What would you do if you had made the U.S. Olympic swim team yesterday?
Would you hug everyone in sight? Would you start doing a crazy dance? Would you promise a gold medal to the crowd?
Mark Gangloff did none of that Monday when he made it. Outwardly, he barely celebrated at all in the first few minutes after four years of work had come to fruition in 60 seconds.
“I'm relieved more than anything else,” Gangloff said moments after the race, still dripping from the pool at the Qwest Center. “I'm not happy with the way I performed tonight, but I got my hand on the wall second. In the Olympic trials, it's all about making the team by finishing first or second, and I was able to do that. I've still got more to show in Beijing, though, that's for sure.”
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Gangloff has already made an Olympic team before. He qualified for the U.S. squad in 2004 in the same event – the 100-meter breaststroke – and won a gold medal in a relay.
He wanted more Monday. He hoped to swim under a minute for the first time in his life, but instead finished in 1:00.42. He hoped to beat longtime rival Brendan Hansen, but instead Hansen swam the race about a half-second faster.
Still, Gangloff got his spot.
“I am happy,” he insisted. “But I'm most happy that I don't have to feel all this stress anymore. I'll get happier over the next couple of days. But right now I just feel like a burden has been lifted off of me.”
The Olympic trials can provoke unusual emotions. Doug Van Wie, Gangloff's road-trip roommate here, has been to this meet before. But the Charlottean got so overhyped before the 200 freestyle preliminaries that it ruined his race.
“I just took it out way too fast,” Van Wie said. “I got too excited. I had so many people here watching me, and the crowd was so big, and I wanted to do so well and I just did too much early.
“I felt like I was just floating on top of the water to start, but then I couldn't hold on.”
Van Wie ended up a disappointing 25th in that event, although he still has two more chances to make the Olympic team before the week ends.
Gangloff, 26, kept counseling his Mecklenburg Aquatic Club teammates all week to stay calm. Then he took his own advice – almost too well. “I went out too slow,” he said.
Normally, he leads the 100 breaststroke halfway through. This time he was third.
That set Gangloff up for a final 50-meter test, which he passed. He couldn't beat Hansen, but he beat everyone else, and that was enough.
“I'm relieved just like Mark,” said Dave Marsh, Gangloff's coach at MAC. “It wasn't his best race, but the job here is to make the team. Mark already has a medal in his pocket from 2004, so we're going to be real aggressive in Beijing. We'll just throw caution to the wind.”
Will that be enough? Who knows?
But Gangloff is definitely under the radar now. If he had won Monday, upsetting Hansen, it would have been different. Now the pressure is off.
When I mentioned that to him, he smiled a little.