Friday, July 31, 2009
As usual, Tony Austin at SCAQ is on top of it all on the pro-suit side. I am sure that most readers realize that even though FINA seems to have made their final decisions, there are still a lot of decisions to be made. More problems will come up. We may not know for years if the prevailing purist viewpoint will prove to be best for the sport. Rowdy Gaines seems to think that it will hurt us in the long run. Matt Lauer compares it all to the imaginary scenario of letting Major League Baseball use aluminum bats for a year and then taking them away.
One of my swim team parents is a dedicated triathlete who had to ask why Phelps would bring a “knife to a gunfight” in the 200 freestyle. This dad, Chris, will occasionally send me a link or two that relate to the things we chat about. Last summer, he sent me the SI archive article from 1972 about the Belgrade. He recently tipped me off to a new resource: The Science of Sport. I have become a regular reader as of about a week ago. With the world meet going on they have made a few excellent posts about swimming and suits. The fascinating thing for me is that the site attracts a lot of very knowledgeable comments from athletes in other similar sports, several of which have gone through similar crises.
Their most recent article highlights two different perspectives on the suit wars. They have actually taken a very intelligent “welcome to progress” comment from a reader (that alludes to an Einstein quote: “you can’t solve problems at the same level that you created them.”) and contrasted it against John Leonard’s recent ASCA blast email for coaches to pass on to swim parents; “What’s the Big Deal About Swimsuits?” while adding running commentary throughout. Some of the comments are just as fascinating as the work of the authors, and swimmers need to hear what other sports have to say. On the left side of their site, they have a link to all of their past swimming articles. They have done excellent work and it is worth reading.
I have cut and pasted one of the most intriguing comments from their site below. Please take note of who posted it, and let me know what you think in the comments section.
Kelvin Koch said...
There is a lot more to this than what is going on in Rome. This has been brewing for over 25 years and many of the coaches and athletes complaining now, did not complain one bit when the advantage over their predecessors was theirs during the past two decades. Now we will have rules where men will be competing in suits that have not been used in elite competition on a regular basis in over 15 years. 25 years with the drag reducing fabrics of pre-2008 suits that are being removed as well.
As for the cost issue: The "paper suits" that started this in the mid-'80's cost over $150 for the girls. And they would last one session of a meet. There would be no "jammers" without the introduction of the "paper suit". A simple brief couldn't do much, drop the material down the leg to reduce drag and add compression where it could really matter and we had $125 suits for guys that lasted one meet session.
As a company we will provide whatever suits the rules require. I just don't think this has been thought out enough by anybody to avoid a long list of court battles that are about to happen. Now that men and women will be told they have to compete at a distinct handicap to those who preceded them over the past 2 decades there will be lawsuits over this issue. Their funding ultimately comes from world rankings and records. No one in their right mind can say that those who set records from at least 1992 - 2007 did not have an advantage over what is about to happen, now this next generation is being punished for what went on long before this week. Ultimately the courts will decide what is "fair" for these athletes in light of full disclosure of this issue...and it's not good for the sport to have that happen.
As a manufacturer I can see a lot of changes in this rule forcing all of us to have to scramble for "availability" due to last minute changes in rules for many seasons to come.
Rocket Science Sports - Swimming
Keep tuning in true believers! The clean up is going to be just as fun as making the mess!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
What a week so far, eh? I have another linkfest here for you.
First FINA decided to choose NONE in the “all or none” solution to the suit dilemma. Then, Ryan Lochte calls for banana hammocks and makes everyone pause to reconsider where it is all leading before they throw up just a little in their mouths. Of course, amongst all the wacky-ness, Ricky Berens decided to protest by mooning everyone in Rome. Then, Michael Cavic took his gracious loss back by claiming that the touch pads failed him in his 100m fly loss in Beijing. Then, I ended up feeling like I am teaming up with Dr. Doom when Craig Lord gives a rant that cuts Speedo no slack in their role in starting the era of the fancy pants.
And all that is before I even get started on a crazy record destroying World Championships. France can’t get the job done again on the 400 FR. Peirsol gets knocked out of the 100m back final. Phelps gets eaten alive on the last 50 of a 200m free, which was, in my eyes his most amazing record. Thorpey is erased from the books… the list goes on.
Now, FINA is already backtracking within days of their decision by letting boys go back to wearing girls suits, and Bob Bowman has threatened to take Phelps out of International competition until FINA makes up their minds and hits their enforcement date.
I have a great idea. Let’s host a meet on the last weekend that non-permeable suits are allowed. We can call it the “Bull Run Rumble” and invite everyone to come and duke it out to see who gets to hold the (possibly asterisked) world record for the next 30 years. One last hoorah before the records are set for eternity. That might be fun, eh? I mean, really… the record book is gonna be a mess no matter what we do. I wouldn’t mind giving Phelps another chance to get that 200 free record back. His old record will be gone when the asterisks start flying. It could be the greatest meet in history. It might bring Ian Crocker out of retirement to log that 48 second 100 fly we all know he could do in the Jaked. Give it some thought. Maybe we can talk the Chesapeake Swim Club in OKC into hosting their Pro-Am in long course and tech-friendly this year to attract he best of the best for one last crack at it.
The Viking predicts that FINA will change their minds three more times before the World meet is over, and Craig Lord will follow Ricky’s lead and moon everyone in Rome, and Michael Phelps will finally get mad and go green... he will HULK out and hit a sub 1:50 200 fly in the nude.
My RSS feeder is going crazy. Stay tuned for more, and don’t forget to go to Swim Pulse for your exclusive coverage from Rome.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Okay, folks... I don't have to keep my lips sealed any longer. Garrett gave me the "go ahead" to let you know what the next move is. I got the call last week and it has been really tough to keep my big mouth shut about where the Viking Ship is going to be docked. The big G and his crew are starting a new site, and it has been a rush job to get it ready enough to give you the coverage from ROME. It is still under construction, but I can tell you that everyone is excited and we want to get this right. I will still be posting here, but I will be a very active part of Garrett's crew as well. Please go check it out at swimpulse.net. Go there. Bookmark it. Support the site.
The Site Mission:
We're checking the pulse of the swimming community to find out what kind of support an independent, for swimmers by swimmers website, will get from you. Swimpulse isn't part of a bigger company or organization, which means our priorities and obligations to the swimming community will never come 2nd. Ask any great coach and he'll tell you the best approach to building something is to keep it simple, so that's what we're doing. If you like the kind of content you've seen from our World Championship Trials and World Championship coverage, become part of Swimpulse by purchasing a Swimpulse T-shirt. Think of it as investing in the next step for swimming. The goal of this site is to be the heartbeat of the swimming community, so show your support by rocking a Swimpulse T-Shirt!
See ya there!
Friday, July 24, 2009
Then, in the evening, when I checked in to my hotel (as I am away at a meet this weekend) I realized that my wife had texted me during the drive, to turn the radio to NPR. The text said “fast skins banned today. Tune to 107.5.” I didn’t know I got the text until over an hour after she sent it. As soon as I got within range of my hotel wi-fi I had to find out what in the hell was up. The first link I tapped was this radio interview with the President of USA Swimming. After that, I found articles at the Texas Swimming Blog, SwimNews, Universal Sports, Kast-Away, Swimming World and, of course, more from SwimNews.
Damn... I got scooped. Time to sharpen the horns.
How in the world did my wife find out about this before I did!?! How was it on NPR and in the AP before Craig Lord had ranted about it? How did my RSS feeder not keep me in the loop? How could FINA have made this decision without consulting me? How dare they?!
I don’t have a problem with returning to pre-2008. I really don’t. I never liked the cost, and at times the record breaking was exhaustingly heart-breaking. The first list, with the LZR still on it, was the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen. I have come to the conclusion that it needs to be all or none regarding tech. FINA has now decided to go with NONE. That can be seen as a good thing. No middle ground, because the middle has proven to be too muddy.
What I have a problem with is the BS that has led to the decision and the fact that now we have some problems to solve that are bigger than asterisks and patience.
How much influence did Speedo and their outspoken, high powered sponsors have in this decision that will put them back in the saddle? If the LZR and their 2% advantage had remained the pinnacle of swimsuit technology, would we be backtracking right now? When TYR athletes were ditching contracts to wear Speedo, people treated TYR like they were the villains for trying to get swimmers to honor their commitments. When athletes like Andrew Lauterstein started jumping from Speedo’s ship, we suddenly needed to change the rules for everyone. Speedo sponsored athletes and coaches have made a serious turn-around regarding tech. What the hell? In the months leading up to Beijing, the media frenzy surrounding the LZR left the world with no doubt that the new tech was the way to go. At the time I read more article about the NASA developed suit than I ever had about swimming as a whole.
Now that we are returning to skin and length restricted textiles, what do we do about all of the records set in super-modern suits? Asterisks might sound simple and harmless, but once they are put in place they will carry an ominous connotation that implies cheating. Years from now, when people are reading about Michael Phelps tremendous 8 gold medal performance, it will take a very involved footnote to explain that his races were “artificially aided,” although everyone else he raced at the time, or at least those from America and Australia, were also performance enhanced. Also, what about Thorpey’s records set in the full body? If we are choosing NONE with the suits, we probably oughtta take our asterisks back to pre-FS1. Think about it. The suits aren’t just going back to 2007... They are going to pre-2000, and the record board should go there with it. Are we really ready for that?
Just like the interviewer on NPR, the non-swimming public will not quite understand what is going on within our sport. They really won’t get why, when other sports are embracing similar innovations, we feel we need to banish them. They won’t know what it means when they see a list of the top 50 meter freestyle performances in history it will show asterisks after every name until they get to Alex Popov and Tom Jager. How far down the list are they right now?
Beyond that, will our sport be taking a step backwards regarding the income that keeps our athletes in the sport? In my opinion, post-grad opportunities are the greatest change that swimming has ever seen. Name recognition has been taken to a new level, and that counts for a lot when we are trying to break through to becoming a more mainstream, televised sport. Are post-grads going to struggle in a sport where innovation has been halted?
I really don’t know what the right answers are. I can only hope that decisions of this magnitude have been given the thorough investigation they deserve. The problems we face now will not be solved easily. Let’s hope that our sport can handle the road ahead. I am still on board. Let’s try to make the most of it, eh?
Maybe it is time to start the ball rolling on that tech-friendly pro league. Maybe the tech mess can spawn a healthy, media friendly, and positive addition to an unquestionably pure sport.
Let me know what you think in the comments section.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
For example, I have referenced more than once, the Sports Illustrated Vault article from 1974 about the Belgrade swimsuit and all of the turmoil it caused our sport that is so similar to today… but Tony finally gave it the treatment it deserves by comparing the similarities and then giving quotes on the speed suit controversy from some big names who have jumped ship regarding tech. You also have to go to his article on Libby Tricket’s decision to stay with Speedo and read the comments thread. There is some great discussion going on. Please check out his links.
Then, after I officially announced that we are in the age of asterisks, Mark Schubert decided it was time to go ahead and let everyone know is on board with the idea. He thinks everything since February 2008, including everything set in the LZR, should be marked as “artificially aided.” This would mean that when we look back upon the greatest feat in Olympic history, Micheal’s magic 8 golds, there would be an asterisk, just like a ball player on steroids. Do we really want to head in that direction? There are a lot of athletes out there who have been playing by the rules who deserve to be treated with respect when we decide the direction we are going to take regarding records if we go back to lycra. Let’s just hope Schubert’s influence doesn’t open another door to problems bigger than our decision makers could anticipate.
Sorry I don’t have any big announcements to make right now. Please be patient. The G is cooking up something, and you can expect the crew to bring you what you need from Rome. Keep tuning in. The ship is still sailin’… just waiting for the wind to pick up a little. In the meantime, click on every link in this post. There's lots of good stuff out there!
Monday, July 20, 2009
I guess love of the sport keeps a lot of us around the pool deck, and still wanting to talk about swimming years after our careers are over, and I am somehow blessed to get a chance to get some of them on camera for all you swim fans out there. Enjoy!
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I have never worn their suits, but I have a few swimmers who love them. I do have a NERO backpack and a pair of the RZR goggles. The bag is the best I have ever owned. Comfortable, durable, and just the right pockets for my gear. It has actually replaced the two bags I was lugging around to meets and practice every day. The wet pocket could fit every piece of swim gear I have ever owned… it is huge. It was obviously designed by guys who are out there training. The goggles are by far the most durable I have ever tried. As a coach, I spend a lot of time fixing my swimmers’ goggles on the fly. Every issue that makes goggles fall apart in practice has been addressed with the RZR. They won’t fall apart. I think they were designed to withstand monster jellyfish attacks during open water swims. I have been recommending them to all of my swim families.
Both products fit exactly into my view of Blueseventy so far as a company. They are all about creating quality products and doing whatever it takes to develop a loyal customer base. They care about their customers and that is what generates word-of-mouth business.
Today, Blueseventy sent out a press release regarding their buy-back program. Anyone who has purchased a Blueseventy pool competition suit since April 1st can claim a 50% discount on a new suit if their current suit is rendered illegal by FINA in January. Of course, Blueseventy will release a FINA legal pool suit no matter what 2010 brings. I received a press release by email, but it is a file that I don’t have a way to attach to my blog. You will have to check for details on the buyback program at blue seventy.com.
It is refreshing to see a company looking out for customers with such a unique program. No matter what side of the fence you are on regarding suits, you have to admit that the buy-back program is pretty awesome.
And, no... they didn't pay me to post this as an ad. I really am that impressed with them. :)
EDIT: Thanks to Bob Button at the Texas Swimming Blog for telling me about scribd. Here is the press release and some details:
Nero Buy Back Print
Blue Seventy Buy Back FINAL 2010
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
After going back and forth on the issue, it took Aaron Piersol setting a new world record at WCT in the 200 back for Japan to finally decide to recognize Ryosuke Irie's 1:52 as a national record even though FINA won't accept it as a world record because it was set in an unapproved suit.
This might open a very wide door. Some day we might have several national records that are faster than world records. We might even have masters records that are faster than world records. Who knows?
Check out Garrett's interview with Aaron Piersol from Nats. His perspective on his new world record in the face of Irie's faster swim is pretty fascinating.
Be sure to check out more of Garrett's recent interviews at his youtube channel.
Monday, July 13, 2009
The head official for our conference is the greatest, but I had to pick on him because I was sitting next to his daughter, who coaches for a rival team and was once one of my club swimmers:
And then another former swimmer came by to chat. She was the head lifeguard in charge of meet day:
I think every team should buy their coach a camera. Down time at meets needs to be productive. Please take it for what it is, and enjoy the fun excursion.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Instead of a straight reaction to day 5, I thought I would give a couple big positive themes that emerged from this weeks world trials. Rome is almost upon us, and the US has shown at least some of its hand. So what do we know heading into Rome?
1. Surprise Depth- With Phelps eschewing the IMs at this World Champs, conventional wisdom might predict that Team USA would be a little thin behind Ryan Lochte. On the contrary, Clary has shown himself to be a gold medal contender in the 4 while Shanteau is now bested only by Lochte in the world rankings. America looks poised to sustain its dominance on the IM front. Clary also provides able backup in the 200 fly, and Shanteau alongside Mark Gangloff have answered any lingering questions about the current state of American breaststroke.
2. Rebecca Soni- We'll get to the rest of the women's squad, but the brightest spot of all is Rebecca Soni, who made herself the favorite for both golds in Rome and gave the US team a much needed ace card to play on the medley relay. You have to feel pretty good about Rebecca's chances after she stepped up in the most pressure-full meet of the last year to win gold and set a world record. There has been no post-olympic hangover for Soni, who has continued to improve and now threatens the 100 record alongside the 200.
1. Relays: Both the US men and women face an uphill battle in the majority of the relays. Aside from the men's 4x200, where the US is an overwhelming favorite once again, the US team should not be favored to win a single relay. In fact, there is some doubt whether the Americans will even medal in certain relays. In the men's 4x100, France currently a quartet of swimmers that would have beaten the first place finisher at US trials. Australia may be a much less formidable foe now that Eamon Sullivan had withdrawn, but Brazil looms as a spoiler. On the women's side, the US could get shut out by powerful teams from the Netherlands, Australia and Germany.
2. Distance: It was the perfect storm of things that could go wrong for the US distance chances. Katie Hoff, one stroke away from Olympic gold in the 400 last summer, took ill and had a poor meet. Kate Ziegler was sick as well and did not participate. Allison Schmitt was off her pace from last summer, and while Chloe Sutton certainly made tremendous progress, she is well off world pace. Meanwhile, Peter Vanderkaay decided to forego the mile, while the fastest miler, Chad LaTourette, raced in Serbia for the World University Games. To make it even harder, a number of international distance stars have improved in the last year, foremost Ous Mellouli of Tunisia. But at this point, even the tiny Faroe islands will send a higher ranked male distance swimmer to Rome. An American distance swimmer medaling would be a serious upset.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go be antsy for a couple weeks until the swimming starts again.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Austin Texas is quickly becoming the headquarters for cancer-surviving world-topping athletes. As Lance prances through the Tour de France, his mirror image, Eric Shanteau, slices through the pool a few channels away. Side by side on the tv screen, these two great Austin athletes carry the message. Armstrong's tour through the Tour is almost too perfect—the perfect gentleman, the perfect team player, the perfect tactician, the perfect attitude, the perfect preparation, the perfect spokesman. We only thought he conquered the Tour before. This time, he owns it.
While Lance isn't hiding the fact that the Tour is incredibly demanding, he's clearly enjoying his beloved race more than ever. Armstrong appreciates each day on his bike, savoring every moment.
Eric Shanteau competes with the same spirit, the same gratitude for life. He and Lance share something that only a cancer survivor can truly understand. Shanteau has been a great swimmer for a long time, but something changed in him through his cancer ordeal. From the day he was diagnosed, he seemed to never miss a beat, earning a spot on the Olympic Team against the toughest competition in U.S. history. Then he returned from his successful cancer treatment to lead the American breaststrokers through the 2009 season, setting PRs along the way. In June, Shanteau added his name to the constellation that is the University of Texas pool record board, erasing the great Ed Moses' 2:10.1 standard in the 200 breaststroke.
No one swims the 200 breaststroke like Eric Shanteau. He surges on the last 25 meters like he's just starting to have fun. Somehow, he increases his power and maintains perfect technique all the way to the wall. The only swimmer who can match his last 25 is Kitajima, but even he doesn't accelerate like Shanteau. It's something you have to see in person to fully appreciate. Like watching Ian Crocker's 100 butterfly, you know you're in the presence of something special. Perfection is breathtaking.
When Shanteau blasted to a :59.4 in the 100 breaststroke, 200 breaststrokers around the world should have ducked for cover. The stunning 1:56.0 200 IM he uncorked last night—ranking third all-time behind only Phelps and Lochte— further signals his quantum leap forward. He's suddenly a major factor in the IM world again. With his immaculate conditioning, Shanteau could undoubtedly put together a frightening 400 IM as well. His 32.3 breaststroke split in the 200 IM was, by far, the fastest in the field, and may be the fastest ever. He also had the fastest freestyle split, which means he out-split Ryan Lochte, one of the fastest freestylers in the U.S. arsenal. Take a moment to let that soak in. This IM performance is a pretty reliable indicator of what he'll split in his 200 breaststroke race, landing him in WR territory.
Yes, World Record. This year, this week, Shanteau has shown he's capable and ready to take on anything and anyone, including cancer, including Kitajima. Don't be surprised to see Eric Shanteau distance himself from the field and blast his way right by Kitajima's standard in tonight's final. Whatever his time, you can be sure it will be beautiful to watch.
Move over Lance. There's another star rising to help carry the message.
Day 4 Thoughts from Indy.
Here's somethings I thought about while trying to figure out whether the Universe would blow up if Brett Hawke were on the US World Champ coaching staff:
1. What was Matt Grevers wearing, part deux? So earlier this week I noticed Matt going off his endorsement contract to wear an x-glide for the 100 back. Last night for the 100 free, Matt was wearing a TYR again, except it appeared to be some TYR I'd never seen before in my life. I shrugged it off and said "ah, that must be the A7". Except then I looked at pictures of the A7 online. This suit Matt was wearing had some bright red panels on it. I don't see any bright red panels here:
Can anybody get a hold of a picture of what this was? I'm intrigued.
2. The race that wasn't: Coming into the night, I was overwhelmingly pumped to see Tyler Clary race Ryan Lochte in the 200 IM. Their 400 IM battle had not disappointed and Tyler had gone on to have an unbelievable 200 fly. So this was naturally going to be great as well, right? Wrong. Lochte grabbed this one by the neck from the very beginning. He was so far ahead that most of the crowd because obsessed with the world record line and forgot that Eric Shanteau was blowing by Clary on breaststroke and steamrolling home. In the end, Lochte just missed the record and Shanteau dropped a couple seconds to secure another individual spot. Look out for a monster 200 breaststroke today.
3. Hoping for a second taper: With this meet so very close to Worlds, I am cautiously hopeful that some of America's best gambled on not being fully prepared for Trials. I'm hoping this because in some events, our winner has performed a time that will simply not be good enough to medal in Rome. The 200 backstroke tonight was another example. Elizabeth Beisel swam a veteran race to snatch victory from Elizabeth Pelton on the final 50. However, her final time (2:08) is well off her pace from last summer, as was her 400 IM. I haven't asked Elizabeth or her coach Chuck Batchelor about it, but I am willing to bet they are trying to avoid the situation from last summer, where Elizabeth swam amazing to make the squad but couldn't repeat those times in Beijing.
One more day!
Friday, July 10, 2009
Day 3 Thoughts from Indy
1. This morning was the predictable hangover morning. The crowd could barely muster any energy for the morning session, and neither, seemingly, could most of the swimmers. I was incredibly excited to watch some of Auburn's foreign contingent drop in for the 50 free. We were treated to a sizzling 22.1 by Freddy Bousquet, who looked like he was waiting for a second starting beep. The women's 400 IM saw the majority of the contenders pacing themselves for a nighttime battle. Thankfully, morning gave way to the night, which was definitely..
2. The best session of the meet thus far. Seriously, tonight was a treat. The men's 50 free gave us not one but two awesome races. The first was a nail biting finish that saw Nathan Adrian step out and set up a rare splash and dash swim off for a World Championship spot between Garrett Weber-Gale and Cullen Jones. The B final let us see the second fastest 50 freestyle of all time ahead of the swimmer who had the fastest 50 freestyle of all time. I'd say that was the most exciting part of the night if Michael Phelps hadn't led wire to wire to set the world record in the 100 fly and somehow looked less excited than Tyler McGill punching his ticket in the lane next to him. Which brings me to my final point:
3. Brett Hawke: Making America Better. I've gotten a couple of chances to talk to Brett this weekend. He's very excited that he's got some American swimmers on the World Champs squad. Some would count Mark Gangloff as a David Marsh product, but I think both coaches would give each other some credit. Tyler has made great strides since last summer. Is it too late to make Brett one of our World Champ team coaches? Nevermind, I forgot that all his swimmers were wearing Jakeds, which is totally cheating. Lets run him out of the sport.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Endorsement Contracts? Who needs em!: While I'm not totally shocked to see endorsed athletes straying from their usual suits, its still getting some buzz on deck. Matt Grevers, probably the most well-recognized TYR sponsored athlete, stepped up for the 100 backstroke in an Arena X-Glide. In Matt's defense, everyone here is just trying to make the team, and he clearly thought he might be at some kind of disadvantage without the suit. On the other hand, he was faster last year racing in TYR, so you tell me whats going on. Also in a delirious haze I thought i saw Katie Hoff wearing an x glide and violating her 10 year endorsement contract. The lesson here is to get your boss to have her flight land before 1:30 so you can get some sleep before writing one of these!
Its the swimmers, dumby, not the suit: Seriously. Aaron Piersol is the world's best backstroker in board shorts or Arena. Katie Hoff would be struggling at this meet no matter what she was wearing. Michael Phelps is the world's greatest. Dave Walters has had this breakthrough coming for what seems like forever. The evidence on the pool deck is still firmly on the side that its the swimmer's making the suit. I had my first chance to see the plethora of new suits that have appeared in the states over the last few months, and I honestly can't see a clear advantage over anything we had last summer. Memo to swimmers out there: wear what you feel best in and stop stressing about the suits.
Scheduling: Talked to a coach on deck today who had a swimmer in Serbia. It seems like its a real shame that some swimmers who we would like to have in two weeks in Rome are currently swimming over there. Chad LaTourrette comes immediately to mind, as well as Sean Mahoney. The scheduling of trials concurrent with WUG prevented these swimmers from having a chance to qualify for the world team. I only wish they could have been here to add some depth to Team USA!
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
1. The Breakthrough: Mark Gangloff: It seems like everybody, Mark included, had been waiting for him to break a minute in this race for quite a while. He's come tantalizingly close a number of times, most recently at this summer's Charlotte Ultraswim. Although Eric Shanteau had sent the message he would be a strong competitor with his first time under a minute earlier that day, everyone expected at least a monster front half from Mr. Gangloff.
The crowd got what they wanted as Mark rocketed out to a 27.46. Still, he had over the last few years typically faded over the course of the second 50. Not tonight. I sheepishly admitted to Brett Hawke this morning that I thought Mark was going to tie up, but he pretty much didn't. Tonight, they've arranged a special time trial for Mark to go after Felipe Silva's 26.89 world record 50 breaststroke. I wouldn't bet against it.
2. Will America have a women's distance finalist? I'm not so sure after watching the 400 free last night. Allison Schmitt won in 4:06, a time that leaves America locked out of the world top ten with just two weeks until Rome. There is a gaping hole between the world's best performers, Brits Joanne Jackson and Rebecca Adlington plus Italian Federica Pelligrini all at 4:00. Katie Hoff, who was one stroke away from gold in this event in Beijing, continued what has been a rough summer, recording a 4:12 well off her best. Here's hoping Katie can turn it around, the US team will miss her all around depth.
3. Phelps Who? The 400 IM: Seriously, who would have thought that this event would be just as exciting without him? Tyler Clary has 100% arrived as a world class swimmer. He was knocking on the door last summer and blew it open with this long course swim. He led for 350 meters with a nearly Phelpsian front half. The crowd was on their feet for this entire swim. I got chills watching Ryan Lochte go into the final wall behind and emerge ahead. Great race
4. Speaking of Arrivals: Julia Smit! Ok, I know she was an Olympian last summer, but now she looks poised to fill some of the void Hoff left in this event and others. The 400 IM for women is setting up for a phenomenal race, with Smit looking significantly improved over last summer, Beisel with a much stronger 200 IM than in Omaha, and Knutson hanging around. Look forward to it.
Thats all for night one. If you're hanging out at the meet, please say hi! I'll be posting everything I can as the week goes on.
On Monday I got an email from Chris DeSantis that asked a very strange question: “If we started an independent site, would you be on board?” I have never met Chris in person, but we have built a little bit of a professional friendship. I said, “Sure. What are the details?” He couldn’t really give me any… so I started wondering if maybe he and Garrett McCaffrey had a falling out. I texted Garrett and he responded, “What Chris didn’t tell you was that flocasts let me go yesterday.”
I immediately went into shock. I still am in shock. Ten minutes after I got the text, Garrett’s letter was posted on the site.
I have never met Garrett McCaffrey in person, either. When Swimnetwork fell apart last summer after the Olympic Trials, and all of the old crew left (for reasons I have no idea, as I was the only person involved with the site who did not go to the trials,) I started to spend a little more time at floswimming. Garrett put out a blog asking the flo community to contribute videos. Mrs. Coach had already made the move over so I emailed Garrett and told him I would be willing to do the Viking thing for him if he thought it would help.
Garrett didn’t just email me… he called me. Not once, in all my time at swim network as a paid news blogger and volunteer of my Viking blogs did anyone call me. I got a few emails, but never heard a single person’s voice throughout any of it. As a matter of fact, when I left Swimnetwork, I didn’t even know if I still had a job. I don’t hold a grudge. I wish them all the best. I hope they can get it together because there is serious potential there, but it was not a good experience as a first writing gig.
I have worked on commercial fishing boats, in a fish cannery, loaded trucks for RPS… I have had good bosses and bad. I have been screamed at, ignored, flipped off and hugged. I have to say that working with Garrett has been a new kind of experience. I will never forget my first contact with Garrett: “Let’s talk about the upcoming year and all the ways we can promote the sport.” That sums up Garrett in a nutshell. Whatever is best for the sport. Garrett trusted me enough to allow my blogs to go up on the flash, but he was watchful enough to edit me down if needed. Only once did he tell me a post shouldn’t go up at flo, and he had very good reason. As any good editor would, he asked permission if he wanted to change something out of respect for me as a writer-- a professional courtesy I hadn’t yet earned, as I am not really a professional writer. I am certainly no journalist.
I have never had any contact with the Flo brothers. Not one email. Not one thank you. I never even knew their names until I had read an article in the Mizzou paper about Garrett’s career. This site, in my eyes, has been Garrett’s site. Their non-involvement up until now might be very difficult to overcome. They allowed Garrett to become the sole face of floswimming, and as you can see in the comments on the last three posts, it makes for a very tough road for the next person to take the helm.
I am sure that floswimming will survive this. Their platform is unique, and they have a team behind the scenes that does good work. They will find a new face. My team is heavily invested in their locker room and we will probably continue to use it until we can afford to move on to another site. I am sure I will keep checking in to see their content. It might end up being a good thing for Garrett to move on to something bigger and better. Who knows how this will all turn out?
But for me… my loyalty is to Garrett. Garrett certainly knows the value of the words “Thank you.” They go a long way in building a community of fans and contributors. I don’t hold a grudge against flo, but I will do anything to help Garrett move on to greater things. Garrett is out. Chris is out. Sadly, for the time being, the Viking is now out too. I have extended the invitation to them to use my blogspot until another platform is available to them, if they should choose to pursue it. Of course, that is, if one of the big dog media outlets doesn’t scoop these guys up first.
Thank you, Garrett. Thank you, Chris. Let’s talk about the upcoming year and all the ways we can promote the sport. Let’s make chicken salad out of all this week’s chicken s**t.
Today should have been an exciting, happy day. I was going to step on deck for the first time in my new job. The meet i'd been looking forward too since last year in Omaha was finally upon us. We were going to pick our World Team.
Instead I'm sick to my stomach. I've felt this way since finding out late Sunday night that Garrett would no longer be a part of this site. I've felt the full gamut of raw, negative emotion: disbelief gave way to sadness, which gave way to anger. Now I'm desperately searching for a way to make things better.
The tenor of the comments on Garrett's blog reflect what I am about to say: he changed my life here. I am one of the thousands of people in this community that have benefitted from his presence, but I doubt that many have benefitted more than me.
A year and a half ago, I approached Garrett with what I thought was a crazy idea. I was so excited with what he was doing at floswimming. I wanted to write a blog. I thought there was a chance I had something to offer. Garrett did something that day that few others in the community had done for me at that point: he gave me a chance. I can truly say that he and my future wife are the two biggest reasons I am living my dream today.
He opened more doors for me than he probably knows. He also inspires me to keep loving this sport every day. Garrett has never taken the people here for granted. I wish everyone could have travelled to one meet coverage with Garrett. My first experience was at Olympic Trials in Omaha. Garrett would wake up in the morning, get as many high quality interviews as he possibly could, and upload the content. All the while he built relationships with people from all across the country. He cared. By day two, I was doing half the work but looked twice as exhausted.
When I had been working for the site for just a few months, small offers came in to pay me to take my content elsewhere. I called Garrett immediately. He wished me all the money in the world. If I had left him and sold out for a few dollars he never would have held a grudge. I didn't because I believed in him.
When I saw Garrett today we should have been pumped. These are the days we live for: exciting meets and our athletes putting on a show. Instead, my stomach won't stop gnawing at me. I am powerless to correct something that I believe is wrong.
I have had very little direct contact with Mark and Martin Floreani, the two developers of the platform and entrepeneurs of flocasts. From what I know, they don't consider what I do here an asset to the site, in fact they may even think that I am a negative drain on their resources though I have never been paid a dime. I do not begrudge them this, they have invested money into floswimming and it is their business to run. However, without Garrett I see no reason to continue an affiliation here. I hope to wake up tomorrow and do my best to share my love for this sport and the people in it in a positive and unique way. If you need me, I'll be with Viking and you can continue to contact me at crdesantis at gmail.com.
If I had written down my ideal first job while growing up, it would've fallen short of the one I actually got.
After graduating with a broadcast journalism degree and 4 years of D1 college swimming, this was my job description: travel around and make videos about the best swimmers and coaches in the world. Here was the objective: do what ever is best for the sport of swimming.
At the time, it was the only job of its kind and it was exactly what our sport needed. Since Floswimming debuted in the fall of 2007, our sport's exposure has increased exponentially. Sure, you can attribute a lot swimming's success to the amazing swimmers and their performances in Beijing, but don't underestimate the value of watching meets like NCSA Junior Nationals or YMCA Nationals on demand. Even meets like Nationals weren't available online before Floswimming. Now, seeing your big meet on the web is more expected than the exception. We are now able to share ideas, personalities, and even practices with a larger audience than we ever imagined. We've come a long way.
For the 2 years I ran Floswimming, I never swayed from the objective. Through blogs, videos, and interviews I tried to make the sport more accessible to the true swimming fan. I don't know that the rest of the world has noticed, but I think we succeeded.
Yet, reality is sometimes a harsh awakening and success on the business side of things isn't always simple. It can make for crappy situations, like the one Floswimming finds itself in on the first day USA's World Championship Trials begin.
As of Monday, July 6th, I no longer work for Floswimming. It's not very easy for me to handle because for 2 years Floswimming has been my life. Disappointment aside, my objective hasn't changed one bit.
I'm writing this blog to you, the swimming fan, to let you know that I still have every intention of putting myself in the best position to help this sport. The last 2 years have been a swimming education that no one could have received through any kind of curriculum. I've seen our sport from all sides and now more than ever it's a burning passion that I can't imagine a living without. I am a swimming enthusiast for life.
Truth be told, I'm still in a state of shock. I have no idea what Floswimming will become now. I don't know what's in store for me. But I do know that swimming is better off today than it was 2 years ago, and I have no regrets for the time I gave over that period.
I guess we're in a place right now where all we can do is keep swimming.
See you on the pool deck...
Monday, July 6, 2009
Tony Austin not only wrote nice things about me at the SCAQ blog... he also replaced his SwimNews link with a link to my blogspot. Tony is kind of like the investigative reporter of swimbloggers. Most of my juiciest stuff always somehow ends up linking to his site, as I am usually one step behind. He is quick about posting the latest swim news and he does excellent work. I have had him on my RSS list for a long time and I am flattered that he is a fan.
But, ummm.... should I be worried about repurcussions from across the pond?
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Brent Rutemiller at Swimming World recently made the case that there has never been a better time than now to take the plunge. A professional swim league that embraces suit technology could be the perfect way to keep the Olympics and our traditional system intact and pure, while allowing the suit companies to innovate and keep the sport fresh and growing. Who says we can’t have meets that don’t follow FINA rules? The high schools have been operating that way for years. It would not surprise me if the NFHS continued to allow tech even if FINA goes back to permeable with length restrictions.
So what if we were to host a meet where the times wouldn’t count as traditional world records? Why couldn’t we add the 50’s of the strokes and underwater fly kicking as events without pressuring FINA to add it to their meets? This honestly could let FINA off the hook regarding suits, and give us a way to resolve the issues that might come up with the looming decision on whether or not to let records set in technology stand. It would not have to be done with a spirit of defiance… It could be something completely separate from the way we currently do things, but it could be done in the interest of enhancing and promoting our traditional system.
We now have hubs of post-college excellence in teams like Club Wolverine, North Baltimore, Mecklenburg and the Race Club. Why not have suit company sponsored training sites with sponsored coaches leading them? Team TYR and Team Speedo could have a whole new meaning. They could set up a college-style system of dual meets and a championship, or even a system of invites for pro athletes similar to the Grand Prix series that would not interfere with our current club system. They could keep it light and fun, and give pro athletes a way to take an exciting detour during the season and generate income to keep their traditional swim careers progressing. I would personally buy a ticket to watch Ian Crocker put on a tech suit and put Lochte and Hill Taylor to shame with some serious fly kicking. College or high school format duals would be fun. Eight man 50 free shootouts are a blast. Anything that makes swimming more spectator friendly could be fair game.
Come on, guys. Let’s get creative. Just like butterfly spawned from people innovating their breaststroke technique, a great thing could come out of suit companies innovating their products. Let’s help write a mission statement for this thing and come up with a way to end the fighting over tech. Let’s allow it to bring our sport to a new and exciting place while simultaneously ending the debates over the purity of the sport.
In the comments section below, I want to know what you would like to include in the mission statement, format and rules for a professional league. Let’s bust the door to the house of ideas wide open. We could create a real solution.
With all the coughing and hacking at the mizzou grand prix last year, the chloramines had to be pretty outrageous. Lots of pee-ninja's in that warm up session fo sho.
Don't we all wish there really was a chemical that could humiliate pool pee'ers with a red cloud when they let it go? I gotta find a way to fake that for a prank some day.
Since someone actually took the time to do a survey on it, I thought we would celebrate by embedding a couple of youtube vids. Enjoy:
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
But then, of course, over 60 years after his death, Bucky Barnes all of a sudden wasn't dead anymore. Just like Earth X, I thought it was going to be one of the dumbest things I ever read, and then it blew my mind with it's awesomeness.
Ed Brubaker was the writer who brought us Bucky Barnes' resurrection as the Winter Soldier. He was also the writer who killed Captain America. I am sure some people will gripe that he might be the writer who brings Steve Rogers, the original Cap, to life again with the biggest story line of the summer.
Marvel is allowing a free preview of the digital version of the prelude of "Captain America: Reborn."
I have to admit... I can't wait.
Oh, don't worry about the negative press. Don't let it stand in the way of your training as it has Ryosuke Irie. I won't be nearly as hard on you as I was on Fred Bousquet, either. The Frenchman finished last in every race he ever swam until he put on a Jaked01. The only reason he even races the 50 meter freestyle is because he does not have the discipline or work ethic to complete any longer distances. I hear that in the French summer leagues they call him Freddy Failure and he is often disqualified for pulling on the lane ropes.
Keep up all the hard work! Maybe some day someone other than your parents will give you a little credit for a lifetime of following the black line. Just remember: you are still a disgusting cheater, even if you are playing by the rules."
Way to go, Mr. Lord. Let's run our best and brightest out of the sport when they haven't really done anything wrong. I am sure glad I have never broken any world records. I don't think my self esteem could handle that kind of success.
If you ever write an article about me I will quit blogging and start my own magazine. I will call it SwimOpinions and I will hire people who actually have something nice to say when a swimmer does something amazing. Maybe I will even include a fashion section with a few articles about how we can all slim up for summer by wearing suits that have better compression, dress more modestly at the beach by covering everything from ankles to wrists, and avoid sunburn with 100% non-permeable fabrics.
How's that sound?