The highly anticipated dramatic swimming battles between Americans Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the 400 and 200 individual medley events in the Olympics will have fans from all over the world watching — including coaches and swimmers of the Palos Area Swim Sharks and the Palos Orland Swim Association Eagles.
That’s one of just many storylines that start Saturday, July 28 and put the spotlight on the sport of swimming.
And that makes Oak Lawn’s Maureen Featherstone happy.
Featherstone is a coach and founder of the Sharks and said that the attention the Olympic games receive should impact her club. She said it started 5 1/2 years ago with 35 athletes. It increased 25 percent after the 2009 Olympics and has slowly grown to 90.
“Thanks to the Olympics this year, we may go over the 100 mark,” Featherstone said. “Getting 100 swimmers has always been a goal.”
The team features male and female swimmers ages 8 to 18 from the Palos area, Oak Lawn, Oak Forest and Blue Island.
Featherstone says the Olympic attention helps clubs from all over the area.
“It brings a lot of kids out and all of the coaches in the south suburban area are hoping to get a lot of new swimmers out because it is so public,” she said. ‘Swimming is a sport that is sometimes overlooked and now people are paying attention.”
While Featherstone says her club is small compared to other area teams, some individuals made history. Her daughter, Eleanor, and teammate Fiona Cantorna were the first in program history to qualify for the Illinois Swimming Inc. Zones event in August. Both also qualified for the ISI’s state meet in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., this weekend with Cantorna qualifying for the maximum 10 events. That is also a first for the team.
Cantorna, 10, is from Palos Park and attends Palos East Elementary School who said that Phelps is her favorite swimmer but said she is not sure if he can beat Lochte.
Eleanor Featherstone, 12, attends Hometown Middle School and said that now she is older and an established swimmer, she is looking forward to watching the Olympic events.
Most of POSA’s swimmers are from Orland Park and end up at Sandburg High School.
The younger swimmers who qualified for state from the Eagles include Clare Lawlor, Sean Harlin, Peter Bukiri and Caily Friel.
Lawlor, 14 and a graduate of St. Michael School, said she not only watches Olympic swimming but enjoys watching NCAA and world event swimming as well. She lists Christine Magnuson and Lochte as her favorite swimmers.
“This is a fun time,” she said of the Olympics.
Twins Carly and Caitlin Krull, who will be juniors at Sandburg, are also looking forward to the drama the Olympics will being.
Caitlin predicts Lochte will upend Phelps.
Carly won’t predict a winner but can’t wait to see how things unfold.
“It’s definitely exciting to see the big names get out there and see what they can do,” she said. “People are more interested in swimming and like to talk to me about it. It’s a big hype.”