The Week That Was: Franklin, Biedermann, Ledecky Among Headliners

PHOENIX, Arizona, February 10. AN American record and two national high school records fell. A world record holder made his return to competition and another world record holder prepares for her theatrical debut. Let’s get our countdown of the top five swimming headlines of the week started with Missy Franklin at number five.

How does Missy Franklin get into our top five headlines even though she didn’t race this past week? She got here because she’s about to take part in the world premiere of a long-awaited documentary featuring disabled athletes finding freedom from their disabilities in water activities. Franklin served as an ambassador on the film and spent a few days in the Bahamas being filmed while swimming with dolphins. Another swimming name of note in the film is Paralympic champion Mallory Weggemann, who is one of six disabled athletes who are profiled in this film. The premiere takes place this Sunday in Boulder, Colorado, at the Boulder International Film Festival. Several swimming-related documentaries are in the works, and this is the first to make it to the big screen.

We have some sad news to report in our number four headline of the week. Another university is cutting its swimming and diving program, and this time, it’s Radford University in western Virginia. The swimmers at the Division II school were notified last week that this season would be the last, bringing a pall over the final weeks of this season. To add women’s lacrosse to the list of sports at the school, the athletic department decided to undergo a “reconfiguration” of the sports lineup. That meant swimming and diving, field hockey and men’s track and field got the ax. Supporters of the team have organized a petition to save the program, but at this point, it might be too little, too late. The final competition for Radford swimming and diving is the Coastal College Swimming Association’s conference championships next week.

Moving on to number three, and it’s the return of world record holder Paul Biedermann to racing after almost a year away. Biedermann failed to make the German team for the world championships last summer, citing illness that kept him from training at his best. Now that he’s announced that the 2016 Olympics will be his last competition, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a very determined Biedermann on deck as he looks to win an Olympic medal before calling an end to his career. Biedermann was respectable at last weekend’s Euro Meet, winning the 100 free with a 49.83 and the 200 free with a 1:47.13. It’s still very early in 2014, but that’s the fourth-fastest 200 free in the world so far, with Yannick Agnel’s 1:45.76 still at the top of the list. When the German nationals roll around this spring, expect Biedermann to battle for numerous spots on the European championship team.

We’ll round out the list with two high school swimmers who broke some major records at the DC Metro championships on Friday and Saturday. At number two is Carsten Vissering’s 53.49 in the 100 breaststroke, which broke the national independent high school record and missed the overall national record by one tenth of a second. But don’t worry: Vissering is a junior at Georgetown Prep, so we could see that record go down again next year. Maybe in the 52-second range? It’s possible. Vissering droped three tenths off his lifetime best from last December, so dropping five more in a year isn’t too far-fetched.

And of course, the number one swimming headline of the week is Katie Ledecky’s two record-smashing swims at the DC Metro meet. On Friday, she blazed through the prelims of the 500 freestyle and not only broke her own national high school record with a 4:28.71, but took down Katie Hoff’s American record as well. Ledecky blazed through the first 200 yards, splitting 1:44.97. Just to let you know how fast that is, Ledecky set the national high school record in the 200 free the following day with a 1:42.38. Ledecy hung in there for the final 300, splitting 54.5, 54.8 and 54.4 in each of the next three 100-yard splits. This is the second American record for Ledecky in two months. You might remember that historic 1650 freestyle at the USA Swimming nationals in December, where she lapped everyone in the field, including the second-place finisher. At this point, we’re not saying Katie Ledecky is superhuman, but she’s pretty close to it.

And that’s going to do it for your look back at the top five swimming-related headlines of the past week. We’ve got the Arena Grand Prix in Orlando coming up this weekend, and it’ll mark Ryan Lochte’s return to racing after his knee injury last November. That and much more could find its way onto next week’s show, and we look forward to seeing you then.

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Author: Jeff Commings

Jeff Commings is the host of several shows on SwimmingWorld.TV, including "The Morning Swim Show," which features interviews with people making headlines in aquatic sports. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism and was a nine-time NCAA All-American.

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