The continued dialogue about the 50’s of stroke has persuaded me to add some additional thoughts to this important topic. The topic, if you are unaware, is about growing the sport at every level (with special attention to the professional level).
Swimming is Racing and Racing is Swimming
Swimming, in its most pure form, is about finding out who can get to the other side of the pool the quickest. It begins in summer league with 25’s. As we get older we graduate from 25’s to 50’s and then we finally get to compete in the 100 IM.
To move to the next level, though, we must compete in 100’s and 200’s of each stroke and the 200/400 IM. How many kids would choose to swim club if they could continue to race 50’s and 100’s rather than 100’s and 200’s? Aren’t we eliminating an entire group of people with the most special skill set — the skill set to swim faster than anybody else across the pool?
How many parents want to go from a 5 hour summer league meet to a 3 day marathon from hell? The answer is none of them.
How many college teams would rather have a 22.0/50.00 Flyer rather than a 51.00/1:49.00 Flyer? The answer is all of them.
Scholarship dollars absolutely love sprinters.
New Olympians, More Sponsorship Dollars, & Longer Careers
Anthony Robinson was one of the best swimmers in the world in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. In fact, he broke the world record in the 50 LCM Breaststroke in 2001. You’ve probably never heard of him. If the 50’s of stroke were included in 2000, he probably would be an Olympian. He might have won an Olympic medal. He might have had sponsorship dollars for him to continue towards 2004.
Liam Tancock finaled in the 100 Back at World Champs in 2015 putting together a beautiful swim of 53.19 at the ripe old age of 30. He failed to make the British Olympic team after placing 2nd in the 100 Back at Trials in 2016, retiring a few months afterwards. Tancock is still the World Record holder in the 50 LCM Backstroke and he’s still faster than Aaron Peirsol, Lenny Krayzelburg, Ryan Murphy, and Ryan Lochte ever were over 50 meters.
Zhao Jing of China won individual world titles in the 50-meter backstroke in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013, and the 100-meter backstroke in 2011. Therese Alshammer and Anna-Karin Kammerling, both of Sweden, were perennial sprint champions on every level. Think Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa would like the option of extending his career with the 50 LCM Breaststroke? Or how about Rafael Munoz of Spain, the World Record holder in the 50 LCM Butterfly?
Name a world record holder in the 800 (or 1500) that failed to make the Olympic team in the 400 or 1500 (or 400/800). You can’t.
The concern that adding events will make swim meets longer is a good argument but it’s easily overcome by blowing up the meet lineup and starting over. Club teams need to create shorter, faster dual meet type lineups. Old Dominion Aquatic Club does an amazing job of transitioning young swimmers from summer league to club swimming at an early age by simply offering 1-day local dual meets so that parents don’t have to tell their child they don’t want them to swim because 3 day meets are stupid.
There’s a reason why swimming continues to be one of the most popular Olympic sports, so why not give the people what they want? The Olympics can simply add an extra couple of days to spread things out, which in turn, increases advertising dollars and the amount of time spent watching swimming.
Fastest In The World
The shortest track event in the Olympics, the 100 meter dash, is also the most popular. A race that takes 9 or 10 seconds to crown the “Fastest in the World” is the most watched, talked about, and glorified.
Yet, swimming adds a 7 minute race and a 15 minute race.
Somebody call the police because our sport has been robbed.