PHOENIX, Arizona, June 30. BEFORE we turn the calendar to July, let’s take a look back at the top five swimming headlines of the last full week of June. As always we start with number five in our countdown, and that takes us across the Atlantic Ocean to Great Britain.
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Many of the top swimmers in the UK used last week’s British Gas International as final racing preparation for the Commonwealth Games, which start in less than a month in Scotland. While very few of the top swimmers were able to improve on their season-best times, it did show us who is going to be ready to race when Commonwealths start in a few weeks. Siobhan-Marie O’Connor is rolling through an extraordinary year and could surprise some people with a medal or two at the Commonwealth Games. She’s second in the world right now in the 200 IM and nearly broke 2:10 last week with a 2:10.39. The 19-year-old has been a strong contender on the national scene for a few years but is now breaking through to international prominence, and doing so at the right time. Also swimming well was Adam Peaty, who broke 1:00 in the 100 breast last week in prelims and then won the final with a 1:00.28. You can check out the recaps from the meet on our world news channel at swimmingworld.com.
The Italian team for the European swimming championships is almost set, though one more meet remains for a few open spots to be filled, and that roster is our number four headline. The summer nationals will give swimmers another chance to prove they belong on the team, and it will allow the Italian federation to determine if Fabio Scozzoli is healthy enough to race at the European championships, and race at a high level. Scozzoli had knee surgery last fall, and will swim at the nationals in early August to gauge his level of progress. The Italian roster, of course, includes superstar Federica Pellegrini, who will be looking to win a third-straight 200 free title. Also on the list is Andrea Mitchell D’Arrigo, who just finished his freshman year here in the States at the University of Florida with some major contributions for the Gators. Our world channel on swimmingworld.com is the place to see the full roster as it stands right now.
We’re staying in Europe — kind of — for our number three headline of the past week. Dion Dreesens, who placed in the top 30 in the 200 free at the 2012 Olympics, announced that he was moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, in September to not only swim with the elite squad at SwimMAC Carolina, but also to attend Queens University of Charlotte and compete as a collegiate swimmer. Dreesens already showed his immense worth to the team at sectionals last March, putting up times in the 200 and 500 freestyles that would win the Division II championships, which is where Queens competes. Dreesens will arrive in Charlotte immediately after the European championships, where he’ll represent the Netherlands in the 200 free and the 800 free relay.
Moving on to number two on the countdown, and we cross the globe to Japan, which added almost two dozen swimmers to its rosters for the Pan Pacific championships and the Asian Games. Both meets are of high importance to Japan, and after the Japan Open, several swimmers got the chance to race internationally. One of the notable names on the list is Kohei Yamamoto, who had swum fast enough to get on the international squad in the 1500 free in April with a time that was in the top four in the world, but apparently Yamamoto needed to break the national record in order to be considered. He did that at the Japan Open with a 14:54.80 and will now race the likes of Ryan Cochrane and two yet-to-be-named Americans at the Pan Pacific championships, and Sun Yang at the Asian Games. Junya Koga will get the chance to defend his 50 back title at the Pan Pacs, but will have a tough road to qualify for the 100 back final with teammates Ryosuke Irie and Kosuke Hagino swimming lights out this year. If you want to see the full rosters for Japan, you know where to go: swimmingworld.com.
And our number one headline of the week brings us back to the United States and the announcement of the nominees for the ESPY awards put on by cable channel ESPN. These awards honor the best athletes in the world from the past 17 months, and for the first time since 2008, no athlete from aquatic sports is nominated. Despite Missy Franklin winning a record-setting six gold medals at the world championships or Katie Ledecky smashing world records at the same meet, neither were included in the list for female athlete of the year. Ryan Lochte wasn’t mentioned for his great performances, nor was anyone else who swam well in Barcelona last summer. The ESPYS has nominated swimmers in non-Olympic years, so I’m not sure why aquatic sports got the boot this year. I know I’m biased, but I think what Franklin and Ledecky did last summer far exceed anything that Maya Moore, Ronda Rousey, Mikaela Schiffrin and Breanna Stewart did in the past 17 months. And of course there was Franklin’s big debut at the NCAA championships, breaking the American record in the 200 free, or Chase Kalisz’s American record in the 400 IM or Dylan Bosch’s US Open record in the 200 fly. Neither of those three were listed in the best college athlete category. I suppose we should let it go and believe that aquatic sports will be back on the list next year. Diving and water polo are on a sort of off-year in 2014, so it’s up to the swimmers to bring aquatic sports back into the prestigious awards show.
So those were the top five headlines of the past week. We’ll be back next Monday with a new list of the top five headlines of the week.