PHOENIX, Arizona, June 2. SINCE this show did not air last Monday due to the Memorial Day holiday, we’re going to present you with the top five swimming-related headlines of the past TWO weeks. We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s get things started with the number five headline.
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At the annual convention of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America, four coaches and a swimmer were given special awards for their distinguished contributions to the sport. Two of them just closed out their college careers. Tim Welsh was given the National Collegiate and Scholastic Trophy after 28 seasons at Notre Dame, while Cleveland State’s Wally Morton won the Richard E. Steadman award to honor his 40 years at Cleveland State.
Bill Boomer, who is well-known around the world for his consulting work with various teams, and is now on staff at Tennessee, received the Benjamin Franklin Award. The award honors his work as an innovator in the sport, and his research in better understanding how to be a better swimmer. Winning the Charles McCaffree Award was John Davis, the founder of the 2Xtreme Foundation which works with at-risk people to improve their quality of life through therapy and team activities. And finally, Jon Urbanchek received the Speedo Lifetime Achievement Award. Though he’s retired more than once, Urbanchek is still coaching and this award honors his life’s work in helping athletes from all over the world be their best. Our congratulations goes out to all the award recipients.
Our number four headline is good news for Olympians living in California, like Nathan Adrian. A bill is working its way through the state government to give state tax breaks money that athletes win at the Olympics for getting medals. The bill supporters say it’s a way of giving back to the athletes who work so hard to achieve their dream, while those opposed to it say other hard-working people deserve tax breaks just as much. If the bill passes, it would be retroactive to January 1 of this year, but could give people like Adrian, or even Missy Franklin if she declares herself as a California resident by 2016, more reasons to love the Golden State.
Moving on to the number three headline, and it’s news that is spreading across the world today. Vitaly Mutko, the Russian sports minister, told The Associated Press that he fears the Russian swimming federation could be suspended from international competition if the current wave of doping violations continues. With Yulia Efimova’s high-profile 16-month suspension taking headlines, Mutko believes one or two more doping violations could be the last straw in FINA’s eyes. Mutko did not say if Russian swimming federation was given any kind of warning from FINA, and we must note that such a suspension would be unprecedented. Even the Chinese after being revealed in a doping scandal in the mid-1990s were not suspended from international competition, nor were the Germans in the aftermath of systematic doping during the Cold War. It would definitely send a message not just to Russia if they were suspended, but to just about every major swimming nation.
Our number two headline concerns the revelation that Ryan Lochte’s knee injury is much worse than we thought. Though Lochte didn’t detail the specific reason why his knee kept him out of the Arena Grand Prix in Charlotte a couple of weeks ago when he talked to the media there, we learned the exact reason why a week later. During a visit to New York City for a fashion-related event, Lochte told the media there that he had re-torn the MCL tendon in his left knee, the same one he tore last November during a fan encounter. What this means for Lochte’s summer season is unclear, though we’re sure it’s not going to be 100 percent positive. It took Lochte four months to believe he was good enough to race after injuring the tendon the first time, and that was against doctor’s orders. We’re three months from the USA Swimming nationals, and the new tear might keep Lochte from doing breaststroke and therefore out of the 200 IM. I’m sure Lochte and his team will enter the 200 IM at nationals just to keep us guessing until the final minute. Heck, he might even sign up for the 400 IM. One thing is for certain, even though we haven’t heard it from Lochte: He will be at nationals. No injury is going to keep him from racing in Irvine at the beginning of August.
This is it. The number one headline of the past couple of weeks. You might have heard, or been part of the discussion, regarding Chuck Wielgus and the firestorm surrounding his upcoming induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Wielgus, the executive director of USA Swimming, was set to be inducted on June 14 in Fort Lauderdale, but a protest by sexual abuse victims at the hands of coaches caused ISHOF to put more consideration into the induction, and caused several past presidents of USA Swimming to speak on Wielgus’ behalf. The sexual abuse victims claimed that Wielgus played a part in covering up some of the sexual abuse allegations that were brought forward during his time as executive director, and asked ISHOF to rescind the nomination. Just before we taped today’s show, we learned that Wielgus withdrew his name from the list of inductees last weekend, saving ISHOF from a protest line at the event next week. This is a story that will likely not end with the withdrawal of Wielgus’ name, with sexual abuse victims putting their story back in the spotlight.