Tall Tiger Looking To Be America's Fastest Swimmer

Auburn, Ala.--Tall and talented Derek Gibb hopes to keep his senior hot streak alive this summer as he prepares for the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials.

The six-foot-seven-inch sprinter from Alaska is hoping to earn a spot on the U.S. team in the 50-meter freestyle, a race that determines the fastest swimmer in the world. Gibb and his teammates had one of the most dominating performances ever in defending their NCAA title in March and he hopes to take that momentum into the trials.

"After coming off a great season and great NCAAs, we are definitely looking forward to it," Gibb says of the U.S. Olympic Trials, which run from July 7-14 in Long Beach, California. Auburn senior Caesar Garcia has already qualified for the U.S. team in platform diving and Gibb is one of 32 current and former Tiger swimmers who have qualified for the U.S. trials.

"Out at Long Beach, a couple of guys from Auburn, Ryan Wochomurka and Aaron Ciarla, are going to be a couple of big dogs out there in the 50 free," Gibb says. "I am looking forward to racing against those guys."

The 50 freestyle is a power sprint with the margin of victory often coming in hundreths of a second.

"To be successful in the 50 you just having the mental attitude to go out there and be successful," Gibb says. "It is a race that doesn't really matter what your technique is. It helps me a lot to get to race against guys like Aaron Ciarla, Fred Bousquet and Ryan Wochomurka, my teammates at Auburn. I think that will help more than anything to get ready for the Olympic Trials."

Bousquet, who will swim for France, is one of nine swimmers plus U.S. Olympic Trials platform diving champ Caesar Garcia who have already qualified to represent their countries in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.

All-American Derek Gibb

Gibb says that it won't be easy to make the team to travel to Greece, but notes that it would be a special trip if he can make it happen. "I have thought about it," he says. "It is going to be a close race between six or seven guys. Hopefully, I will be there in the swing of things."

For 50 meters, the winning time will probably be around 22.10 seconds, the sprinter predicts. He recently swam a 23.10 in practice and that has him upbeat. "That time was not shaved or rested so things are looking pretty good," he says.

Gibb will also compete in the 100 backstroke, but notes that is more of a warmup event. "It is kind of far-fetched for me to get there in the 100 back with (2000 Olympic gold medal winner) Lenny Krayzelburg in the event, Aaron Piersol (University of Texas) along with Bryce Hunt from Auburn plus Chad Barlow and Doug Van Wie. There is a whole list of them. I am doing that event to just kind of get into the meet."

The Auburn men's swimming team put together a dominating 2003-2004 season. The Tigers won all of their dual meets with ease and set up their victory at the NCAA Championships in College Station, Tex., by dominating the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships.

Gibb says it hasn't been difficult to stay motivated as he continues to train hard long after the collegiate season ended. "The excitement of going for the Olympic team is anybody's motivation," he notes. "We got like a week off back in March. Our coaches know what they are doing with us. I think they will have us ready for the Olympic Trials."

Auburn's head coach, David Marsh, says he is excited to see how well AU's swimmers have been training this spring and summer at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center in Auburn. Gibb, a native of Alaska, agrees that the workouts have been productive.

"We have just had a phenomenal year with training and racing," the senior says. "The atmosphere which we have created is just phenomenal. I think it prepares anybody who is looking for that Olympic berth to have their best shot they possibly can."

Gibb, who will graduate in December, is focusing only on his swimming this summer with the Olympic Trials around the corner. If he performs like he has in big meets throughout the year, he will have a chance to compete against the best in the world this summer in Greece.

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