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tom911 goes to the World Swimming Championships in Melbourne, Australia

tom911 goes to the World Swimming Championships in Melbourne, Australia

Old Mar 22, 07, 7:12 pm
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tom911 goes to the World Swimming Championships in Melbourne, Australia

I started this trip the evening of Saturday, March 18, when I took BART to SFO, and checked in at the Cathay Pacific ticket counter, using the line for “on line check-in”, as I had checked in at home a day ahead to secure a window seat (Cathay won’t give up seat assignments in advance on coach award tickets). I was quickly issued a boarding pass and a separate first class lounge pass, and headed off to the BA Terraces Lounge, which was staffed by a Cathay employee (all my previous visits it’s been staffed by BA).

I visited the first class lounge, but as it’s rather small, and doesn’t have a DSL port, I just has a glass of Australian shiraz and a sandwich, and retreated to the larger, more open, business class lounge, and staked out one of the workstations with my laptop (had my own ethernet cable along).

I’m on a 4 segment One World award itinerary in coach (no business seats available, even 6 months out), flying SFO-HKG-MEL on Cathay, and MEL-SYD-SFO on Qantas. The award I purchased limits you to 20,000 air miles and it costs 100,000 miles. I priced the itinerary out after I booked it and received a price of $3,800, for comparison purposes.

The 14 hour 15 min flight departed on time at 1:10 a.m. Sunday morning, and we arrived in Hong Kong about 7:30 a.m. Monday. For dinner I had breast of chicken, mashed potatoes, and a vegetable mix, along with cheese cake, Pepperidge Farm milano cookies, and a salad with three large prawns. Breakfast was a mushroom omelette, yogurt, and sliced fruit.

Entertainment was pretty decent, as I watched two movies, one with Russell Crowe set in Provence, and other was Bobby. I also watched an episode of Law and Order. I slept about 5 hours.

The transit options into the city were by airport train which worked out to $US20RT, or by bus at $US7RT. The bus actually stopped at the same place I would have ended up with a Metro connection from the airport train, so that worked out fine. It was a 45 min trip in. There are luggage racks on the airport buses.

In Hong Kong I stayed at the YWCA Anne Black Guest House (on the 13th floor) which had a daily rate of $HK440 including taxes (around $US56), and was a 15 min walk from the Metro at Nathan Road and Waterloo Road.

On my first night, I was on the Kowloon waterfront for the laser night show on Hong Kong Island at 8pm, which is produced by the Hong Kong Tourist Board.

I also visited two YMCA Hotels in Hong Kong. One of them is located right next door to the Peninsula on Salisbury Road, and has an excellent lunch buffet on the 4th floor for $HK118 including tax (around $US15–I enjoyed the kobe beef and smoked salmon, but didn’t have the deboned Thai chicken feet or squid salad), and the other is on Waterloo Road off Nathan Road where I did a breakfast buffet one morning for $HK78 (about $US10). There are enough Western foods to make these worthwhile, as well as 6 kinds of ice cream and small pastries.

I did visit with Radiocycle one evening in Hong Kong, starting with drinks on the 59th floor of the Conrad, and ending with touring the Ladies Market, where there were thousands of people out, even at 10 p.m. Nice to catch up with another FT’er.

LINK TO HONG KONG PHOTOS

THURSDAY MARCH 22

After breakfast at the YMCA on Waterloo Road, I went back to the YWCA hotel for my backpack (have a brand new pack for this trip, as my previous pack was damaged coming back from Zurich last month), and then off to the airport via bus. I checked in at lightning speed at the Cathay First class kiosk (you really can’t call them a check in counter, as the agent stands at a kiosk with two monitors that’s free standing). I wasn’t able to check in 24 hours ahead as I could not find internet access with a printer, but did a check of the seating chart and saw plenty of window seats, and when I arrived at the airport no problem getting one of those.

As I wanted to sample the Cathay Pacific Wing First Class Lounge, I arrived at the airport 6 hours early, and no problem checking in that far out. The lounge has a short bar, a long bar, individual entertainment kiosks at workstations throughout the club, free wi-fi, and a restaurant. I saw the noodle bar on my way out. Rather than repeat my comments here, please see the related thread I posted from the lounge on the Cathay forum.
LINK to Cathay thread

Flight departed from gate 4 right outside the lounge, so no trekking to some distant gate for this flight. It was about 9 hours long, and we landed in Melbourne at 7:30a.m. Friday. I slept through dinner, so no idea what was served, and breakfast was an omelette with mushroom and tomatoes, sliced fruit and a croissant. Downside of this flight was lots of screaming kids on board, and not just in one row (they were scattered all over the plane). Midway through the overnight flight one woman was singing to her child, oblivious that everyone was trying to sleep. Another passenger was taking photographs of the plane interior with a flash, perhaps not noticing the lights were dimmed for a reason (and it wasn’t so that he could take better photographs). I think I ended up sleeping about 4 hours of the 9 in the air, so at least some sleep, but I’ve had better long haul flights.

Normal questioning by customs here, but they didn’t search my bag. They wanted to know if I had any food that I took from the plane, any beef jerky (is that a popular item here?), or food products of any type. Took all of 2 minutes and I was sent on my way. Took the Skybus into town ($A15, $US12 one way), and will post this from the city center this afternoon.

Swimming starts on Sunday morning, March 25, and runs 8 full days. Natalie is due to swim 7 of the 8 days right now. For those not up on her, I worked with her father at the PD for over 30 years, and have been following her swimming for a long time, and do make a point to get to as many international events as I can. She took 5 medals in Athens, including two golds, and is expected to do well here in Melbourne.

LINK TO EVENT SITE
LINK TO USA SWIMMING

I’m staying at a hostel here in Melbourne in a single room for $A56 a night ($US45). I’ve already bought a 7 day pass for trains and trams in zone 1 for $A21 ($US17), which I expect to get lots of use from.

I’m posting this using free wi-fi at the Australia on Collins food court in Melbourne.

GO TEAM USA!

Last edited by tom911; Mar 22, 07 at 7:19 pm
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Old Mar 23, 07, 3:41 am
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Just uploaded the last of my Hong Kong photos, which include those from the Cathay lounge. You can get there by clicking the Hong Kong photo link in the first post in this thread. The lounge photos begin at #273.

Tom in Melbourne where the miserable afternoon heat has turned into nighttime rain
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Old Mar 23, 07, 9:26 pm
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tom911 enjoy MEL - my home town!^
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Old Mar 23, 07, 9:51 pm
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Originally Posted by tom911 View Post
As I wanted to sample the Cathay Pacific Wing First Class Lounge, I arrived at the airport 6 hours early, and no problem checking in that far out. ...

... but I’ve had better long haul flights.
tom911 - I enjoyed your trip report. Seems like you experienced the peaks and valleys of air travel, going from The Wing F lounge, to 9 hours in coach! Your understatement that you've had better flights, undoubtedly refers to occasions when you were sitting much further forward in the plane, I imagine.

P.S. I note that some of the Women's swimming is open water. Was it really that hot by the ocean?
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Old Mar 24, 07, 5:36 am
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I think the open water events were off St. Kilda. I haven't been out that far the last two days (10:30 Sat night now). The listed temp on Friday was 88F, but I swear it felt like 100F outside to me, with high humidity. What a difference a day makes, though, as it rained all night, has been windy all day today with occasional rain, and the high was forecast to be 66F. Needless to say, we were not out in USA T shirts and shorts today.

Coughlins made it in via UA and arrived at their hotel just before noon. There was one meeting concerning the weeks activities, but other than that we spent the day at a food and wine festival along the Yarra River, and finished it off with a bottle of cabernet shiraz at their hotel. They look like zombies after day one here, but we're all off to the pool at 0830 Sunday for the first day of prelims, with a busy week ahead. There is a time change tonight so one extra hour of sleep for all of us

We have confirmed Natalie will be swimming every night except Wednesday (7 of 8 nights), so we will all be poolside. Natalie's sister is also along (attends UC Davis) and her boyfriend, also a student there, and the grandaprents on her mother's side.

I will be posting an FT event in Community for those in Melbourne that are free later in the week (I know I met a bunch of you at the Brisbane Do last year). I'm at an internet cafe tonight as the coffee shop I used with free wi-fi last night is closed.

Last edited by tom911; Mar 24, 07 at 5:43 am
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Old Mar 24, 07, 10:44 am
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Oh yea! More Tom911 reports on swimming. Those reports were my favorite thing about the Athens summer Olympics, so I'm looking forward to the Melbourne diary. Go Natalie!
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Old Mar 25, 07, 12:00 am
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DAY 1

We were at the pool just after 9 (tram stop right in front of the arena), and had seats at the equivalent of the 50 yard line. Natalie competed in 100 butterfly prelims and placed second out of a pool of about 100 swimmers. First seed was also a U.S. swimmer. Back tonight for semi-finals in this event (top 16 swimmers compete) and then Monday night for finals. I believe she is also swimming a leg in a relay event tonight (Sunday).

Just caught up with Bay Area FTer Kluau88 at the Westin, and we made it over to the Queen Victoria market for a quick tour. Back to the pool in about 2 hours for finals.

Yahoo has started tracking news photos of Natalie today, so if you want to keep up to date on swimming this link should work (5 photos so far). There is a photo of her in the pool this a.m. (I won't take those myself as I want to watch her swim):
http://news.search.yahoo.com/search/...=tab-img&x=wrt

I have some photos I'll try to get uploaded on Monday morning.
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Old Mar 25, 07, 4:28 pm
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Day 1: silver medal

Very exciting evening on Day 1, as the Australian women won the gold in the women's 4X100 freestyle relay. Natalie led off the U.S. effort, but the first Australian swimmer was swimming at just below world record pace, and the last Australian swimmer was just zipping through the pool. The U.S. did take the lead back in the middle of the race, but then the Australians took it back at the very end. It was quite an exciting race to watch. Congratulations, Australia! There is a huge color photo of the Australian women wearing their gold medals on the front page of The Age newspaper this morning (like 50% of the front page).

The U.S. men won the men's relay, bringing home the first U.S. gold medal.

Prior to the relay event, Natalie competed in semi-finals of 100 butterfly and placed 4th overall, so she'll move into finals of that event Monday night (top 8). There are some very fast swimmers in this event, including Australians, so it will be a tough competition back at the pool on Monday night. She should be in possession of the chocolates I bought for her Sunday afternoon by this point, so hopefully we'll see some gold medals as the week progresses (this tradition was started by Rudi).

I'm off to Monday prelims in a few minutes (just about 0830 Monday here). I love having the pool just 5 minutes by tram from the center of town (much better than Yokohama when the event was a good hour or more out by train and bus). Excellent planning by the Australian hosts, as everything seems to be running perfectly!

I have uploaded a bunch of photos, including some from inside the pool and the awards ceremony on Monday night:
http://new.photos.yahoo.com/tom9[email protected]#page1

Last edited by tom911; Mar 25, 07 at 4:41 pm
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Old Mar 26, 07, 5:33 pm
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Day 2: new American record 100 butterfly and bronze medal

Hello this Tuesday morning from Melbourne. I'm back at the food court on Collins Street with free wi-fi to send this. Just had an apple rasberry muffin to start my day.

Monday was a very exciting day at the pool, starting with Natalie competing in the morning in prelims of 100 backstroke, the event she holds the world record in. She placed first out of a field of about 100 going into semi-finals Monday night.

After we left the pool at noon, we headed into the city by tram so several members of our party could use an internet café, and from there the Coughlins, their daughter Megan and boyfriend Brian, joined me on the tram for a 20 min ride out to Fitzroy Street, where we went to Leo’s Spaghetti Bar for lunch, having either pizza or spaghetti, which came with a glass of wine or soft drink for $A10 ($US8). The food was excellent (I’ve been here twice before) and well worth the tram trip out.

From lunch we took another tram around the corner to Acland Street in Saint Kilda, where we feasted on pastries and gelato (I had chocolate cheese cake). There are about 3-4 bakeries on the block with exquisite pastries in their windows. After stopping here, we walked past Luna Park (amusement park) and down to St. Kilda Beach, where folks were enjoying the sunshine stretched out on the sand, and we dodged bicycles. Another tram ride back into the city for just an hour break, and then back to the pool at 5:45pm.

The first event Natalie swam Monday night was finals in 100 butterfly (she did not swim this event at the Athens Olympics–she competed in 5 events in 2004 and took medals in all of them, where she is going for 7 events here in Melbourne). She held the lead for most of the race, but in the last 25 yards was passed by two Australians and won a bronze. The good news here is that she set a new American record in this event. The previous American record was held by sports commentator Dara Torres who last swam at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, though I don’t know what year she set the previous American record (could be 2000, or even several years before that). Congratulations, Natalie, on your new American record!

Natalie returned to the pool 45 minutes later to swim the semi-finals (top 16) in the event she won individual gold at in the Athens Olympics, the 100 backstroke. She placed 4th out of the 16 swimmers, which was good enough to get her into the medal finals on Tuesday night. As tired as she had to have been from swimming less than an hour before, this was quite a good showing. We’re all rooting for Natalie to break her own world record and set a new world record when she swims Tuesday night! She does not have any events Tuesday morning so should be well rested.

We’re using the free time to head out to the zoo at 10a.m.

Also found out today that the American women’s silver medal swim in the 4X100 freestyle relay Sunday night also set a new American record. These are some very fast times for American women, and you could tell by the big smile on Natalie’s face Monday night, and her wave to us and big smile as she walked by with her medal along the sidelines, that she is happy with her performance in this meet so far, even with 5 more events to go.

Australian swimming legend Ian Thorpe was sitting a few rows in front of us, and had been sitting in obscurity until the pool camera, towards the end of the evening, zoomed in on him. All of a sudden, there were 100 people, adults and kids alike, standing around him in the stairway taking his photo.

After finals on Monday night Speedo hosted a dinner for U.S. families and friends at Fedish on Federation Square, just 5 mins from the pool, and across from the Flinders Street train station. We dined on roast beef, chicken, salmon, veggies and potatoes, but the highlight of the evening, particularly for first time Australia visitors, seemed to be the crocodile and kangaroo appetizers. I can’t say I’m a fan of crocodile, as it was rather dry and inedible. I’ve previously had kangaroo, emu and water buffalo on trips to Australia, so my list of unique foods continues to grow.

I saw Michael Phelps mother Debbie (Baltimore area), as well as Stanford grad Tara Kirks family from Bremerton, Washington (her sister Dana, who swam at the Athens Olympics, was also here). Natalie and Tara are co-captains of the U.S. team. The only others I could pick out were Jason Lezak’s parents who have also been at a lot of international events over the last few years. A lot of the families we’ve met over the years have sons or daughters that are no longer swimming, so a new generation of families has replaced them.

I did want to add one special note: we have a child from the Baltimore area who has joined us in Melbourne this week as a special guest of U.S. Swimming and Speedo, in conjunction with the "Make a Wish Foundation", along with her sister and mother. She just seems delighted to be meeting all the swimming families that are here this week (about 70 family members and friends of U.S. swimmers made the trip over), and is looking forward to seeing Kate Ziegler, a U.S. swimmer that she follows, swim on Tuesday night. Jim, Zennie, and Megan Coughlin all spent some time with her tonight. I hope Kate does well.

That’s it this Tuesday morning from Melbourne. Off to the zoo, and then finals of 100 backstroke later tonight.

Go Natalie!

I’ve uploaded another set of photos from Day 2 here, starting at #61 (there are a couple duplicates that were uploaded twice due to a quirky connection this a.m....don’t have the time to go in right now and delete those):
http://new.photos.yahoo.com/[email protected]=ALL

Yahoo news photos also has 28 wire service photos on their site:
http://news.search.yahoo.com/news/se...&c=news_photos

Weather forecast today is 28C/83F with bright sunshine.
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Old Mar 27, 07, 6:48 pm
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Smile Team USA breaks 3 World Records; Natalie wins GOLD!

Good morning from Melbourne, Australia. It’s Wednesday morning here, and last night was one of the most exciting nights of swimming I’ve ever been to..

Tuesday night started with Michael Phelps breaking Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe’s world record in 200 freestyle. Not to be outdone, Natalie competed next, and she broke her own world record in 100 backstroke, and we finished off with Aaron Piersol breaking the world record in 100 backstroke, and Kate Ziegler winning a gold in 1500 freestyle (3 world records, 4 gold medals). This was not your typical night of swimming by any means. Team USA leads both the gold medal count and total medal count so far.

We were on our feet during Natalie’s event cheering her on. She held the lead throughout the event, though a swimmer from France wasn’t far behind and won the silver, also with a time under a minute (quite an accomplishment in itself, as Natalie was the first woman ever to break the one minute barrier a few years ago). Natalie’s winning time was 59.44 seconds, while her previous world record was 59.58 seconds. Megan, Natalie’s sister, yelled out to Natalie when she was introduced before the event and she clearly heard her and waved over at our section in the stands.

My photos from last night (start at photo # 175 ), which will include the medals ceremony and winners walk around the pool, and our dinner afterwards. There may be a delay of a few hours until you can view them ( I can see them when I’m logged in, but the newer photos don’t appear when I’m logged out–this happened a few days ago and corrected itself in a few hours).

http://new.photos.yahoo.com/[email protected]=ALL

Yahoo newswire photos cover Natalie’s win ( stack of photos from last night–some of the best are on the second or third page):

http://news.search.yahoo.com/news/se...datesort=1&fr=


Our day started on Tuesday with a trip to the Melbourne Zoo, where we spent about 4 hours touring. They have an impressive facility with lots of land. The highlights were watermelon being thrown into a pond for an elephant, who walked in and ate the various pieces that were tossed after grabbing them with his trunk. Also, they have a colony of 16 penguins here, and we arrived just in time for penguin feeding. Admission here was $A22 ($US17.50). I’ll get those photos up later–no time this morning.

After the Tuesday night swimming we headed to Southbank, an area of restaurants along the Yarra River in the city center, and went to the “World” restaurant to celebrate after checking out the various venues. I had butter chicken, while others in our party had gnocchi, steak sandwiches, pizza, or an appetizer plate (there really was something on the menu for everyone). We washed the great food down with a bottle of Australian shiraz.

Rain is expected today, though it should still be a warm day. It’s quite cloudy outside already. We were out last night after 11pm in t shirts and shorts. Today is a free day, as Natalie is not swimming. We’ll spend the day touring in the city, and I have drinks planned with some Melbourne FTers this evening. Back to the pool on Thursday morning for day #5.

Last edited by tom911; Mar 27, 07 at 8:21 pm
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Old Mar 28, 07, 7:42 am
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Tom,

You are so lucky to be there! It is turning out to be one of the greatest swimming meets every. GO USA!!!!
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Old Mar 28, 07, 4:45 pm
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I'll surely remember the night that 4 world records were broken, including 3 by U.S. swimmers. That's just something that does not happen at these international meets (at least in one night).

Back to the pool in about 15 minutes (coming up on 9am Thursday morning here). Several Qantas/Air New Zealand flyers came out and joined us at a pub last night for steak and a "pot" of beer for $A10 ($US8).
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Old Mar 29, 07, 10:21 am
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tom911, did you see the Ukrainian swim coach and his daughter get in a fight?
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Old Mar 29, 07, 5:48 pm
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No, didn't see that, but with 9,000 or more people at the pool each night, you can't see everything going on.
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Old Mar 29, 07, 5:52 pm
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Day 5: another world record, and 2nd fastest ever 100 free

Hello this Friday morning from Melbourne, where Natalie continues to have a great meet. The chocolates seem to be working

On Thursday morning, she swam prelims of 100 freestyle, the event she won a bronze medal in at the Athens Olympics. She placed first in a field of over 100 swimmers, which included a swimmer from Germany that holds the current world record. We returned in the evening and she again placed first in semi-finals (top 16 swimmers), and will return to swim finals in that event tonight (Friday). She set an American record with her time in this event. Her swim on Thursday night was the second faster ever in this event, so very close to breaking a world record. It’s even caught the attention of the Australian media:

Coughlin gatecrashes the A-list pool party
http://www.theage.com.au/news/swimmi...761667024.html

SOMEBODY forgot to mention to American Natalie Coughlin that she wasn't actually on the A-list for this party.

German world record-holder Britta Steffen was, as were her Australian rivals Libby Lenton and Jodie Henry, but Coughlin decided she would gatecrash the women's 100 metres freestyle, and suddenly she has become one of the hunted for tonight's blue-riband event.


For lunch we visited the buffet in the Crown Casino, where they had both Western and Asian foods, including beef, fish, pasta, and a salad bar ($A13.50, about $US11).

Thursday night Natalie also swam the first leg in the 4X200 freestyle relay. The U.S. was seeded 8th going into this event (they use different swimmers to qualify for the event in the morning, and China almost took the 8th place qualifying slot away from the U.S.), but that 8th place in morning heats was good enough to get the U.S. team into finals, and was quickly surpassed by another U.S. gold medal and a new WORLD RECORD at finals, taking it away from Germany, the previous world record holder. This is her second gold medal and second world record for this meet, and it’s not over yet.

We return to the pool on Friday night to see her compete for gold in 100 freestyle, and another shot at the world record that she was so close to on Thursday night.

Wednesday Natalie did not swim, and we spent the afternoon visiting designer outlet stores along Swan Street and Bridge Road, and in the evening were joined by my Melbourne friends Jeff and Nicole, as well as some FTers from the Melbourne area, for drinks and dinner at the Crown Pub in the Crown Casino complex (steak and a pot of beer was $A10/$A8 on Wednesday night).

This morning we’re off to the Queen Victoria outdoor marketplace for some bargains. Bright sun this morning, though we also had sun Thursday morning, and rain by the time the swim meet started. Really hard to predict the weather here.

I’ve created a new folder for Day 5-8, so the photos from the events above will be here:
http://new.photos.yahoo.com/[email protected]

They may not update right away (if you get an error message they’re not ready yet–apparently yahoo is not updating in real time and there’s a delay of a few hours until the photos appear), so check back in a few hours and they should be there. I have quite a few of the awards ceremony for the 4X200 freestyle relay.

ALSO, remember yahoo news photo has a whole collection on Natalie from this meet (112 just from this swim meet):
http://news.search.yahoo.com/news/se...datesort=1&fr=
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