OLATHE, Kan. - The world will find out Thursday night if two local star athletes will qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Swimmers Shannon Vreeland and Bobby Bollier compete in the Olympic Trial finals Thursday. Both give credit in part to a Hall of Famer for their success.
If you swim in this country, you know Pete Malone. You might say that what Michael Phelps is to swimming, Malone is to coaching.
Swimming coach Hall of Famer and nine time Coach of the Year, Malone is the man behind seven Olympic athletes.
"I've had kids in trials since 1972, " said Malone from his Olathe, Kan., home.
He founded the "Santa Fe Trail Blazers" in the 1970s. The name is fitting, since award after award recognized Malone as a trail blazer in the competitive swimming world.
In the 1970s, he recognized the local swimming elite needed an organization that drove those athletes to their full potential.
The Blazers are now a $1.5 million swim club, run by Malone until he retired in 2010. This is the first year he will watch his 11 Blazers now at the Olympic trials from home.
"So it's been a bit of an emotional week," said Malone. Talk to him for two seconds and you quickly realize why he drove his athletes to success.
Malone shared some advice with Bobby Bollier and Shannon Vreeland, two former Blazers who are expected to make Team USA.
"Don't lose the centerpiece of what you're about. That is, be the best you can be," said Malone, tearing up.
His swimmers listened. Vreeland told 41 Action News a few weeks ago whatever happens at the trials success is trying her best.
This year, the two are motivated by his words from far away.
Vreeland has shaved four seconds off her personal best during the trials and 3rd ranked Bollier is a real contender against swimming great Michael Phelps in the 200 butterfly.
Thinking back on his 42 years of coaching, Malone noted that some would think him tough, but he had a reason.
"I think the majority of people would say I was the toughest person to deal with. My goal is to get to 99 percent. I always think there's another notch they can do," explained Malone.
Malone is a relentless achiever. He said he likes to teach swimmers how to cross the finish line of life, too.
"Who you are is with you for life. If you can't embrace that, you'll never find your peak potential," he said.
What drives Malone partly comes from a difficult place, though. His parents kicked him out of the house at just 16 years old because he said he failed to achieve. But Malone said his swimming coaches saved him.
"My coaches didn't let me get lost those couple of years when I was going from car to car," he said.
With their help, he graduated and craved success.
"Swimming became my way of saying thank you for everything," Malone explained.
As a result, generations of young people have said 'thank you' back.
Thursday night, Vreeland and Bollier will compete in the swimming finals of the Olympic trials starting at 7 pm right here on your 41 Action News Station.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
More Olympics News
Click inside for a look at some of the best images from Sunday night's closing ceremony at the London Olympics.