Olympic Notes

By Phillip Whitten

Thoughts from the Editor and our readers on a variety of Olympics-related topics…

The American Connection

There was a mixed response to Josh Davis’ editorial about foreign athletes training at American colleges and universities and the need to recognize the role US coaches play in the success of these athletes.

“I must admit that I was a little bit disappointed with your decision to publish Josh Davis' editorial about the RSA 4×100 free relay gold-medal swim.

”Although I agree with some of Mr. Davis' points, I would like to remind him and everyone interested that the whole idea of foreign swimmers' selfishly taking advantage of American coaches and training methods is largely misplaced, because it is a two-way street: foreign swimmers would not be here unless American colleges and coaches [wanted] them and offered them scholarships so they [the college teams], themselves, could get better!

”Following Mr. Davis' logic then, one could say that many American swimmers are much better today because they get to train with some of the best foreign swimmers around, a fact which Mr. Davis fails to mention in his editorial. Sure, editorials are not supposed to be objective, but let's not forget that in the case of foreign swimmers at American universities, we all benefit handsomely.”

– Piotr Florczyk

Andrew Dean, a South African reader, sees it this way:

“Hi there from SA!!!!

”The USA is the premier collegiate destination for swimmers from around the globe. South African swimmers have benefited for years from your university programmes(Hey, Jonty is from "just up the road”!!). Swimming has benefited immeasurably from that 49.44 [Jonty Skinner’s 100m freestyle WR in 1976] right up to this 3:13.17…..and the impact thereof will surely be validated here at home.

”Just by the way, the day that Josh Davis’ article appeared on your site, papers here in my hometown of Port Elizabeth headlined, with comments by Roland and Ryk,…just how indebted the team and [they], themselves as individuals are to USA Swimming and the programme run by Rick DeMont [the sprint coach at the University of Arizona]. Might make an interesting commentary on your site to acknowledge their sentiments and further endorse them as true ambassadors for their home country, the US swim programme and global sportsmanship in general.

”The article is in the archive section of www.theherald.co.za.

”Best regards ( and many thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)”

– Andrew Dean

The subject of Kosuke Kitajima’s dolphin kick continued to draw an avalanche of comments from readers. Here’s a sample…

…More on Kitajima’s Dophin Kick

“I was interested to read your article on SwimInfo.com concerning Kitajima's dolphin kicks off the start and turn.

“I'm English and have been watching the Olympic swimming coverage on the BBC where Adrian Moorhouse has been co-commentating. Adrian also noted this during the prelims as I recall. (As I'm sure you recall, two years prior to winning the 100m breast in Seoul in 1988, Adrian was disqualified in the Madrid World Champs for an alleged dolphin kick coming out of the turn after having won the final by 0.7 seconds.)

”During his commentary, Adrian was suggesting that it is difficult to distinguish between a dolphin kick and the reflexive response to a powerful downstroke on the pullout — the first being illegal and the second not, under current rules as I understand them.

“His solution was to legalise a single dolphin kick so that there is no ambiguity. Until that rule change occurs though, blatant dolphin kicks such as Kitajima's should be penalised.

“It was noticeable throughout the 100 breast prelims, semis, and final that Kitajima had sensational starts and turns and probably wouldn't have won a close race without a little 'dolphin kick' assistance. Something clearly needs to be done though to correct the current ambiguity that sees Ian Edmond disqualified for a dolphin kick whilst others, such as Kitajima, escape with impunity. Maybe have a chat with Adrian about it?!”

Keep up the good work.

– Mark Robinson

“My suggestion to the swimming community would be to make [one] dolphin kick legal, similar to the change in the backstroke turn. To take the race out of the hands of the officials, a dolphin kick after the pullout could be allowed.

“Everyone would have the same advantage and maybe the ratio of athletes to officials would improve. That is always a good thing.”

– Ken Anderson

“I am writing concerning your editorial appearing on the SwimInfo.com website regarding the ‘dolphin kick’.

”I witnessed the race. I clearly saw the Japanese swimmer employ a dolphin kick after entering the water. Yes, he did break the rules. Yes, he should be disqualified. However, he was not, and to suggest that the officials ‘overlooked’ the infraction is nothing but pure speculation. Furthermore, the Japanese swimmer was well off his best time so clearly this infraction did not provide any advantage.

”The silver medallist, Brendan Hansen, touched in a time was approximately one second off his world record time set in the [US] Olympic Trials. Had he swum a time within 3 – 4 tenths of a second he would have won theOlympic gold medal and Hansen's teammates and American sportswriters would not be raising such a ‘ruckus.’

“Brendan Hansen seems to have the maturity to realize that he was way off his best that day, and that he, not an illegal dolphin kick, is responsible for [his] winning the silver medal as opposed to gold.

– Shawn Jarvis

“I just wanted to let you know that I totally agree with your article. I was amazed and appalled when I watched the finals of the 100-meter breast. I am a former swimmer and I [used to pride] myself on the fact that my sport has no biases. Unlike diving, gymnastics, etc, there is no judge, just the clock to verify your results. I was embarrassed when my friends asked me why they didn't disqualify him. I had no answer.

“One final thought: if they take away medals from athletes who fail drug tests, they should take away the medal from Kitajima who KNEW the rules and didn't follow them, knowing he'd get away with it. Athletes who dope do so thinking they can get away with it…which is the same thing Kitajima did.

– Ben Bartell

Swimming on EBAY

Swimming’s foremost memorabilia collector, Chuck Kroll, is keeping watch on swimming as a popular culture phenomenon… as measured by items for sale on EBAY. Here’s the count as of August 19…

“What a week so far, eh?!

“Don’t know if this is -worthy…for the past three days there have been over 180 Michael Phelps items listed on average per day on EBAY.

“[Next comes] around 40 Natalie Coughlin listings, 100-plus Ian Thorpes, and today there are 111 listings for Mark Spitz, 24 for Janet Evans, 3 for Rowdy Gaines, 16 for Matt Biondi and 7 for Summer Sanders.”

– Chuck Kroll

Peirsol’s DQ… Just Kidding

The disqualification of Aaron Peirsol and the quick overturning of that decision was a bizarre affair, even by the standards of international sport. There have been several attempts to explain both decisions but, two days after the event, there remain more questions than answers. Here’s what is “known” thus far….

Aaron Peirsol’s temporary DQ in the 200-meter backstroke was the result of a blank judges' report, a high-ranking FINA swimming official claimed yesterday.

Initially, no one could explain why Peirsol's victory Thursday was taken away and then given back 30 minutes later. Officials said only that a lane judge's report of an illegal move on Peirsol's final turn was “not in the working language of FINA.''

Now FINA Executive Director Cornel Marculescu is saying there was no language at all — the judge's card was blank.

Marculescu confirmed that lane judge Denis Cadon of France signaled a violation and that chief officer Felix Mikhailov of Russia and referee Woon Sui Kut of Singapore signed off on the blank report.

“Normally, they would write what violation was made,'' Marculescu said., without a trace of irony. Marculescu said Woon, who was in charge on the pool deck, speaks fluent English. The working languages of FINA are English and French.

Woon could be suspended for not following procedure.

“`Unfortunately, he signed the report with nothing written on it. It's really strange,'’ Marculescu said. “`Probably, the FINA bureau will look at him in the coming days.”

Marculescu said no decision had been made about the judges yet, but that there would almost certainly be some rule clarifications made at the FINA Congress in Montreal during next year's world championships.

“We are learning every day and we are improving. Unfortunately, these things happen that shouldn't happen,'' he said. “The most important thing is the medal was awarded correctly.''

Peirsol was also relieved. “I knew I didn't do anything wrong,'' he said. “It was a roller coaster. I am sad for those who thought they were on the podium and were then thrown out of it after my race was made valid.''

US men’s coach Eddie Reese said. “It was scary. You don't want to ever disqualify a kid on a mistaken call.''

Sportsmanship Award

…and, speaking of the 200-meter backstroke, several readers wrote in to express their admiration for Austria’s Markus Rogan. Here’s one such e-mail…

“If there were a Sportsmanship Award at these Games, I surely think Austria’s Marcus Rogan would be a leading candidate.”

{Rogan, who finished second to Peirsol in the 200 back, steadfastly insisted throughout the bizarre chain of events that Peirsol was the rightful winner.)

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