Sports

Komisarz adjusting to life on top

Two national swimming championships, four World Championships medals and two Olympic medals.

Rachel Komisarz must be feeling like one ”Fat Cat.“

Well, yes and no.

Gold and silver relay medals at the 2004 Olympics have changed the former Kentucky Wildcat's lifestyle.

”Before the Olympics, I basically was on a tuna-fish-and-macaroni-and-cheese diet, just trying to survive,“ said Komisarz, who trains out of Lakeside Swim Club in Louisville. ”I had a lot of people ... help support my living so that I could train.

”But now, the endorsements that I have, I'm basically a full-time professional athlete, and I make a pretty good living off of that. It's definitely helped because I can focus just on my training now, and I don't have to worry about anything else.“

Sponsors include Speedo (she has ”about seven“ of Speedo's new LZR suits) and CytoSport (Muscle Milk, a fat-burning supplement).

Even with medals and cash in hand, Komisarz is a bundle of nerves as the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials are set to open Sunday at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., where hundreds of swimmers resumed practice Saturday while repairs were made after a severe storm a day earlier.

Wind tore siding off the front side of the building, and heavy rain overloaded the arena's main drains.

Komisarz is seeded No. 1 in the 100-meter butterfly, intent on securing one of the two berths on the American team that will compete at Beijing this summer. She won the 2004 U.S. Trials, then placed 11th at the Athens Olympics.

Komisarz also is qualified to swim three freestyle events at the Trials, which wind up July 6. She is seeded 22nd in the 50, 16th in the 100 and 24th in the 200.

Feeling confident? Nervous? Focused?

”Probably a little bit of all of the above,“ Komisarz said. ”I'm definitely nervous, a lot more nervous than I was going into '04. I don't think I was really a favorite to win in '04 so I didn't really feel any pressure on me. This year, I'm definitely feeling the pressure. ... But also, being seeded first has given me the confidence to know that nobody else has actually been faster than me before. Hopefully, I'll just have to keep it that way.“

Komisarz, 31, didn't start swimming until 17. She had been a gymnast at the Junior Olympics level until a back injury intervened.

A graduate of Warren Mott High School in Michigan, Komisarz became Southeastern Conference Swimmer of the Year for UK. She graduated in 1999 with a degree in exercise science.

Her national titles came in the butterfly, in 2005 and 2007. So did one of her Worlds medals, a gold on last year's medley relay.

Her other three Worlds medals and both Olympic medals came from freestyle relays. At the Athens Olympics, she swam prelims to help Team USA to gold (800 meters) and silver (400).

Butterfly might have to do this time around.

”I think the rest of my events will definitely be Hail Mary passes,“ she said. ”If I don't make it in the 100 fly, I'm going to have to really just pull something out that I have not been able to do before — which is possible at the Olympic Trials.“

Komisarz is one of nine swimmers representing Lakeside. Caroline Burckle, out of Sacred Heart Academy, heads the rest of the group with a No. 5 seed in the 800 freestyle.

”I think she has a great chance,“ said Mike DeBoor, the Lakeside coach. ”I know some will look at her as probably an underdog. But she ... just broke Janet Evans' 500 (-yard) freestyle record at NCAAs.“

The Florida senior also won the 200 free, earned seven All-America honors and was tabbed NCAA Woman of the Year.

Lexington's Elaine Breeden could be a spoiler for Komisarz in the butterfly. The Trinity Christian graduate is seeded fifth in the 100 and sixth in the 200 fly, an event she won in the NCAA meet as a Stanford freshman last year. She took second this year.

Several local entrants are still in high school, including Tates Creek's Kelsey Floyd, Model's Kaylin Burchill and Paul Dunbar's Eric Bruck.

Floyd is among nine entrants from UK-based Wildcat Aquatics. Of those, UK's Jenny Bradford has the highest seed, 15th in the 50 freestyle.

”You would like this to be a meet where they kind of step up, go up against some of the fastest swimmers probably in the world and come up with their best swims,“ said Gary Conelly, the Wildcat and UK head coach, as well as a 1972 Olympian.

UK's Will Vietti has top 20 seeds in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes. Florida State's Nick Graves, out of Sayre, ranks 16th in the 1,500 free.

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