Please welcome guest blogger Jill Helbling. Jill lives in the North Hills of Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. She has a day job that does not make her as happy as writing blog posts about sports.
Get ready, sports fans! It’s that time again. It has seemed like an eternity since I’ve been able to watch some of my favorite athletes duke it out for supremacy. Now, it’s all back. The rivalries. The smack-talking. The brute physicality. That’s right – it’s time again for…Olympic swimming! Take that, NFL training camp. Swimming is back in the first week of the Olympics and I, for one, can’t wait. (Seriously.) And, to get you in the mood, too, here are some stories to watch during next week’s pool pursuits.
Unless you have been living under a bridge since 2008, you have heard of the “friendly” rivalry between American swimmers Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. Even if you have been living under said bridge, you know that Phelps is close to becoming the winningest Olympian ever, with 16 (16!) medals, including 14 (14!) gold, already adorning his shaved chest and needing only two more to tie Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina for the most Olympic medals ever won – 18. Lochte is no slouch, either, with six Olympic medals in his collection. Their head-to-head races during the trials were pretty legendary (Phelps beat Lochte three out of four meetings at trials) and we will see them go head-to-head again next week in both the 200 and 400 individual medley. Mix in a dash of their recent pre-trials history – Lochte defeated Phelps twice in the world championships – and you have a competition worth writing home about. Or worth writing a blog entry about. And, with their competitive juices flowing at high-octane levels, you would expect that they would have some pretty choice words for each other about their upcoming engagement in London, right? Well, get a load of this smack-talk: “It’s hard to say who is the best swimmer,” said Lochte, “We’re both great racers, and we have been going back and forth for so long.” Wait, what? That’s it? Well, their smack-talk may not be up to par (they are no Usain Bolt), but we can expect a couple of very exciting races, nonetheless.
Speaking of rivalries, let’s not forget the relays. Always a display of chest-thumping bravado, the relays allow swimmers, who are often cast as individual athletes, to band together in unity as team mates. In the past, the swimming relays have been some of the highlights of the Olympic games. Who can forget the epic race between the French men and the American men in the 2008 games when Jason Lezak brought the American men from behind on the last leg of the 4 x 100 relay, passing France’s Alain Bernard to win gold? Oh, come on, you remember – it can’t be just me.
This year, the Australian men appear to have the strongest relay contingent but the Americans are ready to put them to the test. As for the women, the Americans are favorites in all three relay events (really, could there be any doubt?), with their biggest potential competition coming from Australia.
Robbing the Cradle
When people are not talking about Phelps and Lochte, they are talking about American swimmer Missy Franklin, aptly nicknamed, “Missy the Missile.” Franklin is a mere 17 years old but, at a full 6-feet, 1-inch tall, has come bursting onto the international swimming scene since winning 5 medals at least year’s worlds. She is slated to swim an astounding 7 events in London, becoming the first American female swimmer to qualify for that many events in the Olympics. And did I mention that she’s only 17?
USA Swimmer Missy Frankin
You Pronounce It Like It Looks
Believe it or not, there do happen to be notable swimmers from other nations, as well. Japanese swimming sensation Kosuke Kitajima will be going for a sweep of the men’s breaststroke events for the third straight time. In 2008, Kitajima, known as the Frog King (seriously; it’s a breaststroke thing; you know with the “frog kick” and all that?), became the first swimmer to win both the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke in two straight Olympic games and now has a chance at making history again next week when he could become the first male swimmer to win a gold medal in the same event (in his case, the 100 breaststroke) in three consecutive Olympics. Unfortunately for Kitajima, Phelps has a chance to set that record the day before when he swims the 400 individual medley. You see, Phelps can become the first ever male swimmer to win a gold medal in the same event in three consecutive Olympic games the day before Kitajima swims the 100 breaststroke. But, the next day, depending on what happens with Phelps, Kitajima will have the chance to become the first (or second) male swimmer to win a gold medal in the same event in three consecutive Olympic games. Got all that? (Can’t you just hear Kitajima saying, “Phelps!” in the same voice that Jerry Seinfeld says, “Newman!”)
Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands is also one to watch as she has set the fastest times in both the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyles this year and is a favorite in those events. She is also fond of telling people that she pronounces her name “just like it sounds.” Um, right.
Blah, Blah, Blah – Is Natalie Coughlin going to be there?
Yes, you will have the chance to see Natalie Coughlin in her swimsuit again in this Olympics and she will be swimming to tie Jenny Thompson and Dara Torres for most medals by a female American swimmer in Olympics history. And you don’t even need patience, Daniel san, because she will be swimming in the 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay on July 28. But you’d better enjoy it while it lasts because this will be her only event in London and this will likely be her last Olympic appearance.
So, there you have it. A, by no means complete or exhaustive, preview of Olympic swimming coming soon to a television new you. Get your DVR ready – you wouldn’t want to miss history in the making.
Image courtesy National Science Foundation