Swimming World Presents – A Voice For The Sport: No Need For Comparisons – By John Lohn

Voice FOr the Sport Tokyo Olympics pool

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A Voice For The Sport:

No Need For Comparisons 

By John Lohn

As 2020 neared its end—with few moments in the sport to celebrate during a tumultuous year—Caeleb Dressel backed up his superstar status. Over the final two weeks of the International Swimming League season, the American broke short course world records in three individual events (50 meter freestyle, 100 butterfly, 100 individual medley) and set American records in two other races (100 free, 50 fly).

Dressel was superb at the Duna Arena in Budapest, obliterating some of the finest competition in the world. Not surprising, Dressel’s performances generated ample excitement ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, of course delayed a year by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite racing in a pool half the size of the one he will occupy in Tokyo (provided the Games take place), Dressel used the ISL campaign to make a statement: He is well-positioned for a grand Olympiad.

But there was also a problem in the way Dressel’s excellence was digested. Almost as quickly as he covered the 50 freestyle, some media outlets felt the need to compare the 24-year-old to Michael Phelps. Specifically, the question was asked: Can Dressel eclipse the eight-gold showing of Phelps from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing?

I will be the first to admit that, in the past, I have compared athletes from different eras. Janet Evans and Katie Ledecky. Mark Spitz and Phelps. Based on their schedules and pursuits, these comparisons seemed appropriate. Yet, over time, I learned of the problematic nature of deeming someone as “The Next (Fill in the Blank).” Not only is the athlete from the past not paid proper due for his/her achievements, the rising star is not given the opportunity to emerge with his/her own identity.

Leading into the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Matt Biondi was the headliner name on the Team USA roster. Scheduled to compete in seven events, Biondi found himself constantly compared to Spitz, with journalists almost always wondering whether he could match Spitz’s seven gold medals from the 1972 Games in Munich.

“I don’t feel it’s a fair comparison,” said Nort Thornton, Biondi’s coach at Cal-Berkeley. “But people are going to do it. You can’t stop them. It is unfortunate people get compared, but that’s human nature. The rules have changed, and people can’t swim as many events as they were able to in 1972. There are certain comparisons like the speed they both travel through water, but Matt is definitely not Mark. He is his own swimmer. Someday, people will be comparing another young swimmer to Matt. That’s the way it works.”

Even before the emergence of Biondi, Spitz was caught up in the comparison game. As Spitz developed into a global force, he was touted as the heir to Don Schollander.
So, in the ensuing months and with Dressel headed for a multi-event schedule in Tokyo, brace yourself for a flurry of comparisons to Phelps. Never mind that they share just one common event, the 100 butterfly. Never mind that Dressel is a pure sprinter and Phelps was better known for his endurance. Never mind that Tokyo will be Dressel’s second Olympiad, and Phelps competed at five Games. The comparisons are on the way.

In an ideal world, whatever Dressel pulls off in Tokyo should be viewed for its individual worth. As the current face of USA Swimming, Dressel should be appreciated for his skill set, an arsenal defined by spectacular starts and the fact that he is encouraging a younger generation of talent to follow in his footsteps.

The truth is, Caeleb Dressel probably doesn’t care about the comparisons. And neither does Michael Phelps…or his longtime coach, Bob Bowman. While Dressel is focused on handling what awaits him in Tokyo, the 28-medal Olympic legacy of Phelps is going nowhere. Still, for the sake of separating athletes and allowing them to receive their proper credit, we should try to leave the comparisons in the call room.

It’s where they truly belong.

John Lohn
Associate Editor-in-Chief
Swimming World Magazine

 

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SW January 2021 - Cover - Michael Andrew - Taking the Road Less Traveled[PHOTO BY MINE KASABOGLU/ISL]

 

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Swimming World Magazine January 2021 Issue

FEATURES

011 A YEAR LIKE NONE OTHER
by Dan D’Addona
The top story of 2020—the COVID-19 pandemic—impacted all of the year’s stories in aquatics…from age group, high school, college and Masters competition all the way to the Olympics!

012 THE TOP 10 PERFORMANCES OF THE MILLENNIUM’S FIRST 20 YEARS (2000-19)
by John Lohn
One month after we selected the Swimmers of the Millennium (to this point), we have picked the top 10 performances of the millennium’s first 20 years. The swims that were selected were not just based on speed, but carried a certain level of significance or marked a defining moment in the sport.

020 TAKING THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
by David Rieder
Michael Andrew has been the target of criticism the last seven-and-a-half years for his decision to turn pro at 14, his unique training style (USRPT), his training plan and more. But he’s also enjoyed success along the way and is ready to move to the next level as he prepares to qualify for the 2021 Olympics.

024 WHO “SHOT” THE SWIMMERS?
by Bruce Wigo
This is the first part of a series that highlights an International Swimming Hall of Fame exhibit showing the history of swimming through the eyes of the photojournalists who have covered the aquatic sports for more than 150 years.

028 A SHOOTING STAR IN SEOUL
by John Lohn
American Matt Biondi had it all. The physique. The pure talent. The inner drive. Add those traits together, and it is no surprise that Matt Biondi—over the span of three Olympiads—cultivated one of the finest careers the sport has ever seen.

031 2020 WORLD & AMERICAN RECORD PROGRESSION
compiled by Andy Ross

033 NUTRITION: IF YOU WANT TO BE AN OLYMPIAN OR WORLD CHAMPION, THEN TRAIN LIKE ONE!
by Dawn Weatherwax
A strong immune system means fewer days out of the water.

038 MENTAL PREP: BEFORE THE BEEP WITH OLIVIA SMOLIGA
by Shoshanna Rutemiller

COACHING

015 SELLING PROCESS TO SWIMMERS (Part 1)
by Michael J. Stott
In 1993, Swedish cognitive psychologist Anders Ericsson wrote that greatness wasn’t born, but grown. His ideas later formed the basis for the “10,000-hour rule” described in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers” (2008), which holds that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a skill or field. Known by the term, “process,” to coaches, Swimming World details how they use that learning curve to improve the performance of their swimmers.

036 SWIMMING TECHNIQUE CONCEPTS: FREESTYLE TECHNIQUE FOR SPRINT AND DISTANCE (Part 1)
by Rod Havriluk
Many sources suggest that swimmers use a different freestyle technique for sprint and distance events. However, science (both physics and research) shows us that a swimmer can optimize performance in events of all distances by using the same arm motion with a different arm coordination.

040 SPECIAL SETS: TOUGH SETS THE DON SWARTZ WAY
by Michael J. Stott
Don Swartz, now at North Bay Aquatics, was Rick DeMont’s coach at Marin Aquatic Club in the early 1970s when he set world records in the 400 and 1500 meter freestyle. The halcyon era was a time of mega yardage being done by the likes of DeMont and fellow Olympians Brian Goodell, Bobby Hackett and Australia’s Steven Holland. When it came to designing tough sets, you could say that Swartz had a front row seat.

043 Q&A WITH COACH KATIE ROBINSON
by Michael J. Stott

044 HOW THEY TRAIN MIRIAM GUEVARA
by Michael J. Stott

TRAINING

035 DRYSIDE TRAINING: RESOLUTIONS FOR SWIMMING FASTER IN 2021!
by J.R. Rosania

JUNIOR SWIMMER

047 UP & COMERS: LEVENIA SIM
by Shoshanna Rutemiller

COLUMNS

008 A VOICE FOR THE SPORT

027 DID YOU KNOW: ABOUT SPORTS CARTOONS?

042 THE OFFICIAL WORD

046 GUTTERTALK

048 PARTING SHOT

Swimming World is now partnered with the International Swimming Hall of Fame. To find out more, visit us at ishof.org

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