Column by John Lohn, Swimming World senior writer
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 11. AS the rest of the world produces top-notch times during this recent flurry of national-championship events, the United States finds itself in the position of biding its time. With the American squad for this summer's World Championships selected last year, there is no reason for the U.S. to expect many on-par performances with what we've seen from the likes of the Chinese, Australians and Japanese, among others.
It's important to keep the global swimming scene in perspective, and not to panic. Sure, when Australia put together several quality efforts in the 100 freestyle, it announced the Boys from Oz as a legitimate contender in the 400 freestyle relay. That said, we're going to have to wait until July to actually see where the United States sits. Yet, given history, there isn't a reason to think this country will not answer the bell and excel, maintaining its status as the world's swimming power.
Now, a few thoughts from what transpired over the weekend, most notably from the Eric Namesnik Grand Prix at the University of Michigan.
**The second night of action from Canham Natatorium and the latest stop on the USA Swimming Grand Prix circuit saw a stunning development. While Michael Phelps turned in a superb outing en route to victory in the 100 backstroke, the 16-time Olympic medalist had a decade-long winning streak in the 200 butterfly snapped. Phelps finished a surprising fourth in the event that placed him on the global map, with China's Wu Peng taking top honors.
The best part of this development is what Phelps said after the race, when he was clearly disappointed with the outcome: "It was a matter of time before not training would catch up, and it did. That's all I can really say. It kind of stinks to have a run like I had in that race sort of stop today. But better to happen here than farther down the road. If that's not a wakeup call, I'm not sure what is."
It can be argued that Phelps is one of the most motivated athletes in history, fueled by the comments of others (see Ian Thorpe) and moments that didn't meet the high expectations of himself and coach Bob Bowman. Certainly, Phelps' showing in the 200 butterfly will buoy the living legend as he continues his preparations for the World Champs. That's a beautiful thing.
**From Japan, Kosuke Kitajima unloaded another swim over the weekend that affirmed his status as the greatest breaststroker in history. Kitajima hit the wall in 59.44 for the 100 breaststroke, sending a message to the remainder of the world that – sans high-tech suits – there is a lot of work to be done to knock off the double-gold medalist in the breast events from the Athens and Beijing Olympics.
**There were a few questions recently regarding Hershey High standout David Nolan, a Stanford University recruit and one of the finest scholastic swimmers in history. The questions revolved around Nolan's ability to take his short-course talents and translate them into elite performances in the long-course pool.
Well, the answer was provided when Nolan placed third in the 100 backstroke at the Eric Namesnik meet, clocking a time of 55.10. Nolan finished behind only Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, and his time was not produced while in peak form. Simply put: This kid is a superstar-in-the-making and deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt as he progresses.
**It's been written here before that the United States men have issues in the breaststroke. Well, so does Australia. Based on the results from the Aussie Trials for the World Champs, no one met the nation's qualifying standard to represent the country in the 200 breaststroke. It makes you wish Leisel Jones opted to contest the 200 breaststroke.