Archive for July, 2008

Beijing’s Olympic Champions Are…

Friday, July 18th, 2008

By David

And so the race has been run. In Omaha, Sydney, Berlin, Auckland and Christiansted, the trials have been held, the cast has been settled. But who will win in Beijing? No one from Auckland or Christiansted, but Omaha, Sydney and Berlin could have a few. I’m not allowed to bet on swimming but for those of you who are and have access to a London bookie here is a list of the swimmers I think would be worth a pound to win.

Men’s 50 Freestyle – Eamon Sullivan

I’ve been fortunate enough to see Sullivan and his American competition swim the 50 this year. Sullivan might not be that much faster but his effortless straight arm stroke makes it all look so easy and that is usually a very good sign.

Men’s 100 Freestyle – Eamon Sullivan

A bit harder to pick because Alain Bernard from France has been preparing quietly and carefully and he is the world’s fastest, but I think Sullivan is a better competitor. American sprinters Garrett Weber-Gale and Jason Lezak are good competitors but not fast enough to take down the Aussie.

Men’s 200 Freestyle – Michael Phelps

No matter what the others do, Phelps has this race covered. van den Hoogenband is good but not as good as Phelps.

Men’s 400 Freestyle – Tae Hwan Park

A close one between Park and Jensen from the USA; I give it to Park because of his unbelievable last length speed. How well he swims may be influenced by how he has handled the fame that came from his swims at the World Championships in Melbourne.

Men’s 1500 Freestyle – Grant Hackett

Hackett is a master at this event and his 400 speed is better this year. He will be too good for Prilukov from Russia or Colbertaldo from Italy, fast and all as those two certainly are.

Men’s 100 Backstroke – Aaron Peirsol

The ultimate competitor and world record holder has too much of all that’s needed to be headed in this event. He should swim faster than his Trials 52.89 world record as well.

Men’s 200 Backstroke – Aaron Peirsol

I’d love to say Ryan Lochte will win this event. He is my favorite US swimmer; tough, hard working and modest. The final will be close but Aaron Peirsol has an uncanny knack of finding the wall first. My guess is he’ll do it again in Beijing ahead of Lochte, second and Ryosuke Irie from Japan, third.

Men’s 100 Breaststroke – Brendan Hansen

Hansen is a better 100 breaststroke swimmer than Kosuke Kitajima. He had a less than impressive US Trials but I’m picking will be good enough to win the 100, especially as the event is his only individual event.

Men’s 200 Breaststroke – Kosuke Kitajima

This should be an easy win for Kitajima. It will be interesting to see what a biased US press accuse him of this time. Bad sportsmanship is just as repulsive when it is practiced by television commentators and newsprint journalists.

Men’s 100 Butterfly – Michael Phelps

Phelps main competition will be Ian Crocker from the US and Frédérick Bousquet from France. They will not be good enough to beat the world’s best male swimmer just now.

Men’s 200 Butterfly – Michael Phelps

In this event Phelps rules supreme. Moss Burmester from New Zealand is a very good swimmer and a couple of months ago won the World SC Championship. If he lived in the US however his very best would not have been good enough to even place in the USA Trials.

Men’s 200 Medley – Michael Phelps

It’s becoming tedious but he will win this one too. His trials swim was a world record 1.54.80. At the Olympics his breaststroke length will have improved.

Men’s 400 Medley – Ryan Lochte

This selection is more from the heart than the head. To beat Phelps, Lochte has to pass Phelps in the breaststroke. Catching him will not be enough. With a hundred to go Lochte with three meters may be too much even for Phelps – I hope so, as I’m a big Lochte fan.

Women’s 50 Freestyle – Lisbeth Trickett

The American sentimental favorite will be Dara Torres. However her best swim at the trials ranks her only fifth in the world. If she lived in Australia she would not even be in the event. This one is going to be a contest between the Australians, the Dutch and the Germans.

Women’s 100 Freestyle – Lisbeth Lenton

Lenton will be too good for the world in this event as well. I suspect Torres will withdraw from the 100 in favor of the 50. Coughlan’s trial swim ranks her seventh in the world. Once again the winner will be Australian, Dutch or German and I think the ocker will take it.

Women’s 200 Freestyle – Laure Manaudou

I would actually prefer to see Katie Hoff win the race but my guess is that Manadou will be too good. Her romantic flights to Italy and back to France and her three changes of coach will find her out in the 400, but in the 200, she should be good enough to win.

Women’s 400 Freestyle – Federica Pellegrini

The Italian and European Champion will be too good for Katie Hoff.

Women’s 800 Freestyle – Katie Hoff

Rebecca Adlington from Great Britain has the 2008 world’s best time in this event. The poms however have a knack of losing when it matters most. My guess is that Katie Hoff has only scratched the surface of her potential in this event. I think she will win and break Janet Evans’ world record.

Women’s 100 Backstroke – Natalie Coughlin

Wouldn’t it be good to pick Hayley McGregory as the winner of this event? She is the best backstroke swimmer I’ve seen; not the fittest perhaps or the best underwater but at swimming the stroke she is sublime. Instead Coughlin will win in Beijing. Her underwater speed provides her with an advantage no one will be able to better.

Women’s 200 Backstroke – Margaret Hoelzer

This race will be a close struggle between Hoelzer, Kirsty Coventry and possibly Laure Manaudou. Whoever is coaching Manaudou at the Games should scratch her from this event. She has more than enough to do handling her freestyle events. The Japanese always seem to have good female backstroke swimmers and this year Reiko Nakamura certainly fits that description. For some reason though, they never win the big one. 2008 should be no exception.

Women’s 100 Breaststroke – Leisel Jones

The Australian is a vastly experienced breaststroker now and will be too fast for the rest of the world.

Women’s 200 Breaststroke – Leisel Jones

The American Rebecca Soni is getting better all the time at this event. She is however still two and a half seconds behind Jones and will continue be about that far behind after the Beijing final.

Women’s 100 Butterfly – Lisbeth Lenton

Women’s butterfly is the “weakest” stroke in this Olympic Games. Certainly Inge Bruijn’s 56.61 world record is not going to be broken this year. The race will probably end up as a scrap between Lenton and her Australian team mate Jessica Schipper. The 58.11 that won the US Trial is not going to be anywhere near fast enough to pose any threat.

Women’s 200 Butterfly – Jessica Schipper

The world’s fastest time this year is actually held by the Japanese Yoko Nakanishi. I am however backing the world record holder and the fine tradition of the Australians in this event to produce the winner. The US Trials winner Elaine Breeden swam a good time of 2.06.75 and looked capable of improving on that time.

Women’s 200 Medley – Katie Hoff

This will be one hell of a race. America’s Coughlin and Hoff, Australasia’s Rice and Africa’s Coventry should be the main combatants. Why do I think Hoff will win? Well she’s well coached; she’s tough and just a bit better all rounder than the others. Yes, I think Hoff will be first followed by Rice. But it’s going to be bloody close.

Women’s 400 Medley – Katie Hoff

If Hoff wins the 200 IM she will certainly win this one. She broke the world record in the US Trials and if her past record is anything to go by she will do that again in the main event. Rice and Coventry will be trying to spoil Hoff’s party. But they will not be good enough.

So there they are my 26 Beijing winners. Do you agree?

WTF, OMG, etc. Geeks Like Swimming

Friday, July 4th, 2008

By Jane

Swimwatch has a love-hate relationship with social media giant and social news website, When I published a photograph last year, taken out of the side-view mirror of my now-departed Jeep Cherokee, the picture received a lot of attention from the site’s members. It gained 2152 votes, or “diggs”, and 214 comments. Many people thought that the picture was a fake (in geek-speak, “totally ‘Shopped”) and argued amongst themselves about how they could tell the photograph had been manipulated until their mothers made them put down their Mac Books. This amused me; it was nothing but a lucky shot, taken at a red traffic light on a clear San Francisco day with a relatively good little digital camera.

Swimwatch has no chance whatsoever of “getting on Digg” with its regular content. I know a little bit about Digg and what appeals to its users because I work at an Internet marketing company. We do everything from search engine optimisation (SEO) to social media marketing, focusing on sites like Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit. The usual content that appeals to Digg users is about politics, humour, technology, science or entertainment. They aren’t much into sports, and when they are, swimming is definitely not their cup of tea.

We have far better luck with StumbleUpon, which brought huge amounts of traffic to our story about the best least-recognised pools in the world.

So can you imagine my surprise this evening when I visited Digg to see this story as the latest to have “gone hot” and made the site’s front page?

I want to guess that this has never happened before. Nerds and geeks aren’t really into Jason Lezak, Michael Phelps and Brendan Hansen. They’ll show more interest in Amanda Beard and Natalie Coughlin, but not because of the women’s sporting abilities.

The amazing thing about this is, the story in question isn’t that sensational. It’s a basic New York Times recap of last night’s finals session. More interesting things happened tonight, in some ways, with Hansen being upset for a spot in the men’s 200 breaststroke and Mary DeScenza missing out in the 200 butterfly to teenagers Elaine Breeden and Kathleen Hersey.

One thing that is interesting crowds like Digg about swimming nowadays is the swim suit technology. Although I warn you not to read – or at least not to heed – some of the comments on Digg stories, you’ll see the Speedo LZRs mentioned. You’ll also see the regular accusations of steroids, which is a low-blow in most ways. The sad thing about the drugs argument is that whilst it’s very unfair on those who are honest, it is likely that, like Marion Jones, some cheats will slip through the doping cracks and onto Beijing-bound teams.

Adding to the interestingness of this Digg success is the fact that Digg reformulated their algorithm recently to require stories to have more votes in order to make the homepage. Two years ago, a story only needed between 35 and 60 votes to become “popular” and thus highly visible. Now, it generally takes close to 100.

Swimming fans should celebrate this small victory in the land of iPhones, video games, political conspiracy theories and silly, humourous pictures. Whilst it’s ignored for the most part, our favourite sport sometimes gets the attention it deserves.

The Ups and Downs of a Trial or Two

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

By David

This week the United States Olympic Trials are underway in Omaha, Nebraska. Two swimmers swam qualifying times for the Trials while they were training at Aqua Crest. Two others swam fast but were not yet quite at Trial’s level. However 2012 is not that far away. And anyway, the coach would prefer two weeks in London to Beijing.

However the Omaha Olympic Trial Meet was not the only good swimming going on around the world this week. In Monterrey, Mexico the World Triathlon Association held its World Championship biathlon run/swim/run event. The race involved a 2.5 kilometer run followed by a 1 kilometer swim and another 2.5 kilometer run to the finish. Darcy La Fountain from our team was selected to represent the United States in the 50-54 age group section of the event. She did well – winning a silver medal. We are delighted to have a World Championship silver medalist in our midst. Congratulations Darcy, as Muhammad Ali once said, “You done splendid.”

But back to the US Swimming Trials; I’m a fan of Ryan Lochte. A few months ago I met his father and coach at the Hall of Fame pool in Ft. Lauderdale. At the time Lochte was about to go back to Daytona Beach to begin an eight week conditioning period of 90 kilometers a week. Anyone who’s into that sort of aerobic conditioning gets my vote. Unfortunately he was not quite fast enough to take down Michael Phelps in the 400 IM. It must be a hell of a feeling to break a world record and come second in a race. I’m keeping my fingers crossed Lochte can win the 200 backstroke. It will not be easy. One of the world’s best competitors, Aaron Peirsol, will be out to put right his loss to Lochte in the event at the 2007 World Championships.

God I feel for Hayley McGregory. In 2004 she was third in both the 100 and 200 backstroke trials and missed a trip to the Athens Olympic Games. Last year she was at a dinner party I was at after the Nationals in Indianapolis. Because she was born in London and has a parent who’s English I asked her why she didn’t swim for the UK. It would be an easier way to get to the Olympics than swimming for the United States. She said she would never do that. She had committed herself to the US and felt it was important to honour that position. You would think that sort of fidelity would be rewarded. It appears not. So far in this Olympic Trial she has broken the world record only to have it taken away two minutes later, in the next heat, by Natalie Coughlin and she has ended up third in a trial final for the third time. She is such a really, really nice person – it just doesn’t seem right. Incidentally I thought the tone of Coughlin’s interview after claiming back the record momentarily held by McGregory was a bit harsh. It implied Coughlin was not at all pleased someone like McGregory had broken her record. I thought it was an unnecessary put down. Good manners would suggest it could have been done better. McGregory still has to swim the 200 backstroke. It is not her best event but I hope she has a blinder and gets to swim for the nation she has supported so well.

Katie Hoff is swimming well. I was especially impressed with the last 100 of her 400 freestyle. Her 100 splits were 59.33, 1.02.27, 1.01.11 and 59.61. To negative split the last 100 in under a minute will make her really difficult to beat in Beijing; no matter how good Laure Manadou might be. It also means Paul Yetter has done a very good job of coaching his charge. I’m pleased about that. He’s always been very friendly around the pool; quick with a wave and chat about the ins and outs of the swimming world. There is no self important arrogance in this master swim coach.

I’m not at all sure about the wisdom of the huge race programmes that have become popular these days. Phelps is the best example but Hoff, Coughlin and Lochte also have a long shopping list of races. All four are genuinely great athletes. It would be sad if their ambition to take part in many events diminished the quality of their results in Beijing.

I watched Brendan Hansen win the 100 breaststroke and book himself another Olympic meeting with Japan’s breaststroke star, Kosuke Kitajima. You may recall Kitajima beat Hansen in the last Olympics. The reaction of America’s press was biased and crass. They accused Kiajima of cheating by using an illegal butterfly kick. They were right; he did do an illegal kick. But so did every other decent breaststroker in the world. That’s why FINA eventually changed the rule and allowed the butterfly kick that everybody was using anyway. The incident showed America’s sporting press at its worst. I wonder what excuse they will come up with when Kitajima wins in Beijing; as he most certainly will.

There are four more days to go in the trials. Days when the sprinters come out to play and we see the likes of Torres, Weir, Jones and a dozen others do their thing. One thing is certain; America will send as strong a team as ever to Beijing. The Australians are going to have their work cut out. They will however win the men’s 50 and 1500 free and the women’s breaststroke – at least that’s what we’re picking.