Tuesday, August 7, 2012

2012 Olympic Swimming Retrospect

What can be said for Swimming in the 2012 Olympics but that it was completely unpredictable and full of upsets (depending on who's perspective, I guess). I reference everyone back to my piece on Canadian Olympic Trials in March/April and why we love sports so much - and to steal one of my own quotes - "I feel more alive experiencing the onslaught emotions that I had last week (excitement, fear, happiness, empathy, disappointment and elation). I felt like I was somehow involved in everyone of those races and everyone of those story lines even though none of them had anything to do with me at all. I bet a lot of you felt the same way."
I was totally engrossed in the swimming coverage (when I wasn't stuck at the Talisman Centre in Calgary without the ability to watch). Here are some of the notes that I kept during the meet:

1.) Michael Phelps Vs. Ryan Lochte: 
Michael Phelps is one hell of an athlete. This seems like a no-brainer, but clearly it isn't. Winning 8 Gold Medals in the 2008 Games was not easy and he almost didn't do it twice. It seems insulting to me that USA Swimming made the assertion that Lochte and Missy Franklin were the new Phelps. 
What made Phelp's achievement so spectacular (and the reason why no one else has ever done it) was that he won 8 events against an onslaught of the best athletes from every country around the world in all different disciplines, breaking world records along the way. This isn't something you attempt on a long shot; he was showing that he was the best there ever was in the sport. Now I'm all for breaking barriers, but its a little unrealistic to think that every good swimmer will be good at literally everything, and it looked like USA Swimming assuming that they had another Michael Phelps in Ryan Lochte. I have a special respect for Ryan; he is a spectacular swimmer and extremely fan friendly... but he is no Michael Phelps. Lochte was recently quoted as saying that his rivalry with Phelps is the "greatest in history" (which I think is him trying desperately to cling to Phelps's legacy) ... but I disagree... Phelps is a far superior swimmer; Lochte has a far superior agent. Had Ryan Lochte appeared before or after Michael Phelps's dominance, I'm sure he would be viewed the way he wants to be viewed.

2.) Who needs rules?: 
- Craziness from day 1 when Park was disqualified for a false start and then reinstated an hour later (knocking Ryan Cochrane out of the final). 
- Some controversy over illegal dolphin kicks in the mens 100BR, when Cameron van der Burgh (who broke the world record and won the gold) was caught on camera doing illegal dolphin kicks and admitted to it afterwards with no repercussions. 
- Sun Yang's got a pass on his false start in the mens 1500FR due to "crowd noise" 
- And there is always this gem...
- Much controversy in other sports as well as questionable calls came in through gymnastics and soccer (although, in my opinion, there is always controversy coming from judging in these sports).

3.) Doubt in your mind: Swim Swam was the first website that I saw catch on to this.
Everyone assuming that this woman must be doping in order to swim this fast... but is it possible that the world's most dominant woman IM'er might not speak english or live in the USA? Is it possible that the next Phelps may not be an American Man..?

4.) The rest of the world caught up: I guess that it wasn't assumed that the rest of the world would study Phelps and other top athletes to build athletes to challenge him. I guess that the USA thought they were the only ones that could with Lochte... however, while Lochte was touting himself great and trying for as many events as possible, the rest of the world put up some pretty good swimmers in single events. Phelps was beaten a couple of times but the gap between his world records and the rest of the field was less, which means that the sport is getting faster... and less dominated by the "usual suspects" (USA, RUSSIA, AUSTRALIA).

5.) FRANCE!!!: I remember telling several people 5 or 6 months ago that the French were going to be a huge team this summer. What an Olympics for them! I got a few texts and emails during the games from people saying "who would have thought France was so good"... I hate to say I told you so.

6.) It's hard to survive with a target on your back: Phelps, Lochte, Soni and Franklin all saw this first hand, but there were so many upsets. Good for Ryan Cochrane and Brent Hayden for moving up the ladder. Cochrane, for sure, had a target on his back and good on him for moving up in the standings.

7.) I think there are going to be a few athlete's agents fired after these games... or at least a lot of agents being really nice to their clients.

UPDATE: I'm not sure how many of you saw this episode of Off The Deck that was recorded last week with Tobias Oriwol Live from the London Olympics, but its pretty cool. Check it out.