PHOENIX, Arizona, August 4. WE’RE bringing you our picks of the top five swimming headlines of the past week, and as is usually the case, we’re going all over the world on today’s show. Let’s get things started with our number five headlines, which takes us north of the border to Montreal.
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While he was training in British Columbia on the western side of Canada, Paralympic champion Benoit Huot was informed that several medals he won over the years were stolen from his new home almost 3,000 miles away in Montreal. One of the medals was a bronze medal he had won at the Paralympics in 2008, and the police are still searching for clues to lead them toward a suspect. It’s never a good thing to report on medals being stolen, but pretty much all of the time they are recovered, so we hope to be telling you soon that Huot is reunited with his stolen property. Huot is about to begin competition at the Para Pan Pacific championships so we hope for some good news before the meet begins.
The Commonwealth Games came to an end last Tuesday, and the last event featured a bit of an upset in the men’s 400 medley relay. The English team of Chris Walker-Hebborn, Adam Peaty, Adam Barrett and Adam Brown swam a 3:31.51 to beat the heavily favored Australians by seven tenths of a second. The Aussies were hindered by Christian Sprenger’s shoulder injury that kept him off the medal podium, and the Englishmen took advantage of that and led after the halfway point. This signals the start of a resurgence for the British men, who have been on the outside looking in as far as the medley relay is concerned. While this swim is not likely to last as the fastest in the world this year, it should give the Brits some hope as they begin to look ahead to the 2016 Olympics and a possible place on the medal podium.
Over in Qatar, the swimming federation there is looking forward to hosting two of the biggest international meets of the year, one of the stops of the FINA World Cup and the short course world championships. While the country is excited to bring the world’s best to the Middle East, the goal of fostering young talent is high on the priority list. To that end, Olympic champion Ous Mellouli is helping Qatar with what is being called the Ous Mellouli Swimming Academy. Mellouli hails from Tunisia, and the two countries share an Arab heritage as part of the Middle East and Northern Africa conglomerate of nations. The hope is to produce another Arab Olympic champion and keep interest in swimming high in the region. The facility that will play host to the big meets is the best pool in the region, and that could help boost the sport. At the short course world championships, young swimmers from the region will get to participate in exhibition swims, mingling on deck with some of the world’s best to get a taste of what could lie in their future. Sounds like a great venture. We’ll see what it produces in a few years’ time.
Back here in the United States, the best 18-and-under swimmers gathered in Irvine, California, for the junior national championships. It was a showcase for a lot of rising talent, including Townley Haas, who won four freestyle events, and Amy Bilquist, the winner of the 50 and 100 freestyles. Some of the swimmers used the meet as a warm-up for the senior nationals, which starts Wednesday. Caeleb Dressel was one of them, and he won the 50 free in a 22.36. Michael Andrew, who is a 15-year-old professional swimmer, won his first junior national title with a 55.73 in the 100 back. Many of these swimmers will be looking for spots on the junior Pan Pacific team, which will only be picked at senior nationals. If you missed any of our coverage of juniors, we’ve got all the recaps on our USA channel at our redesigned SwimmingWorld.com.
And now we’re at the number one headline of the week, and it concerns the injuries that are going to keep two top swimmers out of the European championships. In May, Camille Lacourt injured his hip, and had withdrawn from a couple meets in the following weeks. Many believed he would either skip Europeans or attend and not be expected to do well. The French swimming federation made the official announcement Sunday that Lacourt was sitting out the meet, losing out on a chance to get back the title he won in 2010 in the 100 back when he came within two tenths of the world record. Russia is losing one of its key players as well. Danila Izotov is suffering from a shoulder injury that’s going to keep him from swimming in Berlin in a couple of weeks, according to the Russian swimming federation. Izotov not only was in line for medals in the 200 free, his top event, but was going to be a key leg for Russia’s relays. Hopefully we’ll see these two back in the race pool very soon.