Column by John Lohn
CRANBURY, New Jersey, September 14. TWO weeks ago, this column tossed out the argument that Michael Phelps was the most dominant athlete in the world. The reactions to that assessment were wide-ranging, many in disagreement and some on the same page. Whichever way the readers of this site went, there was a quality dialogue on the topic.
So, for this week's column, the idea arose to put together a questionnaire-type piece. We'll throw out a few queries and try to engage in a healthy give-and-take between the readers on some debates within this great sport. Be passionate about your arguments if you like, but just remember to demonstrate a level of courtesy. Varied opinions can be argued, but they also should be respected.
**Outside of Michael Phelps, who is the world's second-best swimmer? This is a question that can be answered in a handful of ways, depending on viewpoint. Do you prefer an all-around swimmer, such as Ryan Lochte or Laszlo Cseh? Or, do you prefer someone like Aaron Peirsol, perhaps the most dominant backstroker in history? What about someone like Britta Steffen, who doubled in the sprints at both the Olympics and World Championships?
My taste goes with Lochte, who has proven his worth not only in the backstroke and medley disciplines, but in the 100 and 200 freestyle, and as a quality butterfly and breaststroker. Have to admit it was a tough call over Peirsol, whose 100 fly at the U.S. Nationals last summer was a sweet complement to his backstroke excellence. Oh, and Peirsol also has been impressive through the years in the 200 fly and 200 free.
**Which coach from around the world deserves the most credit for his/her production? Is it Bob Bowman, for his creation of a masterpiece in Michael Phelps? Is it Eddie Reese, for his stellar job through the years with the likes of Ian Crocker, Aaron Peirsol and Brendan Hansen? Does Brett Hawke get consideration because of what he's done on the sprint scene? Is it someone else?
**Which American youngster has the brightest future, and will make the biggest impact on the international stage? The United States has a nice crop of talent coming through the pipeline, among both males and females. To name just a few, the Stars and Stripes appear to be in good shape with Tyler Clary and Jimmy Feigen, along with Elizabeth Pelton, Missy Franklin and Dagny Knutson.
Because Clary earned his first international medal at the recent World Championships, he gets the nod in my book. His versatility is a major selling point and he'll bring a lot to the table in the years to come. Feigen, though, got a real deep look. He's likely the future of American sprinting and should be a guy the U.S. can count on in relay duty.
**Which woman will make the biggest return to international competition? We'll throw these three names out there: Natalie Coughlin, Leisel Jones and Katie Hoff. Coughlin took a well-deserved break after the Olympics and is about to debut on Dancing with the Stars. Afterward, look for her talents to again shine in the water. Hoff, meanwhile, could benefit from a change of scenery when she heads to California to train under Sean Hutchison. As for Jones, she raced in the leadup to the World Champs, but didn't head to Rome. Her return to dominance is probably only a formality.
**What's your preference for the venue for the United States Olympic Trials: The Indiana University Natatorium, Long Beach or the Qwest Center in Omaha? From an historic point of view, Indy is the way to go. The Wall, where the list of Olympic qualifiers is etched, is a wonderful touch. But the place is too small and the portable pool setup has worked sensationally the past two Olympiads.
To be honest, I could go either way with Long Beach and Omaha. It was cool to have the 2004 Trials outdoors, but Omaha was much better than I anticipated, and erased my middle-of-nowhere misconception. What do you like?
**What's your take on the record book? Leave it the way it is, or create two lists of global standards? Ah, the high-tech suit craze created a mess. Now, as we move closer to the return to textiles, what should be done with the sport's time standards? There isn't an easy answer.
**Finally, looking at history, what would be your ideal historical medley relay – men and women? Of course, times must be measured by era, but given the choice, which four individuals from around the world would you love to see come together for the ultimate medley relay?