Missouri Grand Prix Recap

By David

Didn’t I tell you that woman in Missouri, Dana, would run a good meet. Everything she did before the meet smacked of quiet professionalism. She should have had a thousand late entries. She’d have coped, no problem.

We had our moments though, from me forgetting that cell phones set off airport security and being body searched while the team laughed their shoes back on and filmed my embarrassment, to having our effort to escape from the Avis parking lot stopped by an angry barrier arm dropping on to the hood of our new rental van. Three of us got sick. I took my temperature on Saturday and it was 102. I was disappointed. The way I felt it should have been much higher. And it was bloody cold; but perhaps that’s just because we come from Florida.

I’m not sure Dana could have done much about any of that. Next time I’m going to ask though. The things she did take care of, all the swimming stuff, worked really well. And what a meet it was. The standard of swimming in the US still excites and inspires. I still like to compare performances in these sorts of meets with what I was used to as the best in New Zealand. I do it only to aid the process of lifting my own sights to the reality of what’s going on around here.

Here is a table I’ve prepared that compares the winning times in Missouri with the current New Zealand National records. If I’ve missed any new records, apologies. I took the most recent table of records that I could find:

I do hope no one is rushing into print with the claim that this is a fantastic result for New Zealand; only 23 of the nation’s records were broken. Remember Missouri was a local warm up meet for much more important stuff later in the season; things like the World Championships. Although I did notice one New Zealand swimmer, Dean Kent, tried to convince the sporting world that the Commonwealth Games were far more important to him that some minor meet that began with the word “World”; that’s probably why three of his national records would not have survived the Missouri Meet.

I think that probably clarifies whether the standard of swimming at Dana’s meet was up to scratch. Did anything else happen?

Also, I met Mark Schubert. I’m sure I won’t always agree with everything he says, but as I’ve done with other good coaches – Lydiard, Anderson, Jelley and Lincoln Hurring – I will listen and respect his input. This weekend we discussed living arrangements and diet and things like that. I hope he gets into the actual training we do. I’ve always thought coaches of the nation’s better swimmers should be prepared to justify what they do in a swimming pool as well as in the dining room.

I also met Jonty Skinner. All through the meet he diligently produced data on time, stroke counts, size and tempo. He also had the history of swimmers’ best swims and willingly produced that data to the newcomer. My impression is, they have a bloody good team up there in Colorado.

For the first time I saw Phelps, Hoff, Weir, Jones, Hansen, Coughlin, Kirk and a few others up close, going about their trade. I enjoyed their unaffected friendliness. They signed autographs and indulged admiring fans without affectation or pretence. Phelps world record was impressive. Like a lot of top athletes, the Moroccan runners do it well, he kills the competition with unrelenting even pressure, lap after lap, stroke after stroke. Thorpe did the same thing. If you want to beat him you’re going to have to be strong enough to stay with that unrelenting pace and still sprint the final 25. And that takes huge aerobic fitness. But take heart; in 2000 a very good Dutchman did just that to Ian Thorpe. From what I saw in Missouri, the same thing is possible with Phelps, but whoever you are, you’re going to have to be very good indeed.

So, thank you Dana for a great meet. We’d love to come again. Before I go, there is one moment I must tell you about. On the first night a little old lady came in the door of the pool just ahead of me and asked the smart young usher, “How many lanes are there dear?” The usher seemed a little confused but looked out at Missouri’s full size Olympic Pool and exclaimed, “Six.” It was a lovely moment; makes a place human.