SAN ANTONIO – Lilly King. Ryan Murphy. Cody Miller.
Olympic gold medalists have arrived in San Antonio alongside nearly 200 other Olympic hopefuls to compete in the TYR Pro Swim series.
This is the second major USA Swimming sanctioned meet held at Bill Walker Pool at Blossom Athletics Center since the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the swimming world back in March of 2020. The last competition, the U.S. Open, was split between nine host sites. This time around, the Alamo City is one of only two host sites, including Richmond, Virginia, and the total number of athletes is notably larger than it was in November. Spectators will not be allowed to attend the event, and media access has been limited to virtual interviews. In many ways, this meet is a litmus test, not just for the swimmers themselves, but more importantly for USA Swimming as it prepares to host the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska this June.
“The whole thing is a logistical challenge,” said USA Swimming National Team Managing Director Lindsay Mintenko. “The health and safety of the athletes, the volunteers, the staff and everyone that goes into that building is our number one priority. We’re working diligently with the [North East Independent School District] to keep everybody safe. It is a building block for Olympic Trials. We’ll take everything we learn from this competition to the next competition, to the next until we get to Trials.”
For the duration of the four-day meet, athletes and coaches will be isolated at a local hotel. Every single one of them has dealt with changes to their workout routines, limited pool availability, and a very different flow of competition. This meet will be no different. All 200 athletes were tested for COVID-19 prior to arriving in San Antonio and were tested again, locally, by Community Labs. Male and Female swimmers will compete in gender-separated prelim sessions. Both genders will be combined for the finals session, and athletes who do not qualify will not be allowed in the building.
“It is a little different than what they’re used to, but the name of the game these days is to be flexible,” Mintenko explained. “Our athletes and coaches have been very helpful with this. The important thing is that our athletes are competing. They’re racing against each other. I spoke to an athlete this morning and she told me she hasn’t been this happy since March. That’s the last time we had a big competition with a lot of our big athletes going against each other. It has taken a long time to get here. We’re excited to be here. We’re looking forward to the racing, and hopefully we get to come back and do it again soon.”
The TYR Pro Swim series begins on Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m. with timed finals for the distance Freestyle events. Friday, Saturday and Sunday will each feature two prelim sessions starting at 9 a.m. and one finals session at 7 p.m. Each session will be live-streamed on usaswimming.org.