In another major breaststroke upset, Scott Weltz won the 200m at the US Olympic swimming trials on Friday, leaving Brendan Hansen and Eric Shanteau with only one individual event at the London Games.
On a night when Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps were focused on getting through semi-final races, Nathan Adrian won the 100m freestyle and Cullen Jones claimed the second spot for London, while Natalie Coughlin barely survived her last chance to make it back to the Olympics.
The men’s 200m breast was just as shocking as the women’s 100m breast, which was won by Breeja Larson over Rebecca Soni and Jessica Hardy. At least Soni got second place, still good enough for an Olympic berth.
Neither Hansen nor Shanteau were as fortunate.
“My whole body was kind of tingling and I was like: ‘I’m feeling it and something is different, this is the time,’” Weltz said. “I was smiling behind the blocks, I wasn’t nervous. I felt great going into it.”
Clark Burckle claimed the second spot on the Olympic team, another big surprise. Shanteau finished third and Hansen faded to fourth, which means they will have to settle for swimming only the 100m breast in London after going 1-2 in that event at the trials.
“You guys are as surprised as I am,” Hansen said. “I can’t believe Eric and I are not swimming the 200.”
The 25-year-old Weltz moved up on the third lap and surged to the finish to win in 2 minutes, 9.01 seconds. Burckle was next in 2:09.97, edging Shanteau with the touch.
“When I turned at the wall, I saw I wasn’t a body length-and-a-half behind, I was like: ‘I’ve only got to make up a maybe a half-body length. I can do this,’” Weltz said. “From then on, it was like a freight train going forward.”
Shanteau, who competed in the 200m breast at Beijing after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, considers the longer event his better race and thought the 100m was just a bonus. Now, it is his only Olympic race, which is why he was especially distraught when he looked up at the board and saw that Burckle got him by eight-hundredths of a second.
Shanteau took off his cap and goggles and hung on the lane rope, his head dropping back against the wall he did not get to quite fast enough.