Archive for the 'swimming' Category

Final Thoughts on Swimming and Trials

The Olympic Trials in the United States’ two most successful sports are complete, and the week was full of fantastic moments. There are few smiles like those of someone who has just become an Olympian, and fans saw dozens of those this week. I won’t lie – more than a few tears trickled down my cheeks when watching the trials. A few disparate thoughts before I go to bed:

– Tyson Gay’s fall in the semis of the 200m broke my heart. First, the manner in which he fell reminded me of when I fell running (very short, very terrible dalliance into the sport) and dislocated my knee (why I stopped.) I was very happy to hear it was not that serious. Secondly, I hate that he won’t be running the 200 for the US. However, I do not think that the misfortune of one man is a reason to change an entire system that quite frankly, works just fine. There are two reasons why the trials for track work. One – the United States is loaded. We have tons of talent. Secondly, track (and swimming for that matter) is an objective sport – who is the fastest. No judges, no degree of difficulty, no petitions or lawsuits. If you run the fastest, you’re in. I have no worries for the United States in track and field. We will do just fine, even with Tyson Gay only running 100m.

– Dara Torres was the cause for many of my tears this week. How could she not be? A 41-year-old mom who is swimming at her best? I tend to believe people, sometimes causing me to be gullible. Pat Forde doubts that Dara has come by her swimming renaissance fairly, and I am embarrassed to say that it never even occurred to me that she didn’t.

– The broadcasts for both swimming and track were very good. The announcers were careful to explain qualifying procedures, back stories, athletes’ accolades and the nuances of each event. The puff pieces were kept to a minimum, but still good. The broadcasts weren’t perfect – the post-event interviews were always a little weird, but still, these broadcasts far outpaced gymnastics.

Now, we wait. Most Olympians have been decided, though some gymnastics team members are still up in the air. The Games kick off in a little more than a month. For now, we can just sit back and enjoy the hype.

Swimming Trials Notes from Weds. and Thurs.

In the 200m butterfly, Michael Phelps and Gil Stovall win. Phelps was just short of world record. Andrea Kremer asks Phelps what went wrong. Seriously? Isn’t it better for Phelps to get the world record along with a gold medal in Beijing? I’m just sayin’…

I love the world record line! Much like the first down line in football, it adds so much to the enjoyment of watching the races.

Katie Hoff and Natalie Coughlin will represent our country in the 200 IM after a very tight race. Ariana Kukors gave them a run for their money but missed the Olympics by a single a finger.

Brendan Hansen and Kitajima is the great rivalry that will not happen in the 200 breaststroke, as Hansen lost to Scott Spann and Eric Shanteau. Hansen will still compete in the 100 breast. Hansen tells Andrea Kremer that he wasn’t that disappointed because he still did his best.

Dara Torres rocks my socks. She is in the finals for the 100m freestyle with a win in today’s semis, and I know I’ve covered this before, but have I mentioned that she’s 41? Only two of Torres’s competitors were even born when she won her first medals in Los Angeles. She swam her personal best tonight. And she is 41.

In the women’s 200m butterfly, Elaine Breton and Kathleen Hersey will be the Olympians. Neither have Olympic experience, so it will be interesting to see how they will handle the pressure. They both glow through their interview with Andrea Kremer.

The 100m freestyle – the glamour event, as Rowdy Gaines calls it, is filled with giants. The average height is 6’4″. Matt Grevers is 6’8″. Cullen Jones is also in the event – the first African American world record holder. Garrett Weber-Gale wins it, with Jason Lezak, Jones and Nathan Adrian also qualifying for the Olympics. This race is not only important for the individual swimmers, but for relays as well. Americans have always been strong at the 4X100 free.

Tomorrow night should be interesting, as most of the races are down to the finals. We will see the men’s 200 IM and 200 backstroke, and the women’s 200 breaststroke and 100 free.

Olympic News and Notes, July 3, 2008

– Sports Illustrated  has a primer on equestrian sports. I’ve always liked equestrian events, and find them infinitely more interesting horse racing.

The Charlotte Observer profiled Cullen Jones, a 50m freestyler who is trying to ease into the 100m freestyle.

– Yao Ming, who seems like one of the coolest athletes on the planet, is holding a raffle to benefit the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. The prize? Be Yao’s guest at the games. You can purchase the tickets here.

– The trials keep rolling on. Bernard Lagat, one of the best stories of the Olympics, qualified at 5,000 meters. Lagat, who is Kenyan-born, is a naturalized American citizen and is very proud to represent his new home. Michael Phelps continues to kick ass.

– The Chinese are so hell bent on showing that their drug testing works that they have barred a few of their own athletes. Luo Meng, a wrestler, is the latest to get banned. Meng was using a diuretic which would help a wrestler cut weight.

Swimming Trials: Another Day, Another Record Broken

– The 200 free semis set up another duel between Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps for tomorrow night’s finals. Phelps was three one hundredths of a second behind Lochte in qualifying times.

– Christine Magnuson and Elaine Breton are headed to Beijing in 100 m butterfly. One of the best parts of watching swimming is seeing the athletes turn around to look at the results on the board. Swimmers are so focused on hitting that wall, and their vision is limited already, so they often have no idea how they fared. The look on Elaine Breton’s face when she found out that she was headed to Beijing was priceless.

– I don’t know who is doing the music selections for the trials, but they are doing a fine job. They need to talk to the folks at USA Judo and USA Wrestling to teach them what is good music for an event like this.

– There will be a swim-off for the final position in the women’s 100 breaststroke. Is a swim-off nearly as exciting as a dance off? Do they have to yell “BREASTSTROKE? BREASTSTROKE! GO!” right before they jump in the pool?

– Unfortunately, backstroker Adam Mania did not qualify for the finals at 100m. I know little about Adam Mania, just that he is a backstroker and his name would have been a lot of fun throughout the games.

– Katie Hoff qualified for the 400m freestyle to add to her world record from last night, and she will be joined by Katie Ziegler.

– Two records fell in preliminary heats. First, Hayley McGregory broke Natalie Coughlin’s 100m backstroke record. Coughlin then jumped in the pool, and took the record back.

Picture of the Day: Go-Go Gadget Arms!

Michael Phelps competes in the 400m individual medley on Sunday. Phelps broke the world record, and still has five events to go. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Notes from Swimming and Track Trials: June 29, 2008

Some thoughts from this weekend’s events:

– How often do you see drama in the women’s 10K run? Shalene Flanagan and Kara Goucher were neck and neck until the final straightaway when Flanagan broke away. Amy Begley, the third place finisher, had to step up her run a notch to make sure that her time qualified. When Begley found out that she was going to Beijing, she jumped up and down like a little girl – see why I tell you to watch the trials?

– Congratulations to my classmate at Mizzou, Christian Cantwell. His past two Olympic trials were disappointing to say the least – fouls, lots of fouls – and he qualified for the team with a throw over 71 feet. He is joined on the team by Reese Hoffa and Adam Nelson.

– Tyson Gay is one of my favorite track athletes going into Beijing. His record breaking 100m was wind aided, so it won’t go in the record books, but he sent a clear message that he will be a force in Beijing. Gay also showed his respect for history by wearing a uniform reminiscent of Jesse Owen’s uniform from the 1936 “Go F### Yourself, Hitler” Olympics in Munich.

– Michael Phelps is an amazing athlete, and driven as can be. He broke the 400m individual medley WR with friend Ryan Lochte nipping at his heels, and there is no sign that Phelps is going to let up.

– In contrast to Phelps’s cool confidence, Katie Hoff looked shocked when she found out that she broke the world record at the 400m IM.

Dara Torres is profiled in the New York Times, and her training regimen, and the cast of characters she works with, is nothing short of amazing.

– I enjoy Rowdy Gaines calling swimming for the same reasons why I love Ron Santo calling Cubs games. He has the enthusiasm of an uncle cheering on his nephew, but who will also call out his nephew for screwing up.

Try the Trials: Swimming and Track

The final trials for the U.S. Olympic team start this weekend. Swimming begins Sunday and will run through next Sunday in Omaha, Neb. (Side note – the hospitality business is Omaha must be booming. The College World Series just ended Wednesday, and now they are heading right into the Olympic trials.) Track and field runs today through Sunday in Eugene, Ore., where Team Nike USA will be assembled.

Track and Field

With Marion Jones making license plates and Justin Gatlin suing everyone but the CIA to get into the Olympics, USA T&F will have to work hard to shed the doping scandals of the past few years. Luckily, they have Allyson Felix (cue choirs of angels.) This four time world champion and Sunday school teacher is already a heavy favorite to win the 200m. Tyson Gay, running the 100m and the 200m, is the world champion in both events. Gay isn’t just looking for gold here, he wants to break the world records. In field events, Adam Nelson, a silver medalist in Sydney and Athens in the shotput, will compete against Christian Cantwell, a graduate of the best school on Earth, ever, for the spot. Jen Stuczynski has a shot at breaking the pole vault world record. (Sorry, boys, Allison Stokke will not be there.) Track and field trials will air on NBC and USA starting at midnight tonight, or tomorrow morning on USA.

Swimming

One of the things that I love about swimming is that the sport knows no age. Unlike gymnastics, where women are over the hill when they can buy themselves a Bud Light, swimmers can excel when they are 18 or 38. Remember Michael Phelps? As if you could forget him and his six gold medals. Over the seven days of trials, he will only have one day off. Now, a mature 22 year old, Phelps will try to repeat his herculean feat of 2004. As impressive as Phelps is, my heartstrings are much more tugged by Dara Torres, who made her Olympic debut in 1984. She has four gold and four bronze medals, and at age 41, is trying to make the Olympic team once again as a freestyler. Swimming television coverage starts Sunday at 8 ET on NBC, and will continue on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday on USA at 8 ET.