Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Men's ACC Championships

Conference championship season has arrived. The best college swimmers in the country have geared up for the pre-game show to the NCAA Championships. What’s that? The first bunch of conference championships already happened? Indeed; Florida ended the 16 year winning streak of the Auburn men at SEC, where Breeja Larson and the Georgia women set American records, and Marcelo Cherighini, Kyle Owens, and Elizabeth Beisel all ripped off fast swims. Virginia extended its winning streak to six at the women’s ACCs, and that’s just the beginning of it. This week features the women’s Pac-12 championships – a conference very likely to contain the eventual national champion, men’s Big-10 championships, and the Big-12 champs, or as I like to call the meet, the University of Texas time trials.

With big-time swimming on the horizon once again, the time has come for me to make a return to the deck. However, this time, I won’t be travelling halfway across the country by plane; instead, I get to go one-fifth of the way across the state of North Carolina by car to the men’s ACC Championships in Greensboro. I will be at the meet tweeting and writing daily event recaps for Swimming World and also helping out with the media for the Duke team, which already has some points on the board thanks to junior Olympian Nick McCrory’s sweep of the three diving events at the women’s meet last week.

Just like on the women’s side, UVA comes in having won five in a row, but this meet will be exciting, as always, with the likes of long-time rivals Virginia Tech and UNC looking to end that reign. I’d try to explain the competition, but I’d be better off sharing the words of a former UVA swimmer. “They say that the Cal-Stanford rivalry is the biggest in the swimming world, but I argue that that’s the west coast. On the east coast, UVA-UNC is the biggest rivalry in the country. I checked the results on Thursday (during the women’s meet), and UVA was in first place, and UNC was in last, and I couldn’t have been happier.”

As much as I hate to disturb my perception as an all-knowing swim geek, I really don’t know what will happen; I just want to see some awesome racing and competition. I’ll be in Greensboro for finals on tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday, and I’ll be writing full recaps of each finals session for Swimming World, and you can follow up-to-the-minute race results on my Twitter page. I’ll also be helping out with Duke Swimming and Diving’s coverage of the meet. Should be an awesome meet; the ACC may not be the SEC or the Pac-12, but there will be some speed in that building this weekend.

Greensboro Aquatic Center, home of the ACC Championships

Friday, February 1, 2013

Quick Splashes: A Skip Too Far & Super Bowl Prediction

Today is February 1, 2013. It’s been six months since the Olympic Games in London. It seems like so much has happened, and yet, not all that much has happened at all in swimming. Aside from some World Cup fireworks and another Lochte-being-Lochte performance at the World Championships in Istanbul – yes, I watched that meet – no one has put up any stellar times since the summer, especially in long course. That will change soon enough, as the college swimming season ramps up and teams start hosting trials for this summer’s World Championships in Barcelona. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at what has happened.

First of all, I am the voice of Duke swimming. Yes, I’d argue that working the public address announcing at two of the three home meets this season qualifies me for that title, and I’ve also been posting some on the team’s Twitter page. Elsewhere, Nathan Adrian swam some fast sprint free times at the Austin Grand Prix, his 100 free just a tick faster than James Magnussen’s from the other side of the world. Both Katie Hoff and Dagny Knutson announced long-term breaks from swimming which could lead to retirement. Michael Phelps played at a big golf tournament this week. Ok, so am I caught up?


A Skip Too Far

Think back for a minute to the Olympics in London. Ryan Lochte entered the men’s 200 back final as a heavy favorite, although he ended up settling for bronze behind Tyler Clary and Ryosuke Irie. Imagine, now, if the night before the final, a major Japanese swimming writer wrote a piece arguing that backstrokers should only be allowed to kick ten meters underwater, which was the original rule in the early 1990s. According to this writer’s logic, dolphin kicking isn’t really part of backstroke, and the race should measure who swims backstroke the fastest on the surface. Without a doubt, Irie would be the fastest surface swimmer, and his underwaters are a weakness.

Yesterday, one columnist basically wrote that article. ESPN’s Skip Bayless, well-known from the show First Take – which, yes, is one of my favorite shows – wrote how field goal kicking should be abolished from the NFL. Bayless argues that it doesn’t make sense for football games to come down to kicking, an act so different from the sport’s other aspects. Certainly, Skip makes a great point. Check out his whole column if you’re interested in what he has to say.

Why, though, does he come out with this three days before the Super Bowl? Wouldn’t such a discussion make sense in the offseason when the league discusses rule changes? Certainly, nothing can be changed NOW. Skip, however, has ulterior motives besides merely changing a rule he does not like. As he will remind anyone continuously, Skip picked the San Francisco 49ers to go to the Super Bowl before the season, and he likes to root for the teams he picks. For example, his lifelong favorite team has been the Dallas Cowboys, which makes listening to his rants all the more frustrating for a Cowboys hater like me.

Conveniently, 49ers kicker David Akers has been in an awful slump as of late, missing field goals at a rate he never has, including a shanked 38-yard attempt in his last game. Meanwhile, Justin Tucker, the Baltimore Ravens kicker (and brother of University of Texas swimmer Samantha Tucker), hasn’t missed this postseason, including kicking a 47-yard game winner in double overtime in Denver. Baltimore clearly has the advantage in the kicking game, and Skip can’t bear to think about how Akers could cost the 49ers the game. Moreover, Skip might even want to psych out Tucker with this type of article, putting the pressure on the undrafted rookie kicker.

I argue that Skip has gone too far in advocating a radical rule change that would clearly help the team he roots for just days before the biggest football game all year. I brought up a hypothetical example of Japanese media begging to limit Ryan Lochte’s biggest weapon in an Olympic final. As far as I know, no one in Japan wrote such an article to advocate why Irie is actually better although Lochte should win within the current rules. In the days before such a big sporting event, a respected journalist should analyze what to expect and the keys to the game, not use his limited internet space to make it very clear what team he wants to win and what team he thinks should win.


Super Bowl Prediction



Pretty good no-zoom view from the student section of Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sneak Peak: A Skip Too Far

I will have a new blog posted here tomorrow, which will include a look at an article published today on the upcoming Super Bowl in New Orleans and how that article connects back to swimming. Take a look at a preview.

Think back for a minute to the Olympics in London. Ryan Lochte entered the men’s 200 back final as a heavy favorite, although he ended up settling for bronze behind Tyler Clary and Ryosuke Irie. Imagine, now, if the night before the final, a major Japanese swimming writer wrote a piece arguing that backstrokers should only be allowed to kick ten meters underwater, which was the original rule in the early 1990s. According to this writer’s logic, dolphin kicking isn’t really part of backstroke, and the race should measure who swims backstroke the fastest on the surface. Without a doubt, Irie would be the fastest surface swimmer, and his underwaters are a weakness.

Check back tomorrow for the full post.

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Records 2012

As always, I kept a list of every single world and American record broken in 2012. For my fellow swim geeks out there, why not take a look? 14 world records and 31 American records went down over the course of the year, and a look through these records means a trip down memory lane. Only a matter of time now before the records start falling once again.

New World Records 2012:

  • Ryan Lochte (USA), M 100m IM (SCM), 50.71sf, 12/15/12
  • Ryan Lochte (USA), M 200m IM (SCM), 1:49.63, 12/14/12
  • Camille Muffat (FRA), W 400m Free (SCM), 3:54.85, 11/24/12
  • Camille Muffat (FRA), W 800m Free (SCM), 8:01.06, 11/16/12
  • Yannick Agnel (FRA), M 400m Free (SCM), 3:32.25, 11/15/12
  • United States (Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer, Allison Schmitt), W 400m Medley Relay (LCM), 3:52.05, 8/4/12
  • Sun Yang (CHN), M 1500m Free (LCM), 14:31.02, 8/4/12
  • Missy Franklin (USA), W 200m Back (LCM), 2:04.06, 8/3/12
  • Rebecca Soni (USA), W 200m Breast (LCM), 2:19.59, 8/2/12
  • Rebecca Soni (USA), W 200m Breast (LCM), 2:20.00sf, 8/1/12
  • Daniel Gyurta (HUN), M 200m Breast (LCM), 2:07.28, 8/1/12
  • Cameron van der Burgh (RSA), M 100m Breast (LCM), 58.46, 7/28/12
  • Dana Vollmer (USA), W 100m Fly (LCM), 55.98, 7/28/12
  • Yi Shiwen (CHN), W 400m IM (LCM), 4:28.43, 7/28/12

New American Records 2012:
  • Olivia Smoliga, W 50m Back (SCM), 26.13, 12/16/12
  • Tom Shields, M 50m Fly (SCM), 22.46, 12/15/12
  • Olivia Smoliga, W 50m Back (SCM), 26.57sf, 12/15/12
  • Olivia Smoliga, W 50m Back (SCM), 26.75p, 12/15/12
  • Tom Shields, M 50m Fly (SCM), 22.58sf, 12/14/12
  • Christine Magnuson, W 50m Fly (SCM), =25.65, 12/13/12
  • Elizabeth Pelton, W 200y Back (SCY), 1:48.90, 12/2/12
  • Kevin Cordes, M 200y Breast (SCY), 1:50.73, 12/1/12
  • Matt Grevers, M 100y Back (SCY), 44.55, 11/30/12
  • Kevin Cordes, M 100y Breast (SCY), 51.10, 11/30/12
  • Breeja  Larson, W 200y Breast (SCY), 2:04.48p, 11/17/12
  • Breeja  Larson, W 100y Breast (SCY), 57.53, 11/16/12
  • Anthony Ervin, M 50m Free (SCM), 20.85, 10/21/12
  • Katie Ledecky, W 800m Free (LCM), 8:14.63, 8/3/12
  • Allison Schmitt, W 200m Free (LCM), 1:53.61, 7/31/12
  • Missy Franklin, W 100m Back (LCM), 58.33, 7/30/12
  • Allison Schmitt, W 400m Free (LCM), 4:01.77, 7/29/12
  • United States (Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy, Lia Neal, Allison Schmitt), W 400m Free Relay (LCM), 3:34.24, 7/28/12
  • Dana Vollmer, W 100m Fly (LCM), 56.25p, 7/28/12
  • Allison Schmitt, W 200m Free (LCM), 1:54.40, 6/28/12
  • Missy Franklin, W 100m Back (LCM), 58.85, 6/27/12
  • Dana Vollmer, W 100m Fly (LCM), 56.42, 6/25/12
  • Chad La Tourette, M 1650y Free (SCY), 14:24.35, 3/24/12
  • Arizona (Mitchell Friedemann, Kevin Cordes, Giles Smith, Adam Small), M 200y Medley Relay (SCY), 1:23.53, 3/23/12
  • Kevin Cordes, M 100y Breast (SCY), 51.32p, 3/23/12
  • Stanford (Samantha Woodward, Madeline Schaefer, Andrea Murez, Elizabeth Webb), W 200y Free Relay (SCY), 3:10.77, 3/17/12
  • Breeja Larson, W 100y Breast (SCY), 57.71, 3/16/12
  • Megan Romano, W 200y Free (SCY) 1:41.21, 3/16/12
  • Caitlin Leverenz, W 400y IM (SCY), 3:57.89, 3/16/12
  • California (Cindy Tran, Caitlin Leverenz, Colleen Fotsch, Liv Jensen), W 200y Medley Relay (SCY), 1:34.24, 3/16/12
  • Caitlin Leverenz, W 200y IM (SCY), 1:51.77, 3/15/12
I didn't get to see any records broken during my three days at Olympic
Trials, but Phelps vs. Lochte in the 200 IM was pretty cool too.

The Top Twenty Swimmers of 2012

Yeah, I know, it’s been awhile. I haven’t put up a blog here in almost five months. I’ve been busy getting settled into my first year here at Duke, and on the rare occasion there’s been much happening in swimming, I’ve been too busy to blog about it, such as during Short Course Worlds. But as 2013 has gotten into full swing, and swimming starts to become relevant as the summer grows nearer, I wanted to take one look back at 2012 before diving into some new blogs for the new year.

First off, let’s take a look at the infamous Speed Endurance top 50 list, where Tom Willdridge unveils his picks for the best swimmers in the world over the year. I, obviously, disagree with his list, as well as the top-ten lists proposed by other analysts, so I thought I’d share my top twenty swimmers from 2012.

20. Mireia Belmonte, Spain
Didn’t win Olympic gold, but she finally broke through on the biggest stage with two London silver medals.

19. Jiao Liuyang, China
Can’t deny that she’s been the best in the 200 fly for two years.

18. Tyler Clary, USA
You knew he’d break through sooner or later. The ultimate underdog becomes 200 back Olympic gold medalist.

17. Matt Grevers, USA
He didn’t swim in the World Championships in 2011 but didn’t miss a beat. Surprising to see him dominate the 100 back after what Camille Lacourt had done over the previous two years.

16. Katie Ledecky, USA
Most stunning part of the most stunning swim of the Olympics in her 800 free – her 400 split was a best time.

15. Camille Muffat, France
Every month, all year, another really fast freestyle swim from Muffat, anywhere from 200 to 800. Finally put it together when it counted, and she won the 400 free in London.

14. Allison Schmitt, USA
Less consistency but more fireworks from Schmitt. 200 free at the Olympics was one of the top swims of the Games. Also a clutch presence on the end of all three relays.

13. Akihiro Yamaguchi, Japan
The only non-Olympian on the list but a world record-breaker. Look for this guy in breaststroke events for a long time.

12. Daniel Gyurta, Hungary
Lost his world record in the 200 breast to Yamaguchi but kept the Olympic gold. He wins the tiebreak with his win over Yamaguchi at Short Course Worlds.

11. Cameron van der Burgh, South Africa
Say what you want about the dolphin kicks, but this guy beat a tough world record to win the gold medal. Fitting to see him win after the loss of his friend Alexander Dale Oen.

10. Dana Vollmer, USA
Finally broke the 100 fly world record and utterly dominated anyone in that event all year. Also put in a big leg that put the Americans over the top in the 800 free relay.

9. Chad le Clos, South Africa
Upset the greatest swimmer of all time in his specialty. That’s hard to do. Now, in a post-Phelps world, he’s the undisputed best flyer out there.

8. Rebecca Soni, USA
After four years of teasing us – including in the semi-finals with her 2:20.00 – Soni finally got down to 2:19 in the 200 breast. How impressive that swim was makes her loss in the 100 breast more shocking.

7. Yannick Agnel, France
Once again, extremely consistent, and stunning in the 200 free and on the 400 free relay in London, but he couldn’t close the deal, finishing sixth in the 100 free. So, no, not the best swimmer in the world.

6. Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Netherlands
Utterly dominant in the sprints this year. No one came close to her in the 50 or 100. Also extremely clutch on the 400 free relay, despite a loss.

5. Ryan Lochte, USA
Nice medal haul in London, but not up to his usual standard or even close to his best times. Still the best short course swimmer out there, bagging a load in Istanbul.

4. Yi Shiwen, China
Her 400 IM scorcher brought the d-word into conversation, but anyone who watched her 200 IMs prior knew she would be dangerous.

3. Sun Yang, China
Dominant in the 400 and 1500, and his mile finished off the meet with some fireworks. Could easily make a case for number one here.

2. Michael Phelps, USA
I almost did it. I almost put him at number one. The greatest of all time, and after his loss in the 200 fly, he resumed his status, even if for just four more short days, as the most dominant in the world. Special athlete that will be missed.

1. Missy Franklin, USA
Special performances all around in London – the 200 free-100 back double, which culminated in gold; the world record obliteration in the 200 back; setting the tone for all three American relays. Sure, her 200 free wasn’t great. Still, the best swimmer in the world.

Insert picture of Missy Franklin here, preferably one better than any I got at Olympic Trials.