Missouri Grand Prix offers Olympic swimming preview

Wednesday, February 8, 2012 | 5:00 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Four years ago, Jason Lezak set off celebrations across America with the tip of his finger.

Swimming the final leg of the 4x100 freestyle relay race at the 2008 Beijing Olympics for a team that included Michael Phelps, Lezak entered the pool nearly a full body length behind his French competitor. It took the fastest 100 meter freestyle split in history for Lezak to propel the Americans to the gold as he beat his competitor to the wall by .08 of a second. 

This weekend, Lezak will make a stop in Columbia on his road to London. He and other Olympic hopefuls will compete in the Missouri Grand Prix at the Mizzou Aquatic Center. Four gold-medal winners are scheduled to compete.

The meet, which runs Friday through Sunday, will be headlined by 19 USA national team swimmers, including Lezak, Matt Grevers and Amanda Weir.

Lezak will face stiff competition in Saturday's 50-meter freestyle race, including Brazilian Cesar Cielo, the 2008 gold medal winner in the event. Fred Bousquet of France and Gideon Louw of South Africa, who are both training for their second Olympics, also will race in the event.

The 100-meter butterfly race will pit Grevers against Tyler McGill on Friday. The two are competing for the a spot in this event in London, according to the USA Swimming website.

American Eric Shanteau will face an old rival in Japan's Kosuke Kitajima, who won gold in both the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke events in Beijing. Spectators can watch them compete Friday in the 100-meter breatstroke and Saturday in the 200-meter breaststroke. 

On the women's side, Chloe Sutton will return to Columbia to try to replicate the success she had in 2010, when she won the Grand Prix series. Sutton will swim in six events as part of her training for the upcoming Olympic trails. 

Other swimmers to watch include French gold medalist Laure Manaudou and Americans Christine Magnusen and Amanda Weir, who is looking to make it to London after missing the 2008 Olympics.

Former Missouri swimmer Jack Brown will return to compete at his former home pool. 

The event is the third meet of seven in this year's Grand Prix Series, which will lead up to the Olympic Trials, to be held June 25 to July 2 in Omaha, Neb. 

Preliminaries will begin at 9 a.m. each day of the meet, followed by finals starting at 5:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at a discounted rate of $11 a day for preliminary races, $17 a day for final races and $25 for an all-day pass. Weekend passes can be purchased for $69. 


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