Atlanta may never host another Olympics, but Olympic-level talent still passes through from time to time. This weekend is one of those moments, when the country's top athletes convene for a marquee swimming event.
Young swimmers and other fans should do their best to attend the bi-annual Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool, hosted Friday and Saturday at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center. Of the 35-swimmer U.S. roster, 21 already have Olympic experience. That group will square off with a group of Europe's top swimmers in what should offer a good preview of the 2012 Olympics in London.
"There's some pride (in the Duel in the Pool)," said Gwinnett-based SwimAtlanta coach Chris Davis, an assistant to Georgia's Jack Bauerle on the U.S. team. "It's kind of like the Ryder Cup in golf. You don't want to lose. ... It's kind of a sneak preview to the Olympics because all the top swimmers, except Michael Phelps, will be there.
"It's not mandatory (for the U.S. swimmers) to do the meet, but they still want to swim in it. It's almost gotten to be like a college dual meet format, where you're fighting for points for your team."
The event continues a push toward the Olympics for a pair of local swimmers on the U.S. roster, Brookwood grad Amanda Weir and Parkview grad Eric Shanteau. Weir, a 2004 Olympian, will swim the 50 and 100 freestyle races this weekend, giving her a chance to swim on relays as well. Shanteau, a 2008 Olympian, is expected to swim the 100 and 200 breaststroke.
They will be joined on the U.S. team by another local SwimAtlanta product, Kathleen Hersey, a 2008 Olympian. Other big names entered in the meet include Ryan Lochte, Natalie Coughlin, Rebecca Soni, Brendan Hansen, Dana Vollmer, Amanda Beard and Missy Franklin.
The atmosphere should be pretty patriotic, too, as the U.S. team builds camaraderie for the upcoming Olympics. The Americans dominated the last Duel in the Pool two years ago, winning by an unprecedented 185-78 score in Manchester, England.
It should be an exciting meet for the Atlanta swimming community, some of whom will sit in specially constructed bleachers that sit above a portion of the pool.
"It's just a fun, straight-up match with the greatest Europeans," Davis said. "We obliterated them in Manchester, so you've got to think they're coming for us."
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, visit www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.
What: Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool
Where: Georgia Tech Aquatic Center
TV: Friday, 7 to 9 p.m., Universal Sports; Saturday, 2 to 4 p.m., NBC
Tickets: $25 all sections; available at www.ferstcenter.gatech.edu
Local interest: Brookwood grad Amanda Weir and Parkview grad Eric Shanteau will swim for the U.S. team, which also features top swimmers like Ryan Lochte, Natalie Coughlin and others. SwimAtlanta coach Chris Davis is an assistant for the U.S.