Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Tough Road

I received a little information along my Twitter feed today about an article about now former University of Michigan and US National Team swimmer Tyler Clary. The gist of the article was that Clary is forgoing his senior year of varsity swimming at UM to turn pro and chase his Olympic dream for 2012.

The article is located at the link here.

I have never met Tyler but I must say that I have tremendous respect for him as an athlete. Clary might be the third best swimmer on the planet behind Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, and unfortunately for Clary his road to London in 2012 has to blast through the brick wall that Phelps and Lochte metaphorically represent.

If one were to list Clary's best events...

200 BACK, 200 FLY, 200 IM, 400 IM

Talk about a hornets nest of events to try and make the US Olympic team in for 2012. Here's a look at the waters Clary must navigate to make the 2012 team...

200 BK...

Clary posted the 2nd best time of the year in the 200BK at Pan Pacs 1:54.90 but the road to London is packed with talented 200 backstrokers...

Ryan Lochte - #1 in the world this year, 1:54.12
Aaron Piersol - #4 in the world this year, 1:56.22, current 200BK world record holder
Michael Phelps - #5 in the world this year, 1:56.98, might look to add this event in 2012
Nicholas Thoman - #12 in the world this year, 1:57.71, serious up-and-comer in the backstrokes, world record holder in the SCM 100BK
Matt Grevers - #13 inthe world this year, 1:57.73, 2008 Olympian, seriously talented

Clearly the US has a serious collection of talent in the 200BK and this event is going to be horribly difficult to qualify in for the 2012 games, should be exciting to watch unfold.

200 FLY...

This event might be the "easiest" road to London for Clary because he's currently the #2 American in this event with only one currently serious challenger. Everyone knows that Phelps is the top dog in the 200FL and has been since 2001. The funny/sad thing for Clary is that even though the 200FL might be the clearest road to London for Clary it is probably the event (of his four best events) that he has the least chance at winning an Olympic medal. Clary is ranked #8 in the world in the 200FL, 1:55.72. The closest American threatening to get into the top 2 mix for that Olympic berth is currently Mark Dylla (#22 in the world, 1:57.08), who did beat Clary in this event at the US Nationals and if that happens at the 2012 Trials then Clary is going to be a spectator in this event come London.

200 IM...

2010 World Rankings...

1. Ryan Lochte 1:54.43, current WR holder (1:54.10)
2. Michael Phelps 1:55.94, former WR holder and two-time defending Olympic Champion
3. Tyler Clary 1:57.61, the man trying to crack the Lochte-Phelps dominance in the 200IM

Clary is going to need Phelps to fail like he did this summer at Pan Pacs... long odds that a star like Phelps continues to slide. Lochte, Phelps, and Clary are the top 3 guys in the world in the 200IM and will likely continue to be so come 2012, and it's a shame one of them will not swim the 200IM in London.

400 IM...

The big question in the 400IM come 2012 is who will win the Phelps camp power struggle in this event?

Phelps has made it well known (you can even find a blurb of how he'd like to drop the 400IM on his Wikipedia page) that he would not be heart-broken if he were to drop the 400IM from his event schedule.

Bob Bowman (and Phelps' mother) love this event and will not drop it without a fight...

Tyler Clary is the man in the balance. #2 in the world in the 400IM this year, 4:09.20, behind Ryan Lochte (who else). Phelps is the World Record holder but he clearly punted the 400IM this summer, and by punted I mean *only* posting a time worthy of #12 in world this year, 4:15.38, which is a failure for Phelps only because Phelps has been the man in this event, winning every major Games 400 IM pretty much every year since 2002.

So if Phelps has to swim this in 2012, then Clary is in tough, if Phelps does not swim the 400IM then Clary should be considered a serious medal contender in London.


Tyler Clary might be the best swimmer that flies just under the mainstream radar. In the world of men's swimming, Clary's 400IM at Pan Pacs 4:09.20 scored 992 world performance points, which is a score only bested by ...

Lochte (200IM, 400IM, 200BK)
Phelps (400IM)
Kosuke Kitajima (100BR, 200BR)
Camille Lacourt (50BK, 100BK)

Clary outscored some huge names in swimming this year -- Fred Bousquet, Nathan Adrian, Brent Hayden, Tae Hwan Park, Ryan Cochrane, Piersol, Liam Tancock, and Cesar Cielo...

Clearly Clary is pretty damn good... but will he be good enough in 2012? It's certainly a tough road ahead. Good luck!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Best Swim Of 2010

With the completion of the 2010 Pan Pacific Championship coming to a close today the 2009-2010 swim season is complete. Sure, the Commonwealth Games are oddly position in early October but that will lump into 2010-2011 although competing nations have chosen their teams based on this season's results. The Commonwealth Games aside we are now a wrap on 2009-2010.

The best swim of the year... Ryan Lochte's 200IM at the Pan Pacific Championships. Sure, there were a few WR before the banning of the shiny suits but the major storyline for the year was if anyone could best a world record back in a textile suit. Unfortunately many tried but all failed.

However, it did not get any better then Ryan Lochte this season. His brilliant 200IM at the US Nationals was only surpassed by the Pan Pac 200IM. 1:54.43. The 3rd best time in history, just slightly behind Lochte's present 200IM World Record of 1:54.10.

Great swimming deserves great recognition so it's fair to now call Ryan Lochte's 200IM at Pan Pacs as the best swim of the season.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Look At Phelps At Pan Pacs

Hats off to Swimming World TV because their interview coverage of the Pan Pacific Championships has been really good. Above is obviously a candid interview with Michael Phelps talking about his performance this week and what basic needs to happen over the next couple of years to work his way back up to swimming at the level he (and the world) expect him to swim.

For those who have not followed results it's clear that Phelps is ready to swim about 100m before things start to fall apart after that point...

DAY 1...
200FL, Phelps wins gold 1:54.11 ascending to 30.44 in the last 50, which is a little out of character. Phelps avoids swimming the 200FR and thus avoids a showdown with Ryan Lochte (Lochte won gold convincingly in the 200FR).

DAY 2...
400IM, Phelps falls victim to a unique Pan Pac rule where only 2 swimmers from each country can represent their nation in Finals. Phelps swims the 4th fastest time in the prelims (4:15.38) but is the 3rd American behind impressive performances by Ryan Lochte (4:08) and Tyler Clary (4:09). Phelps' best time in the 400IM is 4:03.84 so clearly 4:15 is not good. Phelps decided to scratch the B-Final.
4x200 FR RELAY, Phelps leads off the US relay and goes 1:45.62, which was only slightly slower then Lochte's Pan Pac gold medal performance of 1:45.30 in the 200FR on Day 1.

DAY 3...
100FL, Phelps wins gold in an impressive 50.86, probably his best swim of the meet thus far. Afterwards Phelps was a little disappointed with his speed in the front end of the swim (24.03) but pleased coming back in 26.83.
4x100 FR RELAY, Phelps leads off the team and smokes out a Pan Pac record 48.13, which would have bested team mate Nathan Adrian's winning time in the 100FR, which was 48.15... A pleasant surprise.

DAY 4...
200IM... Phelps scratches out of the 200IM avoiding the showdown with Ryan Lochte that fans were so anxiously awaiting. Just a few weeks prior at the same pool in Irvine, at US Nationals, Lochte beat Phelps in their 200IM showdown there and it's clear that Phelps did not want a repeat of that defeat and was more comfortable scratching and waiting to battle another day.

Two years to go before London and the best swimmer of the last decade is starting to show cracks in his game... He's still very young, younger then the emerging Ryan Lochte, so it's time for Phelps to re-commit to the sport and put his celebrity aside in order to re-establish the dominance of his brand in two years in London. The turning point is now though, that much is very clear.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

No Way To Track Records is one the Internet's premier swimming news websites out in cyberspace and I check in on the site with regularity and generally applaude their coverage of swimming but I must take issue with how they choose to look at records at this point in time.

It seems as if SwimNews is focused on delineating current performances away from the "Shiny Suit Era". As if the swims during the so-called "Shiny Suit Era" are somehow tainted or worthy of footnote.

This just in... The "shiny suits" happened, the times counted and should count. Sure, the sport has returned to a textile era (for now) but to make every swim during the shiny suit era out to be a less then genuine performance is slanted journalism. I don't know if SwimNews supports the movement within the sport to divide Record performances into two categories - shiny suit and textile, but there are certainly many people within the sport who would like to see that cateogrization.

I am not one of those people.

The core principle of swimming is the objective measurement of performances over a fixed distance and performed in certain technique parameters. You swim a distance and a stroke(s) and you end up with an objective measurement (time) and thus records can be quantified. This is a great system that has worked for a long time and should be allowed to continue to work without bringing in added criteria such as the equipment worn while achieving the time, the result is just too much confusion and a scramble of meaningless numbers and records.

Need proof? If you were to have 2 sets of records and 2 sets of record holders you end up with a similar problem to the sport of boxing where there are multiple "Champions" at the same weight class and the result is that only those who are the deepest fans and figures of boxing can actually tell who the real Champions are and thus the casual fan is incapable of grasping who truly is the best and if the casual fan can not understand who the best is then they are more likely to just turn the channel and let swimming slip deeper into irrelevance.

The solution... Just embrace the shiny suit era, embrace the records, and let the textile performances use the next two years leading up to the London Olympics so hopefully the stars of swimming will then be ready to start re-writing the record book again just as they were in 2009. Phelps will still be around in 2012 so the casual fans will be tuning in to see him and hopefully meet other swimming stars as well.

Keep it simple, stop analyzing too many "record" numbers by categorizing the performances by equipment criteria.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ryan Lochte's Brilliant 200IM At US Nationals

This might be the best swim since the banning of the shiny suits. 5th fastest 200IM ever swam and just exposing Michael Phelps for not being in full fitness at this point in time.

Nick Thoman And Awesome Human Tricks

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Josh Schneider Controversy

Swimming is a pretty simple sport... You get a stroke and distance and when someone reaches the National level in the US you can sure damn bet that the swimmers has been around the sport for a while and has swam A LOT to get to that level.

So... enter Josh Schneider.

Schneider has emerged as one of the best sprinters in the United States, showing up and winning the 50 yard freestyle at the NCAA Championships this year, which is no small feat considering that the NCAA are widely considered one of the fastest meets on the planet every year.

Today, in Irvine, California at the Summer Nationals and Pan Pacific Trials for the US Schneider found himself thrust squarely into the spotlight. Everything seemed normal at first, Schneider gets up in prelims and swims a very fast 22.22 in the 50m freestyle and unofficially qualifying 2nd for the Final.

One problem... Schneider was entered in the 100m fly and did not show up... This is a no-no at big meets that hate no shows because with hundreds of entries, un-punished no shows would be more pervasive and seriously cause time issues with meets. The punishment for no shows is universally disqualification from all other events that day.

Now Schneider is in a pickle... A top qualifier in the 50 FR looking at disqualification because he missed an after-thought of an event.

I'm not in California but sources tell me that there was a lot of chaos as one might expect. The rules state Schneider should be out. Schneider's coach, David Marsh is a very influential and important coach at SwimMAC, was adamant that this was a honest mistake and Schneider who is looking to make a big-time career breakthrough should not be disqualified for something so trivial. Enter another highly influential coach, Eddie Reese at Longhorns Aquatics who coaches the 9th overall qualifier (just outside the top 8 that swim in the Championship final) Jimmy Feigen who is more then capable of swimming into the medal picture and getting on the Pan Pac team. I'm sure Reese definitely wanted the rules to be adhered to and get his swimmer Feigen into the Final.

The result...

After Feigen was told he would be in the Final, Schneider actually did end up swimming the 50FR final in lane 5 and tied for 2nd with a time of 21.97.

The unofficial results read like this...

1. Nathan Adrian 21.70 (amazingly fast in the textile suit era)
2. Josh Schneider 21.97
2. Cullen Jones 21.97
4. Garrett Weber-Gale 22.21
5. Nick Brunelli 22.36
6. William Copeland 22.45
7. Matt Grevers 22.53
8. Adam Small 22.55

USA Swimming Board of Directors will rule on Schneider's fate tomorrow AM... Surely a sleepless night may be in-store for Mr. Schneider.

After watching an interview of Schneider it looks like he's being honest, this was a mistake but by the letter of the law he should be toast. A tough way to learn important lessons that every swimmer should know...


We will see what USA Swimming does, sure is an interesting choice.

If there is a silver-lining here, clearly Josh Schneider has ascended to the ranks of the truly elite sprinters in the world... 21.97 is damn fast.

For more....

A thorough interview with Schneider is currently on the front page of SwimNetwork.

Associated Press coverage found through Yahoo!

Amazing coverage of all races found at the broadcasting channel of the National Championships, Universal Sports.