Women Rule the Worlds

With four world records in the first two days of competition, the World Champs in Kazan are all about the ladies…

The script was already written before the first final in Kazan. This was going to be a story about the women. Or as Karen Crouse put it in Sunday’s New York Times, these world championships have “a decidedly female-centric marquee.” All the leading ladies are here. There’s Ledecky and Franklin, Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrum, the Aussie sprint sisters, Cate and Bronte Campbell, and of course a certain Hungarian ‘Iron Lady’… 48 hours into the meet, the most important competition in the lead-up to Rio, it’s the female swimmers of the world who have declared this event an eight-night ladies night.

As for the men: There’s no Phelps in Russia. He’s still serving his penance for that drunk driving arrest last fall. The world’s current best swimmer on earth – Japan’s Kosuke Hagino – is also absent. So is Australia’s “Missile”, James Magnussen, the two-time defending champion in the men’s 100 free. Those two are both injured. The stars who are present – Lochte, China’s Sun Yang, Great Britain’s newest breaststroke legend, Adam Peatty – these guys still have loads of star power, but there’s something distinctly second fiddle about the men’s competition. Not many world records are on call. Not many opportunities to gasp at standards shattered.

Read more…

Welcome to Cap & Goggles, the Relaunch

New look, more content, same original commentary…

It’s been four years, the yardstick of time by which swimmers tend to measure themselves. I think our internal clocks will always be tuned that way, no matter how long we’ve been out of the sport. It seemed an apt time to reconsider and relaunch this blog that was first born in the wake of the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai. Another Worlds is under way in Kazan, Russia as we speak (plenty more on that in the coming days), but first a quick intro on this new site you’re looking at…

The commentary or periodic essays or whatever you’d like to call it – that will continue. Writing about swimming, getting folks excited and stirred up and passionate about our sport, that is something I’ll never stop doing. Writers have to write, no choice in the matter, it’s a compulsion that can’t be denied – without unraveling into insanity. So, in the interest of avoiding straightjackets and padded cells, that will continue.

But the hope is that this new incarnation of C&G will be much more. It will be a destination to celebrate the ‘Aquatic Arts’. Books, Art, Photography, Videos – anywhere that swimming finds artistic, creative expression. Those new sections are pretty sparse as we launch; they will fill quickly.

As for the collection of past Cap & Goggles stories, those can now be easily accessed in the Archive section – where each story has been categorized under seven headings: Swimmers, Issues, Olympics, NCAA, Junior, Drugs, and Coaching. Take a spin through the archive whenever you have a moment.

Also, a note about the sidebar: The idea is to feature a rotating theme of images. From best swimming books to photographers and artists working in the aquatic medium to swim videos and films. The first theme seemed obvious, as it’s based on the image that first inspired this blog – the surface tension shot of swimmer breaking out. To me, those photos will always capture swimming at its most aesthetic moment in time.

Finally, I want to send immense thanks to my friend and colleague, Armando Garma-Fernandez, the man responsible for this entire redesign. It was completed just as he welcomed his first child, daughter Zaia, into the world last week.

Ok, enough preamble… Back to watching Worlds! Stay tuned…

Read more…

How to Dope and Not Get Caught

French study reveals: Take a little, take it at night, never fail a test… See your results soar.

The next time you hear someone proclaim innocence by pointing to all the drug tests she’s passed, try not to laugh. If a cheater is versed in the latest in the dark art of doping then there’s little chance of ever testing positive.

In a study publicized by the television station France 2, the massive benefits of ‘micro-dosing’ were laid bare. In a medical trial, eight athletes were injected with EPO, human growth hormones, corticosteroids, and other drugs – all in tiny doses. While the micro doses left no trace in drug tests, their benefits certainly showed up in performance. One of the runners reported an astonishing drop of 31 seconds in the 3,000 meters – in under a month of testing and clean results.

Read more…

Michael Turns 30

Michael Phelps always swore he’d never be swimming at age 30… He is.

A man’s entitled to change his mind. A kid’s expected to change his mind, plenty. As both a young man and a teenage kid, Michael insisted over and over that you would never catch him on the starting blocks when he was 30 years old. At times he said it with a note of disdain, as if yeah right, I’ll be long gone by then, when I’m, like, old. A few years ago, in the wake of London, he said it with a note of relief. He was sick of the sport in 2012, ready to move on with his life, and he did. Or he tried to. But when you’re the best ever at something it’s not so easy to swim away. You realize the view’s a lot better from the top of a mountain.

And so, Michael Phelps did what most expected him to do. He came back. He picked up where he left off – at the top of the world rankings, the straw that stirs the drink of USA Swimming. His arrest and subsequent suspension for drunk driving last fall left some wondering if the comeback trail would dry up, but in the time since the man has professed to do some soul-searching. According to Bob Bowman (aka the Great & Powerful Oz behind the curtain), he’s also been putting in the work. Something that Bowman hasn’t proclaimed since, oh, around 2008.

Read more……

The Smell of Smoke

Katinka Hosszu is the best all-around swimmer on earth right now… What everyone is talking about, but no one wants to say…

There is no proof. There never is, not when it matters, not when it’s needed most. So, this is what happens: the coaches grumble; the experts roll their eyes; the athletes offer lukewarm congrats at the end of each eye-popping race. Everyone talks, but no one speaks up. Because only amateurs fail drug tests, and without that proof positive test it’s all just jealous hearsay.

Except the chatter is often true, and the visual evidence – on the body and the scoreboard – generally doesn’t lie.

Our latest Exhibit A: Hungary’s “Iron Lady” Katinka Hosszu. FINA’s reigning World Swimmer of the Year; three-time world champion; holder of five short course meter world records; and the woman who, last fall, became the first swimmer ever to surpass $1 million earned solely in prize money in the pool. She did this, of course, by globe-trotting the World Cup circuit and swimming a superhuman number of races at almost every stop.

Read more……

Leanne Shapton – Swimming Studies

Have you read this terrific memoir by Leanne Shapton? Leanne is a friend and fellow Canadian swimmer, and if you swam in or near Canada in the late 80s and early 90s, you’ll surely recognize some of the characters that populate these pages. Swimming Studies won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. For good reason – it captures the feeling of what it means to be a swimmer as well as anything published. It’s about the lonely moments, the forgotten sensations that still fill your dreams. And it’s filled with haunting honesty like this: “When I swim now, I step into water as though absent-mindedly touching a scar. My recreational laps are phantoms of my competitive races.” Yeah, it’s that kind of good.

Read more……

Eric Zener – The Swimmer’s Artist

Eric Zener is a Northern Cal based artist well known for his underwater themes. Out of his studio in Sausalito, Zener creates work that leaves you both breathless and buoyed by his vision. If you’re a former swimmer, viewing his paintings is like being comforted by the phantoms than Shapton writes about. In New York, his work can be found at a gallery not far from where I write this. I met him once there, and unsurprisingly he told me that all three of his children are swimmers in the Bay Area.

Read more……

Playing Favorites

The high-wire genius in coaching talent-loaded teams…

If only I had athletes like that, man, what I could do with them. With talent like that, how can they not win? He’s a great recruiter, a brilliant salesman, but as a coach? Anyone could do that, with his stable of horses… You just need to get out of the way.

The bitter musings of a jealous coach… It’s March, and from poolside to courtside, madness like that is in full bloom.

Over the last two weekends, the clear favorites have run away with the women’s and men’s NCAA Swimming Championships – Teri McKeever’s Cal Bears and Eddie Reese’s Texas Longhorns. Neither team title came as a surprise. In fact, if either of these teams had failed to win it all, it would have been seen as a choke, as teams failing to live up to their potential.

Read more……