Monday, January 30, 2012

The Musings of a Paranoid Team USA Fan

Is it only a matter of time before this is the world's best swimmer?
Each year, for the last four years, I've reached a point in the competitive swim calendar where I start a full scale panic about Team USA and their future. The rest of the world starts to hold their earlier trials meets, drop pretty fast times, rocket to the top of world rankings, and I predict the end of Team USA.  Each year I've pretty much been wrong. That won't stop me from doing it again.

This year we're off to our earliest ever start. It's only January, and no significant trials competitions have yet been held. That's what makes it scarier than last year. Over the weekend a small group of Chinese swimmers blew the hinges off in an Australian meet.

The intrepid Craig Lord has a report on the meet, although I'll sum it up in a much more digestible form. Sun Yang (you're supposed to remember his name now since he broke the world record in the 1500) went 3:42 400 free. Behind him an 18 year old named Li Yunqi (3:45.49) and a 16 year old named Hao Yun (3:45.69).

How fast is that? The fastest American of any age last year was Peter Vanderkaay, barely ahead of the two teenagers with a 3:44.83. The fastest American 18 year olds were both 3:51.

Let that simmer for a moment- there is now an event where the Chinese men (!!!) have not only arguably the best swimmer, but also way better youngsters than the US. I guess that's why the panic feels more real this year than ever. Amazingly, Craig refused to speculate about whether the Chinese swimmers were part of an evil, systematic doping program. Cue the troll posting under the name "Predicta57" on TSC:

"East Germany X 10"

"Compare the last lap of his [Sun Yang's] mile to the last lap of Phelps and Lochte’s 200 free….. Or even Nathan Adrian’s second lap of his 100 free relay split.
Step back…… Use logic……. Not emotion."
Only problem: most of these Chinese stars are training out of the shadows of their countries' repressive media in Australia. In my opinion, the US has been able to retain swimming dominance by having a large, relatively wealthy populace and good infrastructure. Sure, our actual development of talent is rather inefficient when compared to many European countries, but it hasn't mattered very much given our huge population advantage. China has a population advantage but relatively weak infrastructure and talent development, plus the spectre of drug cheating in its past. They've found a way to use another countries' (mainly Australia) fare more efficient system with their huge talent base.
They're only getting started, which is why the rational part of my brain concludes that team USA, with its large roster of surefire stars, will retain its place of swimming dominance in London. Still, there is increasing evidence that the gap on the men's side between the post-Hansen, Peirsol, Phelps, Lochte generation and their worldwide peers. Rio 2016 may be the dawn of a very different swimming age. 


  1. Everytime I see that picture I want to send him the contact info of a good orthodontist.

    1. RUDE!!! It's not cool to make fun of people's appearances. Not everyone can afford an orthodontist.

    2. You are right, not everyone can afford one. If I was as serious as you were about everything that I read on the interwebs or saw on the TeeVee, I would kiick my own butt...

      Relax, "Anonymous Coward", it was just a joke...

    3. rude comments and name calling - real mature!

    4. Sun Yang ...aka: Anon

      is obviously very sensitive. stop picking is big honking twisted teeth.

    5. Hydro - you'd make a great addition to USA Swimming staff or Board of Directors!

  2. haha @ the orthodontist comment!

    But I have to agree, the Chinese are scaring the crap out of me.

  3. He does really need an orthodontist though..... you'd think a favored athlete in that system could get one...