Swimming World Presents – A Voice For The Sport: Teenage Tradition At Trials – By John Lohn

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A Voice For The Sport: Teenage Tradition At Trials

By John Lohn

As much as change is a constant in the world, some things have remained steady through the years. When it comes to Olympic campaigns and the opportunity for Team USA to build its latest high-powered squad, there is little doubt a teenage standout—or maybe a few—will be part of the Red, White and Blue parade to the starting blocks.

Although the sport has certainly undergone a shift in recent years, with athletes logging longer careers, the tradition of teenage phenoms on the American roster has not crumbled. Names such as Donna de Varona, Debbie Meyer and Katie Ledecky are part of the United States’ youthful fabric, each having been crowned an Olympic champion in her teens.

While de Varona made her Olympic debut as a 13-year-old at the 1960 Games in Rome, it was her gold medal in the 400 individual medley in 1964 that defined her greatness. As for Meyer, she was a triple-freestyle champion at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City—a feat pulled off as a 16-year-old and not matched until Ledecky also won the 200 freestyle, 400 freestyle and 800 freestyle at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. Four years earlier, Ledecky emerged as a 15-year-old star in London, capturing the Olympic title in the 800 freestyle.

So, how will this summer unfold? Will the teenage tradition continue for the United States?

The truth is, there should be a major veteran presence for the American women, who will be coached by Stanford’s Greg Meehan. The likes of Ledecky, Simone Manuel and Lilly King have been cornerstones for the United States and will be in Tokyo, barring a stunning upset. The international experience of Melanie Margalis and Hali Flickinger is also expected to dot the roster.

Still, there is room for a surging teen to earn a ticket to Tokyo, and we’re not talking about someone like Regan Smith, who will be 19 at the United States Olympic Trials and figures to be a headliner for her country for years to come. Nor are we talking about someone like Torri Huske (Stanford) or Gretchen Walsh (Virginia), current high school seniors who are headed for major collegiate programs.

Rather, we’re looking for a high-school-aged kid who isn’t yet bound for the college scene. Just two months shy of Trials, the top choice to fill this traditional role is 16-year-old Claire Curzan, a burgeoning star from North Carolina who will be one of the top challengers to qualify for Tokyo in the 100 meter butterfly and could also be a factor in the sprint-freestyle events and 100 backstroke.

Maybe Bella Sims has a chance in the 800 freestyle. Perhaps Charlotte Hook can secure a Team USA berth in the 200 butterfly. It’s possible another athlete will emerge, someone currently off the radar who will peak at the right moment. It happens every quadrennial, and there is no reason to believe it won’t happen this summer, too.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a one-year postponement of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the delay can actually be considered a door-opening opportunity for these teenage hopefuls. Last summer, Curzan, for example, was talented enough to qualify for the final of the 100 butterfly. Yet, she was not near her current position of favorite, which was earned by a 56.61 performance in late 2020.

In teenagers, improvement arcs can be significant, and bring an athlete from the cusp of a breakthrough to a career-changing moment. This tendency, then, suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only altered daily lives, but will affect the makeup of the next United States Olympic team.

When the U.S. Trials are held in Omaha for the fourth time, surprises are bound to happen, such as a favorite being left home. It’s also safe to bet on a young teenage female qualifying for the Olympic Games and realizing a dream earlier than anticipated.

Hey, it’s tradition.

John Lohn
Associate Editor-in-Chief
Swimming World Magazine

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Swimming World April 2021 Issue

FEATURES

012 A PANDEMIC PERSPECTIVE FROM MASTERS SWIMMING
by Dan D’Addona
Masters swimmers maintain a connection to the sport they love as well as to their team and community. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that connection has been missing the past year, but they are ready to face the challenges that lie ahead.

017 DEATH, TAXES…AND INDIAN RIVER!
by Andy Ross
Indian River State College will be shooting for its 47th straight men’s and 39th consecutive women’s NJCAA team titles.

018 TAKEOFF TO TOKYO: SPRINT TSAR
by John Lohn
As Swimming World continues its “Takeoff to Tokyo” series, the opportunity to examine the career of Russia’s Alexander Popov—accomplishments and approach—is the chance to pay tribute to a man who might be the greatest sprinter the sport has ever seen.

021 COUNT ON CHINA
by Dan D’Addona
Based on the results of the last eight Olympics—and the most recent World Championships held two years ago—China would be a good bet to once again dominate the diving competition, July 23-Aug. 8, at the 2021 Games in Tokyo.

022 EVER THE COMPETITOR
by David Rieder
Five years after her public introduction to the world at the Rio Olympics, little has changed about Lilly King. She will still speak her mind, tell you how she really feels, and she’s still a winner, a dominant force in sprint breaststroke.

025 THE GREATEST OF THEIR GENERATION
by Bruce Wigo
The General Slocum steamship disaster  in 1904, the tragedy that changed swimming history, had an impact on two of the greatest swimming heroes of all time, Johnny Weissmuller and Charles Robert Drew.

028 NUTRITION: FUELING FOR COMPETITION—THE “CHERRY ON TOP!”
by Dawn Weatherwax
Athletes spend hours upon hours training. It is now time to put the sports nutrition piece all together when it matters most. A big part of the plan is to know what, when and how much to eat and drink before, during and after the event.

COACHING

014 FAST AND FURIOUS
by Michael J. Stott
College coaches Braden Holloway (NC State), Todd DeSorbo (Virginia), Matt Kredich (Tennessee) and Jessen Book (Kenyon) share their ideas on how they help their swimmers maximize turn speed.

038 SWIMMING TECHNIQUE CONCEPTS: APPLYING MECHANICAL PRINCIPLES TO IMPROVE SWIMMING TECHNIQUE
by Rod Havriluk
Many swimmers attempt to swim faster by modeling the technique of the fastest swimmers. Using champions as models is an archaic approach of painstakingly slow, trial-and-error that risks adopting technique limitations. A far superior approach is to apply mechanical principles that eliminate uncertainty and accelerate the skill-learning process.

043 Q&A WITH COACH MEGAN OESTING
by Michael J. Stott

044 HOW THEY TRAIN DIGGORY DILLINGHAM
by Michael J. Stott

TRAINING

037 DRYSIDE TRAINING: PUSHING POWER
by J.R. Rosania

JUNIOR SWIMMER

040 GOLDMINDS:  LEARN HOW TO BE A RACER
by Wayne Goldsmith
It’s important to learn how to swim your event in such a way that you can perform to your potential in every possible racing situation, including different strategies for heats, semifinals and finals.

047 UP & COMERS: DANIEL DIEHL
by Shoshanna Rutemiller

COLUMNS & SPECIAL SECTIONS

008 A VOICE FOR THE SPORT

011 DID YOU KNOW: ABOUT THE STORY OF THE AUMAKUA?

030 2021 SWIM CAMP DIRECTORY

046 DADS ON DECK: BRENT BILQUIST

048 GUTTERTALK

049 PARTING SHOT

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