Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chris DeSantis- Looking ahead after Day 5

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?

The Good:

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.

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.

The Bad:

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 Australia may be a much less formidable foe now that Eamon Sullivan had withdrawn, but Brazil looms as a spoiler.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.


  1. katie hoff had a bad that's a story i've heard before

  2. It is just the law of nature that teenage girl phenoms in swimming turn into duds when they are fully grown. Girls at the 14-16 years old age range have the best power-to weight ratio :-). A young women will have more body fats and bone density but not much more muscle power.

  3. I dont think it's a law if nature at all. We are still waiting for Dara to flame out 28 years after she was a 14 year old phenom. As female swimmers get older the training formula changes. I think we as coaches have historically done a poor job of adjusting training, which is why the burn out you describe is all too common.

  4. Who would be favored over the Men's 400 Medley Relay. You have two world record holders and the a 59.0 breast stroker. Our freestyler cant be that bad?

  5. Dara Terres is the exception, not the rule :-). That's why she is still getting so much exposure in the media. The training needs ro be adjusted as the body changes with age. But you cannot blame Bob Bowman for not properly adjusting the training for Hoff. There is a limit on what the best coach can do.

  6. Why can't you blame Bowman for not adjusting the training for Hoff? That doesn't make any sense. he's the coach and its his responsibility to make those adjustments.

    The only slack I'd give him on that is that Hoff was new to him, and it takes a while for a coach to figure out what is best for a new swimmer.

    Dara is unusual, but she's not the only post grad to keep swimming successfully. A lot of people wrote off Amanda Beard after 1996, but her best year wound up being 2004. Jenny Thompson swam for a long time after college and did really well also.

    And you certainly can get guys who flame out after a certain point. Can you name a single male breastroker who did well in more than one Olympics? The only one in history is Kitajima.

  7. Breaststroke is a horrible event to keep going 'cos it's so dependent on timing. It seems to me that the best "catch lighting in a bottle" for a period of time. You see it even in age group swimming.

    As to coaching the girls, I agree with Chris: I think there's been a real failure to recognize the physiological and pyschological differences between men & women.

  8. Great point on Kitajima. He is the only one to ever win back to back golds and only one other man in history has even won a medal in back to back games.

    As for the medley relay, I guess that was a goof on my point. I can't really come up with a quartet that is better than hours. I guess I was too worried about the 400 free relay.