PHOENIX, Arizona, April 7. WE had some fast swims in the pool make this week’s top five, and some major news out of the pool got people talking all over the world. Let’s get started with number five.
Canadian swimming continues to show promise as we approach two and a half years before the Rio Olympics. Last week a strong squad was selected for the teams that will participate in the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific championships, including two that broke national records. Katerine Savard looks to be a big medal favorite this summer after swimming a 57.27 in the 100 fly to rank second in the world so far this year and break her own national record by four hundredths of a second. Another great swim came from Brittany MacLean, the NCAA swimmer of the meet, in the 800 free. On her second taper at the end of the Canadian nationals, MacLean posted an 8:24.91 to beat the national record by two seconds, and her own personal best by seven seconds. Thirty-six will swim for Canada at the Pan Pacific championships, while 30 will go to Scotland for the Commonwealth Games, with many swimmers overlapping on both rosters.
Our number four headline of the week is the announcement that Russia’s Vitalii Melnikov was given a provisional suspension after testing positive for EPO at the European short course championships last fall. Melnikov was on two world record-setting relays, and if his suspension is made official, those world records will be stripped, as will Melnikov’s finishes in individual events at the meet. EPO is rarely found in swimmers. The drug is used to speed oxygen delivery to red blood cells and was the drug of choice for many years in road cycling. Along with Yuliya Efimova’s ongoing provisional suspension, this is the second black eye for Russia in six months, with both coming from high-profile athletes.
We’re now at number three on the list of top five swimming headlines of the week, and it’s Michael Pliuskaitis’ removal from USA Swimming’s list of banned coaches. Pliuskaitis was put on that list for what was deemed sexual misconduct while he was the head coach at Snow Swimming in 2013. But Pliuskaitis’ lawyer argued that the definition of an improper relationship between coach and swimmer was not clear, and the gray area was enough for an arbitrations panel to approve his reinstatement. USA Swimming, naturally, disagreed with the ruling but abided by it and now Pliuskaitis is able to return to coaching.
Last week a very well-known name inside and outside swimming circles died at 90 years old. A large majority of people will remember Charles Keating Jr. as the man at the center of the Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal in the 1980s, but his reputation in swimming is one of a major benefactor. The money he earned in his lifetime helped start two prestigious swimming facilities in Cincinnati and Phoenix, and the irony of his death last Monday, the day after the pool he helped build in Phoenix closed for good, was not lost on many. Keating was an avid supporter of the sport, and he continued to show that support as his grandson Gary Hall Jr. rose through the ranks to become an Olympic champion. I had the privilege of meeting Charles Keating Jr. about 20 years ago, and though it was a fleeting moment, it was great to meet one of the greatest contributors to the future of this sport.
And now we’re at the number one headline of the past week, and it’s the sensational performances that took place Down Under at the Australian nationals. From Christian Sprenger and Cate Campbell leading the world rankings to a junior world record by Mack Horton and a successful return for sprinter Eamon Sullivan, it’s clear that Australia means business in 2014. A squad of 59 are set for the Commonwealth Games, while Swimming Australia hasn’t said if those same athletes will race at home for the Pan Pacific championships. One of the more surprising results from the meet was Cameron McEvoy’s win in the 100 free over James Magnussen. Magnussen has been known to be spectacular at the Australian spring nationals, and while his 47.92 is not slow, it’s not as fast as we’re used to seeing from the Missile. As for McEvoy, it’s showing promise that Australia can have hope for two medalists in the 100 free in two years, but we did say that about James Roberts in 2012, and he’s nowhere to be seen these days.