Missouri Grand Prix

By David

Lists of names are as boring as dust but just look at this one; Phelps, Coughlin, Jeffrey, Peirsol, Hansen, Crocker, Hoff, Jones, Walker, Keller, Weir, Sandeno and Lochte. Well, this weekend they are all coming out to play in Columbia, Missouri. For many, it will be their last competition before the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia.

We’ll be in Missouri with a team of seven swimmers. Next week, Swimwatch will report on the meet and how our guys swam. Just now though, we wanted to tell you about the stir the meet has already created over the entries.

This morning the meet organizer, a lady called Dana, sent out an email. This is what it said.

“We are excited to have you coming to the Grand Prix. At the moment, we are at 335 entries. We have had a couple of requests for late entries. Because the meet is not full, we will likely enter these few additional swimmers. If you have swimmers who did not enter an event for some reason, or if you have additional swimmers who have qualified, please let me know immediately if you want to put them in. See you soon! Dana Sheahen”

Isn’t that a nice email; saying all that’s best in sport. Giving athletes who have qualified late or missed the entry cut off another chance. No wonder the sport is so healthy in the US. People like Dana help make the whole thing worth while. We took advantage of the amnesty and sent off three entries, two for Rhi Jeffrey and one for John Foster. I was looking forward to telling them about their extra swims at afternoon practice.

But it seems that even US swimming has its pitbulls. Faster than light, Dana received the following email:

“I appreciated you not having the number of entries you would have liked, but I am totally against allowing swimmers/teams to enter late. Basically, what they have done, is look at the psych sheet and level of competition and have decided it would be worth traveling/competing. While the rest of us took our chances. If you do allow additional swimmers/teams, I may take my team out of the meet and expect USA Swimming and/or your club to reimburse me for plane tickets and entry fee. I would also like to know what teams/swimmers have asked. Larry Shofe, Sarasota YMCA Sharks”

Now that’s not a nice email especially as it appears to question the honesty of anyone who sent in a late swimming entry. That must qualify as a bit extreme. To take entering a swim meet to the stage of threatening financial harm is even more stupid. I’m glad I don’t swim for the Sarasota YMCA Sharks. Dana had no option. Her next email said;

“Dear Coaches: Because one club has objected to the proposed change in the program allowing late entries, none will now be allowed. Please disregard my prior email. I am very sorry for any confusion this may have caused. Dana Sheahen”

I bet that made Sarasota feel good. Dana had lost. Sarasota had won. What a man. I do hope he did not feel so good after the stream of emails supporting Dana; some serious, some hilarious, all on Dana’s side. My faith in the good health of US swimming is restored. Here is a selection of the emails I got on the subject. I hope you enjoy:

“Pine Crest Swimming and Coach Jay Fitzgerald, made a request to add an additional event for a swimmer who was already entered in the meet, so I would like for you to reconsider your protest for the benefit of the athletes already entered in the meet.”

“As an athlete I would welcome any competition and am sorry that politics got in the way of that.”

“Is it possible the only way he is able to remain on the pool deck all day during competition is through the use of a product known as an adult diaper?”

“Would the coach from Sarasota enjoy a days hunting with me? Love and kisses, Dick Cheney”

One thing I’m happy about though. I come from New Zealand and am pleased to see meet organizers here have to deal with difficult buggers too. I thought NZ had that problem on its own.

Well, in the vernacular of Down Under, you have to say the Missouri Grand Prix is off to a boomer of a start and no ones wet yet. I don’t think Sarasota will be buying the bar drinks. After his little tirade we’d all need something more than lemonade.