PHOENIX, Arizona, February 4. NEWS from out of the pool in Australia threatened to top the list of swimming-related headlines coming from the United States in the past week, but some very notable names made news recently that kept the Aussies at bay. Who took the number one spot this week? Let’s find out by starting at number five.
Swimming Australia named its top swimmer of 2013 at an awards gala over the weekend, and it was Cate Campbell who gained the honor after winning two gold medals at the world championships last year. Campbell had some major battles to overcome in the past two years, including injuries and illnesses that almost derailed her swimming career. But the 21-year-old, who first became internationally known as a 15-year-old at the Beijing Olympics, is on track to bring Australia back to international prominence in the swimming scene. In addition to winning Swimmer of the Year, Campbell won the People’s Choice and Swimmer’s Swimmer awards, making her popular not only among the brass at Swimming Australia, but the public and her peers.
We’re staying Down Under for the number four headline of the week, and it’s the news regarding Ian Thorpe’s treatment for depression and alcohol abuse. Thorpe was admitted to the hospital after a fall and is getting rehab for what he calls “crippling depression.” Thorpe had been out of the spotlight for the past year after failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympic team but said he would be training in Switzerland for a spot on the 2016 team. No word on how this stint in rehab would affect that goal, but in the present moment, we want to wish Ian a full recovery. As someone who has dealt with depression, I know there is no overnight remedy, but help is available, and I hope Ian gets all the help he needs.
Let’s move on to number three on our countdown of the top swimming headlines of the past week, and it’s the latest onslaught on the national age group record books in the USA by none other than Michael Andrew. It would not have likely made our top five countdown if the 14-year-old had just broken his own records, but he finally took down the 200-yard IM mark he had been chasing, swimming a 1:47.44 in a meet in Brown Deer, Wisconsin, last weekend. The former record was 1:48.08 by Gray Umbach from 2009, which gives Andrew five national age group records in short course yards for the 13-14 age group. He almost got a fifth record in the 400 IM, falling just seven tenths short of Curtis Ogren’s record of 3:54.23. I’m sure that’s going to be the next target when he steps up to race.
And now we’re at number two on our countdown, and it features two swimming coaches who know their way around Twitter but made the social media site part of their jobs last week. Mike Bottom, the head coach at Michigan, was part of the live tweeting that took place during the dual meet with Ohio State on Saturday. Here’s a quote he gave the team after the men won the meet by four points and the women lost by nine: “That is what life is about. The ups and the downs. That’s the way the game is played. What a wonderful thing we get to do!” The Twitter feed was peppered with such sayings directly from Bottom as fans were given some pretty good access of what was going on with the Wolverines during this big dual meet. Over in Baltimore on the same day, Bob Bowman and his staff at North Baltimore Aquatic Club live tweeted the Saturday morning workout at the Meadowbrook Aquatic Center, which featured Olympians in the elite group and some possible future stars training together. You should go to Bowman’s Twitter account to learn about the workout, but as you can see from this photo, his best swimmers are still able to smile when it’s all over. Perhaps the workout wasn’t hard enough? In any case, it’s great to get insight from these two great coaches, and indications are fans loved every minute of it. Perhaps more coaches should live tweet their workouts, as long as it doesn’t distract from making the athletes in the water better swimmers.
And here we are at the number one swimming headline of the past week, and I guess it should come as no surprise that it’s Rebecca Soni’s announcement that she has officially retired from competitive swimming. Soni hasn’t raced since her monumental performances at the 2012 London Olympics, where she won two gold medals and became the first woman under 2:20 in the 200 breaststroke, so I suppose many weren’t surprised that she made this announcement last Thursday. But Soni had left the door open on a possible return to competition, even saying that watching two women also go 2:19 at world championships last summer stoked the fire. Teaming with Olympian Ariana Kukors, Soni next chapter is being a part of the website The Atlas Ventures, which will feature the two dropping in on unsuspecting swim teams and offering their expertise on healthy living as a way to give back to the sport. Rebecca made such an impact on the sport during her time in the pool, and we’re glad to see that inspiration will still continue for the foreseeable future.