The Week That Was: Emma McKeon, Tom Shields Shine at World Cup Budapest

Jul 24, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Emma McKeon (AUS) during the women's 100m butterfly heats during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Network
Emma McKeon -- Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

Over the past week, the FINA World Cup moved to Budapest, where Emma McKeon, the winner of seven medals at the Tokyo Olympics, swam the second-fastest time in history in the women’s 100 freestyle, while American Tom Shields broke an American record and won four individual events. Meanwhile, the University of Southern California swimming program is in turmoil after head coach Jeremy Kipp was placed on administrative leave.

Read the five biggest stories of the week in The Week That Was sponsored by Suitmate.

The Week That Was #1: FINA World Cup Budapest: Emma McKeon Crushes 50.58, Tom Shields Breaks American Record

world-cup-MCKEON Emma LON London Roar (LON) ISL International Swimming League 2021 Match 6 day 1 Piscina Felice Scandone Napoli, Naples Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Emma McKeon — Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

By David Rieder

Australia’s Emma McKeon is only months removed from the meet of her career and the most prolific Olympic performance ever by a female swimmer. She won seven medals total at the Tokyo Games, four of them gold, and two of those golden efforts came in individual events, the 100 freestyle and 50 freestyle. And after a quick post-Olympics break, McKeon has has steadily built back up to elite form during her brief short course season.

This week, McKeon is competing at the FINA World Cup (short course) in Budapest, and McKeon posted the highlight swim of the third and final day of the event. In the 100 freestyle, she swam a 50.58. That tied the World Cup record of 50.58 set by Sarah Sjostrom back in 2017, a mark that was, at the time, the world record.

The only swimmer to ever go faster is McKeon’s fellow Australian Cate Campbell, who swam a 50.25 for the world record in October 2017. McKeon will be back in action during the ISL playoffs in November in Eindhoven and then the ISL final early next year, so she will have more chances to chase Campbell’s record — or perhaps even the vaunted 50-second barrier. Already, McKeon has become the second-fastest performer in history in the long course 100 free (51.96), so we’ll see if she has a magical short course performance in store over the next few months.

Meanwhile, 30-year-old American Tom Shields has recorded a very successful streak of racing in Europe over the past two months. After five weeks in Naples where he helped the LA Current secure a spot in the International Swimming League (ISL) playoffs with consistently strong performances and five individual wins, Shields has been impressive during the two stops of the FINA World Cup, in Berlin last week and now in Budapest. The latest of those efforts resulted in an American record.

In Berlin, Shields topped South Africa’s Chad le Clos in the 50 and 100 butterfly and finished a close second in the 200 fly, and in Budapest, he has won all three of those events. His third butterfly victory, in the 50-meter sprint, saw him break Caeleb Dressel’s American record in the event, a 22.04 set last year. Shields clocked 21.96, making him only the sixth man in history to break 22. Shields’ previous best was a 22.09 from the Berlin meet six days earlier.

And that was not all for Shields on the day. He has focused almost exclusively on butterfly for the entirety of his professional career, but during his high school days, he was a standout 200 freestyler, and during his college swimming career at Cal-Berkeley, he swam the 100-yard back — and won three individual NCAA titles in the event. With his butterfly work done for the meet, Shields revisited backstroke for a one-off and turned in a dominant performance. He swam a 50.50 to win the 100 back, more than a second ahead of runner-up Yakov Toumarkin of Israel (51.64).

#2: USC Coach Jeremy Kipp Placed on Administrative Leave Following Investigation

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By David Rieder

Jeremy Kipp, the head women’s and men’s swimming coach at the University of Southern California since May 2020, has been placed on administrative leave. According to a report from the Orange County Register, the move was made after Kipp was under investigation for “multiple allegations of abuse… including that he threw a water bottle at a swimmer.”

USC confirmed the news to Swimming World late Saturday evening and also confirmed that associate head coach Lea Loveless Maurer, a two-time medalist at the 1992 Olympics and former head women’s coach at Stanford, will be the interim head coach. USC provided a brief statement on the matter but declined to share any specifics on the situation.

“The well-being of our student-athletes is our top priority. When a concern is raised about a coach or staff member, the university takes it seriously and looks into it.

“Coach Jeremy Kipp is on administrative leave. We are unable to provide further details because of the confidential nature of personnel matters.”

According to the Register, USC athletic director Mike Bohm informed the team about the move in a meeting Friday. Kipp will be able to appeal his decision, but it is unclear how this situation will develop in the coming weeks and months.

The Week That Was #3: Femke Heemskerk To Retire After The ISL Season With Olympic, World And European Titles

HEEMSKERK Femke NED Nederland Celebrate 100m Freestyle Women Final Swimming Budapest - Hungary 22/5/2021 Duna Arena XXXV LEN European Aquatic Championships Photo Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Femke Heemskerk — Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

By Liz Byrnes

Femke Heemskerk will retire after the conclusion of the International Swimming League season following a career that has encompassed Olympic, world and European titles.

The 34-year-old competed at four Olympics, winning gold on her Games debut at Beijing 2008 as part of the Netherlands 400 freestyle relay team.

She was a member of the quartet who won silver four years later at London 2012 and on top of her Olympic medals, Heemskerk will leave the pool with eight world – two of them gold – and 18 European medals, including three trips to the top of the podium.

There were also seven world short-course titles among a haul of 18 and 14 European 25m medals of which five were gold.

Heemskerk’s astonishing longevity was underlined this year when she won her first individual international long-course title at the age of 33 with victory over 100 freestyle in Budapest.

At the Tokyo Olympics in July, Heemskerk reached the 100 free final where she placed sixth.

Now she has announced she will retire following the ISL in which she will compete for Energy Standard at the Pieter van den Hoogenband Swimming Stadium in Eindhoven, Netherlands, with the playoffs starting next month.

Should Energy qualify for the final as expected, she will conclude her fine career January 7-8 with the host city yet to be announced.

#4: Olympians Katie Grimes, Michael Brinegar Capture Titles at Las Vegas Open Water Cup

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Erica Sullivan congratulates Katie Grimes (right) after Grimes qualified for her first Olympic team — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By John Lohn

A pair of United States Olympians from the Tokyo Games last summer captured titles at the Las Vegas Open Water Champions Cup on Friday. Katie Grimes and Michael Brinegar won their respective 10K races, which were held in Lake Las Vegas, and added U.S. National Team nods in open water to their earlier National Team status in the pool.

Grimes, who was the youngest member of the U.S. squad in Tokyo, delivered a dominant performance in the women’s race in Vegas. Grimes produced a winning mark of 1:56:23.87, which easily bettered the 1:57:11.45 of Brooke Travis, who was the second-place finisher. They were followed in the top five by Mariah DeniganLeah DeGeorge and Abby Dunford.

Grimes represented the United States in the 800 freestyle at the Olympics, placing fourth and just missing a spot on the podium. Grimes was 1.03 seconds behind bronze medalist Simona Quadarella of Italy.

On the men’s side, Brinegar comfortably prevailed in a time of 1:40:22.79, which was more than 20 seconds clear of the 1:40:46.75 of runnerup David Heron. Completing the top five were Brennan GravleySimon Lamar and Dylan Gravley. While Heron claimed his ninth National Team nod, Lamar earned his first.

Brinegar’s open-water success followed a summer in which he qualified for the Olympic Games in the 800 freestyle and 1500 freestyle. The distance ace was 17th in both events.

The top-five finishers among both genders picked up National Team recognition. Already named to the National Team for their open-water exploits were Olympians Jordan WilimovskyHaley Anderson and Ashley Twichell.

The Week That Was #5: Mike Litzinger Resigns from Notre Dame, Retires from Coaching

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By Matthew De George

Notre Dame coach Mike Litzinger has resigned as the head coach of the Notre Dame swimming and diving program, the school announced in a cryptic statement Monday. It added that, “in doing so (Litzinger) has also announced his intention to retire from the sport of swimming.”

Litzinger was hired by Notre Dame in 2015 after a successful tenure at North Carolina. He coached the women’s programs at St. Bonaventure from 1989-96 and the men’s and women’s teams at the University of Utah in 2000-07. He was hired by the University of North Carolina in 2007 and elevated to associate head coach of the Tar Heels in 2011.

“Making changes in the leadership of one of our programs is never easy, especially at the start of the competitive season, but recent events convinced Mike and me that a change in the direction of our program was necessary,” Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick said in the statement.

The university also cancelled a dual meet schedule for this week in order to reorganize and “develop an interim plan” for the season.

Associate head coach Aaron Bell is also no longer with Notre Dame. Diving coach Mark Bradshaw remains, and Notre Dame will search for a replacement.

Litzinger was the subject of a lawsuit filed earlier this year by former associate head coach April Jensen, alleging gender discrimination and the creation of an “intolerable” work environment by Litzinger.

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