NORMAN — It didn’t take long for Paul Le to discover he was in a new world.
After an impressive season at Missouri State, the former Southmoore all-state swimmer qualified to compete at the he 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials last week. In his first in-the-water encounter with all-world Ryan Lochte, Le found out he has a ways to go to catch up to the world’s best.
“In the warm-up pool, coach gave me a workout and I was swimming,” Le said. “Ryan Lochte was in my lane and I saw him push off the wall right before I flip-turned to push off the wall too. He pushed off the wall right in front of me and Ryan Lochte is well known for his underwater kicking. I tried to copy him and do a lot of underwater kicking just like he did, but I noticed I wasn’t going anywhere because he was in front of me and his kick was so strong it was basically pushing me backward.”
Le admitted that he was nervous leading up to his first swim, but he got the best of those nerves during the fifth heat of the 100-meter backstroke June 26.
Despite drawing a far outside lane, Le swam a lifetime best in the event and climbed up the rankings with his time of 56.59. He was originally seeded 93rd, but with his 0.72-second drop, he shot all the way up to 38th.
“Before the race I had a really good warm-up with coach,” Le said. “I’ve been preparing for this for over 10 years and it finally got down to the point where I had to swim it and I felt really good.”
In comparison to the rest of the field, Le was just 1.10 seconds behind the 16th-place finisher . Matt Grevers, who won silver in the 100 back at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, recorded the morning’s fastest split (52.94) and was a few hundredths shy of the Trials record.