Column by John Lohn
CRANBURY, New Jersey, September 28. A few topics will be addressed this week, the first two because I'm honestly having a real difficult time making some decisions on a pair of assignments that are due in the near future for Swimming World's print product. Maybe some reasoning from our readers will help.
**This coming week, my ballot is due for the selection of World Swimmer of the Year, along with the various regions around the globe. I won't tip my hand on where I'm going on the female side, but I admit to having some difficulty with the direction I'm traveling for my men's decision. Here's the thought process.
Germany's Paul Biedermann took down a pair of world records in the middle-distance freestyles, including the removal of an iconic standard in the 400 free. Meanwhile, his triumph in the 200 free arrived over Michael Phelps, and in convincing fashion. But, is it necessary to weigh the impact of the high-tech suits when measuring Biedermann's accomplishments? He was playing within the rules, but without that suit, we wouldn't be talking about Biedermann breaking a pair of global standards.
Then there's Phelps and Ryan Lochte to consider. While Phelps was defeated by Biedermann in the 200 free, he did walk away from the World Championships with five gold medals and a silver, the biggest haul of the meet. He set world marks in both butterfly events, his performance in the 100 fly the most dramatic of the World Champs, considering his duel with Michael Cavic.
As for Lochte, he pulled off what Phelps did at the Beijing Olympics, capturing both individual medley disciplines, the shorter distance in world-record time. He added a bronze medal in the 200 backstroke and was a key figure on two winning relays for the U.S.
Nope, it's not an easy selection, especially when you add in standouts such as Cesar Cielo and Aaron Peirsol, men who also deserve some consideration. I have a slight idea what to do, but there will be some internal debate right up until the deadline.
**The second tough call is determining the top-10 performances of the year. Many of these decisions have been made, but there are two I'm having trouble deciding between. Which is greater? The 1:52.98 cranked out by Italy's Federica Pellegrini in the 200 freestyle or the 2:06.15 performance from American Ariana Kukors in the 200 individual medley.
Pellegrini's time is only slightly slower than the effort Mark Spitz used to win the event during his historic run at the 1972 Olympics. The Italian star obliterated the competition and is the only individual ever under 1:54, let alone under the 1:53 barrier. However, Kukors' time in the shorter medley is as hard to fathom. She won the event by more than a second, and her clocking was more than two seconds quicker than what Stephanie Rice went for gold in Beijing.
**The International Olympic Committee will decide on the location of the 2016 Games this week, the announcement set for Friday following the voting process. The race has been called one of the tightest in recent memory, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo battling it out. It has been suggested that Chicago and Rio are the frontrunners, but not by much.
Although the U.S. held the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, it will have been 20 years since it hosted the Summer Games, and that's too long a time for a nation that has the richest Olympic history of any nation. Does that sound ultra-American? Yeah, and there's no apology for that stance. It would be great to see the Games return here. And who knows? Maybe it would even entice Michael Phelps to race beyond London. Just kidding – well, sort of.
**A major coup for the Auburn University women's swimming program last week with the commitment of Dagny Knutson to swim for the Tigers. There's little doubt that the addition of Paul Yetter to the Auburn staff played a role. Look for Yetter's influence to continue to help the recruiting of Brett Hawke.