Sports

Olympic swimmers make a big splash at Aquatic Center

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

I guess you can call them the Fab Four of Olympic swimmers.

Ian Crocker, Lenny Krayzelburg, Megan Quann and Michael Phelps have combined for an amazing 16 Olympic gold medals and countless world records.

The four brought some of their Olympic glow to Federal Way Monday night. Crocker, Krayzelburg, Quann and Phelps were at the King County Aquatic Center as part of the first-ever Disney Swim with the Stars tour, which will conclude Oct. 5 at Disneyland.

About 600 fans made their way to the Aquatic Center, including plenty of teenage girls, who brought plenty of signs (I Love You Michael!!!) and high-pitched screams.

“We have all wanted to give back to our fans for a while now, and we felt this was a great way to do it,” said Phelps, who was the obvious fan-favorite. “Our main goal in putting the tour together was to really just boost the sport of swimming.”

The goal of the Swim with the Stars tour is to bring the sport of swimming into the mainstream. Although it’s one of the most popular sports at the Olympic Games, it barely receives mention during non-Olympic years.

“We want to put this sport on the map and not just in Olympic years,” said Krayzelburg, who captained the United States swim team in Athens. “Hopefully there is some excitement out there.”

There was definitely excitement inside the Aquatic Center, especially when Phelps was introduced. The 19-year-old from Baltimore was the star of last month’s Olympics, garnering eight medals, including six golds.

“I can’t say enough about how cool it is to be here with you guys cheering like this,” Phelps said. “I grew up around the water and ended up falling in love with the sport. I just love to compete.”

The Swim with the Stars program was developed by Phelps, Crocker and Krayzelburg in conjunction with Disney and Octagon, a sports marketing company. The tour was designed to give swim fans around the country the opportunity to see the stars of the Athens Games in an intimate setting while promoting the sport.

“We have had a great crowd at every stop so far and we are always greeted with a great reception,” said Crocker, who won three medals at the Athens games. “Everyone is so enthusiastic, which makes it a lot of fun.”

Monday night the event began with video highlights, showing some of the swimmers’ greatest accomplishments in the pool. The swimmers were then introduced to deafening roars from the crowd. Following the announcements, the swimmers offered tips on how they perfected their strokes. Crocker demonstrated the butterfly, Krayzelburg swam the backstroke, Quann taught the intricacies of the breaststroke and Phelps gave tips about the freestyle. Following their lessons, all four completed a timed 50-yard swim in their strokes. Crocker swam the 50 fly in 21.07, Krayzelburg swam a 22.71 backstroke, Quann completed the breaststroke in 30.22 and Phelps swam a 21.09 50-free.

The demonstrations were followed by a question/answer session where the swimmers fielded questions from the crowd. Questions included a marriage proposal to Crocker and when did they start swimming, among other things. It was then back in the pool again for a relay race that included nine kids from the King Aquatic Club. The relays were made up of three fans and an Olympian.

“We wanted to create an entirely new program after our return from Athens,” said Shawn Jordan, a 25-time All-American at the University of Texas who served as the emcee of the event. “We wanted to interact with local swimming groups.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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