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Coming on strong
Now a pro, Weir gunning for return to Olympics

A major part of their coach-athlete relationship is humor-based.

SwimAtlanta coach Chris Davis provides that with his steady teasing of star pupil Amanda Weir, a frequent target of his ribbing. Weir, a Brookwood grad, laughs the teasing off, having grown accustomed to the jokes many years ago.

But their bond also has a serious side.

The two have formed a long-running friendship - Weir has trained year-round with Davis since middle school - that comes from spending countless hours together in practices and meets.

That connection is how Davis sensed how hectic Weir's life had become in the year approaching the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, which begin today in Omaha, Neb.

"She's had such an up-and-down year, so much has changed in her life from going to school to going pro to moving back to Atlanta and wanting to be in California," Davis said. "She was going through, 'Am I enjoying swimming? Am I not enjoying swimming?' It's been such a roller coaster for her."

Now Weir has settled back in the area. As much as she loves California, she purchased her own home in Suwanee.

She still trains at SwimAtlanta Sugarloaf with Davis, the coach who helped her earn two silver medals on relays at the 2004 Olympics. Her training, because of her up-and-down year, got off to a slow start, according to Davis.

But it's coming on strong.

"Did she train in the fall the way I wanted her to, 100 percent, or she would have wanted to, in retrospect, 100 percent? No, but she had so many things going on in her life," Davis said. "It just didn't fit. But I will say, going into the meet, it is Amanda Weir. When Amanda Weir has always set her mind to doing something in the pool, she can do it.

"It's going to come down to, does Amanda Weir really want to be on that team? How badly does she want it? If she does, she has a great shot of (returning to the Olympics)."

Weir made it clear her goal is to swim for the Olympic team later this summer in Beijing. She not only wants to make it in a relay, like 2004, she also wants to swim an individual event on the world's biggest stage.

Now 22 and a former American record holder in the 100-meter freestyle, Weir is no longer the 18-year-old high school student. Looking back, Davis said Weir went into the 2004 trials "as a little girl" but now goes in as a "young woman," one who has the experiences of some of the world's toughest races behind her.

"It's different (this year at trials) because I know what to expect," Weir said. "It's still really nerve-racking and stuff, but I've been to a lot of big meets since then. I guess I'm more prepared for the level of excitement and how intense it is at that meet."

What Weir doesn't know is how she will swim at a competitive meet while wearing one of the high-tech and controversial laser-bonded suits released earlier this year. Swimmers wearing those suits, which retail for up to $600, have broke 38 world records since the garment entered competition.

That's ironic since Weir, who swims professionally for Tyr Sport, has access to the suits. One phone call to her sponsor and one is on the way.

But part of Davis' training regimen was to keep Weir from wearing the suit at major meets. The coach guessed that Weir and fellow SwimAtlanta product Kathleen Hersey "are probably the only two kids in the country who haven't suited up" for meets yet.

"It's very, very hard to go fast when you're unshaved, unrested and everybody else is rested and they have the (new) suit on," Davis said. "It's just not apples to apples. It's apples to oranges. So we'll see if old-school type of coaching pays off. Or we might go, 'Oh crap, we should have put the suit on.'"

The training methods kept Weir and Hersey from putting on dominant performances in competitions. Instead they had to work extra hard to keep up with the top swimmers in meets.

Davis has let Weir use the advanced Tyr suit in practice sessions, just to get a feel for it. For the record, she was much faster in the suit.

"It's brand-new technology and it's the first suit I've ever worn where I really felt a difference in how it felt in the water," Weir said. "But it's still a suit though. You've still got to put in the work first. It doesn't have a turbo jet in it."

When she dons the suit for her three events at trials - the 50, 100 and 200 free - the ups and downs of the past year will be off her mind. Her sole focus will be making the Olympic team, a goal both she and her coach feel is very attainable.

Weir has already been in an Olympic Games, but she isn't satisfied.

"I really think I put more pressure on myself this time because I want to do better than I did last time and make it as an individual," she said. "We'll see how that works out."

Davis also is eager to see how an older and wiser Weir fares the always tense trials.

"I think this time around there is that expectation level, but she's already proven herself," Davis said. "She's an ex-American record holder. She's already made the Olympic team, already medaled in the Olympics. I think it's really going to come down to how badly she wants to be on that team again."

Visit the official web site for Olympic Trials

SideBar: The Weir File

Who: Swimmer Amanda Weir

Age: 22

High school: Brookwood

College: UGA/USC

Noteworthy:

· SwimAtlanta product who swims professionally for Tyr Sport

· Won two silver medals on relays at the 2004 Olympics

· Broke American record in the 100 free in 2006 with fourth-fastest time ever in the race

· Three-time U.S. national champion