By John Lohn
ASTON, Pennsylvania, November 27. AS the final days of 2005 tick away, it seems an appropriate time to look back at the year in the pool. After all, the past 11 months have been sensational and there’s no reason to believe December will be any different. So, over the next few weeks, SwimmingWorldMagazine.com will supply its take on a few of the highlights in the form of a look-back series. Here we go with the first three installments.
Top College Moment: Really, is there any choice other than the scintillating 50-yard freestyle efforts of Auburn’s Fred Bousquet at the NCAA Championships. As the Tigers rolled to their third consecutive team title, Bousquet became the first man in history to crack the 19-second barrier. Oh, and the Frenchman accomplished the feat twice.
In the months leading up to the NCAA Champs, there was considerable discussion concerning the possibility of a sub-19 swim. Well, Bousquet wasted little time living up to the hype. During the preliminaries, the senior scorched a time of 18.74 to obliterate the magical barrier. Then, to prove his achievement was hardly a fluke, Bousquet zoomed to a mark of 18.90 in the final.
Freestyle Swim of the Year: For a brief moment, consideration was given to the eye-popping 21.69 produced in the 50-meter freestyle by South Africa’s Roland Schoeman at the World Championships in Montreal. After all, that performance is the second-fastest in event history, behind only the 21.64 world record of Russia’s Alex Popov.
But, after a little thought, the nod for Freestyle Swim of the Year has to go to Australia’s Grant Hackett, for his showing in the 800 freestyle at the World Champs. As part of his freestyle trifecta (400/800/1,500), Hackett broke the world record in the 800 distance, as his time of 7:38.65 lowered the former standard of countryman Ian Thorpe (7:39.16). What made Hackett’s record even more impressive was the fact that he went after it with ferocity and at one point was five seconds under world-record pace.
Breakthrough of the Year: Time and again, Leisel Jones was touted as the favorite to emerge from a major international competition with gold in the breaststroke events. But, time and again, Jones came up short in her chase for the top step on the podium. Simply put, Jones was a constant bridesmaid when it came to the Olympic Games and World Championships.
This year, though, Jones got the job done when it counted most. And, she did so in splendid fashion. At the World Championships, Jones relieved herself of the choker title when mined gold in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes. Although Jessica Hardy set a world record in the semifinals of the 100 breast with a 1:06.20 swim, Jones touched the wall first in the final with a time of 1:06.25. Then, as an encore, Jones established a global standard in the 200 breast with a blazing effort of 2:21.72.