Saturday, June 30, 2012

Yep This is a Photo of me With Craig Lord

Earlier in the week, I noticed that my favorite Chinese drug cheating/bodysuit obsessed writer was in the house here in Omaha. From that point on, I knew I had one mission- I had to meet Craig Lord.

My opportunity came tonight when I snuck into the media zone and found him alone banging away at his laptop. As far as I could tell his caps key was completely functional. I said "excuse me" and Craig whipped around. He gave me a broad smile and a firm handshake. He made sure to let me know that he enjoyed the back and forth, and in order to confirm the authenticity of that I asked him for this photo. Craig consented with some trepidation- I had to promise to be nice in this post.

Here's what else I learned in my brief chat with Craig:

1. He also wants to know just how big USA swimming wants this meet to be. 1800 is too big

2. He's really impressed by a domestic meet that can get 14,000 fans

3. He's part of a secret group of shadowy swimming power brokers that rule the sport with an invisible hand*

*possibly not true

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Shameless Promotion of Trials Features

So far I've lost 5 pounds covering the Olympic Trials. While that's more of a reflection of my pre-Trials shape rather than the physical demands of not-competing, there's still a lot of running around, late nights, coffee drinking, and interviews to gather. I'm now back in Brooklyn writing and working remotely, so I have some free time to share with anyone who cares what I've been doing in Omaha. Here are a few features I've written on the website:

What Matt Grevers Learned. 

Claire Donahue Seizes Her Moment.

Replacing Third Place Tears.

Where Dreams Come True. 

I also write bad jokes on Twitter, in case you're interested in not laughing. My Twitter handle is @MikeLGustafson.

Finally, is anyone else already depressed that Trials will be over soon? I'm almost contemplating DVRing Trials and watching only three seconds every day just to prolong the event until the Olympics.... Or maybe I should just find this guy.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Resisting the Panic Button

(Note: Every Year I have multiple panic attacks about the chances of our men's 4x100 Relay Usually it resolves itself by this point. What follows is one man's struggle not to hit the panic button before tomorrows final)

Tonight I pictured Leigh Nugent, Australian National Team Coach, watching our men's 100 free prelims and semi's from a secret lair. With each swim he cackled with joy. Why shouldn't he? While Nathan Adrian improved significantly on the 49.0 that led prelims with his 48.3, Nugent appears to have not one but two hammers to bang on his US competitors in the 4x100.

Meanwhile, Yannick Agnel looked up from his twice daily wine and cheese party to stare down his nose at the results. He then ignored another text message from Alain Bernard asking "yo what you up to tonight*"

*however you say that in French

In Moscow, Vladimir Putin gathered the Russian squad and stared at them really intensely for nearly an hour, hoping to convey that they better win...or else.*

*they would be forced to run against him in the next election

Italy has no idea what happened because their internet was turned off earlier in the month for no reason in particular.

Finally, British sprinter Adam Brown burst in to tell his teammates the results and comment "I reckon we've got a shot now don't we?". And I laughed and felt better.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Feel Like Gambling?

Consider for a moment two possible scenarios. In one, you are given a 40% chance to win a million dollars. In another, you receive a million up front, but then are forced into a 40% shot to lose it. On a gut level, the first scenario is more appealing even though your odds at a million are worse. It's a scenario that has a lot to do with the psychology of swimming.

Every swimmer has a tipping point where they are less excited about what they could possibly accomplish and more worried about losing what they've already accomplished. The most famous example at this meet is Michael Phelps, who four years ago sat on the biggest pile of swimming accomplishment ever won. Since then he's been mostly trying not to lose it rather than beat it. It took a lot of ambition to gamble for more than anyone had won before- everyone has their limits.

Yet this phenomenon takes place on all scales and isn't always so predictable. One could forgive Allison Schmitt for growing defensive since her breakout in 2008, and yet she seems more assertive than ever. Youth definitely helps- it is unlikely that the likes of Missy Franklin or Rachel Bootsma think they have anything to lose. Meanwhile, Natalie Coughlin was evidence that even a champion's track record and the best coach in the world aren't sure odds for an Olympic spot.

If you had no knowledge of swimmers and were simply picking a squad from the lineup, chances are you would choose the impossibly tall and athletic Matt Grevers. Somehow despite his advantage, Grevers has made his 2nd place finish and world best victory seem less than likely.

Perhaps no swimmer has written the "nothing to lose" narrative better than the yet to swim Dara Torres. She has more money to throw at professional stretchers than most coaches salaries and unmatched talent. She remains paradoxically an underdog, and it's hard to remember when she wasn't. Somehow, the years haven't made her any less willing to take irrational risks than competitors a generation younger. Just add it to the list of things she can teach them: how to gamble in the pool.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

To The Aggressor Goes The Spoils

With Dana Vollmer making the world's fastest time look routine, all eyes were on the second spot in the 100 fly. A quick poll of my seating section favored Claire Donahue. Still, we were frozen- could Donahue dispatch a grizzled veteran like Natalie Coughlin? In fact she could, swimming her own race. She went out with reckless abandon, overcame shaky timing on her turn and never looked back.

Conversely, a lack of aggression put Peter Vanderkaay out of the running for the 4x200 relay. In his place were swimmers like Davis Tarwater, who secured a spot in the final on the strength of a 51.93 front half.

The one swimmer tonight who could afford to swim from behind was Rebecca Soni. Despite a start and pullouts that are at best average for this level she more than makes up for it in sheer dominance on top of the water. Her stroke and tactics defy modeling- they work just finenfornher and your results may vary.

In the men's final, Kevin Cordes gambled with a 27.8 opener. While it didn't pay off in the form of a spot in London, he made his presence known in a field of veterans and reinforced that he may just be a year or two away from seizing the crown.

Allison Schmitt had the swim of the night, breathing life into one of the potentially "weak" events on Team USA with blistering first half. While the world record was never seriously in doubt (much like the longtime Evans standard, it was set on the back half), the race nevertheless electrified the crowd.

The night came in like a lion. While it didn't quite leave a lamb thanks to Bootsma and Franklin, it ended with the typical gamesmanship of semi final heats. Both back strokes await a final where the lessons of night two will be unavoidable.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Finals Cheat Sheet: Omaha Night Two

In the last couple years my wife, Kate, has become more interested in swim meets. As with any sport, putting the competition in context helps. 4:07 in the 400 IM means nothing unless you know how fast it is. So before a big meet, I always make her a cheat sheet of what would be a good swim the swimmers on my team.

So, as a viewing aid for tonight's finals, I am going to do the same. For each final and semi I will give you an idea of what is good and what is not for the swimmers themselves and team USA.

Women's 100 fly: Dana Vollmer has put the world on notice. The lone carrot remaining for her is Sarah Sjostrom's 2009 world record of 56.06. She is already the Olympic favorite mainly due to Sjostrom's inconsistencies. The second place swimmer in this event will need a major step up to put themselves in contention in London: Claire Donahue for instance would need to drop .6 off the swim of her life to match Ellen Gandy's third in the world swim.

Men's 200 free: Lochte and Phelps are 1-2 favorites for London. Anything under 1:45 will be a good result as no domestic swimmer has shown they can challenge that. There is no real drama here- the rest of the field is already fast enough to complete a gold medal relay, its just a matter of who gets on the train.

Women's 100 br: Soni is still mostly competing with herself here and chasing the world record: which stands at 1:04.45. Larson drives the rest of this race, if she improves on her 1:06.5 she will put a lot of pressure on Hardy going into the final, especially with her early speed.

Mens 100 br: Hansen's 59.7 puts him at least in the conversation for a London medal. If he does more than dropping a tenth or two start the Kitajima-Hansen 3 discussion. Otherwise the minute barrier is the borderline for contention, a swim that would be phenomenal for all involved.

Women's 400 free: The top two swims are strong relative to recent US results in this event, which haven't been good. It's going to take all the way down to 4:03 for either to contend in London, a time that would be a huge textile drop for either.

Men's 100 back: Lots of questions to be answered here. Did Grevers go full bore on his 52.9? If he doesn't improve I say yes. The rest of the field swam within a normal range and needs to move up to Grevers level to be world relevant, a tall order for all but Thoman and Plummer.

Women's 100 back: Don't read into Coughlin's swims at all. She will not go close to 100% before the final. For the rest of the contenders 59 keeps them relevant and 58 separates from the world pack.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lighting The Torch: Omaha Night One

As he exited the pool, Tyler Clary gave a frustrated shrug to the crowd. He is the third fastest 400 IMer in the world but he won't compete for a medal. The greatest swimmer of all time decided to drop into his event and he didn't even win. That title went to Ryan Lochte, who dispatched Michael Phelps effortlessly, easing up dramatically at the finish and making a 4:07 look the easiest it has ever looked.

Where once Phelps used to be able to eliminate all his competition within the first half of the race, he now is at best even with Lochte without the breaststroke to contend.

But enough about them. There were better swims to be had. Dana Vollmer summarily broke the American record. Despite her slender frame, she looks like she is leveraging twice the strength of her competitors on every pull.

Elizabeth Beisel showed world best form in the 400 IM. Her swim stands in contrast to her meteoric rise four years ago. She swims with professional precision now. Beisel swam a middle of the pack fly, stormed past the field on backstroke, then held off a world class breaststroker in Leverenz on the third hundred. Unlike Lochte she raced hard throughout, although a closer race could likely take her to a higher level.

The rest was far less impressive. The top two times in the men's 400 free was slow enough that two Brits, or two Danes for that matter, could have locked the Americans out. Despite some breakout performances in the men's 100 breaststroke, that event also lags the world standard. Perhaps Hansen has more in the tank- we'll see tomorrow.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

2 Reasons You're Sore During Taper

Taper is a sacred and loved aspect of swimming. Few other sports provide such long rest placing high importance on a meet. We've discussed taper in the past, but one question I've received from readers which I haven't tackled is:

"G. John, I'm starting to taper for trials, but I feel horrible. Do you have any suggestions?"

Any discussion regarding "feel" has minimal hard evidence, as "feel" is a subjective term. However, during taper, a time where yardage and intensity decrease, one would assume the athlete would continually improve linearly with the amount of recovery.

Two main systems are likely to control soreness during taper:

It's On: Phelps and Lochte

Phelps toying with media and fans alike before the decisive mustache shaving
It was the mustache shaving that launched a thousand blogs (ok maybe just a handful. With one tweet Michael Phelps all but guaranteed the match up that swim fans so desperately wanted in Omaha. That race should and will dominate the first day of the meet. Now that it's moved beyond speculation, what do we make of it?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Why is the Olympic Trials Pool 25 Yards Across?

Today I was happily reading about the ultimate destination of the Olympic trials pool to the Boston area when I stumbled on something curious: the trials pool is short of FINA international standards: It's just 25 yards across, not 25 meters.

I had noticed on the first day that the lanes seemed a little narrow. Why is this? I invite you to use this space to posit theories and get the ball rolling myself:

1. It made the pool easier to donate, because this is America and we hate the metric system

2. More deck space for fancy video equipment and TV production

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Mood on Deck: Pre-Meet Omaha

If there's one universal feeling in Omaha it's the venues first impression. Without fail, everyone I spoke to got a shot of pure adrenaline. I'd remembered Omaha fondly from 2008 but everything seems better still this time around

Once the adrenaline passed came a reminder of just how different the experience here can be. I talked with a coach who was here for the first time. He couldn't have thought of something to complain of if he gave it his all. It's a good thing to have at a meet like this, people who are just genuinely over the moon to be here.

USA Swimming officials seem anxious but friendly. They are preparing for the deluge and grateful that many decided to trickle in early. All the most important folks were glad handing around the deck this afternoon.

Swimmers who are here for the first time snd just under the cut have a tangible sense of wonder for what they are taking part in. They will likely compete in a meet this fast, this big and in this type of venue just once in their lives. For those that are in contention there is a nervous excitement. The difference between 3rd and 2nd is a couple orders of magnitude in notoriety. Their coaches mirror that energy, knowing that they will be judged by something they only slightly control. The tension of waiting weighs on everyone. Only 10 days until we miss it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Swim Brief Team Up: What races are you most looking forward to at Trials?

Everyone has a race, or a few races, where they have wild predictions and they just can't wait to see how the rivalries pan out.  We have swimmers we believe will be surprise adds to the roster.  The Swim Brief Crew are gonna tell you why we are excited about a few of the specific races, and we would love to hear from you about the races you can't wait for.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Random Omaha Predictions

If you want an exhaustive, borderline over-researched preview of Olympic Trials, you should go to Swimswam to read the previews by "Rain Man" Braden Keith. Make sure you have a whole afternoon free, maybe evening as well depending on how fast you read. Here at the Swimbrief, where attention spans fall somewhere between a gnat and an infant, we're going to provide a different, no less informed preview.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Please Don't Retire: Bob Groseth

Last week, I kicked off a feature on some coaches that I hope don't retire anytime soon. After a brief hiatus, I'm ready with another candidate: Bob Groseth. Contrary to what you might think, Coach Groseth is not retired from coaching swimming, having left his job as head coach of Northwestern Men's Swimming to serve as Executive Director of the College Swim Coaches Association for the past few years. If there's been one constant in my coaching career it's that I've always been able to rely on Bob's patient wisdom.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ritchie MP Cummins: Have you seen the new Subway commercial?

I can't believe how awesome this new Subway commercial is!  Not just because it's Michael and his acting is getting better and he is promoting healthy eating by endorsing Subway either... it is way more awesome because Michael's super-supportive mom Debbie was in it!

Debbie Phelps should guest star in more of Michael's ads!

5 Uncommon Swimming Flaws Causing Shoulder Pain

We would like everyone to welcome our newest guest blogger, the SwimSci guy, G. John Mullen.  You can read about him on our Guest Blogger page.  He is a highly educated and established writer with credentials that might make you wonder why he wants to be associated with a blog where we write stuff about peeing in the pool and smoking to improve athletic performance. For once, you might actually get smarter when you visit our site now that he is here.  We hope you enjoy him around as an addition to the diverse offerings at The Swim Brief.   -Viking!

Everyone knows swimming puts your shoulder at risk for injury. To prevent this every coaches have bought as much elastic tubing as they can get their hands on and have had their athletes perform the most boring exercises until they have a Triple H (Hernia, Hemorrhage, Hemorrhoid, not the storied actor Paul Michael Levesque). Despite this heroin addict volume of elastic tubing, the shoulder injury rate is stagnant!

The two main areas to address for shoulder pain are biomechanics in the water and prevention/rehabilitation exercises out of the water. Coaches, swimmers, and any swim nerd wanting to demonstrate their impressive medial temporal lobe must know the essentials about shoulder injury prevention to enhance the sport.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Counterpoint: Too Big Trials? -Viking's Take.

I heard a coach the other day say that he refuses to take his athletes to the Olympic Trials.  He called it the "big lie"-- like 165 of the 170 athletes qualified in each event was being duped:  "Like they have a chance," he said.  "It's ridiculous.  We know who most of the Olympic Team is going to be before they ever hit the water.  It's all about the money."

This was out of the mouth of a coach whom I deeply respect and who has worked with athletes who have actually made the team.  I was taken back a little by this statement.  I knew that there were issues that come up with a large Trials, like the timeline and fitting in time trials, but it only seemed logical to me to make the trials a big event.  Especially when we see how the size of the crowd is so negatively affected by the athlete cap at the men's NCAA champs, it seems like a no-brainer that in swimming, even at the highest level, it is hard to fill the seats without the families of the swimmers in the meet there to watch. More swimmers does mean more tickets.  Is it bad to do what we can to fill the seats?  It's atmosphere, man!!

The Big Lie: Omaha's Too Big Trials

The Centurylink Center will feel a bit more crowded in 2012
The announcement today that USA Swimming would not be allowing time trials at the upcoming Olympic Trials meet in Omaha should come as a shock to no one. It has been plainly evident for a long time that the 2012 Trials would be a bloated behemoth of a meet. With nearly 2000 qualifiers and still another weekend of qualifying to go, the upcoming Trials meet will break all records for participation in a meet of its kind. This begs two questions: how did we get here and is that a good thing?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Please Don't Retire Soon: Mark Bernardino

One of the greatest assets I have in my life are critics. I have a great circle of friends, family and anonymous commenters who are never afraid to tell me when I'm wrong. All three have noted in the past few weeks that I've been weaving into my posts not too subtle, generalized digs at "older" coaches that should "get out of the way". I've come off like a grumpy, spoiled little kid who wants everything handed to him. The above criticism was delivered by many, but finally made its way to one of my most loyal readers: my mom. So I decided I need to shape up my act and put some of that energy into a more positive direction. What follows is going to be a series of posts about longtime coaches who I really hope don't stop coaching anytime soon. First up, the University of Virginia's Mark Bernardino.

Friday, June 8, 2012

I Beg to Disagree

Two crises erupted over the last couple days in the swimming world. First, the Wall Street Journal published a silly article bashing US Universities for "training the enemy". You only have to take two minutes to look at the Georgia Tech Swimming and Diving roster to find out how I feel about that. Around the same time, I got another reminder of the downside to swimming's popularity in Australia, after team punching bag Olympian Nick D'arcy and Kenrick Monk were castigated for putting up a facebook photo of them holding guns.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fearless London: World Records Aplenty

Any time you can work Anders Holmertz into a post you gotta do it.
Last summer, I made random, fearless predictions about the World Championships in Shanghai. Some (ok, one) were awesome: I picked Alexander Dale Oen to win the 100 breaststroke when Kosuke Kitajima looked like the favorite. The rest were, shall we say, less than awesome. Russia to win the 400 freestyle relay? James Magnussen changed the balance of power completely for that relay and Russia finished well back in 5th. I failed to remember that there are no great Russian swim coaches actually living in Russia at the moment. In any case, I'm back with some predictions for London. Up first is a combo US Trials/London prediction: there are going to be plenty of world records.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hanging Out with David Arluck and Mel Stewart

That's it... Chris doesn't pay enough here.  I'm switching to SwimSwam.

Last Friday our team hosted a Fitter and Faster Clinic.  I can not say enough about what an awesome experience it was for our team.  I had never met Mel Stewart or David Arluck in person but I had an idea of what to expect.  They were just a lot of fun. The clinic was a blast and the kids are still talking about it every day at practice.  We also got to see how flexible Mel really is.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Paulus Wildeboer: Four More Years (and why America should be scared)

A week ago, it was announced that the Danish swimming federation would be keeping their National Team Coach, Paulus Wildeboer, for another Olympic cycle. He will transition into just coaching the National Training Center. The news had little traction in the US, and that's a shame. In a relatively short period of time, Denmark has surpassed the United States in swimming, and they aren't alone.