In this special edition of The Week That Was, we take a look back at the five biggest stories to come out of the year 2017. This includes historic performances, Olympic news, new leadership and phenomenal competitions. Welcome to The Year That Was!
The Year That Was #5 – Budapest Puts on a Show at World Championships
In March of 2015, Budapest agreed to step in and host the 17th edition of the FINA World Championships. It was short notice, but after Guadalajara, Mexico, withdrew its bid to host the meet, Hungary’s capital city stepped up. Big time.
An electrified crowd of more than 12,000 filled the Duna Arena for eight nights of swimming, with synchro, diving and water polo receiving similar first-class treatment. Outside the arena, a fan zone held food trucks and a large screen for fans to catch up on events happening elsewhere in the city. Oh, and all events except open water took place on the banks of the Danube River, so fans could walk along or take a water taxi as they explored the phenomenal city.
As strong as the competition was at the World Championships, the host performed just as admirably.
The Year That Was #4 – Stanford Women Reign at NCAA Championships
Stanford’s Greg Meehan won his first team title as a head coach in his fifth year on the job, and the effort was keyed by his superstars, Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel.
In her much-anticipated NCAA debut, Ledecky won three NCAA titles, setting an American record in the 500 yard free, dominating the 1650 free and tying for the top spot in the 200 free. Manuel won the 50 and 100 free, crushing her own American record in the latter event. Ella Eastin also added individual wins in the 400 IM and 200 fly for the Cardinal.
After Stanford’s commanding 144.5-point victory last March—its first NCAA team championship in 19 years—Meehan could be on the verge of an NCAA dynasty with Ledecky, Manuel and Eastin all returning this year. While two-time U.S. Olympian Lia Neal graduated, Stanford brought in a phenomenal recruiting class, led by Brooke Forde.
The Year That Was #3 – New Leadership for USA Swimming
USA Swimming got a new CEO and a new face leading its national team in 2017. The CEO change came under the most tragic of circumstances, as longtime leader Chuck Wielgus passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer.
In his stead, USA Swimming hired Tim Hinchey, previously in charge of the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer. Hinchey came from the world of land sports, but he swam competitively through college at UC-Irvine and continues to compete as a Masters swimmer.
Meanwhile, Frank Busch stepped down after six years as national team director, and USA Swimming stayed in-house for his replacement, elevating Lindsay Mintenko. Mintenko, an Olympic gold medalist who swam for Team USA at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, retained her title as national team managing director. The entire national team division is now overseen by USA Swimming COO Mike Unger.
The Year That Was #2 – New Events Added to Olympic Swimming Schedule for 2020; Hosts for 2024 and 2028 Announced
The International Olympic Committee made some additions to the Olympic swimming schedule for the 2020 Olympics before announcing the cities that will host the Olympic Games in both 2024 and 2028.
In June, the IOC announced that the women’s 1500 meter free, men’s 800 free and mixed 400 medley relay would be added to the program. There will now be 35 pool events contested at the Games in 2020 (plus two in open water), after the pool schedule sat at 32 from 1996 until 2016. These additions have been widely embraced within the swimming community.
With the addition of the two new distance events, women and men will compete in the exact same events at the Olympic Games for the first time ever. The mixed medley relay will bring women and men to compete together in the same event for the first time in Olympic swimming history.
In September, the IOC picked Paris to host the 2024 Summer Olympics and Los Angeles to host in 2028. Those were the only two cities remaining in the bidding for 2024, after Rome, Hamburg and Budapest dropped out. The IOC then made the unprecedented decision to award two different Games at the same time.
Paris and Los Angeles will each host the Olympics for the third time, with the Games previously held in the French capital in 1900 and 1924, and the “City of Angels” in 1932 and 1984. London is the only other city to host the Summer Games three times (1908, 1948, 2012).
The Year That Was #1 – Caeleb Dressel’s Seven Gold Medals Lead Team USA to Historic World Championships
In the first major meet for a U.S. national team this century without either Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte, 20-year-old Floridian Caeleb Dressel emerged as the world’s best male swimmer as he spearheaded a record-tying medal haul for Team USA at the FINA World Championships in Budapest.
Dressel had already demonstrated his potential in the sprints through his dominant swims at the NCAA Championships. But the rest of the world does not swim short course yards, so it was not until July that the world came to realize just how good he is, when he won gold medals in the men’s 50 and 100 meter free and in the 100 fly at Worlds.
Dressel closed in on world records in all four races, finishing no more than a quarter-second away each time. He also led four American relays to gold medals. In the end, he became only the second man in history—after Phelps—to win seven golds at World Champs, and on Day 7 in Budapest, he became the first person ever to win three gold medals in one night.
And Dressel was not a one-man show. Team USA won 38 swimming medals in Budapest, matching the most any country had ever won at FINA’s showcase event—a remarkable feat, even considering the addition of mixed relays to the Worlds program in 2015 and the addition of stroke 50s and extra distance events back in 2001. In addition to Dressel, Katie Ledecky, Lilly King and Chase Kalisz all won multiple individual gold medals for Team USA.