As Duel in the Pool Approaches, Rivalry Clash Provides An Opportunity For Rookies


As Duel in the Pool Approaches, Rivalry Clash Provides An Opportunity For Rookies

If there is one thing that sports fans can unite under, it’s a classic rivalry. There are some rivalries that mean a little bit more to fans than others. From the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees in baseball to Duke and North Carolina in NCAA basketball, rivalries are what sports fans live for. 

In swimming, it is rare we see head-to-head team rivalries on the international level. There is always the battle between nations at the Olympics and World Championships to see who will bring home the most medals, but it is hard to compare that to Duke-UNC showdowns. 

Unless we look at the history between two specific nations: The United States and Australia. Dominance is one of the words that describes what these nations have done in the pool, and later this week, a rivalry will be reborn. For several American athletes, the Duel in the Pool will provide an opportunity to represent Team USA for the first time. 

The History

To understand the significance of this event, you have to go back to its beginning. Launched in 2003, the Duel in the Pool was an innovative idea, the chance to pit two swimming superpowers against each other for bragging rights in the pool.  

For the first three editions of the event (2003-2007), the United States handily beat Australia, including two victories by more than 80 points. For the next edition of the Duel in 2009, the Australians were replaced by a European All-Star Team, and the results were similar to before. The U.S. and Europe clashed four times between 2009-2015, and only 2013 was close, when the U.S. beat the European team by one point. 

The Rookies

In the United States, one of the biggest honors a swimmer can have bestowed upon them is being selected to represent the U.S. on the international stage. When the United States takes to the pool at the Sydney Aquatic Centre, there will be several athletes making their debut for Team USA. 

At the Duel, eight US Swimmers will have the opportunity to represent the Stars and Stripes for the first time against America’s fiercest rival. To have the opportunity to represent the U.S. is no small feat and this chance is not lost on the athletes, including Gabi Albiero.

A junior at the University of Louisville, Albiero has grown up surrounded by some of the nation’s best swimmers. Her father, Arthur Albiero, is her coach at Louisville and she had the opportunity to watch Kelsi Dahlia, Mallory Comerford, and Zach Harting explode onto the national scene under her dad’s guidance. Not surprising, the younger Albiero is exceited for the action in Sydney.

“I feel so honored and excited to be representing the U.S. for the first time in such an amazing location,” Albiero said. 

Another rookie getting ready for his first international meet is University of Texas swimmer Luke Hobson. A sophomore, Hobson had an outstanding freshman year, including a role on the title-winning 800 freestyle relay at the NCAA Champs. The recent U.S. national champ in the 200 freestyle, Hobson is ready to carry that momentum into the Duel in the Pool.

“It feels great to represent the U.S. for the first time internationally at the Duel in the Pool because it is set up to be a super competitive and fun meet which I think will be very good for me and the rest of Team USA,” Hobson said.

Ready for Battle

As the meet approaches, the Duel figures to provide several exciting races. Along with rookies like Albiero and Hobson, Team USA will bring some of its veteran swimmers, such as Michael Andrew, Annie Lazor and Ryan Held. Australia’s roster is stacked with many of its best swimmers, including Emma McKeon, Zac Stubblety-Cook, Kaylee McKeown and Mollie O’Callaghan

Whatever unfolds in Sydney, Albiero and Hobson know they are staring at a special occasion.

“Just like any other meet, I can’t control my competitors and am just going to race and be a fighter to the finish,” Albiero saod. “I know regardless of my performances, I will leave with so much more knowledge, experience, and new friends than I had before.”