PHOENIX, Arizona, January 27. WE’RE counting down the five biggest swimming-related storylines that took place in the past seven days, including news from college swimming in the United States and a Canadian Masters swimmer making history. Let’s get started with the number five story of the week.
At number five is the news that the newly-approved platforms to help keep backstrokes from slipping on the touchpads at the start will make their USA debut in April at the Arena Grand Prix in Mesa, Arizona. FINA approved the wedges last July, but no meet of major importance has put them to use yet, as swimmers work to get used to them. Unlike the fin at the back of starting blocks, this will be a little more difficult for swimmers and officials to get used to at meets. A mechanism locks into grooves on the starting block, then the wedge can be adjusted to the individual swimmer’s preference. Once the race starts, officials would need to remove the wedge from each lane before the swimmers return to the starting end. The wedge has gotten the thumbs up from a few swimmers around the world who have tried it, and from many who have not, saying it reduces the fear of slipping, which happened on two major occasions just last year at the world championships.
On to college swimming for the number four headline, and it’s the news that Eric Hansen submitted his resignation as head coach of the University of Arizona’s swim team last week. Hansen had been on leave of absence since October, and in that time speculation ran rampant as to why the coach needed the time away from the sport. Rick DeMont, who had been serving unofficially as head coach, was named interim head coach. Many are now speculating that DeMont, who is in his 25th year as coach, will get the “interim” part of his new title removed soon.
Last week we reported that Yuliya Efimova had tested positive for a banned substance, and as she prepares to appear before the FINA Doping Panel, the governing body has given her a provisional suspension that started last Tuesday. That suspension is number three on our countdown. There’s been no date set on that hearing, but until then, Efimova isn’t allowed to compete. If FINA rules against her and gives her an actual suspension, they could take away all the world records and performance money she’s won since October, the date of the test in question. Though we learn of doping suspensions all too often in the swimming community, this is one of the biggest in the past couple of years, and will cause many ripples if it becomes official.
Let’s go back to college swimming for our number two headline. Swimming World learned over the weekend that Alabama head coach Dennis Pursley was handed a brief suspension for several NCAA violations. Though it remains unclear exactly what Pursley did to warrant the suspension, it could spell trouble for the coach, and possibly the team. According to AL.com, Pursley and his staff were involved in several secondary violations last season, including sending text messages to recruits and posting bond for a current student-athlete. Pursley only has to sit out two swim meets for his current punishment, the first of which was last weekend’s meet against Emory. The second will be this weekend’s meet against Georgia, which is also dealing with the suspension of head coach Jack Bauerle for academic issues.
And now we’re at the number one swimming headline of the week, and it takes us to a small Masters swimming meet in Canada that saw two Masters world records broken. These weren’t just some everyday, run-of-the-mill world records. These were swum by Jaring Timmerman, the first man to compete in the 105-109 age group. Yes, you heard that correctly. Timmerman is 105 years old … well, he turns 105 next month, but according to FINA rules he has already aged up. Timmerman swam a 3:05.55 in the 50 short course meters backstroke and 2:52.48 in the 50 freestyle, but do the times really matter as much as the fact that he completed both races? I doubt many of us can imagine living to 105 years old, much less having the will and the ability to swim. Timmerman had been training twice a day for these swims, according to media reports, and he said those swims will be his last in competition. As a Masters swimmer myself, I can say that I am beyond impressed by Jaring’s performances, and I’m sure those who were lucky enough to be on deck in Winnipeg for this moment feel the same way. The news has taken over social media, at least among the Masters swimming community. “Inspiring” and “Amazing” and “Awesome” are just three words that describe these history-making swims. It doesn’t look like Timmerman’s records will be in jeopardy for many years, since the only registered Masters swimmers we know over 100 years old are two women: one is American and the other Spanish.
And that’s going to do it for today’s show. We’ll be back next Monday with five more headlines that are bound to have people talking.