By John Lohn
CRANBURY, New Jersey, December 22. YESTERDAY, we took a look at some of the leading developments in our sport over the past year. Today, we'll go through a few more of the top storylines from 2006 and will glance ahead to 2007, which is shaping up to be a statement campaign for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
**As a two-time Olympic silver medalist in the 400 individual medley, there's never been any doubting the talent and drive of Erik Vendt. Yet, even with his sterling record, the way he returned from retirement was jaw-dropping. Despite only a handful of months of training at Club Wolverine, Vendt earned a berth to the Pan Pacific Championships, where he took silver in the 1,500 freestyle.
With more time in the water under Bob Bowman and alongside the incredible amount of talent at Club Wolverine, Vendt will certainly be a contender for a third Olympic berth – whether it be in the metric mile or in the 400 I.M. Vendt is an absolute animal in training and his return to the sport was one of the best developments of the year.
**Before this past year, South Korea was hardly picked up by the international radar. That's no longer the case. It's hard to argue that anyone in the world had more of a breakout season that Tae Hwan Park, who set a trio of Asian records during the year and will be among the medal contenders at the World Champs in Melbourne in the 200, 400 and 1,500 freestyles.
**What will Leisel Jones do in 2007? Over the past year, she took the women's breaststroke events to another stratosphere. Currently, there isn't a woman in the world who appears capable of pushing Jones – even in the slightest. It would not be out of the question to see Jones, the only female in history under 1:05, to become the first woman to go 1:04-and-change in the 100 breast.
**Like Lethal Leisel, France's Laure Manaudou currently stands as untouchable in the 400 freestyle, as she is the only female to dip below 4:03. But, if anyone is capable of making a run, perhaps it's Kate Ziegler. Yes, Ziegler is better known for her prowess in the 800 and 1,500 freestyles, but she's been 4:05 in the 400 and has the potential to get quicker
Also, don't count Katie Hoff out of the picture in the eight-lap freestyle. Like Ziegler, Hoff has been 4:05 in the event and is still learning about the race at the international level. Maybe the two American women will push each other enough to bring Manaudou within their reach. It will take some major work, but it's a possibility.
**Based on its results at the Texas Invitational, it doesn't seem that the University of Arizona is reeling from the graduation of Simon Burnett and Lyndon Ferns. Behind Albert Subirats, the Wildcats were dazzling in Austin during their midseason tuneup. Without question, Arizona is capable of winning the NCAA title in a year that doesn't feature an overwhelming favorite.