Mortimer, Silkaitis set to swim in Turkey

Former men’s swimmers Justin Mortimer and Terry Silkaitis will swim for the United States this week.

David McCoy

Former Minnesota men’s swimmers Justin Mortimer and Terry Silkaitis didn’t compete at the 2005 World Championships July 16-31 in Montreal.

But that doesn’t mean they’re not still competing against the guys who did.

In person, Mortimer and Silkaitis will compete in the World University Games in Ismir, Turkey, starting Thursday and continuing through Aug. 21. But mentally, they both said they are gunning for the times set by their American counterparts last month.

“That’s not only my goal, but our coaches’ goal, our team’s goal,” Mortimer said. “Whenever you go to a second-rate or second-priority swim meet, you want to prove to your country that you’re just as good as the big meet – the World Championships.”

Mortimer and Silkaitis are going to the World University Games because they finished in the top four, but not the top two, at the USA Swimming World Championship Trials in April in Indianapolis.

Mortimer is set to compete in the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyle races along with the 4×200 free relay. Silkaitis is competing in the 100 free and 4×100 free relay.

Mortimer said he doesn’t think it’s realistic for him to catch the time of Larsen Jensen, the United States’ top swimmer in the 1,500 free – Jensen just broke his own U.S. record at World Championships. But Mortimer does think both he and former Texas swimmer Michael Klueh can catch Chris Thompson, the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist in the event and the second American finisher in Montreal.

Gophers assistant coach Bill Tramel said Mortimer and Silkaitis’ goals are obtainable.

“Absolutely,” Tramel said. “They are on that team because they didn’t make the World Championship team. So that seems like a very good goal to have.”

Silkaitis said his hopes of accomplishing the same thing in his events just received a big boost.

“Coming in before World Championship trials, I never really considered myself at the same level as the sprinters in America,” Silkaitis said. “But after looking at the World Championship results, I don’t think I’m that far off. So I would just like to see how close I can get to those guys.”

Silkaitis said he originally expected to “totally quit” swimming after the end of last year’s college season. He said making the University Games team was somewhat of a pleasant surprise.

For Mortimer, though, it was essential, because his goal is to make the 2008 Olympic team.

After the University Games – Mortimer’s biggest meet this summer – he said the pinnacle of each of his next two summers are the Pan Pacific Championships in 2006 and the World Championships in 2007 in preparation for the Olympic trials.

Though he plans to be ready for the 2007 World Championships, Mortimer said he believes that he just wasn’t quite prepared enough to make this year’s team.

But he said he doesn’t think it will set his goals back in the least, whether it’s his Olympic goal or just his goal this week.

“It doesn’t make any difference,” Mortimer said. “All you need is a pool to swim fast.”

Grier also at Games

On Aug. 3, Minnesota men’s basketball senior Vincent Grier was named a member of the U.S. basketball team that will compete at the World University Games.

The team, which includes names such as North Carolina’s Shelden Williams and Syracuse’s Gerry McNamara, finishes its training today and begins play Friday in group play against Germany, Iran and Slovakia.