Friday, 18 January 2013

British Diver Peter Waterfield Has His Funding Cut... Hits Out At British Swimming on Twitter

More criticism of British Swimming: When it rains, it pours.
Just a week after Tom Daley's mum publicly hit out at British Swimming CEO David Sparkes, Daley's diving partner Peter Waterfield has taken to twitter to criticise the fact that he wasn't informed of his funding cut by his own sport's governing body.

Waterfield is obviously disappointed to have his funding cut, and while not wanting to weigh in on the pros and cons of the decision, for him to have to hear about the decision from other sources is not a good look for British Swimming.

British Swimming is not the only governing body that has issues with their athletes, but the number of current and former swimmers that have publicly stated their displeasure in the organisation continues to grow at an alarming rate. The big question for this next Olympic cycle is whether their voices will be heard and change is implemented from the top down. Many swimmers and divers hope so.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Katinka Hosszu Is Relentless... Luxembourg Euro Meet Is Up Next

Post race conversation: Jakabos and Hosszu planning their next competition together.

Katinka Hosszu is starting 2013 as she started, finished (and everything in between) 2012... by racing. This time around it is in the long course Luxembourg Euro Meet which runs from Jan 18-20. Just as she did in three weeks ago in La Reunion, Hosszu has entered every event on the women's programme. That's 16 events in 3 days.

Also competing is her ever present compatriot Zsuzsanna Jakabos as well as Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte and her Plymouth Leander team mates. A number of German internationals (Yannick Lebherz, Hendrik Feldwehr, Christian vom Lehn, Marco Koch, Dorothea Brandt) as well as Ukraine's Daryna Zevina will also be racing this Friday to Sunday.

Live Stream
Meet Records
Prize Money

Monday, 14 January 2013

Gyurta presents Dale Oen-family with Gold medal - in Norwegian!

Alexander Dale Oen's brother, Robin, with Daniel Gyurta. Robin holding the prize for Role Model of the Year, given to Alexander posthumously.

Hungarian Olympic breaststroke-champion Daniel Gyurta promised after winning in London to give the family of deceased competitor and friend Alexander Dale Oen a replica of his Gold medal.

On Saturday Gyurta put action behind his words as he presented the family of Dale Oen with a Gold medal. As the IOC do not allow the medals to be replicated the medal was created especially for this event. The symbolic gesture of the event being more important than the medal itself.

The presentation was done at the Norwegian Sport Awards Gala, an annual event held in Hamar every year.

The Hungarian travelled to Norway, and even held his speech in Norwegian to honour the memory of his friend and competitor.

He presented the medal to Alexander's brother, Robin, also a former Norwegian record holder in the pool.

This is what Gyurta said:

"I wish all guests and athletes a warm welcome. Special regards to the family of Alexander Dale Oen. It is a great honour for me to be present here at this great event.

As I promised at the London-Olympics I will present a medal to the family of my friend Alex.
I am convinced that Alex would have won gold at the Olympics so this medal is representative of what he could not achieve because of the tragic event. With Alex’ death Norway didn’t only lose a great swimmer and athlete but a fantastic human being.

I talked a lot with Alex. We often watched final sessions together and we liked each other a lot. Due to the international rules that you are not allowed making replicas of an Olympic Gold Medal, and my application for doing so was denied, I present an artistic medal that is made especially for this occasion, and that symbolize my respect for Alexander."

"He's a good friend of the family. We are forever grateful that he is thinking of us. It's a fantastic gesture to honor Alex in this way" said Robin Dale Oen after the presentation.

It was a fruitful night for Norwegian swimming. Alexander Dale Oen was honoured posthumously as Role Model of the Year, while Head of the National Team, Petter Løvberg was presented the award as Coach of the Year after several years of being nominated. Paralympic double champion Sarah Louise Rung was given the prize as the best handicapped athlete.

Daniel Gyurta will, as Speed Endurance has written before, compete at the Bergen Swim Festival - Alexander Dale Oen Memorial in April - also in memory of the Norwegian swimmer.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

British Swimming CEO David Sparkes, the Cat with 9 Lives, does it again

David Sparkes, arguably the least popular man in British Swimming, just can't help himself. Not only does he continue to disappoint a generation of swimmers, he's now turned his hand to taking shots at Britain's best diver.

After Tom Daley launched his new diving reality TV show Splash!, which outside of the Olympics, is diving's highest profile showcase ever in this country, Sparkes had the following to say about one of Britain's most popular athletes:

"Tom is an incredibly talented young man but he's yet to achieve his full potential and it's only going to get harder to achieve that Olympic gold medal as he gets older... You can rest assured the next Chinese diving superstar will not have such distractions from training."

Well Mr Sparkes... you didn't just upset the hundreds of thousands of Tom Daley fans, you upset his mum. This was Mrs. Daley's response to Sparkes' comments (published in the Daily Mail). One word, Zing!

Dear Mr Sparkes,

We last spoke at Loughborough in June 2011 after you asked for Tom to do a favour for you and open a sports park at Loughborough. I don't believe that you spoke much to Tom directly in 2012, other than to briefly congratulate him on his medal. Since the media is your preferred method of communication, I thought that I should do the same. 

As Tom's mum, I take a lot of pride in the way he handles himself. I am sure that he will make  mistakes along the way, but to date he is doing a lot right. I find it incredible that you want to criticise him so publicly, when he does so much for your organisation and for sport in the UK - and worse, you do it by giving your opinion without any thought. You did not speak to Tom - or his agent - first. Is this a good way for a CEO to operate?

As far as I'm aware, Tom was one of the few major success stories for British Swimming this summer... and possibly one of the athletes that helped you retain your job. Others say that your performance was the worst of any CEO in British sport. Surely you should be thanking Tom and showing your support and gratitude? 

His target was to achieve a medal and he delivered, becoming the first British individual diver in 52 years to get an Olympic medal. Not only this, but immediately after the Games, when most athletes were enjoying themselves, Tom went back to intense training for five weeks to prepare for the Junior World Championships. Since you didn't speak with Tom during this period, let me shed some light on how he coped. 

For an individual who is normally so motivated, going back to intense training after the climax of the Games was a real struggle: I'm sure he won't mind me saying he lacked drive and motivation. Andy Banks, his coach, expressed concern that this was being reflected in his training.  

Everyone else was taking long holidays, partying, celebrating exams, while Tom had to get straight back to diving. You must remember what you did the summer you were 18 years old?  We even discussed with Andy the option of him backing out of the competition. I was concerned Tom would crumble as the impact of the previous 24 months finally came on top of him. 

Perhaps you need to be reminded that not only was Tom taking on the pressures of the biggest sporting event in his life, not to mention a home Games, but during this period he also lost his biggest supporter, his dad. 
My bond with my son has always been strong but Rob was Tom's rock, friend and role model; he would be spitting mad if he had read your media attacks on him over the past 12 months and would have given you a franker view than mine. 
However, Tom didn't want to back out. While the competition had no real incentive for him, Tom had made the commitment to his performance director Alexei Evangulov and to British Diving and - despite me trying to convince him otherwise - he got his head down and ploughed on. He said he'd take a break after, so what was five more weeks of training? 

Any mum will know that for an 18-year-old to make this decision requires a lot of self-discipline. Tom was being offered opportunities left, right and centre to appear at exciting award ceremonies, red-carpet events, five-star holidays, not to mention the fact he hadn't 'hung out' with his friends for the past four months.   

So off to Australia he went alone (none of his direct coaching team went, which highlights the  importance of this competition) and he came away with not just one, but two gold medals  - one in an event he doesn't normally compete in. I was so proud of him. A great way to end the year. Now it was about time for my son to have some fun and let his hair down.  He had done his job. He had also played a key role in funding your organisation. So can you not see why I'm so angry with your lack of support? 

Your comments in February 2012 were a big enough blow: Tom was five months away from the biggest competition in his life where he should have as much support as possible and you spoke out to him via the media after Alexei had let emotion take over at a press conference and after Tom's team had met your team to discuss the real issues.

As it turned out, one of the issues then was that there was a lack of funding for a masseur for Tom, which Alexei wanted... so Tom - not British Swimming - funded this. From memory it cost Tom £3,000. We said nothing at the time. 
The other issue was a trip to Sydney Zoo organised by British Swimming where he was swamped by fans. Alexei hated this. However, British Swimming - not Tom - organised the visit. So to now see your remarks three-and-a-half years before the next Olympics makes me so angry.

Tom has always worked his hardest when it comes to his training. Diving has always taken priority.  We have all worked closely with Tom's coaching team (Andy and Alexei) plus Tom's agents to create a plan that ensures he has the best path for success. 

Do you communicate with anyone, David? Perhaps you should try to talk to Tom? Of course the headlines make you look important and help protect you should Tom not deliver any medals. Wouldn't it be better to work with one of your most important athletes rather than against him? 

Had you been kept up to date you would know that we all agreed to keep Tom's commercial days to a minimum and ensured no training was missed in the two years prior to the Games unless approved by everybody. 
The irony is that while all Tom's sponsors respected this and used no days in the months leading up to the Games, the only request that was not originally approved came from British Swimming. Funny how things change when it suits British Swimming! 

It's also baffling that you openly criticise Tom when you yourself have called in special favours for Tom to make appearances (such as that eight-hour trip to Loughborough in 2011 when I last saw you).   

Tom trained in December, also attending an intensive training camp the week before Christmas, and continues to train this month. Splash! is now one weekend day of his time. His coach and mentor is also part of the show. If you were worried, why did you not speak to Andy? If you had actually watched Splash! you would have seen him as a judge. 
The Chinese comparisons really annoy me - and I know that they annoy Tom. He was not born in  Beijing. He was born in Plymouth. I saw a documentary a few years  ago which showed the Chinese boot-camp style of training in sport. This is not Tom. He would not  function if his life was just diving. 

He is very bright, works incredibly hard and over the last 10 years has given up so much to focus on his 2012 Olympic goal. I know that he will do the same for 2016. However, Tom is never going to lead a lifestyle similar to a Chinese diver. 
I am sure that he will always be the best he can be in his sport. Splash! is an appropriate show for Tom. Yes, it can improve following the first show. However, a lot of grandparents, mums, teenagers and kids loved it.
As you did not watch the show, I can tell you that it is a diving show and it promotes a key sport that is under your leadership.

You told Tom's agent on Monday that it would do nothing to help the sport in the UK. How ironic to see that your marketing department has today promoted watching Splash! on Twitter to British Swimming's followers. So you are worried about Tom's performances? Well, I am worried about yours.
A leader should  motivate his team, not make them think: 'Why do I bother?' Did you speak out to protect your UK Sport funding and be seen to do the right thing for them? Well, if UK Sport want to demotivate the key person in a sport, carry on David. Good work. 

While you may want Tom to do more training, I would like you to do leadership, media and motivation courses. Tom may benefit from some UK Sport funding but he has to fund his own life from sponsorship and media work. When the Splash! opportunity came to us, it was a completely appropriate one for him and we also believed that it would help our sport long term - there is not a lot of diving or swimming for that matter on television, David. That is meant to be your job. 

Tom, though, is just giving some advice and encouragement - and having some fun. I am glad that he is doing Splash! even though I don't like to read negative reviews of the show. Those opinions, though, I can handle. Yours I would like you to manage given your role within the sport and the impact that it is having on my son.

Yours sincerely, 

Debbie Daley

Monday, 7 January 2013

Would you invest with a presumed ROI of zero?

“What’s the point of elite swimming?” should be the only relevant question for Danish swimming (and I argue in the following article for Scandinavian swimming as a whole) these years. The question should be put forward because elite swimming in Scandinavia gives a zero return on investment (ROI) any which way you look at it.

We invest a lot of money (in my country Denmark we spend around 1.200.000 euro centrally every year on the national training center and the national teams and the clubs spend much more combined on their elite programs) and we get nothing in return apart from the “joy of seeing the swims”. There are no resulting sponsorship deals, no increase in spectators for any meets, no rise in the number of members in the clubs, no rise in the quality of any other incentive in swimming and no other reward of any kind except for helping 16-20 individuals (the swimmers and their coaches) achieve their own personal goals. If they perform to a certain extent the national funding body (Team Denmark) will continue to contribute vast resources to (yes… you guessed it): to those 8-10 swimmers...

The argument that international elite swimmers' presence in a club environment is beneficial for other swimmers, coaches, managers and potential sponsors was lost many years ago when the bulk of the best swimmers in Denmark joined the national training center. The ones that didn’t fit in there have fled to the USA and the college system (primarily male swimmers) leaving no top international senior swimmers in the clubs right now except for Mie Ø. Nielsen.

So why are we investing massive central amounts in elite swimming? To make the nation proud? (Insert picture of donkey here). Or is it merely to have occasions to toast and talk about the splendid results at different parties nationally and internationally for the board in our national federations in the Scandinavian countries? (Insert picture of … well …)

Let’s look outside Scandinavia for a taste of what could be: In Britain they have managed to get a deal with British Gas which – in turn for results and media attention – gives British Swimming millions of pounds every year. In other words there is a “return on investment” for both British Gas and British Swimming. I can understand that. The swimmers can live decently from their sport so they have an understandable return also. And they contribute to the system – look for instance at the initiative to get “everybody swimming” before, during and after the Olympics which had participation of many of the best British Swimmers. The media attention of the elite results and of the initiatives like the above mentioned benefits the clubs and British swimming as a whole. The system works and swimming as a whole benefits also because of the elite program. It makes sense!

In Australia we see the same picture even though the sponsorship deal that can benefit the swimmers to live off their sport has just recently been finalized. Furthermore the Australian swimming culture probes for sold out stands at national championships and the swimmers play a big part in this with both good results and a presence and awareness of the media that we could learn a lot from. Just look at the TV-trailers leading up to the Australian Olympic trials this year if you doubt me. It makes sense!

In America many of the swimmers are helping charities and doing all kinds of both unpaid and paid work to contribute to the “system” (the swimming community). Ryan Lochte participates in several events during the year – both non-profit charities as well as sponsorship deals. Many of the best American swimmers (f. inst. on the Olympic team) are attending college which gives them a very good return on investment for their skills: Free attendance to college. And the college in turn gets their both academic and athletic skills and the press and spectators that go with them. When people turn up to watch a dual meet on a Wednesday night and the stands at NCAA are filled (even though the NCAA is televised nationally) it all makes sense!

In Scandinavia we are supporting the swimmer's (and admittedly also their coaches) personal goals and their wish to succeed in a tough global sport. It is a very noble quest and I admire the efforts from especially the swimmers but also the coaches. Going for the gold in global swimming is an incredible task. But we get nothing in return apart from 8 x finals sessions in front of a TV screen during the Olympics where we can shout and root for our heroes.

So why are we investing massive amounts in elite swimming in Scandinavia when the money would be MUCH better spent in producing better learn-to-swim programs and building more pools for kids? Let me add some perspective: In Denmark most “learn-to-swim” programs are based on 17-18 year old instructors with (needless to say) very limited experience and no education apart from maybe a weekend course and a background as a mediocre competitive swimmer. The same programs are part of a club that can easily have fulltime positions for both the head A and B team coaches. Some clubs in Denmark have several fulltime coaches in their elite program and none in the learn-to-swim program. Go figure…

Furthermore we have a massive need of more pool space to make the clubs function better (=earn money to expand and invest in new initiatives, better coaches, better administration, etc.) and still we use the best slots in the pool and the most space for elite programs that – in the very best case – contribute in a minor way to the whole club system both financially and otherwise. The only place where elite programs contribute is in the way of parental work (“volunteer work”) and let’s be honest: A lot of that work is only necessary because the elite programs demand it (officials at meets, arranging own meets, etc.). So the volunteer work would not be necessary if it wasn’t for the elite programs – and they solve no other tasks than those created by the elite programs. So the argument that the elite programs contribute with volunteer work from parents simply doesn’t fly – since the work they contribute is only needed because of the elite programs.

Don’t get me wrong: I for one can understand the fascination of the work towards an elite performance. I have worked as a fulltime coach for 15 years (and still do) and have had swimmers participate at Europeans, Worlds and Olympics. I understand fully the feeling you have in your body as a coach when one of your swimmers competes in an international final or breaks a national record. Nothing in the world can replicate that feeling. But I cannot for the life of me figure out why anybody else than the swimmers and coaches can see any benefit in putting a lot of cash and hours into Scandinavian elite swimming?

My best guess is this: We do it because the leaders of the clubs and federations almost always have their background in elite swimming. Thus no questions are asked when a federation puts goals forward to “Exceed in international swimming”. Everybody has a background in elite swimming and hence it is natural to them to continue down that path.

A large majority of the decision makers in Scandinavian swimming the last decade are either former coaches or former swimmers – both on the managerial staff and on the boards… in other words we are replicating ourselves from within, thereby taking any questions from outsiders out of the equation. Where are the businessmen and people with other backgrounds than swimming or coaching at the elite level?

If a business man had his way, the first thing he would do in any club would be to close the elite department; It spends all the money, it hinders the maximizing of income and it often has no strategic focus (always focusing on “the next meet/season”) thus making it impossible to make any strategic decisions in other parts of the organization without getting in the way of the elite program.

Don’t get me wrong: My suggestion is not to close down all elite programs. But somewhere between what we are doing now (100 % focus on elite swimming) and the businessman approach (100 % maximization of revenue/income) is the way forward.

So my point is not to close down all elite programs. My point is this: We at least have to ask ourselves (coaches, manager, parents) if we are making the right choices for the “sport” of swimming. Not only for the “elite sport” of swimming. And the elite swimmers (both on national teams and in clubs) have to ask themselves: “Am I contributing resources into the system or am I only pulling resources out of the system”? Otherwise they themselves will be redundant in a short time if we continue the current system.

Right now in Danish swimming we are taught that “The swimmers have to focus solely on themselves and their training – otherwise they cannot compete with the other countries in the world”. We are told that we cannot put demands on the swimmers to show up for too many press conferences and too many appearances in the media. If that is true I wonder how Ryan Lochte wins all those medals all the time while he is constantly embarking on one media adventure after the other? And for those of you thinking “Well Danish swimmers have to go to school” I can tell you that most of the best swimmers (the ones swimming individual finals at Worlds and Europeans) on our national center did not attend school during the last years – most of them have been full time swimmers for a while now.

In short: This is an attitude problem. We (coaches, managers, parents) guard the time of the swimmers making it impossible for them to create some return on the investment we make in them. Unless more and more funds are put into the system from a national perspective this is a system doomed to lose in the long run. And we know that funding for sports in general is being sliced by as much as 10-15% a year in the countries of the western world. So let’s not kid ourselves…

We should applaud a swimmer's participation in “Dancing with the stars” and in every possible media exposure! And we have to lift the decisions to make maximum exposure and return on investment of the swimmers away from the coaches, clubs and federations neither of which are competent to tackle that task. We are all coaches and former swimmers most of us. So let us manage the programs and the training and let professionals manage the swimmers and get us some return on our joint investment.

Unless we make a return on the investment we put in elite swimming in Scandinavia we are doomed to fail… not only in the elite departments of clubs and federations (which is not that important – the sun will rise tomorrow also without Olympic medals which we experienced the hard way this year) but also in the much more important department of getting more children to swim and to expand the organizations of the swimming community to offer more people the ability to swim in more ways.

Yours sincerely - Ricki Clausen

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Ricki Clausen is the newest blogger on Speed Endurance. Ricki is 37 years old and works as director of sports and elite coach in a major Danish swimming club (KSK). He has been a full-time elite coach since 1999 and has had swimmers participate in the finals of the Olympics, World Championships, European Championships and European Junior Championships. He is a partner on the Danish section of the swimming site "" as well as a partner in “DISH” – a Danish company that builds and renovates swimming pools. Ricki is also a swimming commentator on Eurosport.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Expert Poll: Top 10 Swimmers of 2012

This year we decided to widen the net with the Top 10 list and drafted in some expert knowledge from the swimming community to give their own Top 10 Swimmers of 2012. The swimmers have been ordered by the composite ranking from the six separate Top 10 votes. You can find each expert's reasoning for their picks below the table. The Speed Endurance Top 10 of 2012 and justification for each pick can be found here.

Sander Smordal - / / Speed Endurance (Norway)

1. Sun Yang, CHN

The Chinese superfreak seams to be made for distance (pool-)swimming. The way he composes his races, and the way he swims – it just looks so natural. Add that to a World record and two individual golds at the Olympics and you have the swimmer of the year. Was anyone as untouchable as him? Hardly.

2. Missy Franklin, USA

Dubbed the female Phelps you would expect nothing less than greatness, and after four golds and a bronze medal at the Olympics you can do nothing but applaud. Impressive performance.

3. Michael Phelps, USA

The only thing keeping Michael Phelps from going higher on the list is… Michael Phelps. He’s set the standard of performance at such a level that two individual gold medals just seems sub-par. Being beat in his signature event also prevents him from going higher.

4. Shiwen Ye, CHN

It might be that my sympathies towards this girl are so strong that they propel her higher up on the list – but her dominating performance in the 400 IM and another gold on the shorter IM-event speak for themselves. No person who performs deserve the kind of attention she got – just because she swam well, and some others from her country have doped in the past.

5. Ranomi Kromwidjojo, NED

Totally dominant in the most prestigious events at the Olympics, Ranomi Kromowidjojo truly is the fastest female in water right now – and should be lauded for it!

6. Ryan Lochte, USA

Another one whose own potential and proven ability limits how his season is regarded, but as somewhat of a short course specialist myself his performances in Istanbul should not be disregarded. By the way – he won an Olympic gold in the 400 IM…

7. Yannik Agnel, FRA

His performance in the 200 meters freestyle at the Olympics was dominant powerful and impressive. Agnel took the step up to ultimate international top class as a swimmer this year – and his 400 freestyle SC record was a nice bonus as well.

8. Camille Muffat, FRA

I must say, judging by the lead up to the Games I was expecting the French girl to win both the 200 and 400 meter freestyle, but it was not to be. Allison Schmitt (200-champion) was close to getting into my top 10 list, but overall I feel Muffat during the year thrilled us more often than Schmitt.

9. Ruta Meilutyte, LTU

Who doesn’t love a good surprise? The biggest surprise of the games, alongside Katie Ledecky. Meilutyte gets the nod due to the fact she has proven herself also on the short course.

10. Daniel Gyurta, HUN, and Cameron van der Burgh, RSA

This place probably with my heart more than my head – but a split for tenth between the two breaststroke champions of the Olympics. Not only did they perform magnificently, they did it with dignity and respect for a lost competitor and friend.

Ricki Clausen - (Denmark)

1. Ryan Lochte

For winning numerous medals at the Olympics – again – and for finishing the season off with double (and incredible) world records in 100 and 200 IM at world short course. Supreme swimming skills, impressive physique in every way, seems like a very nice and forthcoming person and he has attitude! He is the moneymaker of international swimming – the first real one in my lifetime. I hope he makes it really big financially also! I mean in a golf and tennis sort of way. He could lead the path for others.

2.       Missy Franklin

For winning 5 medals at Olympics – including double individual gold in the backstroke. 17 years old and already a super star of international swimming. And as with Lochte she seems so nice and forthcoming and just seems to be enjoying herself. Impressive run at the Olympics – especially winning the 100 back after having had trouble in that race for a few months (since trials). On an end note: Turning down millions to be part of a college team instills some belief in the purity and nobility of sports.

3.       Shiwen Ye

The chinese swimmer impressed me and others with her impressive win in both the 200 and 400 IM. She has been on the world stage for some years even though she is only 16. Most of all she kept her cool after winning 400 IM and being accused of doping and still managed to win the 200 IM later at the meet. The doping allegations after her 400 IM (from people that think Kate Ledeckys 800 free improvement the last year is just “impressive”!) cannot other than make me shameful of the politics we still have to endure. When a Chinese girl improves a lot we shout “Doping” but when an even younger American improves even more it is “Impressive”. It makes me sick. If you accuse one of them you MUST accuse them both. Or you keep your mouths shut!

4.       Sun Yang

Impressive swimming on 200, 400 and 1500 free. Very versatile and extremely focused – the 1500 free world record on the last day of a demanding Olympic games shows his focus and dedication. The undisputed star of Chinese swimming.

5.       Michael Phelps

For turning up without the optimal preparation and winning more Olympic gold medals. If he hadn’t won 8 golds four years ago I probably would have put him higher. But you cannot get higher on my list when you deliver sub-par compared to your potential – even though your results are still impressive.

6.       Ranomi Kromowidjojo

For winning two of the toughest races (ie. Two of the races with the most fierce competition) at the olympics following injury and problems the previous season.

7.       Daniel Gyurta

Undefeated in 200 breast long course for 3 years now. A magnificently hard and difficult race – probably the most specialized race of them all. World record when he needed it most: In the final of the Olympics under the biggest pressure he has been on for three years. Silver at 14 and gold at 22. Impressive!

8.       Yannick Agnel 

For winning the 200 free at Olympics and setting a world record in the 400 freestyle short course. Seldom to see world records these days when you disregard the Americans of cause.

9.       Katinka Hosszu

Not everything this year in swimming was the Olympics. Didn’t have the best Olympics but won 34 races at the world cup. Come on. 34 races. And then winning numerous medals at the world short course – including gold in the 200 fly and the 100 IM.

10.   Chad Le Clos

For the biggest upset of the Olympic games. Period.

Braden Keith - SwimSwam (USA)

1.       Sun Yang
It seems a travesty not to give the honor to Mr. Phelps in his final year, but the numbers just don’t see it that way. Both swimmers won the same number of individual medals (even though Phelps had more thanks to better relays), but Yang took this with records. He crushed the World Record in the 1500 by three seconds, and also broke the Olympic Record in the 400. The only record of note that we saw from Phelps was the Pool Record at UT in the 200 fly.
2.       Michael Phelps
He certainly made his last year count, going out with 4 gold and 2 silver medals, including a phenomenal split on the 400 free relay (even though it only went for a runner-up finish for the United States). He was back and he was focused, with an upset in the 200 fly to Chad le Clos the only disappointment on his otherwise-sterling 2012 resume. If he finds a way to get his fingertips to the wall first yet again in that race, he’s probably #1 on my list.
3.       Missy Franklin
Franklin set a new precedent in American women’s swimming by taking on 7 events at the 2012 Olympics. She walked away with 4 gold medals, one bronze, 5 American Records, 2 World Records, and the hearts of American fans. Then she proceeded to declare that she’s passing up millions to swim two years in college, and had the first-ever NCAA recruitment that received national media attention. Bags full of money will be waiting at the finish of the 400 free relay at the 2015 NCAA Championships, because this girl is major.
4.       Shiwen Ye
A pair of Olympic gold medals, including an unreal World Record swim in the 400 IM were the highlights of Ye’s year. She was pretty quiet otherwise (though a gold in the 200 IM at Short Course Worlds were a nice accent at year’s end). What’s really admirable is that the 16-year old was able to stand up for herself against the shouting and barking of a certain American swim coach who accused her of cheating without any real evidence. That’s impressive maturity.
5.       Ryan Lochte
He probably didn’t have the Olympics that he, or anyone else, expected or hoped for. He still won a big 400 IM among 5 total medals, and dominated the World Short Course Championships to the tune of 6 gold medals, 8 total medals, and two World Records – jammed into 5 days. That’s a heck of a run.
6.       Dana Vollmer
Vollmer was a perfect three-for-three in gold medals at the 2012 Olympics, including being the first woman under 56 seconds in the 100 fly. She really did work in 2012 – she was determined that she would go absolutely all-out on the front-half of that 100 fly and find a way to finish it; she worked on it, and worked on it, and worked on it, until it finally all came together in her very last attempt: the Olympic final.  
7.       Allison Schmitt
The way that “Schmitty” put her season together was impressive. She not only excelled in the middle distance (Olympic gold and American Record in the 200, silver and American Record in the 400), but she really worked hard to make herself an indispensable relay swimmer, and she was rewarded by anchoring all three American relays in London.
8.       Yannick Agnel
Agnel took a shocking leap in 2012, after dropping the 400 free. He became one of the best 100 freestylers in the world, and knocked off an impressive field to win gold in the 200 free. Maybe most importantly for the French, he erased four-years of heartache from the Americans when he put up a huge anchor to lead his 400 free relay to a victory at the Games. That was a legendary swim.
9.       Camille Muffat
Muffat set a new bar in middle-distance freestyles. No, she did not break a World Record in long course (yet), but she was knocking them out left-and-right in short course and still took Olympic gold in the 400. The way she swam in 2012 indicates that she might do something scary in 2013. She also took the French women to new heights, leading their 800 free relay to an Olympic bronze – their first ever medal in a relay.
10.   Chad le Clos
True, he only won two medals (one gold, one silver). True he dropped out early from the World Cup and similarly only two at Short Course Worlds (gold in the 100 fly, silver in the 50). The numbers don’t stack up to much of the top 10, but he did something nobody has done in more roughly a decade: he beat Michael Phelps in a 200 fly that counted. That’s huge, and he instantly joined swimming’s royalty.

Jeff Commings - Swimming World (USA)

1. Missy Franklin

An Olympic debut that continues to amaze. That 200 free-100 back double was mind-blowing.

2. Michael Phelps

The definition of determination. From a dismal start to a rousing finish, not only to the 2012 Olympics, but to an amazing career.

3. Sun Yang

I get goosebumps when I think about how much faster he can go. 14:29 in the mile? Possibly. 3:39 in the 400 free? Likely. He’ll need to stop doing those triple breaths off the turns.

4. Chad Le Clos

The first man to beat Michael Phelps in the 200 fly in a major meet in more than a decade. And he backed it up with a great 100 fly.

5. Rebecca Soni

After four years without a best time in their favorite event, Soni finally broke through the 2:20 barrier in the 200 breast.

6. Dana Vollmer

Persistence at its best.

7. Ye Shiwen

Poise under fire at 16 years old. She’ll need to back up her Olympic wins this year at worlds in order to silence the critics.

8. Nathan Adrian

Dropping five tenths in the 100 free at the elite level is rare, and Adrian did it at the right time, taking down the presumptive king of the event in London.

9. Ous Mellouli

The first person to win Olympic medals in the pool and open water in the same year. He’d been mostly written off before London, but came through when it mattered.

10. Akihiro Yamaguchi. 

His world record in the 200 breast signaled that Japanese breaststroke does not begin and end with Kosuke Kitajima.

Sebastian Schwenke - swimsportnews (Germany)

1. Michael Phelps
- for once again being the most successful athlete at the olympic games
- for breaking the momentum after finishing fourth in the 400m IM, missing gold in the 200m fly and 400m free relay on the first days of the olympics

2. Yannick Agnel
- for not just beating 2008 Olympic silver medalist Park Tae Hwan, double Olympic champion Sun Yang, world champion Ryan Lochte and world record holder Paul Biedermann in the 200m free at the Olympics, but also making it look THAT easy
- for breaking the world record in the 400m free short course

3. Missy Franklin
- for being the most successful female athlete at the London Olympics by the age of just 17

4. Ruta Meilutyte
- for delivering one of the biggest surprises at the Olympics, beating superstar Rebecca Soni in the 100m breaststroke
- for proving that she's not just a flash in the pan by winning the 100m breaststroke at the Istanbul Short Course World Championships

5. Sun Yang
- for winning two gold, one silver and one bronze medal at the Olympics, breaking the 1500m world record by over 3 seconds and becoming the most successful Chinese male swimmer in Olympic history

6. Oussama Mellouli
- for medaling at pool and Open Water in London and beating the Open Water specialists in the 10km marathon

7. Camille Muffat
- for winning a medal of each color at the Olympics
- for breaking the 400 and 800m free world record (short course)

8. Ranomi Kromowidjojo
- for officially becoming the best female freestyle sprinter in the world (finally!)) by winning the 50 and 100m free at the Olympics

9. Chad le Clos
- for breaking Michael Phelps' dominance in the 200m fly and touching him out by only 5/100 of a second

10.Ye Shiwen
- for demolishing the 400 IM world record and winning gold in the 200 IM as well

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Top 50 Swimmers of 2012 - The Top 10

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.

Top 50 (50-41)
Top 50 (40-31)
Top 50 (30-21)
Top 50 (20-11)
Expert Poll: Top 10 Swimmers of 2012

This is it. The final instalment takes us from 10 to 1.

10. Cameron van der Burgh - 2012 Highlight - Dominating the 100 breaststroke final, winning in a new world record and finishing the job that his close friend Alex Dale Oen had started

Until this year van der Burgh was considered to be a speed merchant who didn't quite have the endurance to win a global title over 100m. That all changed in London. Van der Burgh went out in a lightning fast 27.07 first 50m, but what was even more impressive, on the way home only Christian Sprenger split faster than the South African. This in a final that included 200 breast champion Daniel Gyurta, Kosuke Kitajima and Brendan Hansen. Some sentimentality also comes with this pick, due to van der Burgh's dedication of his victory to Alexander Dale Oen who tragically passed away just 3 months before the Olympic final. For anyone who would like to see the South African dropped lower down the list because of his admission of illegal fly kicks, rewatch the final. He was certainly not alone.

9. Camille Muffat - 2012 Highlight - Becoming Olympic champion in the 400 freestyle in 4:01.45, leading from start to finish

It says a lot about Muffat's year that London didn't rank as one of her most impressive performances of the year ... and yet she still came away with an individual gold and silver medal. Muffat makes the Top 10 for consistent brilliance across for the entire year. Her 4:01.13 from French Olympic trials was spectacular. Her consistency of swimming 1:55s and 1:56s in the 200 freestyle all year long was incredible, with her fastest effort of the year a 1:54.66 from Olympic trials. She also had some of the most incredible splits we've ever seen. A 8:23.60 effort in the 800 free with splits of 4:18.7 and 4:04.8 as well as a 4:02.97 swim in the 400 free with splits of 2:04.4 and 1:58.5. She rounded out the year with total dominance of women's short course freestyle with world records in the 400 free (3:54.85) and 800 free (8:01.06) as well as a 1:51.65 for good measure in the 200 free.

8. Rebecca Soni - 2012 Highlight - Stamping her authority on the 200 breaststroke by breaking the world record twice in two days en route to gold

Rebecca Soni had been knocking on the door of Annamay Pierse's 200 breast world record since 2010, in London she took out that frustration by breaking it twice. Firstly in the semi-final she crept under the mark by 0.12 seconds, she then took the record down another 0.41 seconds to 2:19.59 in the final. Despite excellent swims from the other medallists in London, Soni still finished first in her final by over a second. Soni came very close to doubling up in the 100 breaststroke, but couldn't quite get past Ruta Meilutyte in the final. She also threw down a 1:04.82 relay split on the USA's world record breaking 4x100 medley relay. Had a young Lithuanian not emerged in London, Soni would have been vying for a Top 5 spot.

7. Dana Vollmer - 2012 Highlight - Saving her best swim of the year for the 100 butterfly Olympic final where she won gold in a new world record of 55.98

Of all swimming events in 2012, male or female, nobody dominated their event like Dana Vollmer and the 100 fly. Not only did Vollmer take the event to uncharted territories by breaking the 56 second barrier, she set the new standard without the aid of her competitors snapping at her heels. Peppering the world rankings with 56 and 57 second swims she was in a league of her own this year. Her heat, semi and final times from US Trials and the Olympics were all faster than the next fastest swimmer this year in the 100 fly. In the Olympic final she turned in third before turning on the jets with the only sub-30 second final split to win by 0.89... and here's a terrifying prospect for her rivals, she had an awful finish. I would also argue that her 55.48 relay split was the key leg in the world record breaking USA 4x100 medley relay.

6. Michael Phelps - 2012 Highlight - Winning the 200 IM in 1:54.27, well clear of long time rival Ryan Lochte

The greatest of all time hung up his goggles in London and did so with an extra four gold medals and two silvers to add to his hefty collection. For that reason alone Phelps will top many people's lists this year, but not mine. Let's look at what Phelps didn't do in 2012. He didn't set an Olympic record, a textile best time or a world record this year. Every other swimmer in the Top 10 set at least one of these. He also failed to medal in the 400 IM and lost the 200 butterfly to Chad le Clos. That's not to say he had a bad year. His 200 IM victory was clinical, as was his 100 butterfly to a slightly lesser extent. As always Phelps showed up in the relays too. In the 4x100 free relay, had Yannick Agnel not raced to his out of this world split of 46.74, we would have been talking more about Phelps' 47.14 second split that put the USA in a great position to win. His 1:44.0 200 free split was the second fastest of the entire relay, again behind Agnel, and his 50.73 fly split in the 4x100 medley relay took the USA from 2nd to an unassailable gold medal winning position. Phelps is the greatest swimmer and greatest Olympian of all time, but that doesn't automatically make him the best swimmer of 2012.

5. Ye Shiwen - 2012 Highlight - Unleashing a spectacular freestyle split to win the 400 IM in a new world record time of 4:28.43... and surviving the media furore that followed

Ye Shiwen entered London as a 16 year old known in the swimming community for her fast finishes and 200 IM world title. She left as one of the most talked about athletes of 2012, sadly not enough of the discussion was focused on the positives... her two superb IM swims. Her 400 IM was sensational, after tracking Elizabeth Beisel for 300m, she came home in a spectacular final 100m time of 58.68. Employing the same tactics in the 200 IM, she swept past Alicia Coutts to win in a new textile best time of 2:07.57. Ye Shiwen couldn't have done any more in her two swims in London and she missed out on a Top 3 spot by the narrowest of margins. Ultimately swimming only two events in London without any relay heroics dented her chances.

4. Missy Franklin - 2012 Highlight - Leading from start to finish in the final of the 200 backstroke in London, setting a new world record in the process

Franklin was the most successful female swimmer in London from a medal standpoint. She left with 4 golds (2 individual + 2 relay) as well as bronze in the 4x100 free relay. As well as her individual world record in the 200 back, she also led off USA's world record setting 4x100 medley relay. London was a sensational first Olympic Games for Franklin, and she is well on her way to becoming the biggest name in American swimming. She had a couple of disappointments in London as she finished 4th in the 200 freestyle, missing bronze by 0.01, an event many had predicted her winning in the build up to the Olympics. She was also outside the medals in the 100 freestyle with a 5th place finish. Those two swims were just enough to keep her out of the Top 3, but like Ye Shiwen, by the narrowest of margins. This year Franklin also confirmed her status as the friendliest person to ever enter a body of water.

3. Ranomi Kromowidjojo - 2012 Highlight - Winning the 50 free in a new textile record and Olympic record of 24.05, her second individual gold medal of the Olympic Games

All Olympic swimming events are equal... but some events are more equal than others. Kromowidjojo just so happened to take part in three of the most iconic Olympic races (50 free, 100 free, 4x100 free relay) and was sensational in all of them. In her individual races Kromowidjojo set new Olympic records to win both the 50 free and 100 free, emulating her compatriot Inge de Bruijn's achievements from 2000. Not only did she win them, she won them by some distance. In the 50 free a stunning start took her clear of the field before winning by 0.23 seconds. In the 100 free she turned in fourth, but a superb turn and second 50m gave her victory by 0.38 seconds. The best swim from Kromowidjojo came in the 4x100 freestyle relay, even though the Dutch had to settle for a silver medal behind Australia. Kromowidjojo, swimming the last leg, started 1.36 seconds down on Australia but produced a sensational relay split of 51.93 to make things interesting. Had she been up against a lesser swimmer than Mel Schlanger, she might just have done it. Kromowidjojo also set a new textile best time of 52.75 in the 100 free back in April. Looking back over the last 12 months, Kromowidjojo is the undisputed fastest woman in water.

2. Sun Yang - 2012 Highlight - Lowering his own 1500 freestyle world record by 3 seconds to win his trademark event in London

Sun Yang was spectacular in London. He got the ball rolling by winning the 400 freestyle in 3:40.14, just 0.07 shy of Paul Biedermann's world record (and 0.08 seconds shy of Ian Thorpe's textile best time). By doing so he was also able to beat his Korean rival Park Tae Hwan into second and get some revenge for his defeat in Shanghai at Worlds the year before. In the 200 freestyle he tied with Park Tae Hwan for silver in a new national record, beating Ryan Lochte and Paul Biedermann in the process. Then came his 1500 free masterclass. His slowest 50 of the entire race was a 29.54 as he dropped his rivals one by one, then came the fireworks at the end of the race. His final 100m was a 53.49, his final 50m a 25.68. This came after 1400m of racing. The only slight disappointment of his Olympic efforts was his 1:45.55 split in the 4x200 free relay (0.6 seconds slower than his individual final), although he did move from 5th to 3rd to secure a bronze for China. Had this list been focused on the Olympics alone, Sun Yang would have been number one.

1. Yannick Agnel - 2012 Highlight - Overtaking Ryan Lochte in the final 10m of the 4x100 free relay to become a national hero back in France

Yannick Agnel takes the number one spot for two of the most stunning moments from London as well as his brilliant end to the year in the short course pool. Agnel did not return with the medals of some of the others on this list, he also did not set a LC world record. On the surface he seems like an odd choice for the top spot, but then you just need to cast your mind back to Sunday 29 July and the men's 4x100 freestyle relay. After France lost out to the USA in the same race on the back of Jason Lezak's heroics in Beijing, it was a memory that haunted an entire nation for four years. In the intervening years they unearthed Yannick Agnel and tested him on the final leg of several relays, each time he performed well. As all attention shifted to theAustralia vs USA showdown, the French knew they had a weapon they could deploy on the final leg. Even so, the race looked over as Agnel dived in over half a second behind superstar Ryan Lochte, a proven commodity in relays. He also had James Roberts and Danila Izotov just behind him. After the takeover Lochte extended his lead before Agnel closed the gap at the turn to 0.30 seconds. The American's turn opened up the gap again to Agnel, before the Frenchman managed to draw level with Lochte with 10m to go. In the next 10m Agnel delighted a nation and ended 4 years of hurt. His split time of 46.74 was Lezak-esque. In fact, Agnel Lezak'd the USA. That wasn't the end of Agnel's stunning Olympics either. The 200 freestyle was all set to be a clash of the titans. Lochte, Biedermann, Sun Yang, Park Tae Hwan and Agnel. Only Michael Phelps was missing. A race too close to call ended up being a procession for Agnel who won by 1.79 seconds to set a new textile best time of 1:43.14. He also just missed out on a medal in the individual 100 freestyle by 0.04 seconds finishing in 4th. His final contribution in London was the fastest 200 freestyle split of the entire 4x200 free relay (0.8 seconds faster than Phelps), to lead France to silver in the relay. It wasn't just London that sealed the top spot for Agnel. Throughout the early part of the year he was dropping incredibly fast swims, alongside team mate Camille Muffat they were two of the early stars of 2012. He also didn't slow down post-Olympics becoming the first man to break a Paul Biedermann suited world record with his 400 free time of 3:32.25 as well as just missing the 200 freestyle mark by 0.33 with his 1:39.70. As a comparison, the respective world titles in Istanbul were won in 3:39.15 by Paul Biedermann nearly 7 seconds slower than Agnel and 1:41.70 by Ryan Lochte, 2 seconds down on Agnel's time.

So there you have it, the Speed Endurance Swimmer of the year goes to France's Yannick Agnel

Speed Endurance Top 50 Swimmers of 2012

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
20. Florent Manaudou
19. Jiao Liuyang
18. Nathan Adrian
17. Ruta Meilutyte
16. Allison Schmitt
15. Katie Ledecky
14. Matt Grevers
13. Daniel Gyurta
12. Ryan Lochte
11. Chad le Clos
10. Cameron van der Burgh
9. Camille Muffat
8. Rebecca Soni
7. Dana Vollmer
6. Michael Phelps
5. Ye Shiwen
4. Missy Franklin
3. Ranomi Kromowidjojo
2. Sun Yang
1. Yannick Agnel