Mixing with the best of the best
Reports of Michael Phelps's return to competition splashed across local, regional, national and international newspapers last weekend as he prepared to compete and then swam in the 2009 Charlotte UltraSwim Grand Prix. Though the spotlight was brightest for Michael, more than 15 other 2008 Olympians competed, as well as notable Masters swimmers Rob Butcher and Mike Ross.
Rob, who has competed in previous Charlotte UltraSwims, stepped up on the block on Friday morning to swim in the preliminary heats of the 100-meter breaststroke. At age 36, he was the second oldest competitor in the meet behind the 41-year-old Mike Ross. Age though hasn't slowed him down as he posted a morning time of 1:05:98 (three-tenths off of his best time nine years ago at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials). That time was good enough to tie for 14th place and the B finals that night.
"I wore our brand new U.S. Masters Swimming cap and got plenty of high fives from coaches and parents," exclaimed Rob. "With Masters swimmers over age 30, like Mike, Roque Santos, Dara Torres and me being able to qualify and race in a Grand Prix meet, it serves as a testimonial to Masters swimming. I was even interviewed by NBC Universal after my swim by Olympian Summer Sanders and she hinted that she might want to start swimming again too, so the publicity and recognition is just terrific for Masters swimming."
The Charlotte UltraSwim played to a sold-out crowd Friday, Saturday and Sunday night as meet records fell, new suits made their debut and autographs were signed. Though Rob and Mike were the only U.S. Masters Swimming members to compete in the meet, 53 U.S. Masters Swimming members got in on the UltraSwim action during a clinic with Rowdy Gaines, Olympian and U.S. Masters Swimming superstar, on Sunday. Rowdy, along with head SwimMAC coach David Marsh and head SwimMAC Masters coach Patty Waldron, hosted a clinic that included stroke technique and overall race preparation education.
"I was amazed at the level of excitement and enthusiasm that the Masters swimmers used while discussing the clinic after the fact; Rowdy left an unmatched impression on local Masters swimmers. Rowdy was able to present the same drills that we've all seen before, but he did it with a new twist and really brought to light the purpose of the drills," said Jay White, member of SwimMAC Masters of Charlotte. He continued, "Rowdy is just great. He gets excited about the sport and his passion is contagious. He knows what it's all about and he brought that knowledge and insight to the clinic." The clinic was sponsored locally by SwimMAC Masters and partnered with The LIMU Company, U.S. Masters Swimming and the USA Swimming Foundation.
"Rowdy is a great ambassador for the sport of swimming and for U.S. Masters Swimming. He has had world-caliber success and just keeps on giving back. He has fun, loves the water and exudes the belief that swimming is the best form of exercise and enjoyment no matter what age or ability level one might posses," said Rob.
Rowdy, now a spokesperson for the LIMU Company, competed at last week's U.S. Masters Swimming Short Course National Championship, at which he broke numerous U.S. Masters Swimming national records; Rowdy also lent his commentating skills to the event. Rowdy is currently living and swimming in Florida and represents BluFrog Masters.