LOCALS IN LONDON
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At the most pressure-packed meet for any elite swimmer, the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, the line between extreme joy and painful frustration is ultra-thin.
Eric Shanteau saw both this summer.
The Parkview grad finished in the top two in his lesser event, the 100-meter breaststroke, a month ago at Trials and earned his spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. One event down, and everything was on course.
Four days later, he failed to make it 2-for-2 in his best event, the 200 breast. The American record-holder finished third in a tight finish.
"Obviously it's disappointing," Shanteau said. "I'm very upset I didn't get a chance to swim the 200 (in the Olympics), but at the same time I had a great 100, I get to swim at another Games and I get a chance to swim on a relay. I don't get to swim my best event, but I get to swim a really good event and also have a chance at a relay. So it's hard to be too upset."
Since the Trials' disappointment, Shanteau has focused on looking forward.
The 28-year-old enters his second Olympics with a less burdensome mindset, since he famously delayed cancer treatment to swim the 2008 Olympics in the 200 breast (he didn't advance out of the semifinals). He's now cancer-free and eager for a better showing when his event starts this weekend.
To get ready, he spent the past few weeks with a different plan in training.
"I had a shift from focusing on the 200 to focusing on the 100," Shanteau said. "It's not any more conditioning, just a little more strength and speed work that need to be done."
Shanteau's performance in his individual event, along with how he swims during training, will determine his fate on the Americans' medley relay in London. The breast leg will be filled by either him or teammate Brendan Hansen. The relay would be Shanteau's first in the Olympics, but he also experience in other big-time events --he swam on the Americans' world-record 400 medley relay at the 2009 World Championships.
He also has the experience of the 2008 Games behind him.
"Racing at the games is going to be easier (than Trials)," Shanteau said. "We've always said, and I think every American athlete at Trials would say this, the pressure is so much more at Trials than any other meet. At the Olympics, it's much easier to relax, have fun and race."
Shanteau should have a little more anonymity at these Games, too.
Media outlets targeted him frequently at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, less because of his breaststroke skills and more because of his impending, post-Olympic cancer battle. The media attention should be more low key this time around.
"There was a lot of (interviews) at the last Games," said Shanteau, who will be joined by his immediate family and a few close friends in London.
"I'm sure a few people will want a follow-up interview, but I don't think it will be anything like it was before."