If you walk around the McDonald’s Swim Center on the USC campus, something striking will stand out: the preponderance of tattoos. And not tattoos in the curmudgeonly sense of “they’re going to regret that when they turn 60!” tattoos, but a specific kind of tattoo. The Olympic rings.
It is an established tradition for Olympic athletes to get the rings tattoed on themselves after participating in the world’s ultimate sporting spectacle, and nowhere is this more apparent than at USC. That’s because coach Dave Salo has amassed a training group that is pushing close to 20 Olympic swimmers.
Salo confirmed today that Dave Walters, formerly of Longhorn Aquatics, has joined their elite training group this week after completing his Economics degree at the University of Texas. It’s gotten to the point where its nearly impossible to keep up with the number of swimmers who are on deck in SoCal, so let’s reset the entire stable of Olympians. By my count, Walters brings the total of full-time Trojan Olympians to 22.
Ous Mellouli (Tunisia)
Thiago Pereira (Brazil)
Dominik Meichtry (Switzerland)
Mads Glaesner (Denmark)
Markus Rogan (Austria)
Katinka Hosszu (Hungary)
Andrew Bree (Ireland)
Clement Lefert (France)
Octavio Alesi (Venezuela)
Richard Charlesworth (UK)
Kosuke Kitajima (Japan)
Mateusz Sawrymowicz (Poland)
Christel Simms (Phillipines)
Lynette Lim (Singapore)
Otylia Jędrzejczak (Poland)
Hardy qualified for the 2008 Olympics before withdrawing, and as such has technically never participated
Add to that total Russian swimmer Yulia Efimova, who has spent the better part of 2011 on camp with Trojan (and might be considering a more permanent move, given the level of breaststroke quality in that list). She’s competing in Irvine this weekend as an unattached-Trojan swimmer, which would make the total 20.
And these aren’t just so-so Olympians who just snuck in on the back of special IOC developmental bids. All but maybe 2 or 3 of those are serious Olympians who earned their way in with Automatic qualifying marks and can count their names amongst at least semi-finalists for London.
This number of Olympians is sure to grow in the next year, but not just by transfers. The club is also home to several 2012 Olympic contenders, including Sweden’s Stina Gardell, Lyndsay DePaul, a 2009 WUG’s double-silver medalist, 2009 World Championship bronze medalist Kasey Carlson, and Russian super-sprinter Vlad Morozov, who is seeking dual citizenship but will contend for a spot on the Russian team for 2012.
Think about the class of over 20 Olympians in a single pool. There are very few (are there any?) programs who can boast such a roster, not just during training camps, but just about every day of the year. Not only is this great for those athletes to be in such a day-in, day-out competitive environment, but it must raise the level of USC’s college swimmers. In a professional, experienced environment like that, one almost can’t help but be great.
As for Walters, besides the swimming, coach Salo assured me that he would be polishing up his surfing this summer as well.