff said. That goes right down to the water temperatures - 81 degrees in the practice pool, 80 degrees in the competition pool.

"People laugh at that, but swimmers, in the condition that they're in, are finely tuned athletes," Cliff said. "They can really tell the difference in 1 degree."

The "dry run" before the trials will be June 8-10 for the Mutual of Omaha Swimvitational. After the trials, the competition pool will be installed at Charles River Aquatics near Boston. The warm-up pool will go to a swimming organization in the Omaha area

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