(L to R) Members of U.S. national Olympic swimming team Missy Franklin, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps attend a news conference after a training session for the London 2012 Olympics, in Bellerive, July 21, 2012. (REUTERS/Robert Pratta)
By Julian Linden
VICHY, France, July 21 (Reuters) – The United States swimming team was bubbling with confidence and ready to scoop the pool in London after finishing their Olympic preparations with a low-key training camp in central France.
After spending the previous week getting in peak physical condition at a swimming boot camp in Tennessee, the Americans have spent the past week getting their heads right for the five-ring circus that awaits them.
Hidden away from the Olympic spotlight, the squad could not have been more relaxed heading to London after a week that was more like a summer holiday than the final phase in a four-year build up.
They trained in a public pool overlooking a racecourse and spent their nights roaming the town of Vichy in the Auvergne region, indulging in French cuisine and meeting the locals.
“It has been a great week,” said Michael Phelps. “We’re all getting kind of antsy now so we’re ready to go.”
“This week has been about fixing all those little things that can make a big difference.”
On Saturday, the Americans opened the gates to their training pool to the public and hundreds of local residents turned up to see them go through their paces.
When training finished, the swimmers were treated to a barbecue, and spent two hours mingling with the locals, signing autographs and posing for photographs.
“We’ve had such a blast. It has been so much fun,” said Missy Franklin, the Colorado teenager chasing seven medals in London.
“The whole environment has been fantastic and absolutely we’ll go faster in London. We’ve been working really hard on the small things and now we’re ready.”
Franklin’s coach Todd Schmidt said that for most of the American swimmers, the Olympics were more relaxing than the trials, which are deliberately set up as a pressure-cooker event where only the best make the team.
“The Olympic trials are called trials for a reason because it’s a trial. The trials are definitely far more stressful. They’re an emotional roller coaster,” he said.
“But, coming into this meet, we all start fresh.”
The Americans go into the Olympics boasting the fastest times this year in 12 of the 26 individual events set at the U.S. trials in Nebraska but the men’s head coach Gregg Troy said he expected they would be even faster in London.
“We went back to work last week (in Tennessee) with the intention to increase our volume but this camp has been more technical,” he told Reuters. “It has been more a resting and preparation camp than a training camp.
“From what I’ve seen this week, we’re going to better across the board.”
Ryan Lochte was close to exhaustion during the trials after swimming a grueling program while still in heavy training and the 27-year-old from Florida said he was primed to produce his best in London.
“We’re definitely going to be a lot faster,” he said. “This is the Olympics, we’ve trained four years for this.
“We’ve just been changing the little things this week and making them better so that we can have the perfect race in London.”