I’ve been a bit busy covering high school sports this week as we
head to the playoffs, but I wanted to take a moment to post some
links on the Arena Pro Swim in Charlotte last weekend.
“That’s a good starting point,” the 2012 Olympic champion said.
“I came here trying to shake a little rust loose, and I think I did
a solid job of it. Anytime you dip under 49, you can’t be
displeased with it.”
It looks like Nathan’s next meet will be at the Arena Pro Swim
Series at Santa Clara June 18-21.
Now on to the national scene.
Associated Press columnist Paul Newberry (one of my favorites)
wrote this story on USA Swimming and Michael Phelps. In other
words, let Phelps swim at Worlds. They won’t regret it…
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) â When the world’s top swimmers head to
Russia this summer for the biggest meet outside the Olympics, one
important name will be missing from the U.S. team.
Michael Phelps has been relegated to a backup meet in Texas.
“Is it frustrating? Of course,” Phelps said Friday night after
swimming at the Arena Pro Series meet.
He brought this on himself, of course. The most decorated
athlete in Olympic history received a six-month suspension
following his drunken-driving arrest last September, an appropriate
punishment given it was Phelps’ second DUI and he could’ve killed
someone with his reckless actions.
USA Swimming tacked on an additional punishment, barring him
from the FINA world championships in Kazan, the most important
competition leading up to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
That’s where the governing body went too far.
It’s not too late to change course, but USA Swimming has given
no indication it will grant Phelps a reprieve, even though he owned
up to his actions, went through a treatment program and has, from
all indications, maintained his sobriety since the arrest.
So, he’ll settle for San Antonio in early August, competing at
the U.S. national championships against swimmers who didn’t qualify
“He’d love to have one more world championships,” said his
coach, Bob Bowman. “I think that’s hurt him a little bit, hurt his
motivation a little bit.”
FINA wants Phelps in Kazan so bad it would be willing to bend
the rule book to get him there.
Executive director Cornel Marculescu, who essentially runs the
organization as a one-man fiefdom, went so far as to say he would
create an extra spot for Phelps, so the U.S. wouldn’t have to kick
another swimmer off its team to make room for him.
“It’s important for us to have Phelps there in any way because
he’s our pope,” Marculescu told The Associated Press on Friday,
while traveling to Kazan for meetings with local organizers.
But he said USA Swimming is sticking to its guns, refusing to
scale back the sanctions against Phelps.
“We contacted them,” Marculescu said. “There has been
correspondence but no feedback. We told them it’s very important to
have Michael Phelps. But they have their own rules.”
Chuck Wielgus, the executive director of USA Swimming, has
acknowledged holding some preliminary discussions with Phelps’
representatives about allowing him to compete at worlds.
But those discussions apparently fizzled, and both Bowman and
officials from USA Swimming say they’ve passed the point of no
“I can tell you we’re going to San Antonio, and that’s where
he’s going to swim,” Bowman said. “And that’s it.”
It doesn’t have to be. It’s not too late to make this right.
According to FINA rules, there’s a June 15 deadline for each
country to submit its entry list â still a full month away.
There’s another potential stumbling block â a preliminary
deadline of March 2, in which countries submitted the total number
of swimmers they would take to Russia â but Marculescu could
waive that rule with the stroke of a pen.
“I’m pretty Cornel would let me swim for any country I wanted
to,” Phelps said, chuckling loudly. “But I’m going to respect the
decision that was made.”
Jessica Hardy, who missed the 2008 Olympics while serving a
one-year suspension for a doping violation, said USA Swimming is
sending an important message by sticking to its original penalties:
No one is bigger than the sport.
Not even Phelps.
“Consistency is important,” she told the AP. “Having gone
through a suspension myself, I think it’s important to be fair
across the board.”
For those who only pay attention to swimming at the Olympics,
Phelps has turned in some of his greatest performances at the world
In 2003 at Barcelona, Phelps set world records in two
different events about an hour apart.
In 2007 at Melbourne, Australia, he matched Mark Spitz’s
performance at the 1972 Munich Olympics by winning seven gold
medals, a tantalizing preview of the record eight golds he would
claim a year later at the Beijing Olympics.
In 2009 at Rome, during the height of the rubberized suit
era, rival Milorad Cavic taunted Phelps for sticking with a
supposedly inferior model, only to be edged at the wall in an epic
100-meter butterfly that set off perhaps the most raucous
celebration of Phelps’ career.
While Phelps is best known for the 18 golds and 22 medals
overall that he’s won at the Olympics, his world championship haul
is even greater: 26 golds, six silvers and one bronze.
“As a fan, I’d love to see him try it again,” Bowman said. “But
that’s just not in the cards.”
While we admire Wielgus for taking a tough stand against DUI,
and we’re not in any way justifying Phelps’ conduct that September
night, the initial six-month suspension was sufficient.
Now, it’s time for common sense to prevail.
The world’s best swimmers will be in Russia this summer.
The greatest of them all should be there, too.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed to this
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press.
Write to him at email@example.com or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
Also, if you weren’t aware, Bob Bowman is leaving NBAC to coach
in the Pac-12, which is great news for the conference and I hope
will somehow have a trickle down effect as universities add
swimming programs (ahem, Washington?).
Of course, that also meant that Phelps will continue to train
with Bowman and will make the move to Tempe, Arizona. You can read more about that here.