As 26 members of the USA Swimming National Team prepare to compete in Shanghai,China,next week,they will also be thinking ahead to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Tara Kirk,who is part Chinese,said she considers the April 5-9 8th FINA Short Course World Championship perfect timing because the meet is near Beijing and between Olympic years.
“It's a great way to understand what is going on,” she said in a conference call interview Wednesday. “It's a way to get better familiarized with the area and how they may run the meets.”
Kirk,who does not speak Chinese,also said the meet will allow her to reconnect with her heritage. She expects a cousin who lives in China to attend the meet.
“It's pretty exciting to go back to see a part of my culture,” she said. “I think it's going to be really great to go there and walk around.”
Kirk holds the world short course record for the 100-meter breaststroke,and she won two bronze medals in the 50-meter and 100-meter breaststroke at the world championships in 2004.
In short-course swimming,competitors swim in 25-meter pools,half the length of Olympic pools.
Kirk said she is sure someone will try to take her record.
“I've been swimming as hard as I can,” Kirk said. “Hopefully,this is going to be a good meet. It is certainly been the focus of my season.”
But she wss quick to note that the 2008 games stay on her mind as well.
Men's head coach Eric Hansen said members of the team,13 men and 13 women,will arrive prepared for the championship,where more than 125 countries are expected to compete.
Hansen,who coached national teams through the 2002 Short Course World Championships in Moscow and the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo,Dominican Republic,said both the men and women need to be versatile and creative in their meets to make it from the prelims to the finals.
Some swimmers,including the University of Florida's Ryan Lochte,recently completed NCAA competitions. For some others,this meet is one of the season's first,Hansen said. Most of the swimmers keep in mind the Olympic road ahead,he said.
“There's a lot of different people in a lot of different situations,but I think the bigger picture is 2008,” Hansen said.
Lochte said his accomplishments and training at the university will help him in China.
“It put me into a better racing dynamic,” said Lochte,who has never been to China.
Lochte will compete in several events,including the 200- and 400-individual medleys,the 200 backstroke,200 freestyle and a relay.
“I will definitely be busy,” he said.