Monday, 31 December 2012

Top 50 Swimmers of 2012 - 30 to 21

The second annual Speed Endurance Top 50 Swimmers of the Year is upon us. There is no set-in-stone criteria, but as you would expect, this year the Olympic Games carried the most weight in the decision making process. Other outstanding achievements away from London were also acknowledged, but it took an extraordinary feat to better an Olympic medallist. Also worth noting, relay medals alone were not valued highly, however race-changing relay contributions were.

 The third part of the list takes us from 30 to 21...

30. Satomi Suzuki - 2012 Highlight - Riding Rebecca Soni's waves in the 200 breast to win silver, equalling the Asian record of 2:20.72 in the process

Suzuki had her major international breakthrough this summer in London. Her bronze in the 100 breaststroke was a surprise, but her 200 breaststroke was the star making swim. Suzuki was never more than 0.75 seconds behind Soni for the first 150m and finished just 1.13 seconds back from Soni's world record breaking swim.  Still just 21 years of age, it will be fascinating to see what kind of progress the Japanese breaststroker can make at Worlds in 2013.

29. Alicia Coutts - 2012 Highlight - Swimming the sixth fastest 200 IM in history en route to a silver medal in London

Coutts came home from London with quite the medal haul. In individual events she collected silver in the 200 IM, and added a bronze in the 100 fly (moving to 8th on the all-time list). She also had some fine relay swims in each of the Aussie women's three relays collecting a further gold and two silvers. Coutts is becoming one of the most dependable swimmers in major championships having been a multiple medallist at Pan Pacs, Commonwealths, Worlds and now Olympics. The only medal missing from her collection is an individual gold from Worlds or Olympics.

28. Park Tae-Hwan - 2012 Highlight - Finishing equal second with Sun Yang in the Olympic 200 freestyle final

The Korean superstar didn't manage to equal the success he had in Beijing where he won gold and silver, but returning home with two silver medals was still a tremendous result.  After being reinstated after a false start disqualification was overturned in the 400 freestyle heats, he led the final for 300m, before Sun Yang turned on the afterburners in the final 100m. He swam a well paced 200 freestyle to finish behind Yannick Agnel, tied with Sun Yang and ahead of both Ryan Lochte and Paul Biedermann. Park also finished 4th in the 1500 final.

27. Emily Seebohm - 2012 Highlight - Getting within 0.11 of the 100 backstroke world record in the 100 backstroke heats in London

Gemma Spofforth's world record of 58.11 seemed like a mark that would last some time before Seebohm gave it an almighty rattle in her 100 back heat swim. Unfortunately she wasn't able to improve on her heat time and ended up with silver in the 100 back, silver in the 4x100 medley relay (as well as gold from her heat swim in the 4x100 freestyle relay). Seebohm may have been a victim of her own early speed. After the stunning heat swim, all attention in the 100 back shifted from Missy Franklin to Seebohm, and gave Franklin a rabbit to chase. Seebohm left London in the knowledge that her heat swim remained the fastest 100 back swam in London. The swimming world can look forward to a Franklin-Seebohm rematch at Worlds.

26. Mireia Belmonte Garcia - 2012 Highlight - Swimming a tactically brilliant 800 freestyle to win silver ahead of home favourite Rebecca Adlington

Belmonte Garcia was not expected to factor in the 800 free podium in London. That seemed to be the territory of Adlington, Katie Ledecky and Lotte Friis. Instead, the Spaniard crashed the party with her steady pacing. Running 5th all the way to 450m, she then moved up to 4th before taking 3rd from Friis at 600m. At 700m she picked off Adlington, finishing with the silver in a time of 8:18.76. Her other silver medal in the 200 fly was equally as impressive and also involved beating more fancied rivals. Her national record of 2:05.25 placed her ahead of Hoshi, Hershey, Adams, Lowe, Jakabos and Zige. Belmonte Garcia became the first Spanish swimmer to win two Olympic medals.

25. Michael Jamieson - 2012 Highlight - Just running out of pool as he closed down Daniel Gyurta in the 200 breaststroke

Jamieson was one of the revelations of the Olympics and finished with Britain's highest place of the Games. Qualifying fastest for the 200 breast final opened many peoples eyes, but the race was still expected to be between Gyurta and Kosuke Kitajima. Jamieson tracked Gyurta for the first 150m before taking half a second out of the Hungarian's lead on the final 50m. Ending up just 0.15 shy of Gyurta and his new world record, he became (at the time) the 4th fastest ever in the event and second fastest ever in textile. He also picked up silver in Istanbul at World SC in a loaded final, losing out to Gyurta once again.

24. Aliaksandra Herasimenia - 2012 Highlight - Racing to a national record of 24.28 in the 50 freestyle, picking up her second silver medal from London

The reigning co-world champion in the 100 free, Herasimenia proved that Shanghai was no fluke. Only Ranomi Kromowidjojo stood in her way in London as she picked up silvers in the 50 free and 100 free. In Kromowidjojo's absence she won the world short course title in the 50 free in Istanbul to complete a great year for the Belarussian. 2012 was the year that Herasimenia confirmed her status as one of the world's premier sprinters.

23. Akihiro Yamaguchi - 2012 Highlight - Shocking the world with his 2:07.01 world record in the 200 breaststroke at the Japan Open

Yamaguchi was a difficult man to place in this list. His ranking comes down to how highly you value world records. The 18-year-old missed out on a place in London, but made sure the world didn't forget about him by blowing away Daniel Gyurta's world record before the ink had even dried in the record book. He finished 4th in his first global final in Istanbul, just shy of Jamieson and Viatcheslav Sinkevich. The emergence of the young Japanese breaststroker has made the men's 200 breaststroke one of the must-see events in world swimming as we enter 2013.

22. James Magnussen - 2012 Highlight - Getting within touching distance of the 100 freestyle world record with his 47.10 from Australian Olympic Trials

Another of the most difficult swimmers to place in the top 50 list. He was 0.01 second away from being much higher in this list. Firstly, the positives. Magnussen's 47.10 swim is a strong candidate for swim of the year. It changed the world's image of what was possible in the 100 freestyle. London didn't go well for Magnussen though. Picking up silver in 47.53, just a hundredth of a second behind winner Nathan Adrian was not what the Missile would have expected. That final came after an underwhelming 48.03 lead-off in the 4x100 freestyle, where the hot-favourite Australian team had to settle for fourth. All in all a frustrating Olympics for Magnussen, but he still ends the year 0.42 clear of the rest of the world after that stunning 47.10 effort.

21. Tyler Clary - 2012 Highlight - Beating long-time rivals Ryan Lochte and Ryosuke Irie to win gold in the 200 backstroke in London

Clary missed out on Olympic qualification for the 400 IM, instead making the team in the 200 fly and 200 back. His fifth place in the 200 fly was solid, but he was well out of the medal hunt. Then came his 200 back final. The seemingly invincible Ryan Lochte led to 150m, but Clary never let his compatriot get away. Clary closed Lochte down for the entire second 100m of the race and eventually moved clear on the final length to record one of the biggest upsets of the Olympic Games. With Michael Phelps out of the picture in many of Clary's events, he should have his pick of races in 2013.

Top 50 so far...

50. Brendan Hansen
49. Oussama Mellouli
48. Yulia Efimova
47. Aya Terakawa
46. Cesar Cielo
45. Yevgeny Korotyshkin
44. Katinka Hosszu
43. Melanie Schlanger
42. Lu Ying
41. Vladimir Morozov
40. Nick Thoman
39. Thiago Pereira
38. Cullen Jones
37. Ryan Cochrane
36. Takeshi Matsuda
35. Christian Sprenger
34. Anastasia Zueva
33. Rebecca Adlington
32. Elizabeth Beisel
31. Ryosuke Irie
30. Satomi Suzuki
29. Alicia Coutts
28. Park Tae-Hwan
27. Emily Seebohm
26. Mireia Belmonte Garcia
25. Michael Jamieson
24. Aliaksandra Herasimenia
23. Akihiro Yamaguchi
22. James Magnussen
21. Tyler Clary

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Top 50 Swimmers of 2012 - 40 to 31

The second annual Speed Endurance Top 50 Swimmers of the Year is upon us. There is no set-in-stone criteria, but as you would expect, this year the Olympic Games carried the most weight in the decision making process. Other outstanding achievements away from London were also acknowledged, but it took an extraordinary feat to better an Olympic medallist. Also worth noting, relay medals alone were not valued highly, however race-changing relay contributions were.

The second part of the list takes us from 40 to 31...

40. Nick Thoman - 2012 Highlight - Being the '2' of the USA's 1-2 in the men's 100 backstroke final in London.

Thoman gets bonus points for having to come through a loaded US trials final to make the US Olympic team. David Plummer was sub-53 seconds in Omaha, with Ben Hesen 4th in 53.0, but Thoman's 52.86 booked his ticket. With his 52.92 swim in the Olympic final he took the silver medal getting the better of a some big name rivals including Ryosuke Irie, Camille Lacourt, Liam Tancock and Helge Meeuw. Thoman's year has undoubtedly been overshadowed by Matt Grevers, but he deserves his spot in the top 50.

39. Thiago Pereira - 2012 Highlight - Finishing as the highest placed Brazilian in London with his silver medal in the 400 IM.

Despite finishing behind Ryan Lochte by over three and a half seconds, Pereira was still good enough to pick up the silver medal ahead of the likes of Michael Phelps, Chad le Clos and Kosuke Hagino. Having finished 5th in the 200 IM in Athens and 4th in Beijing, Pereira's hard work payed off as he finally secured an Olympic medal at the third time of trying. His poor freestyle leg came back to haunt him in the 200 IM final as he turned 2nd at 150m, only to be passed by both Michael Phelps and Laszlo Cseh to drop him down to fourth.

38. Cullen Jones - 2012 Highlight - Getting his hand on the wall second in the hotly contested 50 freestyle final in London.

Florent Manaudou's heroics may have led some to overlook Cullen Jones' first Olympic medal in an individual event. Jones was able to match his semi-final time to finish 2nd in the final ahead of Cesar Cielo, Bruno Fratus, Anthony Ervin, Roland Schoeman, George Bovell and Eamon Sullivan. He also swam a fine 47.60 leg in the USA's silver medal winning 4x100 free relay. He showed good resilience to come back after he placed 16th in the 100 free semis.

37. Ryan Cochrane - 2012 Highlight - Staying with Sun Yang for 600m before finishing with silver in the 1500 freestyle in London

The 1500 was expected to be a formality for Sun Yang, but Ryan Cochrane kept the final interesting for 600m. Despite being dropped by the Chinese champion, he still held on valiantly for silver and became the fourth fastest 1500 swimmer in history (third fastest in textile). Along with Ous Mellouli, Cochrane ensured that the London podium was two thirds the same as in Beijing. Cochrane also just missed out on the 400 final by 0.01 seconds, finishing 9th after the heats.

36. Takeshi Matsuda - 2012 Highlight - Playing a big part in one of the most exciting races of London 2012 with his bronze in the 200 butterfly

Matsuda ran out of steam a couple of metres out from the wall, otherwise he might have been the man to take down Michael Phelps in his signature event. Instead he finished third in 1:53.21, the fourth fastest performance in textile. Matsuda's 51.20 fly leg (1.16 seconds faster than his individual 100 fly) in the 4x100 medley relay also gave Japan enough of a cushion over Australia and James Magnussen for them to hang on for silver.

35. Christian Sprenger - 2012 Highlight - Breaking 59 seconds in the 100 breaststroke to pick up an Olympic silver medal

Sprenger had looked strong in the heats (fastest qualifier) and semi (winning semi-final 2), but it still came as a big surprise to see the Australian break through 59 seconds to win silver behind Cameron van der Burgh's world record. In the two years after the tech-suits were banned, Sprenger hadn't been back under the minute barrier in the 100 breast, but in 2012 it all came good swimming under the mythical barrier 5 times. Sprenger split 59.05 in the 4x100 Medley relay for the bronze medal winning Australia, but was out-split by Kosuke Kitajima (58.64), with Japan taking silver.

34. Anastasia Zueva - 2012 Highlight - Bouncing back from 4th in the 100 backstroke to win silver in the 200 back

After finishing 4th and 5th in Beijing in the backstrokes and 4th in London in the 100 back, Zueva must have been cursing her Olympic luck, which made her silver medal in the 200 backstroke all the more impressive. After 150m of the final, the race for silver looked wide open, but Zueva mustered the fastest closing 50 of the race to finish behind Missy Franklin. She became only the second woman in history to dip under 2:06 in textile (the other being Franklin).

33. Rebecca Adlington - 2012 Highlight - Her hard fought bronze in the 400 freestyle in a time of 4:03.01

Adlington's double bronze performance in London confirmed her status as Britain's most successful ever Olympic swimmer and was a fine return. The only disappointment came from the fact that she had been faster in both the 400 and 800 free at British trials back in March, something that plighted most of the British team in London. Given the form of Camille Muffat and Allison Schmitt it would have been a tall order to improve on her bronze in the 400 free. In the 800 free the silver escaped her grasp, but the gold was always going to be difficult with the form of Katie Ledecky on the day. Post-Olympics Adlington cycled 450km through Zambia for charity, which unfortunately does not count towards this list.

32. Elizabeth Beisel - 2012 Highlight - Her silver medal in the 400 IM. It took Ye Shiwen's world record to beat her.

After her stunning 400 IM world title in Shanghai, Beisel was the heavy favourite going into London. Unfortunately she came up against Ye Shiwen and her incredible 4:28.43 world record. Beisel swam a tremendous race, leading at 300m by 0.8 seconds. She finished half a second faster than her winning time from Shanghai. She ends the year with 3 of the top 5 swims in the 400 IM. She also picked up a second individual medal with bronze in the 200 backstroke behind Franklin and Zueva. 

31. Ryosuke Irie - 2012 Highlight - Beating Ryan Lochte in the Olympic 200 backstroke final, ending up with the silver medal

After finishing 5th as an 18 year old in Beijing, Irie put together 4 tremendous years in the run up to London. Irie's consistency has been tremendous and he owns 5 of the top 10 200 back swims this year. In London he was able to save his fastest swim of the year for the Olympic final (1:53.78, the third fastest swim in textile). Going into the final he must have thought that if he beat Lochte, the gold would be his, but unfortunately Tyler Clary scuppered that for him. Irie also picked up bronze in the 100 back final with a sub-53 second swim and gave Japan a great launching pad in the 4x100 medley relay that won silver with a 52.92 lead-off (slightly faster than his individual final time).

Top 50 so far...

50. Brendan Hansen
49. Oussama Mellouli
48. Yulia Efimova
47. Aya Terakawa
46. Cesar Cielo
45. Yevgeny Korotyshkin
44. Katinka Hosszu
43. Melanie Schlanger
42. Lu Ying
41. Vladimir Morozov
40. Nick Thoman
39. Thiago Pereira
38. Cullen Jones
37. Ryan Cochrane
36. Takeshi Matsuda
35. Christian Sprenger
34. Anastasia Zueva
33. Rebecca Adlington
32. Elizabeth Beisel
31. Ryosuke Irie

Friday, 28 December 2012

Top 50 Swimmers of 2012 - 50 to 41

The second annual Speed Endurance Top 50 Swimmers of the Year is upon us. There is no set-in-stone criteria, but as you would expect, this year the Olympic Games carried the most weight in the decision making process. Other outstanding achievements away from London were also acknowledged, but it took an extraordinary feat to better an Olympic medallist. Also worth noting, relay medals were not valued highly, however race-changing relay contributions were.

Thanks for reading Speed Endurance in 2012, we look forward to welcoming you back next year. Let's get this list started...

50. Brendan Hansen - 2012 Highlight - Exacting revenge on long-time arch rival Kosuke Kitajima to win bronze in the 100 breaststroke in London

While some of his breaststroke rivals were under-performing in London, Hansen saved the best swim of his superb comeback to the sport for the Olympic final. Hansen's bronze medal winning time, 59.49, was the exact same time that Cameron van der Burgh (who will feature higher up this list) swam in Shanghai at Worlds last year to also win bronze. Repetitive numbers were a theme for Hansen this year as his wife gave birth to a baby girl on 12-12-12. Hansen also swam a sharp 59.19 breaststroke relay leg as part of the gold medal winning USA medley relay team.

49. Oussama Mellouli - 2012 Highlight - For the sake of this list (pool accomplishments only), Mellouli's highlight was his hard earned bronze medal in the 1500 freestyle in London.

Despite losing his Olympic crown to Sun Yang, Mellouli actually swam faster in London than he did in Beijing four years earlier. Finishing a full 10 seconds ahead of fourth placed Park Tae Hwan, Mellouli confirmed his status as one of the great distance freestyle swimmers the sport has seen. Had he taken part in the 400 freestyle, he would have had a great shot at the bronze medal... and a sizeable jump up this list.

48. Yulia Efimova - 2012 Highlight - Winning bronze in the Olympic 200 breaststroke final, the fastest women's 200 breaststroke final of all-time.

Efimova, along with Satomi Suzuki (silver), made the 200 breaststroke final a lot closer than many had expected it to be. While Rebecca Soni was setting a new world record, Efimova had the fastest closing 50m leg of the entire final to win bronze and set a new European record of 2:20.92. Efimova's closing 50m was enough to just push Denmark's Rikke Moller Pedersen, 4th in London and World SC champion, out of the Top 50 and onto the bubble. A disappointing 7th in the 100 breaststroke halted Efimova's rise further up the list.

47. Aya Terakawa - 2012 Highlight -  Securing the bronze medal in the 100 backstroke in London, one of the most hotly contested finals on the women's side

At the age of 28, Terakawa finally won a medal at a major global championships. A model of consistent swimming for years, she was able to save her fastest swim of the year for when it mattered the most. Swimming 59.3 or quicker 6 times in 2012, she also set up the Japanese women's bronze medal winning 4x100 Medley relay team with a great lead-off leg.

46. Cesar Cielo - 2012 Highlight - 21.38 in the 50 freestyle at the Maria Lenk Trophy in April. A new textile best time for the Brazilan superstar.

I've chosen Cielo's highlight of the year as his lightning fast swim from the Maria Lenk Trophy, rather than his bronze medal in the 50 free in London. Although the medal was one of only two Brazilian medals from London, Cielo would have hoped for a shinier colour. Having been the dominant sprinter for the last Olympic cycle, he didn't get it right in the Olympic final finishing in 21.59. He does end the year ranked second in the world, just 0.04 behind Florent Manaudou's textile best time from London. Cielo will need to produce something special in 2013 to regain his sprint dominance with Manaudou (and if Istanbul is anything to go by, Morozov) ready to take over. Cesão will turn 26 in January, he's got a lot of years left in the tank. The emerging competition in the men's 50 free makes it one of the most fascinating events in swimming right now.

45. Yevgeny Korotyshkin - 2012 Highlight - From lane 8 in the 100 butterfly final, finishing with a joint second place finish with Chad le Clos

During the 100 fly final in London, all eyes were focused on lanes 4 and 5 (Phelps and le Clos), with some added spice coming from early leader Milorad Cavic (lane 6) and Tyler McGill (lane 3). After qualifying eighth for the 100 fly final, Korotyshkin executed his race perfectly. He turned in fourth, ahead of Phelps and le Clos, but as the rest of the field dropped back, the Russian showed great strength on the final 50m. Only Phelps got past the veteran Russian flyer. Undoubtedly McGill and Cavic underperformed in the final, but when you are just 0.23 seconds behind Michael Phelps, and tie with Chad le Clos, both of whom will feature much higher in this list, you've done well. Korotyshkin finished the year by becoming European SC champion in the 100 fly.

44. Katinka Hosszu - 2012 Highlight - Cashing in the $100,000 cheque for winning the Top Female award on the FINA World Cup circuit

Hosszu had a disappointing Olympic games. Her best result came in the 400 IM when she finished 4th, however the time she swam at the Indianapolis Grand Prix in March would have been good enough for bronze (the same could also be said for Hannah Miley and her time from GB trials). She then finished 8th in the 200 IM, 3 seconds adrift of the rest of the field and failed to qualify for the 200 butterfly final. The Olympics were an unfortunate aberration in an otherwise stupendous year. She was USC's star performer at NCAAs, a triple European LC and SC champion and the star of the World Cup meets. The pinnacle of her year came at the recent World SC when she set a new meet record of 2:02.20 in the 200 butterfly, beating Olympic champion Jiao Liuyang in the process.

43. Melanie Schlanger - 2012 Highlight - Anchoring Australia's gold medal winning 4x100 freestyle relay, holding off a fast charging Ranomi Kromowidjojo

This selection may raise some eyebrows given that Schlanger did not win any individual medals in London. Not that she didn't come close, just 0.03 seconds away from bronze in 100 free final. Schlanger makes this list for her three relay swims. As I mention above, relay medals alone won't get you a place in the Top 50, but outstanding relay performances will. In the 4x200 free relay Schlanger, a 100 specialist, had Australia's fastest split, and with the help of Bronte Barratt had the AUS team 0.6seconds ahead of USA after two legs.  They went on to win silver. In the 4x100 medley relay, another silver for Australia, Schlanger had the fastest freestyle split of the entire race. Finally, the 4x100 freestyle relay. Schlanger had a 1.36 second lead over the Netherlands when she took over, seemingly insurmountable, but then Ranomi Kromowidjojo split a sensational 51.93. Had Schlanger split 53.30 (faster than every USA relay split) Australia would have lost their only gold of the games, however Schlanger kept her cool and raced to a superb 52.65 final split. Kromowidjojo and Schlanger were the only two swimmers to break 53 seconds in the free relay.

42. Lu Ying - 2012 Highlight - Beating the more fancied Alicia Coutts and Sarah Sjostrom to win silver in the Olympic 100 butterfly final 

Lu Ying converted her World bronze medal from Shanghai into a silver in London. After a strong heat swim, followed by a less than convincing semi-final, she saved her best swim for the final to beat out Coutts for the silver 56.87 to 56.94. Lu Ying finished the year strongly with victory in the 50 butterfly at the World Short Course Championships in Istanbul (25.14), that came after she had crashed out of the 100 fly in the heats.

41. Vladimir Morozov - 2012 Highlight - Breaking out as the next sprint freestyle star at the World Short Course Championships

Morozov doesn't make the list for his Olympic exploits, although he was a part of Russia's bronze medal winning 4x100 freestyle relay. Instead he breaks into the Top 50 for his stunning 50 free (20.55), 100 free (45.65) double in Istanbul as well as an even faster relay lead off of 45.52. His sheer speed on top of the water is frightening, at the Euro SC and World SC he was swimming away from world class sprinters. 2013 should be an even brighter year for the 20 year old from Siberia, via Southern California.

On the bubble

Bronte Barratt, Natsumi Hoshi, Rikke Moller Pedersen, Ryo Tateishi, Laszlo Cseh, Clement Lefert, Kosuke Hagino, Caitlin Leverenz, Peter Vanderkaay, Brent Hayden, Yi Tang, Marleen Veldhuis, Li Xuanxu, Hannah Miley, Alia Atkinson, Olivia Smoliga, Mie Nielsen, Ilaria Bianchi

Interesting note - If last year is anything to go by, being in the 41-50 range is a great stepping stone for future success. Olympic champions included in this tier last year: Yannick Agnel, Cameron van der Burgh & Tyler Clary.

Is there a more picturesque setting for a swim meet than La Reunion?

London put on a great show for this year's Olympic Games, but when it comes to picturesque surroundings it can't beat the competition currently taking place in La Reunion.

Featuring a nice smattering of international stars such as Katinka Hosszu, Britta Steffen, Paul Biedermann and Camille Lacourt, the 24th Meeting de l'Ocean Indien runs for the next three days.


The Pool

The Country

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Banned Brazilian Swimmer Diego Candido Prado Issues an Important Statement

From Blog do Coach (translated from the original Portuguese)

"Out of respect for my family, the club Serc Santa Maria, the Secretary of Sports and Tourism of São Caetano do Sul, doping control entities, sports entities and swimming, the FAP, finally the CBDA, I apologize for my mistake. Perhaps because of immaturity or insecurity, I mistakenly did not believe in myself and I made the worst decision, making use of a drug that would only harm me in every way. But this is also the time to take advantage of this situation to alert all athletes for this type of trap, which is so widespread in high class sport, especially on the internet. The only way for the sportsman is your personal effort, the training and guidance of our technicians and the teachings of the family.
I assume and acknowledge my mistake, which I deeply regret, being aware that I pay a high price for it. But always keep your head up and continue my training with the firm intention of returning to the pool as soon as possible to regain a place in this sport I love so much. "
Finally, I leave my record on this issue and say that I will not make any other statement regarding this case.

Extremely sad. Prado, a promising Brazilian breaststroker, was banned for two years earlier this month for using Stanozol, an anabolic steroid. Hopefully any athletes/coaches/parents considering the use of illegal means to get an edge on the competition heed Prado's warning.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Cesar Cielo is back

Manaudou, Morozov, Bousquet... watch out. Cesar Cielo is back... and his training has gone canine.

Merry Christmas

Check back in the next few days for our second annual 'Top 50 Swimmers of the Year' list.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Hetland goes out with a big bang

As Aleksander Hetland (29) took his final swimming stroke of his career he also became Norway's second world Champion of all time.

This happened just 17 months after Alexander Dale Oen became the first one - both athletes being coached by Sondre Solberg at Bærumsvømmerne at the time they became kings of the breaststroke world.

The stars aligned this time for Hetland, with Cameron van der Burgh out with injury before the championships. Then when the man who took down Hetland's hope of European glory just weeks before, Fabio Scozzoli, had to withdraw from the World Championships due to illness Norwegian fans were getting gold in their eyes.

Hetland himself was worried. The time in the prelims and semifinal was not as good as he hoped for. He qualified fourth for the final and even Solberg had some doubts about his man.

"He looked a bit flat", admits Solberg, but he added the fact that throughout his career Hetland has been a finals man. A man who thrives on big occasions.

"He's a showhorse, and needs that kind of kick and adrenaline that a final setting can give."

And it did not get bigger than this. Hetland had announced this was his has last race, something he was very conscious about. It may even have helped him reach the pinnacle on Sunday night.

"As I took that last stroke I was actually thinking - this is your last stroke, make it count", said Hetland.

And he did. The norwegian finished only 0.02 seconds ahead of Damir Dugonjic of Slovenia, and 0.03 ahead of Florent Manaudou (France). He could easily have replicated his to date best World Championships performance, a bronze medal in the same event from 2010.

"I cant believe I'm a World Champion", said Hetland, standing firm that this was his final individual swim.

The title also came after a year which for Norwegian swimming has been extremely rough. The loss of Alexander Dale Oen sent the whole nation, not to say the swimming community into mourning. For the 29-year-old Hetland in particular as he lost his friend whom he had grown closer to in the last months, being united by their joint coach.

The partnership between them was a fruitful one. Hetland had his strong points, at starts and turns, Dale Oen's weaknesses. At the same time Dale Oen taught the other Alex some swimming tricks, particularly at pure swimming speed, where very few could compare to Norway's first world champion.

Aleksander (spelt with a 'k' as opposed to Dale Oen's 'x') Hetland used the knowledge learnt from Dale Oen as he missed the turn in the 50m final.

"I didn't have as good a dive as a I do at my best, and I missed the turn. I thought I had lost the race at that point. I never overtake people at the last 25", the sprint specialist said.

But that's just what he did. As he arrived back in Norway to a media frenzy at the airport he thanked Alexander Dale Oen for his help.

"Alex has a great part to play in this medal. He showed me things and techniques that I brought with me to this date", Alex Hetland said of Dale Oen.

Mind boggling in a year in which Daniel Gyurta dedicated his Olympic gold medal to the deceased Norwegian breaststroker, and Cameron van der Burgh, who at several times was in Bergen, Norway, to train and compete with Dale Oen, won the 100 meter breaststroke in London.

The contrast to Aleksander Hetland's last appearance in front of the media at the same airport was there for all to see. That was as the team landed back on Norwegian soil after the tragic incident in Flagstaff. As the oldest and most merited swimmer on the team it was natural that he took responsibility and some of the media responsibilities off the youngsters. A responsibility he did not shy away from.

Since the passing of Norway's greatest ever swimmer the focus for national team coach Petter Løvberg has been to continue the Norwegian success in the pool, and keep the spirit of Dale Oen alive.

Hetland in many ways started the revelation that has been Norwegian swimming in the late 2000's when he came fourth in the 100 IM at the Indianapolis World Short Course Championships in 2004.

Since 2006 Norway has taken 30 international medals, and since Dale Oens passing alone they've taken six, amongst them Hetlands gold and Ingvild Snildal/Sara Nordenstam's European long course titles. The Olympics might have been disappointing but otherwise Norwegian swimming has kept its level. Before 2006 the top results were few and far between. That performance culture is what the head of the national team, Petter Løvberg, wants to keep alive.

No wonder the Norwegian national team still want the 29 year old with a background of swimming and studying at SMU and university of Tampa, to contribute to the sport and especially the young athletes coming through the ranks.

Løvberg, or "Pete" as he is affectionately called, wants him to be a mentor for national team members. The Norwegian Swimming Federation sees Hetland as a good man for tutoring young athletes, both because of his swimming knowledge, but also because of the mentality that comes with being a world champion.

"We've already agreed for Hetland to be part of a training camp for our junior national team in January", says Løvberg.

At that camp Robin Dale Oen, Alexander's brother and former national record holder will also participate, to help keep the spirit and attitude brought to life by the two Alex's in particular.

Hetland will start working with branding at a major mineral water and brewery-company in Norway come 2013, so the full extent of the cooperation is not known, but Løvberg and his team want Hetland to be as involved as possible.

"I want to be a part of Norwegian swimming in the future. I want to give something back to a sport that has given me so much itself", says Hetland.

The swimming federation hopes to lure the breaststroker back in to competition. Especially for a breaststroke leg in the mixed medley relay at the European short course championships the coming year. Even if he's not fit to fight with the very best in the world he can still be an asset for the team. In and out of the pool.

"He does not have to train a lot to keep competitive. We try telling him that, but for now we have to give him peace. He deserves to have the opportunity to start his regular professional life - and I'm sure he will excel at that as well", says Løvberg.

Aleksander Hetland himself is sure he's ended on a high, but leaves a glimmer of hope for Norwegian swimming enthusiasts.

"We'll have to wait and see. Anything can happen, but now I'm having a long break", says the World Champion.

Monday, 17 December 2012

What happened to Ryan Lochte during the 200 back in Istanbul?

Ryan Lochte, the male swimmer of the meet, had a tremendous World Short Course Championships... but it didn't go all his own way.

After his pair of IM world records on the previous two days, expectations were sky high ahead of the 200 backstroke final. However, for the second global championship in a row he was upset in one of his signature events, the 200 back.

All the pre-race signs looked positive. The 200 back was the first final of the day. Lochte was the fastest qualifier having finished his heat swim in a lightning fast 25.93 final 50m split. In 2010 his winning time of 1:46.88 just missed Arkady Vyatchanin's world record of 1:46.11... and we had already seen Lochte swim faster than Dubai this week.

But something happened in the 200 back race, his underwaters stopped dominating his competitors. Watch the start, Ryan Murphy (lane 5) is leading at 25m. On top of that, on the very final turn Lochte went in first, but Radoslaw Kawecki surfaced with Lochte before overhauling him on the touch.

Even the current world record holder (and current training partner of Lochte) was surprised.

At first it looked like Lochte might have been trying to do just enough to save himself for the 100 IM final that closely followed the 200 back, however that didn't seem to be the case after seeing how tired he was after the 100 IM. At the same time it is too easy just to chalk it down to the busy schedule he had... Lochte returned later with a 45.2 freestyle leg in the relay, so clearly still had some gas left in the tank.

So the question remains, what happened to Lochte? After his second high profile defeat, has he now lost his unbeatable aura in the 200 back?

(It might not matter soon anyway... Ryan Murphy (17), the second coming of Aaron Peirsol, has arrived)

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Does Brazil's Nicholas Santos have the best start in swimming?

There are some great starters in swimming, but there might not be any quite as good as Brazil's Nicholas Santos. 

Watch Santos (lane 4) explode out of the blocks in the 50m Butterfly final. He's well clear of the rest of the field by 10m.

Is Santos swimming's fastest starter?

There are a number of other challengers for the title. Ryan Lochte, Cesar Cielo, Kenneth To, Roland Schoeman, Steffen Diebler and Florent Manaudou.

Here is Manaudou's start from the 50m free final.

Ryan Lochte from the 100 IM semi-final

...and Cesar Cielo from the 50m free in Dubai 2010

Unfortunately we don't have a definitive answer, but there is little doubt that Nicholas Santos is in rare company when it comes to getting off the blocks. 

Watch Ryan Lochte set a new World Record in the 100 Individual Medley

There isn't a swimmer in the world that can keep pace with Ryan Lochte when he is in this sort of form. He had the fastest first and second 50m of the entire race. Utterly dominant.

It was fitting that Peter Mankoc, now 34 years of age, was in the race. Three years ago at the European Championships (also in Istanbul) Mankoc set the former world record, also in a semi-final. Mankoc swam his race from lane 5 that day. From lane 7 this time around he got a view of Lochte's race that money can't buy.

As far as tonight's 100 IM final is concerned, expectations should be tempered. This might be as fast as we see from Lochte as he has a brutal final session ahead. The 200 backstroke final is up first with the 100 IM following just minutes afterwards. Then again, we are talking about Ryan Lochte here... tempering expectations isn't usually a good idea.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

World Short Course Swimming Championships - Istanbul - Dec 12 - 16

Start Lists & Results

Live Video (1) (2) (3) 

Live Audio

Live Timing


Prize Money

Hot Topic - Ye Shiwen

2016 World Short Course host announced

Heats start at 10am Istanbul time (8am London / 3am New York)

Finals start at 7pm Istanbul time (5pm London / Midday New York)

Watch Vladimir Morozov 'The Siberian Sizzler' become world champion in the 50 free

The 50 free final in Istanbul really lived up to the pre-race hype. Florent Manaudou was going for a rare triple crown, Olympic, European and World champion in the same year. Vladimir Morozov had other ideas.

Manaudou blasted off the blocks as strongly as usual, but couldn't build a lead over Morozov as they took the turn together. The Russian then showed that there is nobody faster than him on top of the water as he pulled away from the field on the second 25m.

The winning time, 20.55, was sensational. Only Cesar Cielo has been faster in a textile suit (20.51) and Roland Schoeman's world record of 20.30 doesn't seem out of reach. In fact, a combination of Manaudou's dynamite start (or Schoeman's for that matter) with Morozov's speed might just have cracked the world record.

Mark down Saturday 3 August 2013 in your diary. That's when Morozov, Manaudou, Cielo, Schoeman, Jones, Ervin, Fratus et al will rumble in the 50 free final at Worlds in Barcelona. It has the potential to be a classic.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Watch Ryan Lochte set a new world record in the 200 IM

There have been some outstanding swims already in Istanbul, but Ryan Lochte breaking 1:50 in the 200 IM tops them all. Regardless of the length of the pool, this goes down as one of the all-time great IM swims.

Lochte's splits emphasised his sheer dominance - he had the fastest time on all four strokes.

Fly - 23.71 (Would have finished 20th in the 50 fly individual event, just missing the semi-final)
Back - 27.03 (Just a shade slower than 100 back bronze medalist Guilherme Guido's second 50m)
Breast - 31.74 
Free - 27.15

Additionally, after the medal presentation, Lochte gave his medal away to a young fan. A genuinely classy move.

Post-race comments

On why he gave his medal away to a young boy in the crowd:
“One of the main reasons for racing is because of my fans, so I always want to give something back.”
“If I took the medal it would end up in a sock drawer, if I give it to a fan they’re going to treasure it. It will make their day or even their life.”
“To see that smile on that little face means everything to me.”
On whether it is the first time he has given a medal away:
“I give them all away.”

World Swimming Championships Day 2 Highlights - Smoliga, Scozzoli, Morozov & Manaudou

Smoliga shocks the world

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Relive Vladimir Morozov's 45.52 from Istanbul

Watch the Siberian Sizzler Vladimir Morozov race away from a talented field including Anthony Ervin, Luca Dotto, Tommaso D'Orsagna and Takuro Fujii. He splits 21.62 at 50m before laying down the after burners on the second 50m (23.90).

Takeovers, takeovers, takeovers (make that переход, переход, переход)

Keep watching for the final takeover. You will see two things...
1) Matt Grevers USA with a sublime takeover (0.13).
2) Artem Lobuzov RUS with a shocker (0.49)

One of the most well trodden theories in swimming is the strength of Team USA's takeovers... and it is not a myth, here are the cumulative takeover times:

USA - 0.47 seconds (no US swimmer had a takeover time of more than 0.18)
Russia - 1.26 seconds (no Russian swimmer had a takeover time of less than 0.35)
Total USA gain on three takeovers = 0.79 seconds

To put that into perspective, Russia missed out on the bronze medal to Australia by 0.74 seconds.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

On The Eve Of Battle In Istanbul... Craig Lord Takes Another Shot At Ye Shiwen

Speed Endurance 11 point rebuttal

1 - Interesting decision to highlight Michael Phelps, who split 29.88 and 28.44 on the final 100m. Seems strange not to mention Phelps' second 50m. Despite not being in great 400 IM shape, his final 50m was still half a second faster than Ye, who incidentally has been back ending her races for years.

2 - Ye Shiwen split 28.93 to finish her 400 IM in London. Rebecca Adlington split 28.91 to finish her 800 free in Shanghai a year before. Number of doping accusations on the sly against Adlington - 0.

3 - Lord gives no context to the race. You would think Ye Shiwen pipped Lochte to the men's gold. She didn't, she ended up 23 seconds behind Lochte. News flash, CL. Lochte swam the race entirely differently to Ye Shiwen. He split an incredible 1:56.8 at 200m, Ye Shiwen turned in 2:11.7 (which in real terms would have been approx. 25m behind Lochte).

4 - Fact 1 - Ye Shiwen crushed all other women's freestyle splits in the 400 IM final. Fact 2 - Caitlin Leverenz (=6th) was over a second faster than all other women's splits breaststroke splits in the 400 IM final. Fact 3 - Ryan Lochte was 2.32 seconds clear of the rest of the field at 200m in the men's 400 IM final. All incredible feats.

5 - It's that C word again (not that one). Context. Re-watch the 200 and 400 free finals. They were brutal and both are entirely different races to the 400 IM. The 400 IM is a tough, tough race, but it also involves four different strokes and different muscle fatigue. The comparison to the 200 and 400 free is not as clear-cut as Craig Lord would lead you to believe.

In the 200 free, a race that generally involves early speed and then hanging on for dear life, Allison Schmitt blazed through the first 100m in 55.38. 55.38 is a world class 100m free time. Seven of the eight finalists split sub-57 seconds at 100m, no kidding they finished the race slower than Ye Shiwen. The 400 free, a more tactical race than the 200 requiring close to maximum effort the entire distance, there was no let-up in pace. The top 6 all split 2:00 or faster at 200m.

6 - Schmitt split 55.38 and every 50m from that point on was slower. Muffat was a full 1.5 seconds behind Schmitt at 150m, an insurmountable distance. Ye Shiwen had an Elizabeth Beisel-shaped carrot to chase down on the penultimate lap of the 400 IM, she then got clear and was pulling away on the final lap. Ask any swimmer how it feels to be pulling away at the end of a race, you feel unstoppable. Now try quantifying that when there is an Olympic gold medal to be won at the end of the pool.

7 - See point 5. 400 free is an entirely different race to the 400 IM.

8 - Ye Shiwen's best freestyle times of 55.38 and 1:58.77 are world class times for an IM specialist. I'll repeat, an IM specialist. Camille Muffat has faster times than Ye Shiwen because Muffat is one of the best freestylers the sport of swimming has ever seen. She also focuses entirely on freestyle races... the entire race, not just the final 50m or 100m.

9 - Singling out Ye Shiwen is unfair, especially when Katie Ledecky, Ruta Meilutyte, Missy Franklin, Dana Vollmer, Florent Manaudou, Chad le Clos, Yannick Agnel and Allison Schmitt all made huge improvements this year. I counter your arguments and make no excuses for it.

10 - China had a huge drug problem in the 1990s. 40 positive tests in the 1990s is a terrible record. How has their record been in recent years? How has China's record compared to the US in recent years? What about Brazil's record? 

Ye Shiwen was born in 1996. Two years before Rome 1994 and two years after the infamous bust at the Australian airport in 1998. That was 14 years ago. Since then China has held a home Olympics and has implemented a strict drug testing regime that unearthed a drugs cheat in Li Zhesi shortly before the games. In the last 14 years USA has produced Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin, Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens to name a notable few. Sadly drug cheaters existed before, they exist currently and they will continue to exist. However, it is unfair to continue to tarnish all Chinese (female) success with the drug label. Strange how the Chinese men don't come in for the same scrutiny that the women do.

11 - Scratching of heads? Is that all that is happening here. If this was simply a case of head scratching why bring up China's doping past? Why bring up East Germany's doping? Why not offer any alternative arguments that might explain Ye Shiwen's final 100m split.

Let's call a spade a spade. Craig Lord's article is as close to an accusation that Ye Shiwen's swim was a drug-enhanced aberration that you can get without actually using the exact words. This is despite no positive tests, a 16 year old making progress, a strong track record from previous years, a clear back-end race strategy from previous years and a comparable split from a female swimmer in the 800 free in Shanghai.

Craig Lord appears desperate for Ye Shiwen to become his very own Lance Armstrong-story. He wants to make it known that he knew all along that Ye Shiwen was doping. It worked for David Walsh and Paul Kimmage, two journalists who never gave up the hunt against Lance Armstrong. It all sounds so reasonable. Except one small point. There is a strong probability that Ye Shiwen is entirely innocent. She is also a 16 years old girl preparing for a big race tomorrow, and once again has to deal with unfounded claims on the eve of a global competition. 

Craig Lord wants a level playing field in swimming. How does singling Ye Shiwen out a day before she races in the 400 IM achieve this?

Friday, 7 December 2012

Speed Endurance - British Performance Director Job Application

As the selection process for the next head coach and national performance director drags on. This blog has decided to speed up the process and apply for the NPD job. I've been critical of  British Swimming recently, so as the saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

FINA Coaches Conference: Romain Barnier, Yuri Sugiyama, Dirk Lange and Ferenc Kovacshegyi Presentations

Never one to miss out on some aquatic gems, Swimmer's Daily has stumbled across some fascinating videos from the the 1st FINA Gold Medal Swimming Coaches Clinic.

Todd Schmitz (coach of Missy Franklin)

Romain Barnier (coach of Florent Manaudou)

Yuri Sugiyama (coach of Katie Ledecky)

Dirk Lange (coach of Cameron van der Burgh)

Ferenc Kovacshegyi (coach of Eva Risztov)