PHOENIX, Arizona, December 23. BEFORE we sit down in front of the Christmas tree and open our gifts, let’s look back on an amazing week in aquatic sports that included a nailbiting finish to a big swim meet, some pro swimmers collecting big cash, and some young swimmers continuing to break records. What do you say we get started with number five on our countdown.
Starting off this week’s countdown at number five is SwimMAC Carolina’s third consecutive victory as USA Swimming’s top team in the Club Excellence program. You could say it wasn’t even close, with runner-up Nation’s Capital well back in terms of points. The Club Excellence program has always rewarded the top teams with gold, silver or bronze distinctions based on results in the pool, giving a certain amount of points to a club for each swim that at least beats specified time standards. All teams that get gold and silver distinctions get some part of the $350,000 grant money pool to use as they please to make their teams better. In the past, Club Excellence points were given to a team’s athletes regardless of age, but in the past three or four years, USA Swimming changed the rules to limit recognition for 18-and-under athletes. SwimMAC Carolina has routinely been a top-flight age group program, with junior national team titles to prove it.
The Salnikov Cup in Russia is usually an exciting meet in Moscow, highlighted by the men’s 1500 freestyle in honor of the event’s namesake, Olympic champion Vladimir Salnikov. But the two biggest stories of the meet came from the women’s side of competition, and that takes up number four on our countdown. Katinka Hosszu typically signs up for, and races, just about every event there, in an attempt to not only win lots of money but get in crucial racing experience. But she and her husband/coach Shane Tusup decided to scale back after Hosszu had some subpar swims at the European championships. Hosszu only raced twice and won both races: the 200 fly and the 100 IM. The big fireworks took place in the women’s 50 breast, when Yulia Efimova made a run at her short course meters world record of 28.71, but was just a little short with a 28.77. Efimova has been on a roll this year in the breaststrokes, and a world record bonus check would have been a great early Christmas present.
Taking the number three spot on the Week That Was is Michael Andrew’s national age group record in the 100-yard freestyle at the Chesapeake Pro-Am Elite meet in Oklahoma City. Andrew posted a 44.73 in a time trial to beat Ryan Hoffer’s record of 44.81 in the 1314 age group. With that swim, Andrew now has all four of the 100-yard national age group records in the 13-14 age group, a feat that not even Michael Phelps could achieve. Though there’s no indication that Andrew is thinking of going after the 200s in the 13-14 age group, he might have his eyes now on Hoffer’s 50 free record of 20.02 with the hopes of being the youngest male under 20 seconds in the 50.
Coming in at number two on this week’s countdown is Cate Campbell’s amazing 52.69 in the long course 100 freestyle at the Queensland championships down under in Australia. Campbell, as you may remember, won the 100 free at the world championships, and she has the distinction of breaking 53 seconds not once, not twice, but three times before last week, something no one else had done in 2013. Her fastest of the year still stands at 52.33, and her swim last week was likely a statement that Campbell is still going to be the women to beat next year at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacific championships. To put it in perspective how far she is ahead of the global field, Sarah Sjostrom is the only other woman to break 53 in the 100 free this year. How many times will Campbell break 53 in 2014? I can’t wait to find out.
And now here we are at number one in this week’s countdown of the top swimming headlines of the week. Of course, it’s the one-point victory by Team USA over the European All-Stars in Scotland at the Duel in the Pool. Europe came out strong very early in the meet, leading by 14 points after the first day. It certainly didn’t help that one of the team’s stars, Katie Ledecky, was sick there, and Europe was also hampered a bit by Ranomi Kromowidjojo withdrawing from the meet due to illness. But the fans in attendance likely were excited by the competition, which featured four American records and a world record in the 200 mixed medley relay by the United States to win the tiebreaker event and keep the Duel in the Pool streak alive at six straight. That relay of Eugene Godsoe, Kevin Cordes, Claire Donahue and Simone Manuel beat Europe by two tenths of a second to take the win. Though past editions of this meet would have suggested that the Duel in the Pool was a waste of a couple of days of competition with the United States clearly showing its dominance, this year’s meet ensures that the Duel will be back for another battle in 2015. You know Europe is going to make sure to get all of the continent’s top talent to show up, but the United States will likely counter as well. Missy Franklin will be done with her two-year stint racing for Cal by that time, and Ryan Lochte should be back in prime racing shape.
That’s going to do it for this edition of the Week That Was. We’re going to be back with a new show on January 6, as The Week That Was becomes, just for one show, the Year That Was, as we look back on the top stories of 2013. Enjoy the holidays everyone, and celebrate it safely.