Augusta swimmer is holding off on the 'smack' talk

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Lantz Lamback is ready for his swan song.

When the book closes on this year's Paralympic Games, the 22-year-old Augusta swimmer plans to retire from the sport.

"Hopefully," he said, "I'll get to retire on top."

Lamback has high expectations when he competes in the Beijing Paralympics, which begin Saturday. After entering the 2004 Paralympics with hopes of winning one medal, Lamback has stratospheric dreams.

Lamback watched his friend, Michael Phelps, win eight gold medals during the Beijing Olympics. Now, Lamback will compete in five individual events and as many as four relays. If he competes in all of those events, he'll have a chance to edge Phelps.

"I'm not going to talk smack at this time," Lamback said.

Much has changed for Lamback since 2004, when he won two bronze medals -- in the 50 and 100 freestyle events. Then, the 6-foot-tall Lamback weighed just more than 120 pounds. Since then, he said, he has gained 25 percent more muscle mass and weighs 138 pounds.

Lamback left Augusta in November to train full time at the U.S. Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. He has returned home just three times, including a brief visit in July to celebrate his birthday.

"It takes up so much of your life to do what we do," he said.

He has been training almost every day, mixing in swimming with weightlifting, running and abdominal work. He is stronger, has better balance and more endurance.

Though he still fights a daily battle with cerebral palsy, Lamback has a new perspective on the Paralympics. In 2004, he never dreamed of winning gold.

"I'm not an underdog this time," he said.

Lamback will swim in the Watercube, the same arena where Phelps made his mark earlier this month.

There, Lamback will try to dominate the S7 class. Physically disabled swimmers are classified on a scale ranging from S1, with the most physical limitations, to S10, for most able-bodied persons.

When the Paralympics end Sept. 17, Lamback plans to hang up his goggles and reunite with his paint ball team. He said he also needs to find a job, but he might return to college.

As for the 2012 Games, Lamback is not ruling out a return. But if he does, he said he'll do so in the triathlon, an exhibition sport.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.


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