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Weir better than ever for Olympic Trials

The confidence of a returning 2004 Olympic medalist was missing, replaced by a swimmer well aware that her preparation was lacking. Instead of thinking about another Olympic trip, it seemed she was bracing for disappointment.

"I had been all over the place in my training and in competitions repeatedly leading up to Trials (in 2008)," Weir said after a recent SwimAtlanta training session in preparation for this week's Olympic Trials. "I kind of knew it was going to implode on me at some point."

That happened at the 2008 Trials for the Brookwood graduate, who missed out on a second trip to the Olympics. The result wasn't totally surprising for Weir or her longtime SwimAtlanta coach, Chris Davis.

Weir, then 22, had just turned professional and had an inconsistent training routine.

"In 2008, I was kind of adjusting to swimming professionally," Weir said. "I felt like swimming was my job. Some days it felt like a chore to me. Some days I felt like if I had a bad set it was somehow affecting my livelihood, which wasn't the case. I had great support from Tyr, the company I'm sponsored by, and the National Team. It just took some getting used to, to realize that swimming wasn't my job. I actually wanted to be there.

"That kind of took its toll with my training. This time around I'm really just having fun with it. I'm approaching every race wanting to have a good time because it's more fun to swim fast than not swim fast. That sounds simple, but it's really not."

Weir's 2008 Trials was rough in the 50-meter freestyle with an uncharacteristic, 27th-place finish in 25.88 seconds. Despite being far from her best, she still stepped up in the 100 free, though.

She placed eighth in the 100 free with a time of 55.14, just off the sixth-place time of 54.99. Because of relays, the top six finishers in the 100 free make the Olympics. So despite the disappointment, she was still really close to making the team in 2008.

"In 2008, it was a long shot (for Weir to make the team)," Davis said. "She's amazing. She's always surprised me on the upside with the amazing things she can do. Even though she really wasn't mentally or physically prepared for 2008 (Trials), for whatever reasons, for whatever was going on in her life, I never counted her out.

"And she missed by three or four one-hundredths of a second when she was zero prepared. Truly zero. And I think she would tell you that. ... Now she's zeroed in. She's done a lot of things to give herself the best chance."

When Weir swims in Trials this week, preparation and proper mindset won't be issues. Her demeanor is more in tune with 2004, when she made the Olympic team shortly after her Brookwood graduation and won a pair of relay silver medals in Greece.

"It's night and day (between now and 2008)," Davis said. "She's much more like she was in 2004, when she made the team. In 2008, I tell people it was almost like she was going through an identity crisis. She didn't know where she was. She wasn't into it. She may not make it this go around, but it won't for lack of preparation or focus."

Weir feels better than ever physically after the most intense workouts of her swimming career. She recently began tapering from six months of a heavy training load that combined swimming, Pilates and weight work.

She had nine swimming workouts a week during that span --she averaged roughly 25 miles per week in the water --in addition to two Pilates sessions and two heavy weight workout sessions per week.

She also has put in extra work on her stroke, her turns and her starts, particularly on the latter, which has improved greatly. She's even put a new emphasis on eating healthy.

"This time around I really am in the best shape of my life," Weir said. "I've never been so consistent with my training before. I've done an entire year straight of doing double workouts, Pilates two or three times a week, weights. I haven't really taken any big breaks this year. I'm enjoying what little bit of rest I'm getting before Trials.

"But it seems like the more rest I get, the more excited I am about swimming fast when I get there. I'm really just excited, not too nervous. Maybe a little nervous, but not anything like last time."

The heavy workout load meant that Weir was "swimming tired" at her recent meets, though she still put up strong times in that shape. With that in mind, the 26-year-old is hopeful of pretty fast times this week in Omaha, Neb.

Weir is seeded sixth on the meet's psyche sheet in what has traditionally been her strongest event, the 100 free. Though the top six in that race make the Olympics, her time of 54.14 is behind several swimmers in a loaded field topped by Missy Franklin (53.63) and Natalie Coughlin (53.67).

That said, the American record-holder in the 100 free is still Weir, who set the mark of 53.02 in July 2009.

The main difference for Weir in Trials this year is the 50 free. She carries the meet's No. 2 time on the psyche sheet at 24.70, just behind No. 1 qualifier Jessica Hardy (24.63) and not far off Dara Torres' American record of 24.07, set in 2008.

Though it hasn't always been her best event, Weir clearly has a good shot at making the Olympics in the 50 free, too. Like every other event except the 100 free, the 50 free sends only the top two finishers to the Olympics.

"My 50 has come a long way in the last four years," Weir said. "It used to just be something I happened to be decent at. I was always in the mix and in finals at Nationals, but I was never really in the hunt to win it.

"The 50's like a skill. I've really fine-tuned everything about my stroke, my start, my finish. It just feels like a skill I've gotten better at. I can count on it being pretty consistent, where as the 100 is something that training plays a lot more into. The 100's always my favorite event, but the 50 is kind of new and exciting to me."

Weir made that last statement with a big, bright smile, one that was missing a bit back in 2008.

The different outlook is obvious to those close to the world-class sprinter, including her coach, who also happens to be her father-in-law (Weir married Davis' son Chris Jr. last October).

"She's definitely in the best shape of her life," Davis said. "She's prepared. It's probably a matter of me getting her rested in time so she can go fast. So if she doesn't make it, it will be my fault, not hers. She's really done everything we've asked her to do. She's had a great attitude and given great effort."