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June 27, 2008

Official USA Swimming Olympic Trials Website

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Nine athletes with affiliation to the South Carolina swimming program will compete at the United States Olympic Trials next week for a chance to represent their country at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, in August. The Trials will be held at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., June 29-July 6, and will be shown throughout the week in primetime coverage on NBC and the USA Network.

“We’re very happy with the number of athletes that we have competing at the trials this year,” head swimming coach McGee Moody said. “This is the highest number of competitors affiliated with Gamecock swimming that we’ve had in a long time compete at the Trials. We’ve been working hard all summer and hope to see some good results. There is a lot of excitement surrounding this meet and Gamecock swimming.”

Athletes have been able to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Trials over the course of the last four years at various events since the conclusion of the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Several Gamecocks qualified in events throughout the summer months, while others did so during the NCAA season. The only stipulation being that athletes must qualify in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a 50-meter long course, rather than the 25-yard short course the NCAA uses during competition. Athletes could qualify at an NCAA event, however, the cut must have come in a 50-meter long course swim. This is a rule that changed for this Olympic season.

The most recent Gamecock to qualify for the Trials is rising sophomore Megan Sparks. Sparks qualified just this month, and will compete in the 100 backstroke next week at the Trials.

“I’ve been training really hard all year, so I was very happy to achieve my trial cut,” Sparks said. “I’m really looking forward to the meet next week. Trials is an event that comes once every four years and it’s such an honor to be able to compete and it will be an amazing experience that will last an entire lifetime. “

Joining Sparks at the event will be rising junior co-captain Andy Atzhorn in the 200 individual medley, while senior Kyle Cormier, who redshirted last season to train for this very event, will compete in the 100 and 200 freestyle and the 200 individual medley.

“Kyle (Cormier) took a redshirt last year with his intentions to really focus on this meet,” Moody said. “Over the course of that time, and especially during the last three months of training, we have really seen some great strides with his times. Our immediate goal right now is to see him get into that semifinal and from there we’re hoping that his training takes him through to finals.”

Rising senior and team co-captain Amanda Dunnigan qualified for the 400 IM, sophomore standout Claire Thompson will swim the 200 and 400 freestyle, while rising senior Nick Walkotten will compete in the 100 and 200 butterfly and 100 backstroke. Walkotten enters this event after a strong showing at the FINA Shortcourse World Championships earlier this spring, where he finished fifth in the 200 butterfly. Christy Williams, who ended a celebrated Gamecock career last spring, will swim the 100 butterfly at Trials, while incoming freshmen Rory Grigull has qualified for the 100 freestyle and classmate Lindsay Olson will swim in the 100 and 200 butterfly and the 200 freestyle.

Trials begin on June 29 and run through July 6. Please visit the official USA Swimming website (link above) for event results, television schedule and psych sheets.