Outside of the Olympic period, you rarely see swimming, gymnastics, and track & field televised, and there are no stadiums full of spectators at these sports every week. The reality is that they are not that interesting to watch – except at the time of the Olympics it seems. It is football (whatever code), basketball, baseball, cricket and many other sports that are more popular with the fans week in and week out. At Olympic time, unfortunately, it is not just the sports fans that are watching, so the most entertaining sports are not necessarily the most watched and getting the most attention.
What is with all the Australian swimmers coming back from retirement? First, it was butterfly swimmer Geoff Huegill, who made a successful comeback to the Commonwealth Games, including shedding a huge amount of post-competitive weight, then announced he would continue until the 2012 London Olympics.
More recently, Ian Thorpe told us he has been secretly training for three months, losing a bit of weight too no doubt and is back on track for the Olympics too. Not to be left behind, ex-teammate Michael Klim has also announced he is coming back from retirement. Can’t these guys make up their mind? I always thought that retirement is just that, let yourself go and enjoy just being a spectator. Of course, the desire to be out there competing may still be there, but usually, the body has made the decision for you.
Come on, move over and let the next batch of swimmers do their thing. They are not going to be satisfied with anything less than what they achieved in their previous career, and they are only setting themselves up for embarrassment. Well, at least that will be entertaining.
February 27th, 2009 · Comments Off on Unfair Advantage for Swimmers · Swimming
The controversial high tech swimming suits have been in the sporting news since the Beijing Olympic Games, and have undoubtedly aided swimmers to achieved 108 world records since the Speedo LZR Racer was introduced in February 2008. Athletes have always looked for any advantage they can get over their competition, usually within the rules. The current rules enable athletes to wear these suits, which basically make them more streamlined, reducing resistance in the water. Although it is within the rules to wear these suits, is it really any different to doping, which also artificially assist the performance of athletes?
If not all athletes can afford to have a suit, those that can’t are disadvantaged. But so are those athletes that cannot afford to have their own coach or access to quality pool facilities or gym training equipment By making money one of the prerequisites for success in swimming, it becomes an elite sport that is only available for the elite, and I am sure that world swimming body would not be happy with that. The suits are currently banned, at least in Australia, for all junior competition. FINA is currently meeting to decide what to do about it, and let’s hope that they ban it completely. When athletes compete against each other, we want to know who is the best swimmer, not who can afford to be.
FINA decided on these regulations to be in place from the World Championships in 2009: (1) Suit no more than 1 mm thick (2) suits not to extend past the shoulders or ankles (3) no tailored suits (4) no more than one suit at a time.
The swimmer Michael Phelps may have won the most number of Olympic gold medals ever at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, but does that qualify him to be called the greatest ever Olympian?
Being the world’s major sporting event, the Olympics has had its share of champions and success stories. It is always difficult to compare athletes of different sports yet alone different eras. Other notable Olympic Champions which would give him a run for his money in the best ever category include Carl Lewis (U.S., track and field), Paavo Nurmi (Finland, track and field), Larisa Latynina (Soviet Union, gymnastics), Birgit Fischer-Schmidt (Germany, kayak), and Steven Redgrave (United Kingdom, rowing). Probably others too.
Comparing Phelps to Mark Spitz is the easiest as it is in the same sport, and Phelps wins that comparison. The flaw in this argument is using the number of gold medals as the benchmark, as swimming has more medals on offer than most other sports, consequently, it is relatively easier to pick up a bag of medals.
Phelps may well be the greatest ever, but I think it is too close to call. Let’s just wait until he finishes his career. If he does the same again in London 2012, then there may be no question about him being the greatest ever.
Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe is arguably one of the greatest swimmers the world has ever seen. In November last year, he announced his retirement from swimming after 10 years on the Australian team, citing that he has lost the desire. Today the news is that just prior to his announcement he may have tested positive for testosterone, and this has made people think that it may be related.
French newspaper L’Equipe has reported that he showed abnormally high readings for testosterone and luteinizing hormone in 2006, and international swimming body FINA has appealed for a fresh investigation into that test. This could be a big reality check for swimming fans who think that the sport is clean. Everyone is human, and even “squeaky clean” Ian Thorpe could possibly succumb to the pressures to perform. We are yet to hear all the details, but hopefully, such reports will keep both the drug testers and drug cheats on their toes and continue the cleaning up of drug use in sports.
Even though it is a shock to many sports fans, swimmer Ian Thorpe’s retirement today comes as no surprise. He is quoted as saying that “there are things in my life that are more important to me and I have to pursue them now”. He said he has lost the desire to swim at the elite level, though the truth may be that he has lost the ability to win at the elite level, and as his own expectations are so high he did not want to compete if he could not continue to win and break records.
I fear that without competing at the highest level, his public profile will decrease, his worth to sponsors will decrease, and his ability to continue the lifestyle and business interests that he currently has will decrease also.
Is Ian Thorpe fat? In a country where we have a real obesity problem, there are people calling one of the world’s greatest swimmers fat because he may have put on a couple of pounds.
If he is out of shape, he has shown by his determination and previous workrate that he could easily get himself back to top form. It is most likely that he was just photographed in a non-flattering pose while eating junk food.
And there is nothing wrong with an elite sportsperson having some junk food every now and then. As part of a balanced diet, there is room for all types of food. As a swimmer, he would burn copious amounts of calories before most of us are even out of bed, and so he would need to eat a large quantity of food to provide his energy needs.
Let’s wait for the next major championship where he puts himself against the world’s best before we criticize him any more.
It has recently been announced that the Beijing Olympic Committee are considering turning the swimming program on it’s head, so that the swimming finals at the 2008 Olympic Games are in the morning and the heats in the evening.
The reason for this is so the finals are on at prime time in the US. I have no problem with this, and I think the swimmers should welcome it. Although the world’s top swimmers are professional athletes, as with all sports, there are able to be professionals due to sponsors and the public who enjoy watching them perform.
By swimming their finals in the morning they are able to satisfy both of these groups. Physiologically, they should be more than capable of swimming their best in the morning. Look at every swimmer’s training program, and you will see that they are up early every day doing laps in the pool. If the Olympic program is switched around, you will see all the lead up meets also change their program around so they can get used to the new schedule.
I have also always wondered about how fresh the swimmers are after swimming several heats in the morning then coming out later that day to swim in their finals. Having to come to the pool fresh each day to race their finals, we may well see better performances – then we will not be hearing any complaints.