Monaco, Barcelona and Canet

By David

Aqua Crest has spent the past week in Europe at the Mare Nostrum series of swim meets. There is something about Mare Nostrum and European World Cup meets you just do not get anywhere else. Oh sure, there is just as good competition in any one of a thousand meets in America or Australia. America often has better swimming. The standard of national and Grand Prix swimming in the United States is exceptional. This coming week, the annual Speedo international swim meet is being held at Fort Lauderdale. I do not know what the entry list is yet but there is going to be a staggering 1100 swimmers there and some will be as good as any in the world.

Sunset at the Canet pool, by guyomedw on Flickr

What Fort Lauderdale, or anyone else for that matter, will not be able to do is the internationalism of Mare Nostrum swimming. Buses and dining rooms, changing rooms and airplanes filled with the chatter of swimmers from a score of countries. The pool deck a maze of national track suits. And it is a very good thing. As the tour progresses, you can see a thousand stereotypes being broken. The French are actually a friendly lot and their food is a step up from anything you’d find at Applebys. Other countries can put on a decent swim meet in a well run pool. Monaco has more Ferraris per square mile than even the best streets in Boca Raton. The world is a huge, interesting and vibrant place.

The arrogance that is characteristic of a George Bush wanting to impose with force his preferred way of life on every other nation on earth has no place in the happy scene called Mare Nostrum swimming. For that alone the experience is worthwhile.

It’s also worthwhile for all the reasons other good swim meets are of value. It is educational to see Sophie Edington from Australia go under a minute for 100m LC backstroke and Meeuw from Germany whose best time in the same event is 53.10. I was particularly interested to see, for the first time, Eamon Sullivan, the new 50 LC freestyle world record holder. It was intriguing to note the increased popularity of straight arms freestyle; with Sullivan as its most expert practitioner. In Barcelona, his meet record 100 LC freestyle was swum in a 32/34 stroke count; and that’s impressive.

The woman’s events that surprised me most were the 400 freestyle and 200 breaststroke. In the 400 you have to be under 4.08 these days to get back for a night time swim. In the 200 breaststroke 2.30 will soon not be good enough to make the top eight. Standards are on the way up and it’s a good thing. Progressive promoters are paying better prize money and meeting the travel costs of more swimmers. Their generosity is having a beneficial effect on swim times. United States promoters should take a leaf out of the European race book and do a bit more of that sort of thing.

Is a trip like this beneficial? Time will ll. It gives swimmers a chance to see the best touring this sport has to offer. The effect can be inspiring; encouraging the athlete to move on, training harder in an effort to go back next year for some more of the same. I hope our guys enjoyed themselves. I hope they will be in the group that’ll be back again next year.

The tour’s only cloud came at Miami Airport. My new Green Card meant I had to be processed by immigration separately. It took two hours of waiting in a disgustingly dirty room to complete a process that took less than a minute once my name came to the top of the pile. After two weeks of wandering from country to country with no one even looking at my passport it was difficult to avoid muttering a sarcastic, “Welcome home.”