Open Letter to Swimmers, From Overworked Swim Reporter -- December 22, 2008

Column by Jason Marsteller

PHOENIX, Arizona, December 22. WITH just more than a week left in the insane year that was 2008 within the swimming community, I just have ONE tiny, simple request for the swimmers of the world.

Can you please quit it?

108 world records? Are you kidding me?

For the many that don't know who I am, I'm the guy who does most of the coverage for Swimming World's web site, I'm also the spammer that sent out more than 3 million e-mails in the guise of World Record Alerts this year. Yeah, I'm THAT guy.

When I first got here, there might have been a couple meets here and there where my wife and personal life took a serious back-seat as I made sure Swimming World kept its insatiable public happy with the latest and greatest coverage of global standards being set around the world.

This year? My wife wonders who that dude inhabiting the living room with a laptop permanently attached is…she thinks she married him five years ago, but she can't remember for sure.

108 WRs? If the swimmers of the world can't unite on how they feel about the speedsuits, can you all at least join together to help swimming reporters? Can ya pick a weekend or two every month or two where you don't plan on smashing, crushing, obliterating, shattering, demolishing, eclipsing, erasing, wiping out, clearing, edging, nipping, pipping, clipping world records with stunning, astonishing, startling, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, swift, quick, sterling, startling, sensational, fabulous, wonderful, scintillating times?

It's not like we're covering any other sport like football, basketball, baseball or the original futbol, soccer. They all have off-seasons. They all have times where beat writers could actually schedule some consistent family vacation times.

The sport of swimming before 2008 used to be like that. There used to be 2-3 intense months a year, and the rest of the year tended to be meets where people were just swimming through. There were some times during the year that were tantamount to off-seasons, and a reporter could actually get some down time.

Nope, not swimming right now, and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. A world record actually went down during the French Interclubs meet this weekend, a week after the actual taper meet for the French at the European Short Course Championships. That's like a world record falling at a last chance meet.

So, as a rather harried, and spent, swimming reporter, can you all give me a chance to breathe? Just a weekend or two from time to time. That's all I ask! Just let me know which weekend, because this past weekend was kinda supposed to be that weekend for my wife and I.

Just wanted to take the time to wish all of our readers a Happy Holiday season in a non-traditional, fun sort of way. HAPPY HOLIDAYS! - Jason

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December 22, 2008 You rock, Jason! LOL
Submitted by: paddles
December 22, 2008 You do ROCK Jason!
Sounds like SW needs to anty up and get you some help!
Submitted by: ahelee
December 22, 2008 Blame the suits.
Submitted by: chswimmer
December 23, 2008 Hahaha! Oh, poor you.
Submitted by: Sarah E
December 23, 2008 Jason, i want to contratulate you for the website! Brazilian community are sending you n family good wishes for thi Holiday we are waiting you to send a report like:

"50 LCM Freestyle Word Record smashED, crushED, obliteratED, shatterED, demolishED, eclipsED, erasED, wipED out, clearED, edgED, nippED, pippED, clippED

by CESAR CIELO, whit a stunning, astonishing, startling, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, swift, quick, sterling, startling, sensational, fabulous, wonderful, scintillating time" dont need to write all these words at once you'll have time for use all of.

Thank you, lets make the next year a better year! Merry X-mas n a Happy New Year for all!
Submitted by: brswimmer
December 24, 2008 Thank you, Brswimmer!

If it wasn't for our desire to keep this site about hard news, I might just be prepared to bust out a few extra adjectives whenever Cielo gets around to knocking off that 50 LCM free world record. *grin*

I love our Brazilian readers, and enjoy the community you all have going at with Coach Alex Pussieldi.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to you as well!
Submitted by: Jason Marsteller
December 27, 2008 The records, 98% for the swimmers training better and 2% to the suit
Submitted by: carlos.iguess
December 27, 2008 How did the athletes suddenly start "training better"? Did we make an evolutionary jump without being aware of it? 108 world records in one year? At this rate, the 100 meter freestyle LONG COURSE will be 44 seconds in another 10 years. (Not based on scientific fact just a crazy opinion.) The point I am trying to make is that the rate of improvement should be slowing down and not speeding up. It IS the suit and perhaps something more that WADA knows nothing about. Thoughts? Opinions?
Submitted by: paddles
December 27, 2008 Jason, I think you know how I feel, but thank you for your efforts in keeping the news coming. And I can tell you we feel blessed you have a faster laptop with spamblockers!

Seriously, you are clearly right about the impact of non-training/non-athlete factors on there being 108 world records in 2008, and not just world records but an increase in impressive short course yards meets and performances as well on which we fans want you to continue to provide information.

The non-training/non-athlete factors come down primarily to technological, scheduling/competition/format, perception and financial matters, including (but in no way limited to -- and I invite others to comment on things also impacting on this growth of quality performances):

1. Suit technology, which has been commented on ad nauseum;
2. Short course explosion; it has been coming on slowly, but surely, over the last 15 years or so, but the non-US swim world has finally caught on to the value of short course swimming on many levels, with the continuing growth of the World Cup, but even more important, World Championships, European Championships, various national/regional championships across the world have developed a relevance they did not have even 3-4 years ago. While the long course year was phenomenal, I suspect the number of short course share of those 108 global marks well out-numbered the number of LC marks. Now, even while rightly still prioritizing Olympic course event more highly, short course events have gathered momentum which has resulted in athletes from the most elite levels resting for short course events who in previous eras would not have even considered doing so. This has allowed more spectator observation of high end athletes at high end preparation points which has increased marketing opportunities and $$$$ available to keep athletes in the sport more into their physiologically peak years. There are more places where athletes can win or place well in events with relevance, producing more athletes with the confidence to do great things. That "power of winning"(acknowledgement to Bob Gillett for the phrase" confidence breeds greater performances by athletes that might otherwise only have aspired to be a finalist at their biggest meets. And as more athletes thus reach closer to their actual potential, it pushes the already confident, truly elite to even greater heights. (an example might be a Ryan Lochte who was an excellent long course swimmer but clearly a step behind all-timers Peirsol and Phelps, but was absolutely exceptional short-course and won many significant short-course events (NCAA, World Champs, re-birthed US SC Nats), often where Peirsol and Phelps didn't take part but eventually even those where they did, and he improved to where he split the Olympic backstroke golds with Peirsol and pushed Phelps to preparation and performances that were probably important in him reaching the levels he reached.)

This is already probably too long for many to read, so we'll save comment on some of these other factors for other posts.
Submitted by: dunc1952
December 27, 2008 Hi Dunc. I went looking for Craig Lord's ratio of LC wr vs SC wr but couldn't find it. I do rememeber (when I read it a couple weeks ago) that the differences were not that great. Maybe 10 more(????) SC records than LC. Also, what I find VERY interesting from what you wrote is how the world has caught on to the positives of short course competitions while the Americans have gone backwards. Years ago, the US short course (yards) nationals were just as important as long course. Somehow, that importance slipped, ending up with a temporary ending of the short course nationals. In the meantime, FINA came up with the World Cup. While the rest of the world jumped on the bandwagon, most Americans stayed away. I don't know if this is a reason for the sudden jump in world records, but you certainly present an argument which forces athletes and coaches to SERIOUSLY look at the benefits of short course training and competitions rather than focusing solely on long course. For the USA, maybe short course nationals should be short course METERS rather than yards. Since most big time yards competitions are held in 50 meter pools with a bulkhead, the powers that be should stretch that bulkhead out 25 meters rather than 25 yards....and this INCLUDES NCAA.
By the way, your analogy on Ryan Lochte was spot on and DEFINITELY food to munch on for the athlete looking for the little ways to jump to the next level whether it be novice or international.
Submitted by: paddles
December 30, 2008 You forgot one of my favorites: the French "pulvérise"
Submitted by: hooperswim
May 1, 2009 I liked the idea of an endowment; but perhaps in partnership with the colleges; the endowment could approach each school and negotiate, for example saying they will allocate X dollars but only if the school will match it.
Submitted by: liquidassets
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