By Jack Simon
GUADALAJARA, Mexico, September 28. AS I was sitting here in Guadalajara, Mexico, watching the results of the US Olympic Trials pour in over SwimInfo last July, I kept saying to myself, it sure does not seem like anyone wants to swim fast! At first I thought that perhaps maybe 15% of the women in the meet turned in best times and perhaps a little more with the men. I was shocked by what I saw.
I then decided to do an analysis of the prelim swims at the Trials (which you can see in the data presented here.) There are some things though that are important:
1. I did not take the time to look at semis and finals to see who improved, that was strictly a time element for me. However, I doubt it would change much. There are VERY few swimmers who can “take it easy” in an Olympic Trials.
2. The pool was not a great one. I was there for the Janet Evans meet and was dismayed at the amount of turbulence on the surface. I complained about it at that point and was told they would turn one of the pumps off. However, when I spoke to one VERY reliable person, I was informed that the design of the pool was for some 70 inlets which would disburse the water evenly and the “dumb” contractor only put some 20 into the pool. However, I am pretty sure they did turn off one of the pumps during competition, so the slow swimming cannot all be blamed on a “slow” pool.
3. The number of athletes who entered on the women’s side verses the men’s side is VERY reflective of the growing problem with men in our sport.
4. I have never done an analysis on any other Olympic Trials, perhaps they were all slow.
5. As I will make some recommendations on what needs to be changed it needs to be stated that I am out of the picture as to decisions within United States Swimming. Perhaps some of the things I suggest have already been discussed and for legitimate argument shot down.
Prior to these suggestions I would like to congratulate the Coaches and Athletes who made the Olympic Team and to the few coaches and athletes who came to the meet prepared to swim fast. As a nation, we need to do better.
A. This I suggested many years ago and it was never carried through. Place progressive Olympic Trial/National Time standards starting with 2005 and getting faster through 2008. That forces faster swimming nationally. Swimmers have ALWAYS and will ALWAYS swim to standards.
B. Having swimmers in the meet that made the standard some two years ago does not serve any purpose whatsoever. If a swimmer wants to participate in an Olympic Trials, they need to prove they are fast enough to do so at least three or four months out from the trials. It is utter nonsense to think that someone who has been swimming slow for two years will all of a sudden have magic strike them in the backside.
C. Having swimmers in the meet that made the standard two weeks prior to the Trials serves no purpose other than perhaps an “experience.” Most if not all those “experiences” were not good ones unless watching Michael Phelps, et al from the stands is considered the good experience.
D. There needs to be a time frame when athletes need to make the standards. My suggestion here would be three to four months out fromf the Trials. That allows recuperation and an appropriate training period prior to the trials.
These suggestions are geared to making the environment of the Olympic Trials (once every four years) the fastest meet of the quadrennial. I find it difficult to imagine how less than 1% of the swimmers in the meet are expected to swim very fast, when the largest percentage is swimming slow. Just seems to be some conflict there.
Coaches and athletes here are not to be blamed, it is the system that needs to be changed and if that happens I think the results at our 2008 Trials will be phenomenal.
Last but not least, many of the athletes who did not do well at the Trials could have saved those swims for our National Championships and perhaps swum much better.
I welcome your comments, positive and negative.