Outside the swimming world, Tim Phillips is flying under the radar.
There are no television promos of the U.S. Olympic Trials featuring the swimmer from Vienna. Nor are there any Gillette razor commercials - a la Ryan Lochte - preparing the public for the Summer Games in London.
That could all change at this weekend's time trials when Phillips competes in the prelims of the 100 butterfly Saturday morning at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. He is seeded third in the 100 butterfly, and in order to reserve a spot on the U.S. national team, he must advance through the prelims and semifinal heats, then finish first or second in the finals scheduled for Sunday night.
While the 2008 time trials were about gaining experience at an elite level, this time Phillips feels he belongs in the same grouping as Michael Phelps, Tyler McGill and Lochte.
"I consider myself in the caliber of those swimmers," Phillips said last week in a phone interview from the SwimMAC Carolina training facility in Charlotte, N.C. "Really, they are names on a sheet of paper. They are beatable."
Phillips' stock has risen since winning his first national title last August at the ConocoPhillips USA Swimming National Championships and gold medals in the 50 and 100 fly events last summer at the 2011 World University Games in Shenzhen, China.
As a member of SwimMac Carolina, he placed in the top five in the 100 fly at the Austin Grand Prix earlier this year and followed that with a win in the same event at the Indianapolis Grand Prix.
"Tim has been among the elite for a couple of years now - that part is nothing new," said his father Tom Phillips, who coached his son throughout Tim's YMCA career. "The next big step is making the team. If he goes his best time and shows significant improvement and doesn't make the team, he is still the youngest swimmer out there.
"At 21 years old, Tim is still a young kid relative to where swimming at the elite level is today. At the next Olympic trials, he will still be younger than Phelps is today."
Even though his parents haven't locked down their travel arrangements in anticipation of a trip to London, Tom and Jody Phillips are exhausting every source through friends and family for possible lodging if their son qualifies for the Olympics.
In one instance, they would be staying in a studio without furniture. But that's an option they are willing to accept should the magic happen.
"In watching Tim swim this year, he has what he always has had and that is speed," Tom Phillips said. "His problem has always been his last 15 meters. I suspect he will be out fast. The big question is: Will he be able to hold on with his endurance the last 50 meters?
"Leading into this week, I've sort of been doing the Tim thing and that is containment. I've tried not to dwell on it - I've not even looked at the psych sheet."
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