2019 Splashbacks – Jan-Feb: Next Sun Yang Saga Begins & Nathan Adrian’s Battle Beyond The Water


This year has been another stacked with thrills and spills in the aquatics world. It included the World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, and the debut of the International Swim League (ISL). Swimming World had our readers covered every step of the way. During the final days of the year, we’re looking back in “Splashbacks” to some of the most read stories of 2019.

First up: January and February, 2019.

1. Sun Yang Facing Lifetime Ban After Incident with Drug Testers

Sun Yang began 2019 with the potential of a lifetime ban from competitive swimming after a run-in with anti-doping officials. According to a report by Craig Lord in The Sunday Times, Sun and his bodyguard had smashed a sealed vial of blood that was taken for testing. The FINA Doping Panel issued Sun with a series of severe warnings but gave the swimmer the benefit of the doubt based on whether testing agents had had sufficient paperwork with them. Following the FINA Panel ruling, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) considered filing an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) regarding the incident (come March, that appeal against the FINA decision was lodged at CAS).

2. Should College Athletes Be Paid? 

Swimming World intern, Isabelle Robuck, dove headfirst into the popular debate of whether or not college athletes should be paid. Robuck focused on the analytics of the conversation, utilizing revenue statitics, NCAA surveys, and the tride-and-true pro/con list to review whether college athletes should be paid.

While not published in 2019, viewers continued to flock to Robuck’s analysis months after it was published furthering the point that this remains a hot button topic.

3. Olympic Gold Medalist Nathan Adrian Announces He Has Testicular Cancer

In late January, three-time Olympian Nathan Adrian announced via social media that he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. The swimming community proved how strong and supportive it is by rallying around Adrian and focusing on his health and recovery at such an uncertain time.

At the time of diagnosis, it was uncertain if Adrian would compete later that year at the World Championships in Gwangju or the Pan American Games in Lima.


Nathan Adrian – Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

4. Daniel Branon Breaks Michael Phelps’ 9-10 Meet Record at Speedo Winter Invite 

Before he was an Olympian, Michael Phelps set a 10-and-under 50 fly meet record of 32.39 at Berkeley’s annual January long course invitational. 24 years later in 2019, Daniel Branon eclipsed Phelps’ record with a 31.42 to win the 50 fly at the 2019 Speedo Winter Invitational.

5. Jake Magahey Takes Down Oldest National High School Record in 500 Yards

In February 2019, Mill Creek High School’s Jake Magahey took down a National Public High School record that had stood since 1983. Magahey’s 4:15.63 in the 500 yard free moved him past Upland High School’s Jeff Kostoff and his 4:16.39, etching his name into the record books.

6. The Debt That All Swimmers Owe

Swimming is a busy and time-consuming sport, but thankfully we swimmers have many pillars of support to lean on. Swimming World college intern, Jamie Kolar, penned an ode to those who help support us during all of our busy schedules, including our friends, teachers, and families.

7. 15 Ways To Tell You Come From a Swimming Family

Uncertain about whether your family is a true swimming family? No need to fret. In January 2019, Swimming World college intern J.P. Mortensen counted down 15 ways to track whether or not your family counts as a swimming family.

8. Arizona Swimming on Probation After NCAA Violations

It was announced in late January that the University of Arizona was to be placed on a two year probation by the NCAA and to lose one scholarship. The news came about after an investigation by the NCAA found multiple recruiting violations by former diving coach Omar Ojeda

9. Meet Michael Sava, the Swimmer That Did a 3K Fly Set on the Last Night of the Knoxville Pro Series

After a disappointing 200 LCM Fly performance at the Knoxville stop of the TYR Pro Swim Series, 16-year-old Michael Sava turned heads by racking up the butterfly yards in a 3K practice set. Sava had swum a 2:06 in the B-final of the event, but was four seconds off his best time. This left Sava disappointed and frustrated, so the Canadian teenager took advantage of the long-course pool at his disposal and practiced over and over and over again. After all, practice makes perfect.

10. Passages: Coach James “Jim” Martin Wood Leaves Unparalled Legacy to Aquatic Community

Jim Wood_The swimming community lost a great member on January 4, 2019 when James “Jim” Wood passed away at the age of 68. The legacy that he left behind is great to say the least. He served from 1992-2004 as Chairman of the USA Swimming Olympic International Operations Committee and was a member of USA Swimming’s delegation at the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Summer Olympic Games.

In 2006, he became the first ever swim coach to be elected as President of USA Swimming and four years later he was elected and served as President of the United States Aquatic Sports. 2011 saw him inducted into the American Swimming Coaches Hall of Fame and 2015 saw him named one of the “30 Most Influential People in Swimming Over the Last 30 Years.”


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