Thursday, July 19, 2012

Olympic Preview: Europe

Gyurta's textbook form
Here in the US, we have a clear strategy for familiarizing citizens with "America's Swim Team". Trials are the introduction, and in between we do our best to make sure that even casual fans feel like they know someone besides Phelps, Lochte and Coughlin (Franklin?). There is a tendency, however, for even the more serious fan to get to the meet and exclaim "Where did that guy come from?". I'll call this the "Domenico Fioravanti" phenomenon.

In the 2000 Olympics, most Americans knew who Ed Moses was thanks to some serious promotion by NBC. If they followed a little more closely, Roman Sloudnov was billed as has archnemesis. When the 100 breaststroke went off, Domenico Fioravanti got his hand on the wall 1st and a lot of people were asking themselves "where did that guy come from?" even though his win wasn't that unlikely. In an effort to help the readers of this blog, here's a list of European athletes that could be "that" guy in the London Olympics and a paragraph you can memorize and say smugly to your friends.

Daniel Gyurta: Seriously guys, you don't know who Daniel Gyurta is? He's only been crazy fast since bursting from the womb with a world class breaststroke. He first broke into the top 25 in his best event (the 200 breaststroke) in 2003 at age 14. He's basically the Hungarian Michael Phelps, if Phelps had never progressed beyond being a world class 200 butterflyer or developed his technique whatsoever. Despite being far less versatile, Gyurta has a far better chance to win gold than countrymen Laszlo Cseh, who suffers similarly from technical issues. In general, European swimmers have great fitness in relation to their American counterparts, but questionable technique holds them back. No country swings farther in this direction than Hungary, where world class swimmers like Gyurta endure grueling training and coaches think Dick Schoulberg is too low volume.

Camille Lacourt: Ugh, how could you guys not have followed the 2010 European Championships?? (Your friends stare at you blankly, pondering the existence of swim meets outside of every four years, or even swim meets in which the US does not participate). Lacourt seemed destined back then to be the first legitimate threat to the US in the 100 backstroke since Mark Tewksbury (yes, definitely drop Mark Tewksbury in there). In fact, he looked like more than a threat, coming close to breaking Aaron Piersol's "suited" world record. Lacourt hasn't backed those efforts up too well since then, with rumors swirling (I hope you're sitting down for this) that modeling has been a big distraction from his training. Obviously modeling is a much bigger deal in France because I can't walk two feet without seeing Ryan Lochte gazing wistfully into the sunset and he seems to be swimming just fine.

Pal Joensen: What's that? Some idiot from Canada wrote about the 1500 and didn't even mention the guy who took 4th in the 1500 at World Championships last year as somebody who could possibly medal? I guess that's my cue to start blaring from my own personal Joensen bandwagon again. While it may be a longer shot for Joensen to win the 1500, your opportunity to display Joensen knowledge may come early on in the 1500, when Dan Hicks may be forced to concede that "Jones-son" is right with Sun Yang. Even if Joensen makes the final, you can impress your friends by saying he's "not really" from Denmark. Also, make up your own pronunciation for Vagur (his hometown). Who will be able to tell the difference? For extra points, if Joensen medals you could say you saw this coming way back in December when a guy from an archipelago with more sheep than people, no 50 meter pools, and where 60 degrees and sunny is the best case scenario for weather completely smoked Peter Vanderkaay in an 800 free. 

Yannick Agnel: Saving the best for last because, honestly, nobody else has the potential Agnel has to leave most of America stunned in their seats during the tape delay broadcast of finals. Agnel has the potential to win the 200 free. If he does, he will likely do it over Ryan Lochte. The chain reaction from that is something I don't think America has nearly prepared for. Lets break it down:

1. It will mean that some French "kid" who was swimming at Juniors a couple years ago beat our "#1" swimmer
2. Only, it's our "#1" swimmer who actually took 2nd in this event at Trials to Michael Phelps
3. Ergo, Michael Phelps is a traitor for ditching the 200 free.

And, scene.

1 comment:

  1. Gyurta seems to have a delay between shooting his hands forward and putting his head in the water, which gives his stroke a strange disjointed look.

    Cseh's butterfly is just the ugliest thing ever.