There are no spotlights, no pyrotechnics and no medal stand that rises from nine rows below.
To pick up their rewards, medal winners at the U.S. Masters Swimming Summer Nationals will head for a hallway on the main level of the CenturyLink Center.
It’s just outside of the hall that houses the warm-up pool, an area that a few days ago was off-limits to everyone but participants, coaches, officials and a few select volunteers involved in the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.
Those folks are long gone, but the swimming pools remain. They’ll be used through Sunday for the Masters nationals, a meet for adult competitive and fitness swimmers from around the country.
Contestants ages 18 to 91 will dive into the water off the same high-tech starting blocks used by Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Allison Schmitt and the other 45 members of the Olympic swimming teams headed to London.
There are other similarities to the U.S. Trials, including tables full of merchandise.
Those participating in the meet enter and exit the pool deck from the same stairs used by the athletes during the Trials.
Representatives from Omega are manning the timekeeping equipment, and images of participants are beamed on the JumboTron above the competition pool.
But there are no TV cameras waiting for the swimmers when they come up the stairs. Most contestants come from their seats in the stands, where they sit with family and friends.
If you’re in the next heat, you’d better be in the stands or somewhere close where you can hear the announcer say your heat is up next. The ready room staging area is no more because the curtains and chairs have been returned to storage.
The north end of the arena now looks more ready for the horses, bulls and other livestock that will occupy that space at the end of September, when the world’s second largest rodeo comes to town.
While Phelps has left town, a life-sized cardboard version of the 6-foot-4, 14-time Olympic champion remains. But some cut-up turned the cutout into the official greeter by attaching a Masters swimming T-shirt and swim cap.
Masters swimmers come in all shapes and sizes. Some former Olympians are participating, but other swimmers look like they’ve spent more time on the couch than in the pool.
Most participants will take their first dips in the pool Friday. Event organizers said Saturday will be the busiest day, and when things wrap up Sunday, the process of removing the two pools will begin.
The meet is open to the public and attendance is free. Fans on hand Thursday saw swimmers young and old competing in the two longest races of the meet — the 800- and 1,500-meter freestyles.
Betty Lorenzi of Florida and Graham Johnston of Texas were the oldest winners in the 1,500 free. The 85-year-old Lorenzi finished in 32:32.53, and Johnston took the 80-84 men’s age group gold in 25:41.84.
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