Olympic Swim Trials begin Friday in Omaha

Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 12:35 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The road to the Tokyo Olympics begins for swimmers Friday in Omaha, but 6 News saw a steady stream of competitors, parents, and coaches register after they arrived Thursday.

The swimmers are competing for about 50 spots on the U.S. Olympic swim team. They had to post a certain time in order to qualify. Preliminaries began at 10 a.m., and the finals start at 10 p.m.

Hundreds of swimmers have converged on the CHI Health Center where wave one of the USA Olympic swim trials is underway. The total number of swimmers competing this weekend and during the next wave in mid-June will be more than 1,500.

USA Swimming organizers say the CHI Health Center is the perfect facility to hold the swim trials. The pool is set up right on top of the basketball court in the main arena, and that’s where all the races will take place.

Next door, in the convention center, there’s another 50-meter pool — and a 25-meter pool — where the swimmers warm up.

Organizers say the layout and location are perfect.

“The airport is a few miles away, the hotels downtown, pool is here, the meals are served here. It really is a great set up for athletes, coaches and volunteers, it really is a great place,” said Mike Unger of USA Swimming.

The trials were delayed a year because of the pandemic, so this year, they’re split up into two waves to allow for smaller group sizes. Nearly 700 swimmers will be in Omaha for the first wave of the trials. Another 850 will be here for the second, which starts June 13.

The timeline makes for longer weeks and longer days for athletes, coaches, and volunteers, but it’s all a benefit to the Omaha community as the city recovers from the pandemic.

“It’s great to see people down here, the hotels are filled, the restaurants are rockin’ so it’s a great feeling knowing that this kicks off a string of great sporting events this summer, and e’er happy to be here for them,” said Josh Todd of the Omaha Sports Commission.

Fans and athletes say this year’s event is noticeably different than 2016. There are fewer people outside of the CHI Health Center because of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Last time I was here it was a lot busier. It was advertised a lot more. This year there are just not as many people. It’s still great to be here! I’m actually here watching my cousins, the Martin girls! We are just so lucky that Omaha gets to have this!” said Allison Bruke.

Tickets are still available for many events in Wave One, which runs through Monday.

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