The Week That Was: Revisiting Top Five Aquatic Sports Headlines of Past Week

PHOENIX, Arizona, December 2. KICKING off this week’s countdown at number five is Michael Jamieson’s emergency trip to the hospital on Wednesday in Great Britain. The Olympic silver medalist in the 200 breaststroke had to have his heart restarted the day after an intense workout session that had his heart rate at 230 beats per minute. Jamieson is fine now and back in training for the Duel in the Pool, but this incident stresses the need for athletes to be very conscious of what’s going on with their bodies, and to understand that there are indeed limits to what the human body can do.

As we have done every year at Swimming World since 1964, we announced our World Swimmers of the Year on Sunday, and that announcement comes in at number four on our countdown. Katie Ledecky was picked as the world female swimmer of the year for her four gold medals and two world records at the world championships last summer, the first time she’s been honored and the fourth-straight year an American woman has won. Sun Yang becomes the first Asian man to pick up the world male swimmer of the year after he collected three gold medals in Barcelona. Looking back at the 49-year history of this award, 2013 looks to be the first time that the male and female swimmers of the year swim the exact same events, so a little more history to recognize here. In some years, our list creates some controversy over the athletes that the voting panel picks, but there should be very little argument over this year’s selection, not only for the performances of these two but the dominating fashion in which they did it.

We’re going back to Great Britain for number three on our countdown of the top five aquatic sports headlines of the past week. Earlier today, celebrity diver Tom Daley released a video on YouTube in which he spoke about his decision to publicly come out as bisexual after having to deal with misquotes and years of speculation about his relationships. In the five-minute video, Daley says he’s been dating a man since last spring, something that he did not expect to happen. “I still fancy girls,” he says in his video, “but right now, I’m dating a guy and I couldn’t be happier. I feel safe, and it really does feel right.” In the first seven hours of its release, the video has gained 1 million views and more than 46,000 likes, and is expected to grow even more as the media and the general public have begun to talk about this. While many have said that this announcement is not a surprise, it is a bold step for Daley as he pursues his goal of competing in the 2016 Olympics.

We’re returning to our list of the world swimmers of the year for the number two spot on our countdown, but instead of talking about the past, we’ll go back about 30 years for this headline. In the 1970s and 1980s, Swimming World gave the World Female Swimmer of the Year award to five East German women who were later proven to be a part of the systematic doping regime in East Germany. While the International Olympic Committee has not taken action on taking the Olympic medals away from these five and many others, we have decided to remove those five from our World Swimmers of the Year list, as well as three others from our European Swimmers of the Year list. Some of the names might be quite familiar to swimming historians. Kristin Otto won six gold medals at the 1988 Olympics, the most any female has won at one Games. Petra Schneider held the world record in the women’s 400 IM for almost 20 years. Kornelia Ender was the quote-unquote darling of the 1976 Olympics, winning four gold medals in world record time. And several others set astonishing world records and won events by unreal margins. Yes, this is almost 30 years after the fact and 20 years after the evidence came to light about the doping regime, but we’ve been talking about this issue for a few years, and Lance Armstrong’s admission recently provided the impetus for our decision. We’re hoping this move gives a push to the International Olympic Committee to act on doing the same thing to the Olympic results. We’re running a weeklong series of articles on detailing the history of the East Germans leading up to our call to the IOC later this week.

And now here we are at the number one headline of the week. If you say you weren’t surprised by the news that Ricky Berens announced his official retirement from the sport last week, I wouldn’t believe you. Berens had just completed a pretty successful year, including setting the American record in the 200-yard freestyle with a 1:31.31, the second-fastest performance in history, and winning gold in the 800 free relay at the world championships. Outside of 2008 and 2012, I would say this was Berens’ best year of his career, and it was a bold decision to go out while he’s at the top of his game. Berens has done this retirement thing before. After the 2012 Olympics he said he was done, but was back in training about two months later. Berens says this time it’s the real deal, and he’ll be very busy with the Longhorn Foundation. Berens has had a wonderful swimming career, and we at Swimming World wish him all the best in this new official chapter in his life.

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