MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Tom Dolan and Ashley Tappin wrapped up near-perfect meets Sunday night to become the male and female Kiphuth Award winners for high points scored. Both swimmers won all four of their events in the meet. And along with 50m free winner Gary Hall, they slew some personal demons in the process.
“I’m back,” said Tappin triumphantly after winning the 50 free by a commanding distance of .2 in 25.54. “A lot of people had been doubting me for the past five or six years. I was hearing second-hand that people were saying I was washed up. It was pretty neat to prove myself right and a lot of people wrong.”
Dolan also wanted to prove something to himself: that he could swim well here despite being unrested. He was physically tired and tight as well as mentally tired of training mainly on his own over the past few months. But he saw that this meet was his chance to do something he thinks no other male U.S. swimmer has done: win four titles for the second time in his career. He did that Sunday with a surprisingly fast win of 2:01.61 in the 200 IM. Dolan’s time was only a second and a half slower than his best, which he considers remarkable given how he felt in the water. He finished a second ahead of 31-year-old Dr. Ron Karnaugh, who won the bronze at Worlds to become the oldest swimmer ever to medal there.
“I didn’t think I’d go 2:01,” Dolan said. “Considering everything that’s a great swim. My strategy was a little different – I went in with the idea of just turning it over as fast as I could from the start rather than using a lot of strategy on every leg.”
50m free winner Gary Hall Jr., likewise, tried a new strategy to win the 50 in what he felt was a personal vindication. He breathed every stroke rather than just once in the race, as he normally does, to win comfortably in 22.40. “I just decided to do that this afternoon, but I think I’ll do it from now on,” he said of the breathing innovation. “It felt great.” Hall said he was proud of himself for excelling at this meet after a mentally tumultuous season including what he said is a still-unresolved “political problem with US Swimming.” “I had a lot of adversity to overcome getting here,” he said. “I came to prove I’m one of the best swimmers in the U.S., and I did, so I’m pretty proud of myself.”
Hall was also glad to win the 50 in order to qualify for the event at Goodwill, where he is looking forward to racing Alexander Popov. “I’ve waited two years for the rematch with Popov in the 100,” he said. “This will be the biggest rematch in swimming history. It will be the first time Alex loses since 1991.”