By John Lohn
ASTON, Pennsylvania, December 27. WHAT can we hope for in 2006? Well, fast swimming would obviously be great. But, let’s get a little more specific. So, here are a few things this writer would like to see occur beginning with the New Year.
**Since we know that the world record in the women’s 200 individual medley, held by China’s Wu Yanyan, is drug-tainted, let’s hope that Katie Hoff wipes the standard from the books. The new face of American swimming, Hoff certainly has the talent to take down the record of 2:09.72, as her mark of 2:10.41 from last summer’s World Championships is the second-fastest swim in history.
Let’s also hope that Hoff continues to attack additional events, as she did last year by adding the 200 freestyle to her World Champs program. Also an accomplished performer in the backstroke and butterfly, demonstrated at points over the last year, including the U.S. Open, Hoff’s star is going to continue to soar higher and higher.
**While it’s difficult to fault athletes for taking the money, as it provides for a better lifestyle, let’s hope that Qatar is unable to find the two missing links it will need to package a medal-contending relay at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The nation has already landed the duo of Duje Draganja (Croatia) and Rolandas Gimbutis (Lithuania) and needs two more solid sprinters to make a run at a 400 freestyle relay medal.
The Olympics, though, are about national pride and bringing home a medal under the flag of an athlete’s true nation. The Games are not about purchasing medals, which is exactly what Qatar is attempting to achieve. It would be a shame, come 2008, to see an all-star squad standing on any of the steps of the medal podium.
**Here’s to Ian Thorpe making a splendid return to the international scene. There is no arguing that the man is the finest middle-distance freestyler in history and having the Australian back in the mix, following a post-Athens refuel, is great for the sport. Let’s hope that Thorpe puts on a show at the Commonwealth Games in March and rekindles discussion of world-record swims.
**Let’s hope that another sub-19-second swim in the 50-yard freestyle will dot the NCAA Championships. When Auburn’s Fred Bousquet accomplished the feat last year (twice), he broke through an amazing barrier. His efforts were special and, though the barrier has been busted, cracking 19 seconds remains an eye-popping achievement.
**Lets hope that Brooke Bennett’s return to the American distance scene is filled with much success. With Kate Ziegler owning that realm, wouldn’t it be intriguing to see a former star locate some of her old magic and give the United States a one-two punch of youth and experience on the international stage? It might be tough, but Bennett has the credentials and deserves the support.
**Maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll get to see Ian Crocker break the 50-second barrier in the 100 butterfly. Just a few years ago, breaking the 51-second mark was viewed as ridiculous. These days, though, Crocker has redefined the event and is the guy capable of taking the 100 fly into a new stratosphere. Let’s also hope Crocker revisits the 100 freestyle, where he can be a major player internationally.