Maybe Connor Jaeger should go by the nickname, “The Technician,” because the American distance ace put together the perfect race at Omaha 2016 on Sunday night, winning the 400 freestyle in a personal-best time of 3:43.79 and giving ARENA its first representative on the American squad bound for the competition this summer.
Among the favourites to prevail in the 400 free heading into Omaha, Jaeger put together a patient and well-designed race, moving up on the competition gradually, until there was noone left to catch. Jaeger was sixth at the 100-meter mark, and moved to fourth at the midway point. He was up to third at the 300 and into second place with a lap remaining, when he split 28.05 for his last 50 meters and surged ahead of Conor Dwyer.
Jaeger’s time is the third-fastest in the world this year and marked the first time he was able to break the 3:44 barrier. By winning the 400 free, Jaeger earned his second berth, his first arriving in 2012. Jaeger will be back on the blocks for the 1500 freestyle (his best event), scheduled for the last day of competition.
“Just going back to prelims, there were a lot (3:47s) and (3:48s), and I think back in 2012, (3:47) made the team,” Jaeger said. “I knew I was a competitive field, and then I dive in and I’m staring at Dwyer’s feet. I had an out of body experience at the 200 and thought, ‘Can I turn this around?’ There was no giving up. I went as hard as I could until I wasn’t feeling my arms and legs. I peeked (at the finish) and it was a great realization.”
By clocking 3:43.79, Jaeger put himself in the medal conversation for this summer and erased any doubts that may have been lingering from a difficult period of training. In the lead up to Omaha 2016, Jaeger had difficulty producing the types of times that he’s been accustomed to notching during his career. Surely, this swim will have his confidence at an all-time high.
“I’d say for the past eight months, I struggled to get under 3:50,” he said. “That’s normally easy for me, and the past eight months, I had horrible swims. Then I went 3:47 in the morning and I had something left.”
Fellow ARENA swimmers Cammile Adams and Felicia Lee were also in action on the opening day of the meet. Adams was 11th in the 400 individual medley (4:42.61), a swim that got her going for the rest of the meet. Adams is the top seed in the 200 butterfly. As for Lee, she advanced to the semifinals of the 100 fly, finishing in 59.47 for 15th place.