Random Musings on the Sport of Swimming

Column by John Lohn

CRANBURY, New Jersey, November 23. IT'S about time to clean out the notebook and address a few different topics in the swimming world. So, here are some random musings about the sport at various levels.

**If there was any doubt (and there are a few hanging on) as to the impact of the high-tech swimsuits and their impact on the clock, the recent World Cup stops in Stockholm and Berlin told the whole story. When Michael Phelps doesn't qualify for the championship final in several events, and fails to earn a victory in any of his races, something is big-time wrong.

Phelps, of course, was wearing a textile jammer and competing alongside all sorts of athletes armed with turbo suits. The fact that the greatest swimmer in the world was an also-ran on the international scene is all the proof anyone needs to stop and say, "Getting rid of these things is a move in the right direction. Let's return the sport to the swimmer, and take it out of the hands of equipment."

It's a positive that the United States has banned the high-tech suits ahead of the FINA-mandated Jan. 1, 2010. What's unfortunate, however, is that a good portion of the rest of the globe isn't willing to turn their backs on the mess. Many countries remain willing to add to the farce the sport has been since February 2008, evident in the 200-plus world records.

The 2009 European Short Course Championships, scheduled for next month, could bring the world-record count beyond the 250 mark. It's a meet that really won't be worth watching, for the times won't mean a darn thing.

**What to do with the world-record lists is something that will be sorted out in the near future, but for a moment, let's take it down a few levels – below the international, national and collegiate scenes. There's also the issue of high school swimming and how the majority of state records were wiped out last year, not to mention the lowering of numerous national standards.

Thankfully, the Jaked and Arena suits didn't play a major factor in scholastic competition in the United States, where most athletes using high-tech suits went with the Speedo LZR or the blueseventy. Still, these suits clearly made a significant difference and, because of this development, hundreds of state records were obliterated.

The shame of the high school records is that the state federations aren't likely to change their records back to the era before high-tech suits. And, honestly, they can't be blamed for that. Sifting through what swimmers wore what is an almost impossible task at that level. So, better get used to some state standards lasting a looooooooooooooong time.

**The annual Texas Invitational will take place the week after Thanksgiving and the meet, always one of the best mid-season competitions at the college level, should provide a nice gauge as to where the sport is time-wise compared to last year. While not every program will be rested, some teams will be in top form and we'll start to see which individuals could emerge as headliners for the NCAA Championships.

**Question for our readers: What world record from the high-tech suit era will become the first to go down to someone wearing a textile piece of equipment?

**If you are a regular visitor to this site, you surely came across the national high school record of rising star Dagny Knutson from the North Dakota State Championships. Knutson, a member of the United States squad at last summer's World Championships, clocked 1:53.82 in the 200 individual medley, not far off the American record. It's going to take athletes of her ilk to change the high school records, referenced above. That's how special Knutson is, and what a plus for the future of USA Swimming.

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