PHOENIX, Arizona, March 10. WE’RE here to count down the top five aquatic sports headlines of the past week to get you caught up on the things you might have missed. Let’s not waste any more time with it, and get started with the number five headline.
The first two collegiate national championships took place last week as the NAIA, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, and the NJCAA, the National Junior College Athletic Association, held their national championships. Some real fast swims took place in both meets as teams continued their dominance in both divisions. In the NAIA, Oklahoma Baptist, coached by the great Sam Freas, won the men’s team title for the third consecutive year, and the women won their second straight title. It should be noted that Oklahoma Baptist swimming and diving has only been around for three seasons, so they have been at the top of the podium since the debut of the men’s program, while the women are just as good. The times were fast, as 14 meet records fell over the three-day meet. At the NJCAA meet, it was likely a foregone conclusion that Indian River will win the men’s and women’s team titles, and they followed through in convincing fashion with wins in just about every event. Catch up on each meet with our daily recaps on the college news page on swimmingworld.com.
Our number four headline goes out of the water and onto the dance floor with the announcement that marathon swimmer Diana Nyad will be a part of the new season of Dancing With the Stars here in the United States. Nyad was one of the 12 entertainers and athletes picked to appear on the popular show starting one week from today on ABC. Nyad joins Natalie Coughlin as the only professional swimmers to show off their dancing skills. Coughlin did pretty well, and now we’ll see if Nyad can not win the sparkling Mirrorball Trophy.
Our number three headline of the week goes to water polo and the international conference held last week in Cancun, Mexico. Among those attending was Olympic champion Brenda Villa, who continues to be a strong voice for her sport since winning gold with the USA in the London Games. Among the calls for action she gave the water polo community was to be more engaging on social media, to “create heroes, and we need to take advantage of social media, it provides us a pretty inexpensive format to promote our sport.” One of the things she mentioned was a challenge to have a water polo game uploaded to YouTube every week. Water polo does face a major uphill battle, never having had a major international star on the level of Michael Phelps to help bring more exposure to it, but Villa’s challenge could be the start of something big for the sport, and we hope it catches on.
Politics entered the swimming pool last week at the Italian Grand Prix, and Andrey Govorov’s plea for peace in the Ukraine brings us to number two in our top headlines of the week. Govorov, who was born in the Crimean province of Ukraine, held up a Ukrainian flag with the word “peace” on it while accepting the gold medal in the 50 fly at the Grand Prix meet. As you may know, the Ukraine is in upheaval as the Crimean region looks to secede from Ukraine and be a part of Russia. This is not the first time a swimmer has made a political statement during a swim meet. In 2008, Milorad Cavic wore this shirt, proclaiming “Kosovo is Serbia” as Kosovo strived to be its own country. Cavic was suspended from the rest of the meet for his action and the Serbian swimming federation fined more than $10,000. Govorov, however, was not suspended or fined, and would go on to win more events in Italy, albeit without holding a flag.
And now we’re at the number one headline of the past week, and it’s the release of the psych sheets for the swimming portion of the NCAA women’s Division I championships. On paper, Georgia has the potential to repeat as team champions, but that’s just scoring the meet on paper. They could find a challenge not only from California-Berkeley, but from Texas A&M as well. Relays are often the deciding factors at the NCAA championships, and while Georgia is great in the relays, the addition of Missy Franklin to Cal’s lineup makes them much stronger. Franklin will definitely be a highlight of the meet, and it’s notable that she will not be swimming any backstroke in Minneapolis. She’s entered in the 100, 200 and 500 freestyles for the Golden Bears. Another interesting entry was Elizabeth Beisel in the 200 back and 200 fly on the third day. It’s a tough double, though in a press conference today, Florida head coach Gregg Troy pointed out that Teresa Crippen had done it with a good deal of success as well, and he was confident Beisel could pull off some major points with the 200 fly, an event she has not swum at the championship level before. The meet starts one week from Thursday, and it will definitely be thrilling.
So there you have it, our pick of the top five aquatic sports headlines of the past week.