By John Lohn
CRANBURY, New Jersey, December 21. THE year is winding down and we'll soon flip the calendar to 2007 and begin taking note of standout achievements for the next 12-month period. But, before we move forward, why not take a look at some of the major events from the past year.
**An argument can surely be made that the biggest storyline of the year was the retirement of Ian Thorpe. One of the greatest freestylers in history, Thorpe was basically out of the international picture since the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. But, hearing Thorpe officially announce he was leaving was a significant event in the annals of swimming.
The Thorpedo brought so much to the water, proving himself time and again at the Olympic Games and World Championships. It's hard to believe that we'll no longer see his black bodysuit in competition, particularly with his retirement arriving as a 24-year-old. It's just important to remember Thorpe for all he accomplished and not what he left in the tank.
**It's difficult to say that Michael Phelps had a less-than-stellar year in 2005, what with him winning six medals at the World Champs in Montreal. But when an athlete raises the bar the way Phelps has over the years, that's the scenario that unfolds. So, it was great to see Phelps return to his world-record breaking ways at the Pan Pacific Championships.
By lowering his global standards in the 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley, Phelps proved he is continually improving and has heightened expectations for the 2007 World Champs in Melbourne. The owner of unmatched versatility, it will be intriguing to see what Phelps does Down Under, at a meet that will position him heading into the Beijing Olympics.
**Thanks to the push of Mark Schubert, USA Swimming has decided to rekindle Short Course Nationals. With the exception of the NCAA Championships, rarely do national-team athletes have the chance to pop big times in a short-course format. Now, that opportunity will present itself and a different look will be brought to fans of the yardage format.
**One of the most talked-about topics of the year was the decision of the International Olympic Committee to move the finals of the 2008 Beijing Games to the morning. That decision, of course, will allow NBC Television to broadcast the championship races in primetime in the United States. Not surprisingly, many individuals were upset by the move, as the IOC catered to television rather than listen to the athletes, who preferred to maintain a standard evening-finals format.
Yes, it's a shame that the IOC saw dollar bills over the interest of the athletes who will be chasing Olympic glory. But, at this point, there is no turning back. So, instead of harping on the decision, it's time that the potential competitors begin preparing themselves for a change of schedule as to guarantee they will not be affected in the Summer of 2008.