By John Lohn
CRANBURY, New Jersey, September 26. TOSSING about some thoughts concerning the swimming world – international and collegiate.
**Taking a glance at the Auburn University roster suggests that Auburn could claim a fifth consecutive NCAA championship on the male side. While the title will not be determined until March, the Tigers have quality firepower, particularly in the sprints with Cesar Cielo and Matt Targett as hammers. Of course, a stellar sprint corps goes a long way toward registering the team championship. Auburn will also benefit from continued excellence on the diving board, where Steven Segerlin is the reigning NCAA champ on the platform.
**At the University of Texas, coach Eddie Reese might have his strongest team since the firm of Crocker, Hansen & Peirsol was representing the Longhorns. Not only does Reese, recently tabbed as the United States Olympic Coach for Beijing, boast a stellar returning group, his freshman class is stacked with skill, highlighted by Ricky Berens.
In the returning department, Garrett Weber-Gale and Michael Klueh are the headliners for the Longhorns, along with Matt Lowe and Matt McGinnis. As for the newcomers, the likes of Berens, Peter Jameson and David Walters could have Texas contending for its 10th NCAA championship under the direction of Reese.
**A few months out from the Australian Trials for next year’s World Championships in Melbourne, a couple of storylines are worth noting. The only woman to crack 1:06 in the 100 breast, Leisel Jones might take the event to greater heights and pop a swim in the 1:04-range. If Jones manages a performance of that sort, an argument can be made that Jones has redefined an event more impressively than any swimmer in history.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what Ian Thorpe is capable of producing. Aside from being out of international competition since the 2004 Olympics in Athens, there’s no concrete way of telling whether Thorpe has put in serious training. Sure, Thorpe claims to have been focused on his fitness level, but until he enters the water, we won’t know where Thorpe stands on the global spectrum.
**In a recent article out of South Africa, Roland Schoeman decided to chirp about his competition, particularly Filippo Magnini of Italy. In the piece, Schoeman takes a shot at Magnini for the way he celebrated winning the European championship in the 100 free. Specifically, Schoeman didn’t like the fact that Magnini wore a crown after his win. More, Schoeman took a shot at the United States over the length it took the Americans to reclaim the 400 free relay world record.
At last check, Magnini holds the crown of world champ in the 100 freestyle, having defeat Schoeman in Montreal in 2005. And while Schoeman is the world champ in the 50 free, the rise of Cullen Jones brings into question whether he’ll remain the fastest sprinter in the world. There’s no disputing Schoeman’s talent, but his comments are out of line. Do the talking in the pool.
**Over the last two years, the Chinese haven’t exactly been turning heads and opening eyes with their performances. But as the host nation of the 2008 Olympics, there’s no way China will accept anything less than a sterling showing. The gut feeling here is that the Chinese are simply laying low, not giving away any hints as to what their arsenal may possess. But, when it matters, look for China to rate near the top of the medal charts – and behind fair and honest training methods, unlike the past.