Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Ryan Lochte is the 8th least influential person of 2012 according to GQ Magazine

(Source: GQ magazine)

GQ Magazine has selected swimmer Ryan Lochte as the 8th least influential person of 2012... and I am not mad in the slightest.

Make no mistake, Ryan Lochte had a sub-par Olympics (by his standards/our expectations). He was lined up to become the new Michael Phelps, but circumstances worked against him. He lost the 200 back final and was overtaken by Yannick Agnel in the 4x100 free relay. He was good, but not great.

Despite this, the media/hype machine had already been programmed before London to turn Lochte into a mainstream star and as a result we have had Ryan Lochte appearances coming out of our ears. Post-Olympics, Ryan Lochte is undoubtedly a star... but more a star of TMZ

Unfortunately  for the more erudite audience, Lochte's appearances have lacked a certain something....

Ryan Lochte is asked to pick the winner of LSU vs Texas A&M... he picks Auburn

His on camera skills

His interview skills

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Michael Scott resigns - British Swimming at a crossroads

Following British Swimming's underwhelming performance in London this summer, Michael Scott has fallen on his sword and resigned from his post as National Performance Director.

Scott could not accept living in Britain permanently, which really does not seem like such a big thing to ask of someone reportedly making £1.2m. It is even more startling that he was able to spend half of his time in Australia since he started in his role back in 2007. It becomes less of a surprise when you realise David Sparkes, the CEO of British Swimming, also splits time between Britain and his adopted homeland of Germany and has done for several decades.

Scott seems like a perfectly pleasant guy, very capable in some facets of the position, but ultimately he didn't get the job done at a home Olympics, which is an unforgivable failure given Britain's success in other major sports.

British Swimming is at a crossroads and they now have two key roles to fill, Head Coach and Performance Director... many would argue they should have three roles to fill with David Sparkes, unpopular with some high profile members of the British Swimming fraternity, also being made to stand down.

It is vital that British Swimming get these hires right. They have spent the last decade under foreign rule and in that time we have undoubtedly improved in certain areas, but after seeing a team that to the outside world appeared to be more nervous than raring to go in London, it seems like the time for some home grown, British based appointments is nigh.

Head Coach Candidates

Bill Furniss - Nova Centurion head coach (coach of Rebecca Adlington)

Coaching Britain's most successful swimmer gives Furniss tremendous gravitas and having headed up Nova Centurion for many years would presumably relish one last challenge at the forefront of British Swimming. Has had a swimmer on every British team at major championships for the last 30 years. Possesses no shortage of northern grit, which some feel Britain needs to get back to post-Bill Sweetenham.

Jon Rudd - Plymouth Leander head coach (coach of Ruta Meilutyte)

Rudd has built Plymouth Leander into the country's leading swimming team having won the Arena League four out of the last five years. He was also the only British-based coach to have a gold medal winning swimmer in London, Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte. Rudd's stock has risen more than any other coach in the last 6 months and if he wants the job, he would offer an intriguing option for British Swimming.

Dave Haller - City of Cardiff head coach (former coach of David Davies)

A left-field option given his criticism of Kevin Renshaw and British Swimming in the over-training of David Davies. Not many British coaches can match up to the experience and continued success that Haller has had at Cardiff. His outspoken nature would stand no chance with the current hierarchy, but if David Sparkes resigns it might open the door.

Patrick Miley -  Garioch head coach (coach of Hannah Miley)

Miley has produced on the Britain's premier swimmers, his daughter Hannah, despite not having any of the luxuries provided by the bigger swimming establishments. He is also a proponent of cutting-edge training techniques, which British Swimming might want to expose to a wider group. If the goal is also to make the team tougher and more race hardened, Hannah Miley is one of the toughest swimmers around and races more than anyone.

Performance Director Direction

Swimming's own Dave Brailsford?

One possible direction for Performance Director could be to try and emulate cycling's highly successful approach. Dave Brailsford was a professional cyclist for 4 years before he went on to study sport science and psychology. He then joined British Cycling as an advisor and worked his way through the ranks. It is a potentially risky move, but if there is a young, intelligent, forward-thinking employee within British Swimming, why not give them a shot? There is certainly no shortage of sports science graduates in Loughborough.

An outsider from a different sport?

If there is no obvious domestic candidate with a proven success in swimming, so we could potentially hire someone that has experienced success in another sport. Poaching someone from one of Britain's successful sports (rowing, cycling, athletics, cricket) is a very real possibility. The fact that Conor O'Shea, the Director of Rugby at Harlequins, is sitting on the review board indicates that British Swimming is starting to be open to input from other sports.

Back to the international talent pool

There is a school of thought amongst some in the swimming community that Britain's lack of success was not down to Michael Scott, in which case having a foreign performance director might not be the problem. Despite the expected funding cuts, the money that British Swimming will throw at this position could lure a number of high profile candidates from swimming's successful nations.

Alternative option

Burn it all down

It's all broken. Nothing works. Everyone needs to be fired. Burn the whole thing down and rebuild British Swimming from the ground up. Not my personal view, but it is an opinion shared by some in the swimming community.

We will learn more when the review into the failure of London 2012 is released on December 6.

BBC invent new swimming event

The BBC have inadvertently invented a new swimming event.

The 4 x 200 Individual Medley Relay

It's still unclear exactly how an 'individual relay' could work logistically, but there can be no doubt that it is a cutting edge idea. Just think, a few years ago a mixed relay seemed outrageous, now mixed relays just seem like a strange afterthought at the end of a short course finals session.

After the Saville and Newsnight affairs, this new event could be exactly what the corporation needs.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Camille Muffat breaks the 800 free short course world record

Camille Muffat refuses to be outshone by her club team-mate Yannick Agnel. The 400m free Olympic champion just crushed the 800 free short course world record at French Nationals.

She raced to a 8:01.06 taking a full 3 seconds off Alessia Filippi's old mark which stood since 2008.

Muffat's swim was incredible. She split a world class 4:00.85 at the 400 mark, what is even more incredible is that she came back in an even faster 4:00.21. To give those splits some perspective, the 25th fastest time of all-time is 4:00.80.

Video here (geo-restrictions apply)

Full results here

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Yannick Agnel sets new world record in 400 free short course - 3:32.25

If you can't view the video above - click here

Yannick Agnel showed no signs of a post-Olympic slump today as he blasted out a new world record in the 400m free short course at the French National Championships. The 200m free Olympic champion rocketed to a new mark of 3:32.25, eclipsing Paul Biedermann's suited swim of 3:32.77. Agnel's time beat his former best time by over 7 seconds.

The time equates to two 1:46s back-to-back. This is Agnel's first 400 short course since 2010, with a bit more polish could we see a sub-3:30 swim?



Full Results

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Has 'King Shark' Federico Bocchia changed swimming forever?

I can't see how swimming ever goes back to being the same after the stunt King Shark just pulled. From now on, anyone with a glimmer of hope in a final needs to come out in full costume and headgear. Tracksuits and swimming caps just won't cut it any longer. The public will now demand more King Sharks, give the people what they want!

(Huge h/t to Swimming World and the Bolzano International Swim Meet for the video)

PS. An assist needs to go to Gary Hall Jr, he blazed this trail years ago.

Ian Thorpe opens up on BBC Radio

Fascinating stuff from Ian Thorpe, talking for an hour on BBC Radio (starts at 26:00) . Thorpie is erudite and candid as he opens up about the highs and lows of his swimming life.


Audio can be downloaded here

State of the nation: British Swimming

London 2012. The British nation came together like never before and celebrated their incredible sporting success. Riding high in the medal tables, punching above their weight, the team came through on the biggest stage, under the brightest spotlight. However, one sport was conspicuous in its absence of national heroes. Swimming.

What Went Wrong?

The British team called all the shots prior to the Olympics, they held their first trials in the Olympic pool and had access to the pool before the games for a training camp. They had the support of a vociferous home crowd, the importance of which we were constantly reminded of from swimmers, coaches, team management and commentators in the build up to the games. All of this, however, was not enough to drive the team onto the kind of successes achieved in other sports such as Cycling, Rowing, Athletics, Equestrian and Boxing.

The numbers paint an unpleasant picture

The British team had a highly encouraging trials in March. Had they made the steps forward that other nations did from their trials the medal table would have looked a lot healthier. This is a serious problem. Coaches need to go away and have a hard look at their training regimes. Their job is to to put athletes in a position to perform at their absolute peak on the biggest occasions and this didn't happen. The blame for such a wide-scale slow down from March to August lies squarely on British Swimming and the home coaches.

The most likely result of the current review into British swimming will be to move trials for major championships much closer to the event. This works for the US, the challenge will be implementing it successfully in a nation with a smaller talent pool to dip into. One hopes that this isn't the only major change that is made.

Further reasons have been highlighted for the under-performance:

Not enough race practice beforehand - This does make sense, although tell that to the Loughborough swimmers who raced the Mare Nostrum tour shortly before the Olympics.
Head coach Dennis Pursley not being British - Having a coach that understands the British swimming environment is solid reasoning. Nobody can doubt Dennis Pursley's credentials, but he wasn't able to transfer his success in the US to Britain. The collegiate system and US Grand Prix circuit offer something entirely different to what we have in the UK. If Pursley truly believed that the US model is the most robust in world swimming, he should have tried to move the GB system closer to it by improving the competitive aspect of university swimming and increasing the number of domestic meets attracting top talent from Europe and further afield.
Michael Scott, the performance director, spending too much of his time in his native Australia - The role of performance director is crucial to the nation's successes in the pool. At the very least it is full-time job, it doesn't seem like to ask for the incumbent to be based full-time in Britain. Ultimately Scott's reputation lives and dies by the his results at the Olympics, that is the reality of our sport. In London he did not deliver enough to keep his job.

The Men

The men's team haven't been GB's strength for some time now but London unearthed a new star in Michael Jamieson. The 24 year old Scot should be a medal contender in major championships for years to come, although he does face strong competition from Daniel Gyurta and new world record holder Akihiro Yamaguchi (who wasn't in London).

There are a number of talented British youngsters coming through, several gaining valuable experience in London. With the retirement of a number of team regulars, men's swimming in Britain is now hugely reliant on these swimmers to make the jump to the next level and vying for international medals.

The Women

London 2012 was tailor-made for the British women to deliver strong results. Four years had passed since Rebecca Adlington became a household name and raised the bar for swimming in this country. Britain came to the Olympics with a strong stable of medal hopes, and significantly, international success from a number of swimmers in the intervening years. They just needed to kick on from that success in front of a home crowd.

Six major prospects weren't able to match their earlier form from 2012. Why did that happen? Was the pressure of making the team so great, that it became counter productive and ended up surpassing the main job at hand?

The Review

Now comes the inquest into the team’s failure. It is a curious group of individuals. Registering highest on the curiosity scale is the aforementioned Michael Scott. The decision to allow the performance director to judge his own credentials is an odd one. You can’t help but think when Scott’s own performance is reviewed, there will be a muffled Australian voice in the background saying ‘he did fine, move on’.

Also on the panel, Thomas Lurz. A tremendous open water swimmer, tremendous character, but an expert on a nations open water programmes? We will have to see. Conor O’Shea, the director of rugby at Harlequins and former national director of the English Institute of Sport, is also on the panel. He’s been called upon for his knowledge of sport science, medicine and coaching.

A late addition to the review board was Bob Bowman. Bowman is the biggest name in coaching and his presence does add some gravitas to the panel, but this is also the same man that only coaches American swimmers at NBAC, a new found passion to improve British Swimming is odd.


The panel will come to it’s own conclusions, but for me the key problem was a mental one.

Frank Busch, head coach of the US team, made a telling statement after the Olympics. Referring to the team's viral 'Call Me Maybe' video he stated, "When I saw the video, I knew we were going to be good." This level of confidence is instilled at all levels of US Swimming and it filters down to the team, inspiring them to take their performance to a new level. The US were favourites as they often are and weren't burdened by the weight of expectation. This can't simply be explained by the collegiate system or increased competition.

This level of confidence also cannot be simply attributed to being an 'American thing'. The British cycling team has it. The British rowing team has certainly has it. Rowers Zack Purchase and Mark Hunter were inconsolable after their silver medal, breaking down in tears on live television because they came for gold and ended up with silver.

Ultimately the question the review will need to address is whether the top brass of British Swimming instill the same level of confidence in the British swimmers as their rowing and cycling counterparts? If they do not, then changes need to be made. Although British swimming is in a much better place than in the early 2000s, it has also enjoyed huge funding recently, enough to expect returns on a scale of Britain's more successful sports in London.