For 22.2 seconds, the swimming world was quiet. Twitter was quiet. Facebook was quiet. For 22.2 seconds, the swimming world was focused on Charlotte, North Carolina. But the Mecklenburg Aquatics Center was not quiet. It was loud. Loud with cheering, loud with splashing, loud with the echoes of Sam Kendricks calling the race on the PA. But for 22.2 seconds, the rest of the swimming world was quiet. Heck, I didn’t even breath. The race is that short, that important, and that intense, that I almost forgot to breathe.
Schneider repeated his great start that we saw at the Dubai World Championships, but Jones was even better off the blocks. A few strokes in, Schneider had made up the distance, but you could feel Jones’ lead inch away. At about the 40-meter mark, it looked like he was going to pull away, and I almost exhaled. But Schneider, despite not having the smoothest stroke, is a fighter. He clawed and clawed. He got back into the race. He was there. It was almost a tie again.
At the touch, the two swimmers’ finishes were indiscernible. Most eyes in Charlotte were focused on the scoreboard. But I was looking squarely at the swimmers, knowing that they would be the fastest to react. The fist-pumping began from Jones, and the outcome was clear.
Jones was the victor in 22.24 against Schneider’s 22.28.
This is swimming at its finest. It was fast. It was intense. The swimmers are teammates and friends, but Jones donned a black cap and Schneider a white, in a metaphorical sign that this race was for keeps. There would be time for warm-fuzzies after the race, but nobody was pulling any punches. It was only 50-meters, but the back-and-forth battle was reminiscent of a great 1500 race packed into less than half-a-minute. It drew more excitement and emotion than any elite swimming race in recent memory.
Cullen Jones will now travel with Team USA when they make the trek to Shanghai this summer for the FINA World Championships. Schneider will be making a trip to China this summer as well, but a thousands miles up the coast. He will take a spot for the World University Games this summer.
As predicted, neither swimmer broke into the 21 range. But I still wouldn’t be surprised if either, or both, got down to that point in the standard 50 free. I’m hoping for a 1-2 seed for them in the 50 free final, because that would be one heck of a race dynamic.
Here’s a link to a full race video: http://www.twitvid.com/TZBK0
And the post-race videos, from USASwimming.org: