FINA World Championships, Swimming: Reactions From the Deck

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By Priyant Pratap, BehindTheBlocks.com

ROME, Italy, July 29. MUCH uncertainty still remains over whether FINA will maintain its position on suits and deadlines. There are trust issues now, as a result of FINA overturning its decision a month ago to ban most high tech suits. Coach Bob Bowman told Swimming World that he's finding it difficult to create plans for his team for the upcoming season.

"We're not sure what to do," Bowman said. "I would like them to just wear jammers, but then they're going to say, well our neighbors are wearing Jakeds, why can't we?"

Bowman also discussed the upcoming Duel in the Pool meet, which has seen Australia replaced by a European contingent consisting of four countries – Russia, France, Great Britain and of course, the United States. He announced that it would be held at the same pool that hosted the Commonwealth Games in Manchester

"We're going to make our own rules for that and I expect the French to be on board with it too after being very vocal about being anti-high tech suits," Bowman said. "The Russians backed us up when we sent a recommendation to FINA . We should be fine".

The heats saw Mary Descenza, who became a World Champion in Manchester last year in the same event, take a new world record in the 200 fly. Descenza looked very shocked, while members of the American team celebrated out of their skin in delight.

With 2:04.14 now to her credit, she said "It was totally unexpected, I am so excited. I didn't think I could swim so fast! This morning I just thought to stay positive. [Jessicah] Schipper is an awesome person. It's great to compete against her and she gives me some pressure!"

Schipper spoke to Swimming World saying she didn't think she was going that fast either (2:05.50) and felt "all over the place and I was in quite alot of pain".

"Descenza has been a great friend of mine over the years so I'm glad to see that time for her," Schipper said.

Commonwealth Champion Ryan Pini talked about his 100 freestyle after being sick for the months leading up to Worlds. He described the moment when people were let in to take suits, as "insane." When asked about how he'll do in his signature event that saw him final in Beijing last year, he joked "I still feel a bit phlegmy. I'm in a blueseventy suit now, but I'll probably put on an Arena and break the world record."

After coming ninth in the semifinals of the 200 free, an event in which he was favored to medal, Dominik Meichtry contested the 100 free to post 49.17 which unfortunately placed him in 33rd.

"I'm still trying to get over the 200," Meichtry said. "I put alot of emotion into that race and well it's just frustrating."

Swimming World asked him about his thoughts on the suits and whether they discouraged him this year as he was notably upset before the meet about them.

"I'm a bit frustrated with the suits situation, because I don't feel like I have the same advantage as some of the other guys but that's just an excuse as the end of the day," Meichtry said. "But I wasn't supposed to be where I was, and that's that. I'm wearing Arena now, but I wore a Jaked in the semifinal of the 200. I don't get the buoyancy from it that some of the other bigger guys are getting from it."

Looking forward, he's keen to see what he can produce in 2009, and his next major meet, the European Championships, where he received a silver medal in his last outing.

After making a surprising appearance on the National roster in two events (the 100 free and 200 free) Dave Walters will enter as the top seed in tonight's semifinal of the 100 free clocking a personal best time of 47.59.

While suits have been said to assist a swimmer's performance, Dave gave "a lot of credit to hot girls, great food and good times!" He was disappointed about missing the relay but looks forward to a new and fresh start and putting that behind him.

Nathan Adrian qualified in ninth position with 48.13. He had this to say about his plans in Rome.

"The relay was great," Adrian said. "It was my first big swim on this kind of team. Right now I'm just focusing on making my way to that final of the 100 free. Bob put so much faith in me with that relay and I felt humbled by it. It was a real compliment to anchor that relay team."

Swimming World asked Cesar Cielo for his reaction to Phelps losing his first individual title since 2005 to German Paul Biedermann in the Men's 200 free last night.

"I wasn't surprised really that he could be beaten, what I was surprised about was that 1:42!" Cielo said. "I was watching that race shocked thinking, I can't even swim my 100 like this! It was amazing. He's going to be a guy to watch for a long time!"

Cielo believes the face of international swimming has changed substantially over the past few years reflected in the wealth being spread in the medal tally amongst many countries. He attributed this to "better communication, better training techniques, more meets where swimmers get to meet each other and train with each other, but at the same time, there's been alot of technology in suits that's allowing this to happen."

Discussing the suits he said, "We're very keen to return to a level playing field. We're not Formula 1 here. It's not about who has the best car! It's about who is the best swimmer. Alot of events have been about the car, but we all know what is and what isn't. Right now we're playing the game and playing the rules, but we hope for a change."

The Brazilians were hoping to medal, or rather, win, the men's 400 free relay, especially after entering in lane 4, but finished fourth. Cielo admitted he was too upset to really take notice of the gold, silver and bronze placings.

"I didn't even know France got bronze!" Cielo said. "One of my teammates told me they got bronze and I said, ‘Wait didn't they win that thing?' I don't know what happened there. I thought they should be able to just high five each other and still win the race".

Another Brazilian was in action, former World Record holder in short course, Thiago Pereira swimming the 200 IM. He commented on Brazil's newfound dominance in swimming.

"They've been swimming pretty fast!" Pereira said. "It's unbelievable! I saw the relay, Cesar almost broke the world record and I felt like, oh, I gotta do something! I gotta start swimming fast, make the finals, something! But I'm here to do my best."

Sporting a Jaked, Swimming World also asked Pereira whether he felt that despite the fact that everyone was able to choose from any suit, is it still a level playing field.

"It is, but I still don't agree with the suits," Pereira said. "I'm angry with FINA and its decision, which is, to take everything to these championships. It's hard to say. I mean last night we saw Phelps with the Speedo and Biedermann with a different suit. I'm not saying it's just because of the suit that he won, but the suit for sure helped."

Ryan Lochte made his first individual appearance in the 200 IM as well. He said he hadn't really tried and still has quite a bit left for the semifinal. Having had three days off, he says, "In a way it's really nice to be able to relax, but then I see all these fast times and I'm like, whoa!" Lochte also made his first appearance at a major long course meet in the men's 400 free relay final, clocking 47.0.

"I completely missed my turn at the end so I thought I could maybe go 46.5, but oh well".

Like Phelps, Lochte will continue to swim in a LZR and in contrast to many opinions, is enjoying swimming in it. "I'm loving it. It makes it a bit more of a challenge. As far as I'm concerned, I still feel my best in this suit. I've tried everything but it's all about what you're most comfortable in".

Finally he talked about one of his best friends, Phelps losing to Biedermann last night.

"I was surprised, I mean it's the first time in a long time that he's been beaten in one of his best events, but I think that's only going to fuel his fire even more for tonight. I wouldn't be surprised if he goes 1:51".

Being one of the top seeds entering the men's 200 IM, South Africa's Darian Townsend had an alternative view on what the suits have done for the sport.

"The meet seems to be going okay," Townsend said. "Not feeling so comfortable in the water myself but everyone else seems to be going really fast! So yeah it's fun to be here. It's the second world champs that I've made. I think the suits make the sport more exciting. A lot of people are talking about going back to briefs, but I think the suits have done wonders for the sport. Lately I've been working on my IMs after focusing mainly on freestyle over the years so I think I'm going to pursue that route to 2012".

Commonwealth Games mark the next major championships on the swimming calendar. Towsend expressed how much he was looking forward to being there. "Definitely looking forward. Not sure if it's going to happen or not in India, with security concerns, but it's one of the places I've really wanted to go to when watching them play South Africa in cricket growing up".

"At the moment, I have to wear Arena because it's my Federation sponsor. My personal sponsor is blueseventy, but they kinda lucked out so they're being really good about allowing me to swim in an Arena suit. Things in South African swimming are also looking up. We had a rough year last year after the Olympics but they're working together with the swimmers now and things are starting to look promising".

Finally, Swimming World spoke to James Goddard, British veteran of the 200 IM and 200 back about swimming this year as a new dad and having been in the sport for so long and experiencing the suits phenomenon that has shaped Worlds.

"Things are going great for me as a dad! She's just started walking and I mean, I'm doing this for her. It's definitely changed the way I've been swimming! It's made me grow up. I've had to get some responsibility, and it's helped shape the way I've been swimming too. But all in a positive way. In terms of suits, I guess I just have to get on with it. Suits are here, they're going to be used at this meet so I'm just gonna race my own race and see what happens. Next season though should be interesting without the suits. Commies are on, I'm definitely going, looking forward to it. I have a bit of a shoulder problem at the moment but I'm really quite pleased at my swimming."

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