The 45th annual Santa Clara Grand Prix swim meet has attracted some of the world's leading performers heading into the London Games, USA Swimming announced Thursday. But Olympic stars Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte won't compete at the four-day meet that begins next Thursday at the George F. Haines International Swim Center. Although longtime entrants in Santa Clara, Phelps and Lochte chose a meet in Texas that is closer to their East Coast homes. Neither wanted to trek across the country with the U.S. trials starting June 25 in Omaha, Neb.
"There's a lot of line for the guys," Santa Clara club coach John Bitter said. "Do they really want to travel back and forth? I can't sit here and cry when I look at the international swimmers who are coming."The Santa Clara competition should have an Olympic atmosphere with most of Australia's vaunted women's team and about half of the Japanese team competing as well as international stars from Canada and South Africa.
"They're using this meet as their last spring board before going to London," Bitter said. Japan's Kosuke Kitajima is expected to be one of the meet's biggest headliners. The breaststroker has won gold medals in the 100 meters and 200 meters in the past two Olympics. Australia's Stephanie Rice is another Olympic champion entered. She set three world records in the Beijing Games en route to gold medals in the 200 meters and 400 meters individual medley and 800-meter freestyle relay.
East Bay Olympic stars Natalie Coughlin, Dana Vollmer and Nathan Adrian also will highlight the meet that is the final stop of the U.S. Grand Prix series. Other top Americans include Jessica Hardy, Cal's Caitlin Leverenz and Madison Kennedy and Moraga's Kim Vandenberg, who trains in Berkeley with Coughlin. Former Cal sprinter Anthony Ervin also has entered the meet in his surprising comeback after winning a gold medal in the 50 meters freestyle in 2000.
Colorado teen sensation Missy Franklin and two-time Olympic breaststroker Brendan Hansen chose to compete at the Longhorn Aquatics Elite invitational in Austin on June 1-3 like Phelps and Lochte.
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/elliottalmond.