Column by John Lohn
NEW YORK, New York, April 19. IN Europe, Japan and South Africa over the weekend, some of the top names in the sport were in action trying to nail down berths to the European Championships or the Commonwealth Games. It seemed like a good time to put together some random thoughts on the sport at various levels.
**Much of the swimming world has been buzzing over the past few days concerning the efforts of 17-year-old Yannick Agnel. After touching the wall in 48.99 in the semifinal round of the 100 freestyle, Agnel clocked a French record of 1:46.35 in the semifinals of the 200 freestyle. Those swims, and the fact that Agnel is only 17, have drawn comparisons to Michael Phelps and Ian Thorpe, being that the young Frenchman is performing so far ahead of his age.
Agnel could very well become a major player on the international stage in the near future, and this is a very good sign for France, which is not short on talented freestylers, especially in the sprints. What makes his rise even more compelling, however, is that France has never had a male medalist in the 200 freestyle at either the Olympics or World Championships.
The biggest test for Agnel will come this summer when the European Championships are held and the Frenchman, presumably, will get the chance to square off with Germany's Paul Biedermann. Here's to Agnel continuing his rapid ascension toward London in 2012 and helping boost a deep field in the 200 free along with the likes of Phelps, Korean Tae-Hwan Park, Biedermann and Peter Vanderkaay.
**Speaking of the comparisons with Phelps and Thorpe, why is it that Aaron Peirsol is not as frequently mentioned when some young rising star begins to make waves? Peirsol deserves to be in that conversation as much as anyone considering he was the silver medalist, as a 17-year-old, in the 200 backstroke at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and was a world-record holder a year later.
Peirsol deserves equal credit for being well ahead of his age.
**A while back, I asked readers to nominate their best medley relay of all-time, and the responses are great. This week, let's try something a little bit different. Let's hear suggestions for a fantasy medley relay that must include two men and two women. It doesn't matter who covers what stroke, as long as the genders are split, two and two.
**Last month in Pennsylvania, Hershey High School's David Nolan uncorked a 1:43.43 performance in the 200 individual medley. It was a swim that not only broke the national high school record in the event, but can be considered one of the finest swims ever produced in the scholastic ranks. The greatest, though? Well, that still belongs to Jeff Kostoff.
In 1983, while representing Upland High School in California, Kostoff produced a swim that was so far ahead of its time that it remains the national high school standard. For the past 27 years, Kostoff's time of 4:16.39 has withstood all challenges. Heck, that time would have placed sixth at this year's NCAA Championships.
That's a record that deserves all the homage possible, and might be one of the finest records of all-time, regardless of level.
**Final Thoughts:In 2030, Manon, the little girl born recently to Fred Bousquet and Laure Manaudou, will swim the 100 freestyle in 50.50. Just kidding, but wow does she have some impressive genes…After taking a year away from the sport, Japan's Kosuke Kitajima had mixed results at the Japanese Nationals. The four-time Olympic breaststroke champ went sub-minute in the 100 breast, but finished second to Ryo Tateishi. Meanwhile, he was fourth in the 200 breast in only 2:12.