What was this year like for you?
“This being an Olympic year is pretty busy for us, not only our U.S. athletes, but also our international athletes getting ready for international championships to do as much as they can to get onto their Olympic teams. We’ve had people in Canada for Canadian trials, we’ve had people over in Germany for German trials. Actually, right now, this week, Gerard Rodriguez has just gone home for Spanish nationals, and then this past weekend, we had Amanda Rutqvist in Swedish nationals. We took three guys over to British nationals in March. It’s been a pretty busy spring and summer and you just kind of tack all that onto the end of a busy NCAA year and you get tired pretty quick.”
Michael Flach competed at the British Olympic trials? How did that happen? Do you think it helped him?
“It was the only prep meet they were doing with the Olympic pool before the London Olympic Games. So they opened that national meet to everybody in the world. So anybody could come over there and swim in that meet, but it was specifically held to select the British Olympic team. Michael was able to go over there, and he swam OK over there. I think the biggest thing is, part of the reason a lot of people kind of don’t perform up to their expectations in Omaha is because that venue is so much bigger than anything we’re used to in the swimming community. Michael got to go to the pool (in London) that’s one step up from where we actually went in Omaha. As nice as Omaha was, the Olympic pool was a step bigger. Mike went into Omaha knowing, ‘Hey, I’ve swam on bigger stages than this. I don’t need to be nervous. I swam against the fastest in the world. I know I’m prepared for this.’ ”
When did you think making the finals at the Olympic trials was a realistic goal for him?
“We made this decision back last July. My associate head coach, Jason Memont, and myself and Michael sat down and we talked about doing the Olympic redshirt. What that meant was that he would be allowed to stay and train with the University of South Carolina, but he would not be allowed to compete and he didn’t have to take classes. So it allowed him to focus strictly on training and allowed him to do some things that if he was in classes, he wouldn’t normally have been able to do. We made this decision and I struggled with it, because I was like, ‘My job as a head coach for the University of the South Carolina is to make sure I prepare our men’s team as best as I can and do what’s in the best interest of our program.’ So I sat down and Jason and I talked about it and we finally came to the conclusion that if we’re going to continue to bring in the best athletes in the country and the best athletes in the world, we have to be able to promise them that we’re going to be able to put them in a position to swim on the highest stage. I think it wasn’t probably until November or December that I started looking at the fact that, OK, our goal here is to make the championship final (at the Olympic trials) in the 200 butterfly. When that happened, everything almost got a little surreal.”
Where do you see him four years from now as he prepares for the 2016 Olympics?
“I’ll tell you right now, barring anything crazy, barring any injuries that he can’t overcome, I’ve got to think he’s one of the favorites (to make the Olympic team), because most of those guys that were in the final with him this year, they won’t be here four years from now. Michael Phelps is going to retire after London. Davis Tarwater (who finished fourth in the 200 butterfly final) is going to retire after London. He’s going to have maybe one other guy, Bobby Bollier (finished third), who is a former Stanford swimmer, he may be the only one that’s still around. So you’ll have Michael (Flach) and Bobby Bollier and maybe a young man named Dakota Hodgson (finished sixth). Those are going to be your three in that event that Michael final’d in. And I’ve got to think Mike is probably the favorite.”
Compiled by Darryl Slater