The Week That Was: Comebacks and Awards Among Top Swimming Headlines of Week

PHOENIX, Arizona, November 25. COMING in at number five on our countdown is the interview done by Michael Phelps’ mother, Debbie, in which she says she hopes her son decides to get back into competition and race in one more Olympics. Just about everyone out there in the swimming community and in the media have publicly weighed in on their thoughts on a possible Phelps comeback since the rumors started circulating earlier this year, and now to have Phelps’ mom publicly state that she wants him to come back probably carries a lot more weight. “Where that leads him, I don’t know, she told Baltimore radio station WBAL. “I’m hoping it does lead us to Brazil.” Of course, Debbie Phelps says she’ll support Michael in whatever he decides to do, but she doesn’t mince words in saying she’d like to go to Rio in 2016 to watch her son win more Olympic medals.

At number four on the list is Paul Biedermann’s return to competition after injuries kept him out of this summer’s world championships. Biedermann looked pretty good last week at the German short course nationals, winning the 200 free and the 400 free with times that put him in the top 10 in the world, but he won’t compete at the short course European championships in Denmark next month. He said he’s taking this time to work on getting back into serious shape for the long course European championships next summer. And he decided to make concrete plans for his life after the 2016 Rio Olympics, saying that will be his final competition. Though he is the world record holder in the 200 and 400 long course freestyles, Biedermann has not won an Olympic medal. He was fifth in the 200 free in London last summer as new talent such as Yannick Agnel have entered the scene of middle distance freestyle.

Another swimmer made headlines by racing in a meet after more than a year away, and that brings us to number three on our list of the top swimming headlines of the week. Katie Hoff hadn’t raced since battling food poisoning at the 2012 Olympic Trials and failing to make the team. She took some time to relocate from southern California to Miami, where she’s getting her degree at Miami University. Hoff raced at the Speedo Winter Invitational in Miami this past weekend and didn’t look too bad, posting a 1:45.93 in the 200-yard freestyle and 50.55 in the 100 free. She also posted a 1:59.01 in the 200 IM. Hoff is quick to say that there is no immediate plan to train for the 2016 Olympic Trials, that her primary focus is on getting a college degree. But, it’s great to see the Olympic medalist in the pool, and we hope it’s not the last time.

No fewer than a dozen college invitational meets took place across the United States this past weekend, with some extremely fast swimming coming out of a lot of them. Some teams did a full shave and taper, while others put in just a few days of rest before the competition. You might hear some swimmers say they didn’t rest at all before putting up some jaw-dropping in-season times, but we all know that’s just a bit of posturing to put some fear into the competition. It would take a long time to tell you about the swims that really stood out, so we’ll just hold off until tomorrow’s Speedo Performance of the Week show to let you know who we thought was the best of the bunch. In any case, the number of automatic qualifiers for the NCAA Division I championships grew from just one on Wednesday, to more than two dozen by last night, and that includes a few relay swims that beat the A cut. The big question after seeing all these times on the scoreboard is whether some of these athletes can duplicate or improve on their times at the end of the season, which they’ll need to do just to get a second swim at the NCAA championships.

And now it’s time for the number one headline of the week, and it is the Golden Goggle Awards ceremony that took place Sunday night in Los Angeles. Pretty much every member of USA Swimming’s national team was there dressed to the nines, including Missy Franklin, who had just flown in from the UNLV Invite in Las Vegas, and Nathan Adrian, who was wearing a classy Tommy Hilfiger suit. Put on by the USA Swimming Foundation, the annual event helps raise money for the foundation’s Make A Splash campaign to lower the drowning rate among minorities, as well as the foundation’s many other causes. It’s also a glamorous award ceremony, and Katie Ledecky was on hand to accept her two awards, for Female Race of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year. Ledecky was nominated for Race of the Year twice, winning for the 1500 freestyle world record she broke at the world championships by six seconds. Bruce Gemmell won the Coach of the Year award for helping take Ledecky’s potential to the next level less than a year after taking over the reins at Nation’s Capital Swim Club. Ryan Lochte won the same awards on the men’s side, but his knee injury prevented him from traveling. Coach Jon Urbanchek accepted Lochte’s awards. The Relay Performance of the Year went to Franklin, Natalie Coughlin, Shannon Vreeland and Megan Romano for winning the 400 free relay in Barcelona. Romano picked up another award, taking the Perseverance Award. The Georgia Bulldogs also celebrated a win for the Breakout Performer of the Year to Chase Kalisz, who won the silver medal in the 400 IM at worlds. Kalisz flew in to Los Angeles after putting in some extremely fast swims at the Auburn Invitational in Alabama. Congratulations to all the winners.

And that’s our countdown of the top five swimming headlines of the week. It was an exciting week and even though this has the potential of being a low-key week with Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday, I’m sure we’ll have plenty to talk about on next week’s show.

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