Tuesday, August 08, 2000

Local swimmers go head-to-head for Olympic berths

Wales, Dusing are friends, foes

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dod Wales
(David Gonzales photo)
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        They weren't two ships in the night but rather two swimmers passing in lap lanes. A decade passed with them, and Dod Wales and Nate Dusing finally became foes. And also friends.

        The two Cincinnati-area stars headline a group of 18 locals competing in the Olympic Trials, which begin Wednesday in Indianapolis. Though they never trained together or competed as youths, they have lately excelled in the same events while commiserating about shared experiences.

        “I've gotten to know Nate more in the last year than I ever have,” said Mr. Wales, 23, a St. Xavier High grad who now trains in Santa Clara, Calif.

Nate Dusing
(Chris Carson photo)
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        Each has been part of an NCAA championship team, Mr. Wales at Stanford in 1998 and Mr. Dusing this year at Texas. Mr. Dusing is a 20-time All-American — with another year to go — and Mr. Wales an NCAA individual champ.

        They are the only two of the 11 locals who swam at the 1996 Trials still in the sport, and surely the best bets among the current crew.

        “It's interesting Dod and I were the last two (from '96),” said Mr. Dusing, 21, a Covington Catholic grad now living in Texas to train with UT teammates. “Cincinnati has always had somebody on the Olympic team, so we've got to go in and do our part, represent the area the best we can.”

  • Born: Nov. 26, 1976
  • Residence: Los Altos Hills, Calif.
  • Hometown: Cincinnati
  • Education: 1999 Stanford University graduate (history major, economics minor); 1995 St. Xavier High School graduate.
  • Major achievements:
  • American record-holder in short-course 100-yard butterfly
  • 1999 NCAA 100-meter butterfly champion
  • Three-time NCAA champion
  • 19-time All-American
  • Placed fourth in 100-meter butterfly, 1999 Pan Pacific Championships
  • Member of 1998 NCAA champion Stanford team
  • 1998 U.S. Swimming All-American
  • 1998 Summer Nationals runner-up in 100-meter butterfly
  • 12-time Ohio high school state champion
  • Won record 22 YMCA individual national titles
  • Born: Nov. 25, 1978
  • Residence: Austin, Texas
  • Hometown: Villa Hills, Ky.
  • Education: Senior-to-be at the University of Texas, majoring in marketing; 1997 Covington Catholic High School graduate.
  • Major achievements:
  • American record-holder in short-course 100-meter butterfly
  • Five-time NCAA champion
  • 20-time All-American
  • Big 12 Conference Co-Swimmer of the Year, 2000
  • Member of 2000 NCAA champion Texas team
  • 2000 NCAA runner-up in 100 and 200 butterfly
  • Big 12 record-holder in 200 individual medley
  • Named Outstanding Swimmer at 1999 Big 12 Championships
  • 1999 Summer Nationals runner-up in 100-meter butterfly
  • 1997 Spring Nationals 100-meter butterfly champion
  • Broke Pablo Morales' national age-group record in the 100-meter butterfly in 1997
  • Swimming World's 1997 National High School Swimmer of the Year
        In winters long ago, the two shared St. X's Keating Natatorium, Mr. Wales practicing with the Bombers and Mr. Dusing with the Cincinnati Marlins. But they competed in separate states in high school, and their clubs competed in different organizations.

        “We were just far enough apart in age, too, to really get to know each other,” Mr. Wales said. “But we've crossed paths more in the last couple years.”

        What they've found: They're both big Reds fans. Their birthdays are just a day apart. Both drifted off to different events before coming back to their first specialty.

        Friendship or not, they could now be battling for berths. Both will compete in the 100-meter butterfly and 100 freestyle; Mr. Dusing will also swim the 200 free.

        Only the top two finishers in each event swim that event in the Olympics, though third- through sixth-place finishers in the 100 and 200 free qualify for Olympic relay teams.

        Both say their accomplishments will ring hollow if they fail to make the Olympics.

        “I visualize making it,” Mr. Dusing said. “There's no point in going (to the Trials) if I don't think I'm going to make the Olympic team. I try not to think about what happens if I don't.”

        Said Mr. Wales: “It'll hurt like hell if I fall short. If I don't make it, though, the only way I'll be able to look in the mirror and live with it is knowing I gave it my all.”

        Mr. Wales will be a sentimental story, as he tries to follow the footsteps of his father, Ross, the bronze medalist in the 100 fly in the 1968 Olympics.

        They would become just the second father-son duo since the 1920s to make the Olympics. The other is Gary Hall Sr. (1968, '72 and '76), a UC medical school graduate, and his son, Gary Hall Jr. ('96), who was born here.

        The Wales might share the same event: Dod, a star high school flier, regained his prowess in the 100 fly after being reassigned to freestyle events his first 21/2 years at Stanford. In 1999, his senior year, he won the NCAA 100 fly title.

        The elder Mr. Wales — a vice president of FINA, the sport's governing body — presented his son the gold medal.

        “The best part is he's really let me do things on my own,” Dod said. “He never forced his experiences on me. He just stood back and watched.”

        Said his father: “It's all very exciting, and probably more stressful for a dad than just about anybody else. It was a whole lot easier swimming than being a dad.”

        Graduating in 1999, the younger Mr. Wales was able to support himself the past year through a Speedo sponsorship, paid speaking engagements and prize money. He owns the second-fastest U.S. time in the 100 fly in the past two years (53.38 seconds), and he feels primed for what he figures is his final Trials.

        “It has been a long wait for this meet,” he said.

        Mr. Dusing has won a Senior Nationals title in the 100 fly and has gone as fast as 53.13. But that was in 1997, and his excellence in that event has hit a hiccup.

        The 200 freestyle, the event he swam as a high schooler in the '96 Trials, is a sudden specialty again. Weight training in college has given him more power and endurance to pursue that event, and chances of making the Olympic team increase because of the relay spots.

        “You've got to play the odds,” he said.

        Mr. Dusing also wonders whether it's his last Trials: “I'll have to do a lot of soul-searching. I haven't thought past August 2000 for a long time.”

        Mr. Wales and Mr. Dusing praise each other, each saying the other deserves to make the Olympics. Perhaps both do.

        “The timing is right,” Mr. Dusing said. “This is the meet we've been waiting for.”

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