Friday, June 22, 2012

Swim Brief Team Up: What races are you most looking forward to at Trials?

Everyone has a race, or a few races, where they have wild predictions and they just can't wait to see how the rivalries pan out.  We have swimmers we believe will be surprise adds to the roster.  The Swim Brief Crew are gonna tell you why we are excited about a few of the specific races, and we would love to hear from you about the races you can't wait for.

VIKING!:  The race that has me most on edge is the Men's 400 IM.  Come on... no matter what side of the fence you are on about Michael Phelps motivation and training over the last four years, you have to be excited that he entered this-- and not because he is a lock like he was four years ago.  We have all seen the videos of Ryan Lochte picking up dump trucks and throwing them.  We know he is ready to rip it in half, but the reports for a large part of this Olympic cycle had been about Michael's inconsistent training while Lochte was training in full-bore bad-ass mode without ever letting up.  Phelps has avoided the 400 IM for a while, at one point even saying he was done with it forever, and now suddenly he has added it back to his schedule?!  Hmmm....   The questions: Why did Michael jump back into this event?  Can he still handle Lochte in an event this long? And is Phelps gonna be able to hold off Tyler Clary who has to be beyond sick of being stuck in third?  Think about what is at stake here... the meet is starting with an event that will give the media big reason to get behind Michael Phelps and talk about how he got back in the water just in time to train back to greatness, or to stick a fork in him and make us suffer through a week of coverage talking about how he is struggling and won't be able to carry the Americans to glory.  The entire media dialogue for the trials could be at stake, and it might cause the all the non-swimmers out there watching the national coverage to jump on the Lochte bandwagon from the first final on.  So do I want to see Michael get third in this one?  Nah... and I certainly hope he doesn't scratch it.  I just want to see how deep he can dig when the pressure is turned up on event #1 to make this Trials meet start off with an earth-shattering kaboom.  I am sure he understands that there is a lot more than another Olympic team spot at stake and I am glad he is not avoiding the challenge.  Plus, maybe if he does get third in this, the "motivation machine" will HULK OUT and go a 48 in the 100 fly for us.

The breaststroke leg of the 400 IM... it's kind of like adding a sack race to the triathlon.

DESANTIS!: It felt really strange bolding my name, putting it in italics, underlining it and then adding an exclamation point, but Viking did it so I felt pressured to follow. My most anticipated race is the women's 50 free. It's fascinating to me from a historical standpoint. If Dara Torres makes it there will be two huge angles to view it from. The first, and most important angle is that Dara will cement herself as a once in a lifetime athlete in the sport of swimming. Are we ever again going to see a 47 year old woman mixing it up in the sprints at a world class level again? The idea is cool but unlikely. The second angle is somewhat more pessimistic. It feels like we've almost lost a generation of female sprinters in this country. Dara's 25.1 entry time is incredibly impressive, but shouldn't our 20 somethings being blowing that away by now? Who knows, maybe one of them will. As my least favorite expression in swimming goes: "It's the 50, ANYTHING can happen".


GUS!: At the 2008 Olympic Trials, when Matt Grevers shocked the world, upset Ryan Lochte, and secured his Olympic roster spot in the men's 100m backstroke, I was running up and down the stairs high-fiving everyone I could see. It wasn't appropriate. I was there as "The Media." When you are part of The Media you are supposed to be Objective and Un-Biased. But since I was there to do "Chlorination" and bloggy types of columns and I was 25 years old I figured all of that exempted me from typical requirements of The Media. I ran backstage and hugged more people with the enthusiasm of a 13-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert. I called friends and coaches and family members. But my favorite moment was when I talked to Northwestern coach (both coach of me and Grevers) Bob Groseth via cell phone when Bob was with Matt in the warm-down pool. It was just one of those special kinds of moments you share, one of those magical types of moments that can only happen at the Olympic Trials. I could hear him smiling. I could hear him winded. I could hear him excited. It was one of those transcendent moments... we had known this guy since he first arrived on Northwestern's campus, and now he was this mature adult upsetting the heavy-weight favorites. It was special. I remember backstage my face was flushed, so I sat down and wiped my forehead and my hands were still tingling, thinking, "One of our own just shocked the world... one of my friends just shocked the world..." It was the closest I'd ever gotten to something as magical and momentous as that, and I'll never forget it. I'm rambling. I'm getting maudlin. OK. Let's just say that my race that I'm most excited to see is that men's 100m backstroke.

I just thought Gus always acted like a 13 year old girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  Maybe it's just when he's around me.

LISA!  What race am I looking forward to the most?  Well, as a swim fan it should surprise no one that it's the 400 IM.  I know I'm not the only one.  When the psych sheet was released my twitter feed blew up like I haven't seen since Michael Jackson died (in a perfect world big swim news would crash twitter as well.)  "He's gonna swim it!  Bob's making him!  His mother's making him!"  I don't care what the reason, he's going to swim it.  Whether he swims it at the Olympics we don't know but I can tell you this race; Phelps vs Lochte 400 IM is the equivalent of a Michigan vs Ohio State, USC vs UCLA, Mizzou vs KU all rolled into one.  This is the Bad Ass Event for the King's of Bad Ass.  

Runner Up- Women's 50 Free.  Why?  Dara Torres.  Age 47.  She has abs, I don't.  Fellow mom.  Queen of Bad Ass.  I hope she makes the team. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ritchie MP Cummins: Have you seen the new Subway commercial?

I can't believe how awesome this new Subway commercial is!  Not just because it's Michael and his acting is getting better and he is promoting healthy eating by endorsing Subway either... it is way more awesome because Michael's super-supportive mom Debbie was in it!

Debbie Phelps should guest star in more of Michael's ads!

Now it might seem a little weird that she was there at the edge of the pool ready to feed him a footlong sub right as he was diving in to start his warm up, but that is just the way they edited it I'm sure.  She probably only does that at the end of practice, but you never know.  He does eat 12,000 calories a day, so with Subway's "under 500 calorie" low fat meals he probably has to fit in 24 meals a day!  You can't accuse her of being a "helicopter mom" just because she waits at the end of his lane with a sandwich during his workouts.  That is just part of raising the best swimmer on the planet.  And I am sure Coach Bob doesn't mind!

My swim instructor at the Y gets annoyed when I have my mom bring me subs during my swim lessons, but now she has seen the ad and she gets it.  She even lets me take a time out to do the whole "mom, push me in like Debbie does to Michael thing!"  It's classic!  Everybody at the Y gets a kick out of it.  "What?!  Only one footlong?"  Ha-ha!

I am getting so excited for the Olympic Try-outs coming up in Omaha, Kansas!  I can't wait to see Michael set some more records and beat that Ryan Lockey guy and remind everyone why he's the best.  I got seats right behind the starting part of the pool.  I hope I am close enough to give him a high five! I wonder if he reads my blog.  Maybe he will recognize me!  I keep having this daydream that after he sees me he will ask if I want a private swim lesson.  That would be awesome!  He could probably teach me to breathe on the side in one day!

By the way, check out my new swim parka!  It's not the same as those waterproof ones the swim teamers wear but I sure look cool in it when take it off and reveal nothing but my speedo underneath!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Counterpoint: Too Big Trials? -Viking's Take.

I heard a coach the other day say that he refuses to take his athletes to the Olympic Trials.  He called it the "big lie"-- like 165 of the 170 athletes qualified in each event was being duped:  "Like they have a chance," he said.  "It's ridiculous.  We know who most of the Olympic Team is going to be before they ever hit the water.  It's all about the money."

This was out of the mouth of a coach whom I deeply respect and who has worked with athletes who have actually made the team.  I was taken back a little by this statement.  I knew that there were issues that come up with a large Trials, like the timeline and fitting in time trials, but it only seemed logical to me to make the trials a big event.  Especially when we see how the size of the crowd is so negatively affected by the athlete cap at the men's NCAA champs, it seems like a no-brainer that in swimming, even at the highest level, it is hard to fill the seats without the families of the swimmers in the meet there to watch. More swimmers does mean more tickets.  Is it bad to do what we can to fill the seats?  It's atmosphere, man!!

When I was swimming in college ('92-'96) you could still qualify for the Olympic Trials in the yard pool, and I believe the 200 breast cut was 1:57.99.  I didn't realize it until a couple of years later, as I hadn't started coaching yet, that after '96 the cuts were scaled back to around what the USA Nationals cuts were.  So, the breaststroke went to around 2:02.5 in SCY. (Since then they have stopped allowing q times in the yard pool, but they have kept the meet large.) I kind of felt ripped off when I heard about the change, and when I asked Coach Steck, he put it to me this way:  "I think it's the smartest grass-roots marketing USA Swimming has ever done.  Now, the small town papers get to promote swimming's local heroes.  There is gonna be a lot more interest in the sport now."

And he was right.  Do you want an example?  Take the one guy from my little tiny high school who went to trials but didn't make the team:  Derek Gibb.  He was legit in that he split 18.65 on Auburn's medley relay at NCAA's in a brief before anyone had ever broken 19 from a flat start.  In the months leading up to the 2004 Trials, Derek didn't just get an article in the local paper.  He was in the paper all over the state.  The average person was not talking about his splits at NCAA's.  They didn't know anything about how he ranked nationally unless they were into memorizing random stats from the paper.  They just knew that he was going to the Olympic Trials and swimming with the big boys.  Check out this article from the Juneau Empire. Google him and you will find even more.  Some articles were from California where he swam JUCO. This was a big deal.  He even found a fishing vessel to sponsor him so he could train!

The same thing happened here in the Joplin area during that same Olympic cycle.  A local kid (little tiny Pittsburg, KS) got just about last place in the 200 fly at the trials, but I guarantee he got about 500 local summer league families and more to tune in on tv or fill seats in the stands just to see the local guy compete in the big show.  Free advertising in local papers and on local tv?  You can't beat that.

I am sure they will make the cuts harder for the next cycle.  They probably need to... but be careful about hoping they take a big axe to those q times.  A large Trials meet has a lot of benefit, and that might outweigh the negatives.  Has there really been a loss in prestige for the big event?  Nah... the real prestige that we have to worry about is limited to the 52 who are left standing when the dust settles, and if they have a shot at that level, they can handle warming up in a crowded pool without their nerves getting rattled.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hanging Out with David Arluck and Mel Stewart

That's it... Chris doesn't pay enough here.  I'm switching to SwimSwam.

Last Friday our team hosted a Fitter and Faster Clinic.  I can not say enough about what an awesome experience it was for our team.  I had never met Mel Stewart or David Arluck in person but I had an idea of what to expect.  They were just a lot of fun. The clinic was a blast and the kids are still talking about it every day at practice.  We also got to see how flexible Mel really is.

Seriously, Mel was in a brief and still taught half of the clinic in this position.  Try it.  The kids really pay attention, as do the team moms. 

I got the chance to chill with David and Mel afterwards.  I got to hear some great stories about other Olympians, Fitter and Faster, SwimSwam and lots of cool things about these guys you might not know just from what you see on the web.   Mel was even nice enough to pretend he follows The Swim Brief.  What a great guy.

Of course, it wouldn't be a day with the Viking without getting a camera shoved in your face, so I got a couple of videos to post.  Enjoy!

Mel took the chance to tell me a story on Pablo Morales:

At dinner after the clinic David got to talk a little about how he came to be so passionate about working with swimmers.  Sorry the sound isn't great, but please give it a listen all the way through.  I was very impressed with this man.  After hearing this you might want him to be your agent:

Thanks for a great event, guys!  I hope we get to hang out again some time.