Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Why So Many Comebacks?

Why not come back? I'm faster.

As you can tell from our two nighttime snacks, the deck was aflutter with talk of Brendan Hansen last night. USA Swimming fans had been hungry for a breaststroke savior after that was perhaps the weakest men's event for them in Shanghai. There was an audible groan through the crowd when Hansen failed to break 1:00. Nobody was really cutting him any more slack after this morning- they wanted their Brendan back. Beyond his performance, I had a number of people on deck suggest a reason why athletes like Brendan have returned. It's related to the blog I just wrote.

Here's how it goes: typically each generation of swimmers in had a new one nipping on their toes in almost no time.  For instance, Tom Dolan was the best IMer in the world at age 25, but just two years later Phelps broke his world record and never looked back. Dolan retired confident that the torch had been passed. Now, you could argue that current stars Lochte and Phelps do have a younger guy to pass too- that's Tyler Clary. But some of these other comebacks highlight areas where that just didn't happen.

The 100 breaststroke is a great example. I think its reasonable to say had there been a young guy coming up the ranks in the last decade who had been right on top of Hansen or breaking his records up the line, he wouldn't be making an Olympic comeback at 30. But if you're Brendan Hansen looking at this field of US breaststrokers, you still feel like you could beat all of them. Don't you feel like Ed Moses feels the same? He was long retired but then noticed that if he could return to form he has a legitimate chance at making the team. Unfortunately for Ed he is still a ways off.

The theory stretches to more events. How man years in the last 11 has Dara Torres surveyed the state of US women's sprinting and realized that she could be the best? It may be the best reason she continues to stick around- because she's good enough. Do you feel like Aaron Peirsol looks at the backstroke swims from this summer and thinks "Man, there is no way I can hang with our young guys!"?.  I think he absolutely doesn't! Do you think Ian Crocker notices that the 100 fly winning time this summer was still slower than his 50.40 world record swim and wonders if he should make a comeback too?

The comeback mentality filters even to the not quite as great swimmers. It will also be another thing for me to watch as this meet progresses.


  1. I think initially the breaststrokers had potential.. Spann, Alaxandrov, Gangloff, Shanteau… then the younger guys: Titus, Burckle, Swander and Ritter.. but no one steped up, no one put up the times.. I agree. Hansen never officially retired so you have to wonder if he saw this…

    I am still on the fense with Moses.. is 11 months enough time to get back into form. He was 17th overall (8th in the B final at 1:02.14) It should be interesting to see this all pan out

    Also is there a certain level of disappointment with Alexandrov.. maybe I expected too much.. I hope the move to USC will be good for him.. I want to see him succeed.

  2. To the previous commenter:

    I certainly don't disagree that the american ranks are full of breast swimmers that didn't quite pan out to the uber-elite level. However, you mention Ritter...I don't know if I would have called him a breaststroker. More of a great IM'er with a very strong breast leg.

    But...he had a best time yesterday by about a second and a half over what was probably a body-suit swim (1:02.97 -> 1:01.45). I'd call him a breaststroker now.

  3. That's why i put him on the "younger guy list"
    I guess I am waiting for one of the american breast strokers to have a break out performace like they sometimes do.. but then again. I have been waiting for that.. for oh 3 years.

  4. Again, wrong. Ritter is 26. Not an old man, but not a spring chicken. He definitely does not deserve to be grouped in with "young underperforming breaststrokers"...on two counts. He has not been a "breaststroker", and is not exactly a little kid.

  5. i wouldn't jump the gun on hansen yet, he might be the current best in the usa but he has a way to go on the world stage

  6. What about this guy?

    7 Cordes, Kevin 17 Fox Valley Swim- 1:02.08 1:01.60 16
    28.42 1:01.60 (33.18)

    Just off Hansen's 17-18 record.

  7. Someone I haven't mentioned. The problem is that when Hansen went 1:01 that was an elite world time. The world record has been lowered 1.5 seconds over that time. You have to keep everything relative.

    That said- Kevin definitely looked like a kid going up against the bulky veteran breaststrokers. He may get there when he fills out and Arizona is a great place for him to be.