PHOENIX, Arizona, January 20. THE Arena Grand Prix was the biggest meet of the past week, but it didn’t produce the biggest headline. We’re looking back at the top swimming-related headlines of the past few days, which included some fast swimming and shocking headlines. Let’s get started with number five.
Taking the number five spot on the countdown is Chase Kalisz’s reinstatement to competition at the University of Georgia after a two-week suspension for undisclosed academic issues. This isn’t the first time the world championship medalist has experienced problems with academics. He had to wait until this time last year to start at the University of Georgia after he discovered he was missing some required credits to graduate from high school. The wait was worth it, though, as he won the 400 IM at the NCAA championships. Kalisz will likely be stepping up to race in Saturday’s home dual meet against Tennessee. One person who will probably not be on deck for that dual meet is head coach Jack Bauerle, who is still serving a suspension regarding those academic issues. We’ve learned that Bauerle is still coaching the team, but is not allowed to be on deck during meet. If the Bulldogs win this weekend, Bauerle still gets the wins added to his count that reached 500 and 501 on the day the suspension was announced.
We go to South Africa for number four on this week’s countdown, and the news that Cameron van der Burgh wants to add the 200 breaststroke to his competition program. This is not the first time van der Burgh has hinted that he wants to do the 200 breast internationally, but it appears he is serious about it this time. Van der Burgh won the 100 breast at the 2012 Olympics, and has never swum the 200 at the Olympics or world championships. But he told Eye Witness News that he’s putting in the training for the 200 breast this year to “have myself a double chance of getting medals” in 2016. With the best in the world routinely breaking 2:10, van der Burgh has his work cut out for him, not only because he is untested in the event, but because the few 200 breaststroke times we could find for him are in the 2:13 to 2:14 range. But he’s got a couple of years until Rio, so anything is possible, and it would certainly make for an intriguing story if he can put up an Olympic double in the breaststrokes to put him in the same category as Kosuke Kitajima and Domenico Fiorivanti, the only men to do so.
National age group records continue to fall at an alarming rate here in the United States, and you can add five to that list. Michael Andrew took down three long course national age group records in the 13-14 age group last weekend at the Austin Grand Prix, one of which had been around for 20 years. He started with a 23.19 in the 50 free to break his own mark by 19 hundredths of a second. The next day, he swam a 57.38 in the 100 back, beating Benjamin Ho’s record by just one hundredth of a second. I would say he saved the best for last, swimming an incredible 1:03.83 in the 100 breast. The time shattered a 20-year-old record of 1:04.74 swum by Anthony Robinson by almost a full second. In the 11-12 age group, Destin Lasco got two records of his own at the Massachusetts Elite short course yards meet. He started on Saturday with a 25.02 in the 50 backstroke to beat Seth Beer’s record of 25.14, then was back the next day with a 53.54 in the 100 back to break his own record by a half second. We saw an alarmingly high number of national age group records fall by the wayside in 2013, and even though we are just three weeks into 2014, it would appear that trend is going to continue.
We come back to the Arena Grand Prix for the number two headline on our countdown of the top swimming stories of the week. Tyler Clary announced, on Instagram of all places, that he aggravated a recent back injury while swimming in Austin, and had to withdraw from the meet. I spoke with Clary and he told me the pain came during the 200 back prelims, which forced him to miss out on a chance to win not only that event in finals, but the 400 IM as well. Clary’s now the second high-profile athlete to need some serious injury rehab before the summer nationals. Ryan Lochte appears to be on the mend and is expected to race next month. We hope Tyler’s recovery gets him back on the blocks very soon.
And now it’s time for the top headline of the week, and it comes from Russia, where breaststroke world champion Yuliya Efimova has tested positive for high levels of DEE-HYDRO-PEE-AN-DROS-TERONE, a drug that is produced naturally in the body but is given medicinally. The Russian Swimming Federation is not confirming or denying that Efimova’s A sample from an out-of-competition random drug test did contain high levels of DHEA, only to admonish the media for breaking the story in the first place. Efimova is not in any danger … at least, at the moment. Bans and suspensions are not handed out until the athlete’s B sample is tested. It’s not known how long Efimova’s ban would last if that B sample does come back positive for DHEA, but what is pretty much assured is that since the samples were taken in October, everything she’s done since then would be deemed invalid, including the 200 breast world record she swam at the European short course worlds, the 50 breast world record she set in November and the thousands of dollars she won in the FINA World Cup. It’s never a happy day here at Swimming World when news comes out of any athlete testing positive, and it’s especially saddening that it’s happening to Yuliya. We’ve been following her progress in the pool for many, many years, and we were honored when she visited our offices two years ago. We’ll keep you up to date as this situation develops.