By John Lohn
ASTON, Penn., August 4. HAVING had a few days to settle back into the flow of daily life in the States, I figured I’d take a look back at Montreal and the eight sensational days that made up the swimming portion of the FINA World Championships. So, here are a few quick hitters from north of the border.
**The Canadian support for its native athletes was fantastic, regardless if an athlete was racing in the preliminaries or battling for a medal. The home crowd put every ounce of its energy behind its swimmers and saw a number of top-flight swims, including silver medals on the male side from the 400 and 800 freestyle relays.
Enhancing the week were Brittany Reimer’s double-medal effort over the 800 and 1,500 freestyles and Mike Brown’s surge to silver in the 200 breaststroke. Meanwhile, Brent Hayden was dazzling. Although he did not win any individual medals, Hayden firmly established himself as an impact performer in the 100 and 200 freestyle events.
**Some of the discussion surrounding Michael Phelps revolved around his failure of a meet. Um, what failure? The eight-time Olympic medalist was sensational, winning five gold medals and a silver. So he didn’t medal in the 100 and 400 freestyles, his experimental events. Big deal. Phelps should be applauded for his willingness to challenge himself.
**Kudos to Leisel Jones for breaking through on the international stage, thanks to gold-medal showings in the 100 and 200 breaststroke events. Viewed as unable to deliver when the heat was on, Jones ridded herself of that tag and set a world record in the 200 breast. Simply, she left the competition as the premier female breaststroker in the world.
**The finest female swimmer in the world is…Zimbabwe’s Kirsty Coventry. By winning four medals, including gold in the 100 and 200 backstroke, Coventry strengthened the high profile she built at Auburn and at last summer’s Olympics. Aside from her dorsal medals, Coventry took silver in both individual medley disciplines.
Of course, arguments can also be made for American Katie Hoff, who won both I.M. events, winning the 200 distance with the second-fastest time in history. Meanwhile, Lisbeth Lenton was dynamite in her outings, taking gold in the 50 free and silver in the 100 fly, to go with a 1:57.06 leadoff leg – fourth-fastest in history – on Australia’s 800 free relay.
**One of the worst decisions of the meet arrived on the opening day of action, courtesy of the Italian coaching staff. During qualifying of the men’s 400 free relay, the coaches opted to not use Filippo Magnini and Lorenzo Vismara. Consequently, Italy missed the final by one spot. Later in the week, Magnini won the 100 free in 48.12. It’s one thing to rest the superstars for the night session. But, you have to get there first.
**Throughout the week, particularly during the morning preliminaries, there were sizable sections of the stands that went unoccupied. Since there was obvious room, why not fill those sections with youngsters. Here’s an idea: Invite some youth groups to the event. Maybe, the excitement would influence a handful of kids to become involved in the sport. Wouldn’t that be great?