Auburn grad becomes oldest male qualifier in swimming history
Competing at Richmond’s newest long course facility, Bill Winters punched his ticket to Omaha for the 2012 Olympic Trials with a phenomenal time of 2:19.88 in the 200 breaststroke, dipping just below the 2:20.79 qualifying time. The time breaks the current USMS record of 2:27.79 for men 45-49, established by David Guthrie in August 2008, and also clears the World Record time of 2:24.91 set by Ukraine’s Volodymry Pylypchenko in September 2009.
Winters, a mere three weeks shy of his 45th birthday, becomes the oldest male qualifier in the history of the sport. Originally from Austin, Texas, Winters was an NCAA qualifier at Auburn University, graduating in 1990. Formerly a sprint freestyler and individual medley specialist, Winters reports that he was very close to a Trials cut in the 200 IM in 1988, but this marks his first-ever Trials cut. He plans to attend the Trials, scheduled for June 25-July 2, provided his boss and his parole officer grant his request for leave.
Winters was ebullient about the performance: “Honestly, I don’t know what ‘ebullient’ means, but I’m really happy, and this is beyond my wildest dreams. I was 30 pounds lighter and training a lot harder in the summer of 1988. I wasn’t much of a breaststroker in college, by any stretch, but I guess my unique training focus on breast and beer in recent months has paid off.”
Competing at the Poseidon Classic in Richmond, Winters won the 200 breast from lane 10 during finals on Saturday night. In the process, he also becomes the first person to achieve an Olympic Trials cut in the new natatorium. The 10-lane Myrtha pool, originally used for the 2008 Olympic Trials at the Quest Center in Omaha, had been sitting in boxes on a shelf at a Nebraska WalMart for years. The Collegiate School Aquatics Center opened last month and is jointly owned by five groups: Poseidon Swimming, Collegiate School, Trinity High School, the Richmond Kickers, and the Richmond Sports Backers.
Official splits from the race were as follows:
1 Winters, Bill 45 VMST 2:53.50 2:19.88 --- 1:04.48 1:41.83(37.35) 2:19.88(38.05)
Although a kink in the new timing system appears to have lost his first split, a spokesperson for USA Swimming confirmed that the pool length was measured and certified at fifty meters, plus or minus a few yards. According to the HyTek results, he was out in a blazing 1:04.48, and brought it back in 1:15.40. Amazingly, Winters dropped a staggering 33 seconds from his prelim time of 2:53.50.
Dave Holland, another 44-year-old from Richmond, was competing in the same meet. “It’s hard to believe what happened. This was a swim for the ages! Somehow I missed him at the start, he was way over in lane 10, but all of a sudden he was way out in front and the crowd was going just wild. Well, actually, there were only three of us in the stands, but we were making all kinds of noise.”
Besides Holland, there were two others who witnessed the historic swim: Madoc Winters and Mark Kutz. Madoc, age 8, is the oldest of Bill’s three sons. When asked to comment, Madoc reported:
“Dad was awesome, just really, really awesome. I’m glad I was able to help him. First, he asked me to find those big yellow swim paddles from his bag while he was warming up. Then I had to get the catnip from Mr. Holland’s bag. While he was busy stuffing the catnip under his cap, I noticed his race was on the blocks at the other end of the pool. I said ‘Dad, you better hurry!’ And he hopped up so quickly, ran full-speed and just dove right in. That running start was so cool, I mean, he almost hit the flags, and when he came up he was way ahead. I mean way, way, way ahead. I just smiled and yelled “Go Dad!”
Kutz, who has been coaching and tolerating Mr. Winters since 2006, was in awe. “I don’t care who you are, that was fast. The first half is a blur, but he sure did finish like a champ, didn’t he? I don’t know what got into him, but he has been trying some new toys and training methods in practice. This is what can happen when you get serious about specific training.”
Winters’ training partners were shocked, to say the least. Breaststrokers Danielle Myers, 27, and Claire Russo, 28, were frankly a little skeptical. “Bill can swim pretty fast in practice, but he wasn’t wearing paddles in the race, was he? And whenever we do breaststroke in practice, we just destroy him.” When informed of his teammates’ comments, Winters shrugged. “Jealously is such an ugly emotion, but I guess haters gotta hate.”
As for the upcoming Trials, Winters is optimistic about his chances to make the Olympic team. “I’ve been tapered for the last 10 years so I figured I’d have a breakout swim one of these days. I think I’ve finally figured out what works for me. I’m not going to advertise my secrets to the younger folks, but I can tell you this: the clock doesn’t lie.”
VMST Sports Writer