Location and circumstance give Platte City a brush with Olympic swimmers

A trio of local wrestlers competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials for wrestling appeared to be as close as Platte County would get to a brush with the summer games.

None of us counted on an emergency plane landing at KCI Airport last week that forced some Olympic hopefuls to detour through Platte City. Yes, the Platte County Community Center North made some national headlines over the weekend when world record holders Ryan Lochte, Tyler Clary and some of their SwimMAC Carolina teammates made an appearance for an impromptu swim practice.

You really can’t make this stuff up around here.

Earlier this year, Platte County graduate Jake Fisher and Park Hill alums Alan Waters and Brian Graham bid for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team in wrestling but didn’t make the extremely exclusive cut. That seemed like a really big deal, and it was.

But the events of last week provided a serendipitous glance at some of the world’s best for a few unsuspecting people at the YMCA facility last week.

On Thursday, June 23, a flight from Charlotte carrying the SwimMAC team toward the scheduled Olympic Trials in Omaha encountered an oxygen issue. SwimMAC coach Dave Marsh told multiple media outlets that the pilot ended up descending to 10,000 feet for about 45 minutes before finally landing in Kansas City.

“Apparently an oxygen issue is a big deal,” Marsh quipped to the press.

In final preparation for the trials, which began Sunday, Marsh didn’t let his athletes skip a workout. A call to an undisclosed local swim coach led to a suggestion of using the Olympic-sized natatorium at the YMCA facility in Platte City.

So apparently, Lochte — an 11-time Olympic medalist, five of those medals gold — and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Clary and the rest of the team sauntered through the door to swim a few laps. The SwimMAC athletes went through their regular training, while the public at the facility allowed them to go mostly unnoticed.

“We got there and the lifeguards had no idea who we were,” Marsh said in an interview. “One of the lap swimmers was like, ‘By gosh, they are moving through the water awfully fast.’ Then I started naming off everybody who was with us, and they were like, ‘Holy s—-.’”

Holy expletive, indeed.

Teresa Flaugher, who works in membership engagement at the Platte County Y, told ESPN the workers were thrilled to host the Olympic hopefuls, who apparently stayed for about 45 minutes and even took a few pictures with staff. Clary posted a picture of the facility on his Instagram, while Skylor Parrott, a lifeguard at the pool, shared a photo he took with Lochte on the pool deck.

After the workout, the team packed into some rental cars and made the 3-hour drive to Omaha. Originally scheduled to arrive about 3 p.m., the swimmers didn’t make it until midnight, briefly stranded in our midst.

What a cool deal for Platte City and Platte County.

Sure, the publicity won’t last, and eventually, this encounter will go down as a footnote. The multi-million dollar expansion of the facility to include the pool has long been a point of contention among citizens. This certainly doesn’t make the investment worth it, but it is kind of cool to know Platte City’s amenities were enough to attract a few Olympians, even for just a brief workout.

With the Olympics scheduled for later this summer, Lochte and Clary might have made a few new fans. And as this story gets passed around, more than a few people might claim to have seen them last week — probably a few more than actually did.

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at editor@plattecountycitizen.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.