OMAHA, Neb. - Missing the Olympic team by mere seconds in 2004 was almost too much for Eric Shanteau to handle. So when the Games were on TV, he could barely even watch, knowing how close he came to being there in person.
Four years later, a revised program, a new coach and training atmosphere and improvements to his stroke and technique have made it possible for Shanteau to see the Beijing Games from the stands.
And in the water.
He swam a personal best 2:10.36 Thursday night in the 200 breaststroke to finish second and earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic contingent heading to China for the 2008 Olympics, which begin next month.
"I'm ecstatic I don't have to worry about (qualifying in) the 200 IM (individual medley) tomorrow night," said Shanteau, who finished third in both the 400 and 200 IMs at 2004 Olympic Trials. "It's a whole different race for me than four years ago because I don't have the pressure of making the team. It's my turn to go to the Olympics."
Shanteau joins event winner Scott Spann - who upset American record holder and former world record holder Brendan Hansen in stunning fashion - as first-time Olympians. The three train together at Longhorn Aquatics in Austin, Texas, and Shanteau said working and learning next to someone like Hansen and with the coaches there have definitely made an impact upon his results.
Though he still swam the 200 IM at this year's Trials, he focused more on the breaststroke races and saw positive results. He also finished fourth in the 100 breast Tuesday night.
"Swimming next to Brendan every day is going to make you better, no doubt about it," said Shanteau, who moved to Austin more than a year ago to work with Coach Randy Reese and his staff at Longhorn. "Since I've been there, I've made positive stroke changes like pulling a lot wider and narrowing my kick and also changed my head position so I lift when I breathe. It's all resulted in what I did tonight."
Shanteau returned to the pool for the final event of the night when he swam in the second semifinal of the 200 IM. With the pressure of making the team gone, he said he felt very relaxed and just had fun.
He finished the race in a solid 2:00.74 and is the third seed going into the final. Not bad for someone "taking it easy."
"That was a good swim for me, but with it being my last of the meet tomorrow night and having swam the 200 breast earlier tonight, I definitely think I can go faster," Shanteau said. "With (Michael) Phelps and (Ryan) Lochte in the final, it was going to take a very fast swim from me to make top two, but now I can just swim and enjoy it."
In the semifinal of the women's 100 freestyle, Amanda Weir continued her road back to the Olympics by earning the last spot in tonight's final in 54.81.