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May 19 19

Michael Andrew wins three times on night three in Bloomington

by ZwemZa

Michael Andrew (USA Swimming)

Fresh from a week of competition across the globe in Hungary, Michael Andrew topped the field in two individual events – the 50 breaststroke and 50 butterfly – as well as the 200 mixed medley relay Saturday night at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Bloomington.

Joining Andrew at the top of the podium were Olympic and World Champions Katie Ledecky and Lilly King, as well as 2016 Olympian Jay Litherland and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships bronze medalist Regan Smith, who all won their second events of the meet.

Blake Pieroni, Sarah Gibson, Johannes Calloni and Ella Eastin each won their first events of the weekend on a very fast night that witnessed top 10 times in the world this year in almost every event.

Ledecky started things off with the fourth-fastest time of the year in winning the 200 freestyle, edging former Stanford teammate Simone Manuel and Madisyn Cox. Once again, Ledecky led from start to finish, winning in 1:55.80 – just .02 off the time she swam in Knoxville earlier this year.

“I was happy with my 200,” Ledecky said. “It was kind of right on my best for the season. It was a good step, felt good, took some things away that I can take back to training over the next month and a half.”

Following Pieroni’s win in the 200 freestyle – leading an Indiana post-grad sweep that included Zane Grothe and Zach Apple with an in-season best time of 1:47.25 – King took to the pool to win the 50 breaststroke in 30.03 – the fastest time in the world this year. Close behind was King’s training partner Annie Lazor and Olivia Calegen.

In a span of about 15 minutes, Andrew won the 50 breast in 27.21 over Nic Fink and Ian Finnerty, and then added a victory in the 50 fly in 23.40. He edged Guatemala’s Luis Martinez and Vini Lanza.

“Training and almost every meet we go to, I’m doing two or three events,” Andrew said. “And so, the more I do it, the more my body gets used to it, and I think the more I mentally accept this is what I do. It’s always nice to swim one race in a session, and I think you can see the difference in the swims. But for this, it was a fun double and to end it with the relay, always a good time.”

In between those wins, Sarah Gibson took top honors in the 50 fly with a time of 26.52, besting 200 butterfly winner Katie Drabot and Aly Tetzloff.

Smith, who won the 50 backstroke Friday evening, won the 200 back in a scorching mid-season time of 2:06.47 – the third fastest of 2019. Fellow teenager Isabelle Stadden finished second followed closely by Asia Seidt.

“I think it (the 50 fly earlier in the evening) really bode well for my 200 back, to get my heart rate up and get ready to go before the big 200,” Smith said “So, I definitely felt really ready to go before the 200. The 200 itself felt really smooth. I was really happy with it. It felt way better than this morning. I was a little nervous after this morning. It hurt pretty bad. But tonight was a different story. It felt awesome. I didn’t expect that time. I really didn’t know exactly what to expect. I was just hoping to swim a little bit better than I did this morning.”

In the final two individual events of the night, Eastin and Litherland won with swims they both led from start to finish. Eastin’s time of 4:37.18 finished as the fourth-fastest of the year. Cox and Makayla Stewart finished second and third, respectively.

“(I) was super pleased with how my 400 IM went,” Eastin said. “It’s my best time that I’ve ever swam legally, which is a big deal for me in that race. I’ve had quite a few challenges just over the past few years with different things happening, and I was really focused on getting back to my best. I guess just being in the middle of the season, I’m really pleased with how that went.”

Litherland, who won the 200 fly Friday evening, backed up that swim with a convincing victory in the 400 individual medley in 4:14.42 – a time that just missed being among the top 10 times of 2019. Charlie Swanson and Sam Stewart rounded out the top three spots, respectively.

Andrew and King joined forces along with Ian Finnerty and Margo Geer to cap the evening’s competition with a win in the 200 mixed medley relay. The foursome went 1:43.35 to win the event, which will be included in next year’s Olympics for the first time.

Sunday’s final day of competition is action-packed with the 100 backstroke, 200 breaststroke, 100 butterfly, 200 individual medley, 50 freestyle and 800 freestyle.

Be sure to catch prelims live on usaswimming.org beginning at 9 a.m. ET with all finals also on usaswimming.org at 6 p.m. ET.

Complete results

Mike Watkins | USA Swimming Contributor

 

May 19 19

DWS, London, Day 2: Great Britain prevents a clean sweep for China

by ZwemZa

The 14 nations competing in the FINA/CNSG Diving World Series saw the second day of the London leg on Saturday 18 May play out with the usual tussle with China for the top spot on the podium. That is with the exception of the superior Jack Laugher of Great Britain of course, who dominated the men’s 3m springboard event, finishing not far from the world record in his home country.

China’s 13-year-old Chen Yuxi was the star of the show in the women’s 10m platform, achieving four perfect 10s for her third dive, the armstand back 3 somersaults, before overtaking her 14-year-old teammate Zhang Minjie in the fourth round and holding on for gold in her final dive. Zhang could be forgiven for conceding her lead in the women’s event by claiming gold in the mixed 10m synchro with Duan Yu shortly after.

No limits for Laugher and Goodfellow

Laugher looked strong from the beginning in the semi-finals, holding off any sniff of a threat from China’s Wang Zongyuan thoughout the six rounds, particularly when he posted a 99.45 score for the most difficult dive of the list, the 3.9 difficulty forward 2 ½ somersaults 3 twists in the fourth round. His compatriot Daniel Goodfellow joined him in qualifying for the final by staying consistent throughout the rounds, in a switch of fortunes behind Wang’s teammate Peng Jianfeng.

As promised, no one could catch Laugher in the final as he put down a 562.65 score – not far shy of the 572.90 world record. Peng looked to be in the secondary medals for much of the final and continued to switch places with Goodfellow through the rounds, until he was pipped at the last by both Goodfellow with 500.55 points and compatriot Wang with 481.70, who took silver and bronze respectively. Peng only managed to finish with a 454.75 points score to leave him out of the medals.

Laugher said of his outstanding performance:

“I am over the moon with the first five dives. That is the highest score I have ever been on leading into my final dive. If I had just put a back 3 ½ in I would have got a world record. The world record was on my mind leading into the final dive but I played it safe and left something in the tank for the World Championships. I’ll nail it there and hopefully that world record will be mine.

“It is really fantastic to get a one-two with Dan and for him to get over 500 points is a real world-class performance and for him to do it in front of a home crowd is unbelievable. If we can do that together (in the synchro event) there is no limit to what we can achieve. To finish the World Series with a huge score and a gold medal is amazing.”

Team GB will be salivating at the prospect of a Laugher-Goodfellow synchro partnership at the upcoming World Championships, which Goodfellow was sure to encourage:

“I think everyone knew when we put the partnership together at the start of the year what we are capable of in the future. It is just for me about getting more competitions under the belt. I’m still not near where I want to be in terms of consistency and how I feel on the board. If you had asked me before this if I would medal in the World Champs I don’t think I would have believed you but now I think it is a realistic target.”

China celebrates its golden teenagers

The morning’s semi-finals saw the highest ranking athlete going into the competition in the women’s 10m platform Kim Mi Rae from DPR Korea usurped by the gold medallist from the 10m synchro, Chen, in qualifying highest for the finals. Chen then went on to claim gold in the final with her 413.80 score, with her teammate Zhang Minjie taking silver from her 385.80 score to Kim’s bronze medal winning 360.90.

Chen, whose parents come from a gymnastics background and were able to spot her talents early on, said of her second gold in as many days at this competition:

“It just happened and I’m so excited to get the best outcome. I didn’t think too much about it as everyone was going for that gold medal. I was very nervous in the first two rounds as this (Diving World Series) is my first time competing in a foreign country.”

Despite her fatigue going into the mixed 10m synchro final with 13-year-old partner Yu, Zhang confidently strode through the rounds helping the pair post a final score of 356.28 to upgrade her medal collection to gold. They felt little pressure from DPR Korea’s Hyon II Myong and Jo Jin Mi who took silver with 333.48 and Russia’s Nikita Shleikher and Iuliia Timoshinina, whose 316.05 score allowed them to snatch bronze from Canadian hopefuls Vincent Riendeau and Caeli McKay.

Zhang said of her gold and silver haul:

“I’m pretty satisfied with the gold medal but I could have done better than the silver medal (in the women’s 10m platform), my ability is better than that. I had a little bit of a problem coming into the mixed 10m synchro final as I was a bit tired but I just thought I would just see how it goes.”

While Team China have had a mixed run of results in this leg of the series, albeit a fruitful one, they remain focused which appears to be one of the secrets to their success as Zhang added:

“The atmosphere in the Chinese team is very fierce. When we compete in a foreign country we are teammates but when we compete in the same country we are very strong opponents.”

Ashley Newman, FINA Correspondent in Great Britain

May 18 19

The International Swimming League’s Konstantin Grigorishin is a rebel with a cause

by ZwemZa

Konstantin Grigorishin (SportsProMedia)

With the launch of his International Swimming League (ISL), a city-based competition due to arrive in the US and Europe later this year, Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Grigorishin is out to make a splash by championing the rights of an athlete base disillusioned by the direction of their sport.

He may be on vacation but Konstantin Grigorishin is in a philosophising mood. “Sport,” he says, straining the phone line with his coarse Ukrainian brogue, “is part of culture, of western civilisation, which came from ancient Greece and changed the paradigm. Sport has to follow.”

Taking a moment to choose his words carefully, he adds: “Some sports are already in the modern paradigm, like soccer, like American leagues, like Formula One, like tennis, where you understand your goal and you know what you are doing, so you have a permanent job, you have revenue, and if you’re qualified enough you have a contract with a club or some organiser. But parts of sport are still in the pre-modern paradigm.

“Athletes are waiting for some enlightenment or initiation during the Olympic Games, so they should not care about their revenue. From an employment point of view, all of them are freelancers so they have no insurance, they have no guarantees, and they have to be some kind of religious fanatics of the Olympic movement.”

Grigorishin is the billionaire businessman and philanthropist bankrolling the International Swimming League (ISL), a new city-based competition set to launch in the US and Europe later this year. Setting out his stall, he says the ISL is all about putting power back into the hands of athletes; about championing the right of professional swimmers to make a living they deserve, and to have a greater say in the way their sport is run.

Why is swimming such a popular sport but the competitions are so boring?

Konstantin Grigorishin, ISL founder

“This project is not possible without athlete support,” he continues. “Like each big sports event, even the Olympic Games, you can spend billions of dollars but if athletes will not come, who will care about these facilities and infrastructure? We have to respect that. That is the problem of the IOC and international federations: they don’t respect athletes, they don’t consider them like partners.”

By his own admission, Grigorishin is an independent rebel. It is a role he clearly relishes. Returning to his chosen analogy of institutionalised religion – an analogy he describes as his “philosophical explanation” for launching the ISL – he eagerly characterises international sports federations like FINA, swimming’s global governing body, as out-of-touch, overly bureaucratic organisations whose self-serving hierarchy lives in the past, dictating the rules and governing from on high “like priests in a pre-modern paradigm”.

Elaborating on his religious conceit, he argues that athletes in many sports, not only swimming, have been systematically indoctrinated from a young age to forego material enrichment in favour of an idealistic Olympic fantasy. While it is generally accepted that athletes are the “main assets” of every sport, he says, sportsmen and women have been exploited for financial gain by governing bodies who view them as “an expenditure – not like slaves, even worse”.

“It’s the typical pre-modern paradigm,” he goes on. “They are using a huge propaganda machine to convince kids, like old religions, that the goal of your life is to be on the podium at the Olympic Games. That’s it. But at the same time the Olympic Games is a very successful commercial entity.”

“Each event is a final”

Born in Ukraine and formerly based in Moscow, Grigorishin made his personal fortune in metallurgy. A 53-year-old father of three, he is the largest investor in Energy Standard Group, a Ukrainian utilities firm, and his assets, including a reported US$300 million private art collection, are estimated by Forbes to be worth US$1.3 billion.

Speaking to SportsPro in February whilst on a family skiing holiday in the French resort of Courchevel, Grigorishin readily admits the ISL started life as a passion project. An avid swimming enthusiast, he says he had previously been involved in organising charity meets for youngsters “for many years” but, “as a curious person”, he soon began querying the structure and presentation of the sport.

“Why is swimming such a popular sport but the competitions are so boring?” he recounts. “Why is swimming such a popular sport but there is no money in swimming? And the third question was: is it possible to fix this situation?”

Grigorishin (above) says he experimented with “some different formats” during those charity meets, a process which ultimately led him to settle on the idea of team competition. “Each swimmer, in this format, can perform many times during the show because the recovery process is quite fast, not like athletics, for instance,” he explains. “And of course, team competition is normally more exciting than individual competition.”

The ISL’s plan is to have eight teams of 24 swimmers – 12 men and 12 women – spread equally across Europe and the United States. Several teams will compete in each meet, with two swimmers from each team competing in every race and no preliminary contests.

“Each event is a final,” says Grigorishin, who suggests other aquatic pursuits such as diving and synchronised swimming could eventually be factored into live ISL events. “We are thinking about some ‘sportainment’, so some activities before the match, after the match, maybe even for the host city. Because the swimmers will have no prelims, we can organise clinics for children, for disabled people, for mature swimmers, to create a show and some hype around the event. Each city has quite a strong swimming community and for them, it will be very interesting.”

To conclude its inaugural season, the ISL intends to stage a grand finals event, featuring the league’s top four clubs, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas this December. It is no coincidence that the season-ending occasion will be held amid the glitz of the entertainment capital of the world. The aim, according to Grigorishin, is to make a splash by bringing some much-needed razzamatazz to a sport that has grown staid and predictable under the auspices of FINA.

It’s not easy to sell something which doesn’t exist yet. But we will try. It’s another challenge

Konstantin Grigorishin, ISL founder

In keeping with the North American model, the ISL will employ a closed, city-based franchise system. Participating clubs will own exclusive rights to promote themselves, build brand equity and drum up fan interest in their respective home markets. They will generate income through ticketing, merchandise and other typical commercial revenue streams, while the ISL will share revenue from sales of media rights and league-wide sponsorships. Each team will have to adhere to salary caps and transfer restrictions, but the ISL will not demand payment of a franchise operating fee, at least from the outset.

“It’s a franchise model but in our model, they [the team owners] should not pay us,” explains Grigorishin. “They have to accept some requirements, to keep some level of the team, to respect the league rules, to have anti-doping rules and prepare a good venue. This is enough for us.”

At the time of writing, discussions with prospective club owners are ongoing, but some have already been confirmed. Among them is Hungary’s three-time Olympic champion Katinka Hosszú, who has been granted ownership of a club, Iron Swim Budapest, as part of a deal that sees her act as an ambassador for the league. Three other clubs have also been publicly announced: ONEflow Aquatic, a German outfit based near Stuttgart and operated by Neckarsulmer Sport-Union; a London-based franchise led by Great Britain’s breaststroke world record holder Adam Peaty, and Grigorishin’s own Energy Standard Club, located in Belek, Turkey.

On the opposite side of the Atlantic, a US subsidiary of the league, ISL USA, has been established to oversee operations in that market. Led by managing director Dmytro Kachurovskyi, a former president of the Ukrainian Swimming Federation, the unit has been tasked with organising the semi-finals and grand finals in Las Vegas, as well as helping US-based teams scout and sign talent and run their own meets.

“The US is a big market itself and especially for swimming,” notes Grigorishin. “More than 30 million people are swimming regularly in the United States. They have a lot of very good swimmers and definitely the US national team is the best swimming team in the world over the last 100 years.”

Grigorishin is confident that “in two years”, demand for team ownership will greatly outstrip supply. He says the league will initially limit club representation in the first four or five years “because we don’t have enough good swimmers in the world, and if we extend the number of the clubs we will dilute the level of the competition”. Upon launch, it is foreseen that some 75 per cent of all current world and Olympic champions will feature in ISL events.

Under the ISL model, athletes will sign central contracts with the league as well as agreeing individual terms with their clubs, which will include insurance and pension plans. The league will pay appearance fees and individual and team bonuses depending on results. The minimum total prize money available for the first season is set at just over US$5.3 million, while athletes who compete for the league-winning team will reportedly receive an additional US$10,000.

Katinka Hosszú, Adam Peaty, Sarah Sjostrom and Federica Pellegrini will all feature in the inaugural ISL season. (Clockwise, L to R)

In 2019 the ISL’s total budget will be approximately US$15 million, although Grigorishin says that figure could rise closer to US$20 million factoring in variable costs such as event logistics and transportation. Grigorishin himself will stump up the entirety of that funding unless further investors or commercial income from broadcast and sponsorship rights are found prior to launch.

To that end, broadcast plans for season one are still being drawn up, but Grigorishin believes swimming harbours considerable untapped potential. With an estimated 300 million swimmers worldwide, it is one of the most practiced sports in the world. Yet Grigorishin says he finds it inexplicable that the sport commands only a fraction of the industry’s global media and sponsorship rights markets, with the best practitioners receiving comparatively little media attention outside of the Olympics and other major international competitions.

“On one side swimming is a super popular sport, the most popular sport during the Olympic Games,” he says, “but on the other hand we don’t have too much swimming on the screens – just once every two years, in the World Championships or the Olympics. Why? Because there are no consistent competitions during the season.

“We have some spontaneous tournaments where some random swimmers come under the supervision of FINA or local federations, but there’s no consistency between them. For that reason, we came to the idea of a league, so seasonal competition, which exists in different formats in all commercially successful sports.”

Grigorishin insists the ISL will help enhance the visibility of swimmers by delivering regular events and building season-long narratives, with the league having set itself the ambitious target of growing its global audience to 100 million over five years.

“I think we could be interesting for broadcasters because we know the sport audience is not growing,” he says. “This is fact, especially in commercially successful sport. But the price of broadcasting rights is booming. So what does it mean? It means that, logically, their profits should shrink. If you have the same audience but you have to pay more to buy the content, your profits should reduce.

“It means that traditional broadcasters should look for some new good content, and I think swimming is good content. It’s not something new; swimming is already popular. So if you compare with traditional big sports, swimming is quite cheap. But the quality of the show, I’m pretty sure we’ll have the same quality and we can generate a lot of content, potentially.”

The ISL will eventually deliver “50 to 60 matches a year” and “300 or 400 hours of content” to broadcasters, Grigorishin adds. That amount of programming is “comparable with a normal soccer league”, but he believes “a social sport” like swimming lends itself particularly well to digital platforms.

“In swimming, you can create this community inside digital media,” he continues. “We have some ideas about that and I’m quite positive, but again, you can be very convincing but finding a potential buyer without a product…we have to organise a competition.

“For this season, it’s a bit of a tough process because sometimes it’s not easy to sell something which doesn’t exist yet. But we will try. It’s another challenge.”

“No reason to fight”: The ISL v FINA

Much of the talk surrounding the formation of the ISL has concerned the league’s ongoing spat with FINA, which has been led since 2009 by its octogenarian president Julio Maglione. On the surface, the dispute is a classic tale of money, power and control, and in an era when the threat of breakaway competitions and private investment is challenging the long-held supremacy of sport’s traditional powers, not least international federations, the creation of Grigorishin’s upstart league was always bound to cause a stir.

While tensions within professional swimming have been simmering for some time, they boiled over towards the end of last year when FINA refused to sanction the ISL’s 2018 Energy for Swim meet, a lucrative event that was due to take place in Italy, with support from the country’s national swimming association, in December.

Explaining its decision, FINA noted that the ISL’s application for sanctioning had not come at least six months before the event in question, as per the governing body’s rules, while it also threatened to ban any swimmers who competed in the event from future international competitions, including the Olympic Games. The Energy for Swim meet was subsequently cancelled, sparking widespread condemnation from the ISL and a host of top swimmers, including Katinka Hosszú, Adam Peaty and South African Olympic champion Chad Le Clos.

British breaststroker Adam Peaty is one of the several big name stars lending their support to the ISL

Following the event’s postponement, Hosszú, together with Americans Michael Andrew and Tom Shields, filed a proposed class action lawsuit against FINA for violating US antitrust laws. Like the ISL, which had filed a separate lawsuit, the athletes claimed FINA’s actions were anti-competitive, with reports stating the federation had demanded a US$50 million fee to officially sanction ISL events.

As noted at the time, the lawsuit was reminiscent of one filed in 2017 against the International Skating Union (ISU) on the grounds that it had a monopoly over its sport. In that case, a judge ruled that the body’s move to block skaters from competing in non-authorised competitions was in breach of European Union (EU) antitrust laws, and that international federations had to be objective, transparent and non-discriminatory when considering independent events.

In December, just days after the lawsuits were filed, further pressure was applied on FINA when the ISL arranged a summit in London to announce the launch of the Professional Swimmers Association, an independent entity whose stated aim is ‘to build a fair partnership with regulators and event organisers’ whilst ensuring ‘the welfare of swimmers and their rights to earn a living’. Lending weight to the move were a host of big names, including Hosszú, Peaty, and more than two dozen Olympic and world champions including Sarah Sjostrom, Ryan Murphy and Cameron van der Burgh.

“I don’t care, ban me if you’ve got to,” was Peaty’s message to FINA. “I’m not bothered because at the end of the day they know they can’t.”

Speaking to the BBC, the 24-year-old added: “We need transparency and 50-50 split of the profits. I love my sport to the moon and back but the main reason people quit swimming all over the world is because there isn’t enough funding. I want to secure the future for the kids who are going to be winning Olympics in 20 years and hopefully making a living out of it.”

By mid-January, the concerns raised by Peaty and his fellow athletes – and widely reported in the media – appeared to have been heeded. Having been conspicuously quiet throughout the dispute, FINA finally backed down. It released a statement confirming that swimmers would be allowed to participate in competitions staged by independent organisers, but that records set at non-sanctioned events would not be recognised by the governing body.

There is no reason to fight. We have never been against FINA, but we are against the FINA monopoly

Andrea di Nino, ISL managing director

At the time, ISL managing director Andrea di Nino described the move as an “implicit admission of guilt” and alleged that FINA had “blatantly copied” the ISL concept by creating its own Champions Swim Series, a similar team-based competition that will offer a US$4 million prize fund, and which will feature many of the ISL competitors – including, intriguingly, those currently suing FINA – when it launches this year.

Whatever the merits of di Nino’s argument, it was clear that feathers had been ruffled in swimming’s corridors of power. Following FINA’s U-turn, Grigorishin went on record calling for a “binding” and “enforceable” agreement that would protect both parties’ interests, as well as those of the athletes, in accordance with the laws of the US and the EU.

“I’m ready to sign a contract or agreement with FINA where we respect each other like organisers of competitions, to respect the calendar of each other, to respect some rules,” he insists now. “There is no reason to fight. We have never been against FINA, but we are against the FINA monopoly because the next step, as I said to the athletes, [will be that] you will ask FINA to go to shower. You will ask approval from FINA. This is ridiculous.”

Such grievances go beyond the issues of athlete rights and compensation to call into question the very role of the international federation. While Grigorishin is open to collaborating with FINA, he believes it should be the purpose of the global body to set regulations, establish world rankings and safeguard the sport, not to organise for-profit events and international competitions that inhibit the ability for athletes to earn a living elsewhere. “It’s a conflict of interest,” he says. “If you’re a regulator, you should not make profit on that. They have to change their mentality.”

He adds: “We don’t accept any monopoly in sport. Athletes can take part in each competition, so there should be some competition between organisers. This is the point. When we speak about that with athletes and explain our position […] we find some resonance with their desires.

“For them, it’s really unfair. They understand that their level of talent and their level of effort is not less than [that of athletes in] many commercially successful sports like tennis, like soccer, like basketball. But their revenue is a hundred times less than those sports. Why? We tried to explain to them that you have to change, you have to convert your sport into a new paradigm.”

Several top athletes have claimed the actions of world swimming body Fina, which is led by president Julio Maglione, are anti-competitive

Indeed, the paradigm is beginning to shift. Across all sports, not only in swimming, athletes are growing increasingly aware of their commercial value and the power they wield, both individually and in groups. At a time when digital disruption, socio-economic developments and today’s ever-more disintermediated media landscape are altering the industry’s traditional power dynamics, athletes are seeking to assert their influence in new and myriad ways. While some have spearheaded the creation of their own breakaway competitions outside of the international federation structure, many are now finding their collective voice in debates concerning political, financial, social, governance and anti-doping matters.

A recent report by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), the umbrella body for international federations represented in the Summer Olympics, noted this trend. It pointed out that athletes are starting ‘to act more independently and autonomously’ in a manner that is likely to have ‘significant knock-on effects’ for sport as a whole. The report also suggested that federations must reevaluate their roles and devise new strategies for how best to deal with the emergence of privately owned competitions, urging them to decide between competing against those entities or incentivising athletes to stay within their existing structures.

“It’s normal,” says Grigorishin. “When the paradigm is changing, some previous institutions are falling down. It’s normal, and you have to create new institutions.

“In the new paradigm, institutions like international federations and the IOC, at least for professional athletes, are not effective anymore. I made this example in one of my interviews that approximately 1,000 pro athletes that make value in Olympic sport, they support more than 80,000 bureaucrats. This is one of the reasons why athletes in Olympic sports have no fair revenue.

“The challenge for traditional sport now is esports and virtual reality and Netflix, which have tried to conquer the entertainment market. Sport has to change to survive in these new circumstances. We have to think about that. It’s so far from the IOC and international federations because they have no idea how to work with that, how to survive with that.”

Michael Long | SportsProMedia

May 18 19

Carson Foster, US swimming’s new phenomenon

by ZwemZa

Having set several records in multiple age categories, over various distances and in different swimming disciplines, Carson Foster is now a 17-year-old athlete with just one dream: to become part of the USA’s national team at the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 should come just in time to see him break into the international elite alongside his biggest rival, none other than his brother Jake.

Four minutes, 14 seconds and 92 hundredths of a second. That was the time recorded at the 2018 Pan-Pacific Junior Championships in August in Suva, Fiji, by Carson Foster in the 400m 15-16 individual medley. Born on 26 October 2001, he set the national record for his age group (16), beating the previous record of 4:15.20, set by Michael Phelps in 2001, by almost 0.3 seconds. Carson’s achievement made headline news in the sports press both at home and abroad.

At the age of 10, the swimmer from Cincinnati, Ohio, had already eclipsed Phelps in that age group in the 100m butterfly. “Michael Phelps held the record for 10 years and under, and I had looked at his time before the start of the season. Everyone admires him, and seeing my name next to a record, I don’t know…I told myself ‘I’m going to beat that record’, just because it’s Michael Phelps”, he explains.

The most decorated Olympian of all time then took a selfie with a sign that read “Congratulations Carson!” and sent it to his family. It was, according to his sister Hannah, his first-ever “big moment”.

getty images

“Phelps has changed the sport. He’s made it more popular, and faster. And it’s great that one person alone has managed to change this little sport called swimming in the way that he has. Ryan Murphy and Michael Phelps are my two swimming idols,” reveals Carson, whose brother Jake is also on the fast-track to the international elite. In fact, the two Foster brothers often compete together, either in competition with one another or as team-mates in medley teams.

But that’s not all for Carson. During the USA Swimming Championships, also in the summer of 2018, he set a new national record for 15-16-year-olds in the senior 200m individual medley, which qualified him for the B final. His time of 1:59.71 was better than that of 2013 junior world champion Andrew Seliskar, who clocked 1:59.84.

And so it goes on. In February 2019, at 17 years of age, he set a new national record for the 200-yard freestyle in a small pool, swimming his final in 1:32.99. The time was recorded at the Ohio Championships, where he also won the 100-yard backstroke. His brother Jake won the 200-yard individual medley and the 100-yard breaststroke. The Fosters were part of their Sycamore school’s winning 200-yard medley relay team. They were the first two swimmers, Carson in backstroke and Jake in breaststroke. They also won the 400-yard freestyle relay, with Carson swimming the last leg.

getty images

“I dream of representing the USA at the Olympic Games,” said Carson, something of a backstroke specialist, although he also excels in the medley event. “I am a super-competitive person; I’ve always wanted to be first in everything, I love competition and I hate losing. I’ve always dreamed of going to the Olympic Games and swimming for the USA at the highest level. And that won’t change. And if I get there, what next? It would be seeing if I can win a medal for my country. But I don’t want to go from nought to 100 by saying ‘I’m going to break a record’. If I can make the team, if I win a medal, I can maybe break a record, but my dream is still to be part of the USA national team.”

It is important to remember, however, that anyone who wants to win their ticket to the Olympic Games with a country that always has an extraordinary depth of talent, Olympiad after Olympiad, has to go through the qualifying races, the much-vaunted trials, where glory is born and dreams are shattered. The trials to form part of Team USA for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will take place in Omaha, Nebraska, from 21 to 28 June 2020. Will we see Carson and his brother Jake, one year his senior, add to their succession of victories and take their first steps towards Olympic glory?

www.olympic.org

May 18 19

Olympians shine on Friday night in Bloomington

by ZwemZa

Lilly King (USA Swimming)

Friday evening’s finals at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Bloomington had a definite “hometown” feel as Zach Apple, Lilly King, Cody Miller and Zane Grothe took top honors in their respective events in their home pool.

Apple won the 100 freestyle, King and Miller both took first in the 100 breaststroke, and Grothe, who won the 1500 Thursday evening, added the 400 freestyle title.

“It was kind of weird for me about a year ago having big meets here (at Councilman Billingsley Aquatics Center), but I got used to it now, and it’s so easy to swim fast at home,” King said. “I’m thankful we have this great crowd.”

After finishing fourth in the morning prelims, Apple came back strong in the night’s 100 freestyle final to edge fellow Indiana swim mate Blake Pieroni 48.76 to 48.86. Robert Howard, representing the University of Alabama, was third.

“This morning, I felt pretty smooth and controlled, so I knew I’d be faster tonight,” said Apple, who transferred to Indiana last summer for his senior year. “I just wanted to let the finals environment take me through the first 25, and then try to turn on the guns there and then try and go an extra over the last 15 and see what I can do.”

King swam the fastest time in the world this year in winning the 100 breaststroke, an event she has owned for the past three years.

Annie Lazor, who was neck-and-neck with King from start to finish and is one of the favorites in the 200 breast Sunday, finished a very close second with the third-fastest time in the world in 2019. Bethany Galat, Emily Escobedo and Madisyn Cox all tied for third.

Miller, who suffered through a rough 2018 with a knee injury, came back strong with a win against a strong 100 breaststroke field.

He edged 2018 Phillips 66 National Champion Michael Andrew 59.24 to 59.52, while Anton McGee of Iceland was more than a full second back in third place.

“That race meant a lot to me because I had a really rough year last year and had a really gnarly knee injury and was doing really crappy for a long time – probably the worst season I’ve ever had,” Miller said. “To come back from that and swim well in my home pool, and as Rowdy (Gaines) said, ‘put up a top-10 time in the world,’ is pretty cool this early in the summer. I’m just really stoked right now, and it was a fast field. Michael (Andrew) swam really well, my teammate Ian (Finnerty) was killing it, so it was a really good group effort. It was a really fun race.”

Andrew returned to the pool two events later to win the 50 backstroke, edging Grigory Tarasev and Gabriel Fantoni, who swims for nearby Indiana Swim Club. Andrew’s swim in a U.S. pool was his first after competing abroad for the past several weeks.

As expected, Olympic and World Champions (and former Stanford teammates) Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky took top honors in the 100 and 400 freestyle events, respectively.

Manuel got the evening out to a fast start with a win in the 100 freestyle, winning in 53.65 – a tenth of a second slower than her preliminary swim in the morning. Mallory Comerford finished second and Margo Geer was a very close third. Ledecky, who is working speed events more and more into her meets, was fourth.

“The 100 free was ok,” Manuel said. “It wasn’t exactly what I wanted coming off this morning’s swim, but I definitely feel like I have a lot of room for improvement, so it’s a little bit of a bummer, but hopefully things will be better.”

True to form, Ledecky led the 400 free from start to finish, putting more and more distance between her and the rest of the field with each lap. She came in just under the 4-minute mark –3:59.95 – for the first time this year and put up the second fastest time in the world in 2019.

Madisyn Cox and Brooke Forde finished a distant second and third, respectively.

“I was happy with how I swam,” said Ledecky, who just missed the podium with a fourth-place finish earlier in the evening in the 100 free. “I just wanted to be better than I was this morning. I put together a solid swim, so I’m pretty happy with that, and I’m excited for the rest of the weekend.”

In the women’s 200 butterfly, Katie Drabot out-touched Regan Smith for the victory while Ella Eastin was a close third. Two events earlier, Smith edged Kylee Alons and Elise Haan to win the 50 backstroke.

“I mean, it’s just another 200 fly, and I went into it with no expectations, being that the event is still fairly new for me,” Drabot said. “I really just wanted to put my training to work and see where I still need to make adjustments and where I’m doing well. I was really happy that Regan (Smith) was right there with me and that I could put up a good fight with her.”

Rio Olympian Jay Litherland, who is a stalwart in the 400 individual medley, came on strong over the final 25 meters to beat Corey Gambardel and Carson Foster in the 200 butterfly. Litherland’s time of 1:57.99 was a personal best.

“It was a fun one,” he said. “I don’t get to do (200) fly much. It was awesome racing these guys, and it’s always great competition. I’m honored to race with these fast guys.”

Grothe rounded out the evening with a win in the 400 free, his second victory in as many days. Grothe won comfortably with a time of 3:48.27, more than four seconds ahead of Felix Auboeck and six in front of third-place finisher Johannes Callon.

“I tried to set it up just like I did this morning, stay a little more relaxed mentally and go from there,” said Grothe, who also trains with the Hoosier post-grad swimmers. “I mean, the one thing I did a little differently was I tried to go 100 percent this morning. I’ve never done that. It was about two seconds faster than I’ve ever been in prelims. To be about .3 off the fastest in-season I’ve ever done? It’s really a testament to the training I’ve been doing.”

Tomorrow’s events include more intriguing matchups in the men’s and women’s 200 freestyle, 50 breaststroke, 50 butterfly, 200 backstroke and 400 individual medley.

Be sure to catch prelims action on usaswimming.org beginning at 9 a.m. ET. Finals action gets underway at 6 p.m. ET with B finals on usaswimming.org and A finals on the Olympic Channel and nbcsports.com/live.

Complete Results

May 18 19

Olympic swimmer Nathan Adrian on testicular cancer diagnosis: I ‘felt betrayed by my own body’

by ZwemZa

For the first time in forever, Nathan Adrian truly has no idea if he’ll have a strong swim Friday. And at this point, it doesn’t really matter to the five-time Olympic gold medalist. He’s simply elated to be back.

Adrian, a 30-year-old three-time Olympian, was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer. He had two surgeries — one in December to remove the tumor and one in late January to remove some lymph nodes — which forced him to pause his swimming career for the longest time since he was four, he explained. But this weekend at the TYR Pro Swim Series in Bloomington, Indiana, he’s making his return to the pool and is nervously excited about it.

“Win, lose, first, last — I just want to get back in my rhythm, back in my routine,” Adrian told For The Win. “That’s what I strive for, what I wish I had through the entire treatment process. … Now I’m finally here, and I have no idea whether or not I’m going to swim fast. But the fact is I actually get to compete, and I’m happy.”

He’ll race in the 100-meter freestyle Friday and the 50-meter free Sunday. He won Olympic gold in the 100 at the 2012 London Games and bronze in both events in Rio in 2016.

Nathan Adrian (right) with Michael Phelps, Cody Miller and Ryan Murphy after winning the 4×100 medley relay in Rio. (Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)

Adrian said he started physical therapy immediately after his second surgery. Not allowed to carry more than 15 pounds for weeks after his procedure, he was doing things like lifting a can of soup over his head. At 6-foot-6, he also estimated he lost 10 to 15 pounds, dropping down to about 215 before eventually gaining it all back.

But enduring the immediate recovery after his surgeries — which included “five holes cut in my abdomen” — was only a tiny part of his journey.

Physically, the left side of his body — and not just where incisions were made — is lagging behind his right side. After his surgeries, he overcompensated by relying on his right arm, right leg and right-side muscles. So he’s been reteaching his left everything how to engage, which ranges from work in the weight room to brushing his teeth while balancing on his left foot.

“[It’s] super random stuff like my left leg is not as explosive right now as it normally is,” Adrian said. “I don’t sweat out of my left foot. That’s super random and super weird.”

He laughed at the idea that he has his pre-surgery power off the blocks, or that his strength with each stroke is back. But he’s progressing and is obviously in good enough shape to compete.

“This is a journey that’s going to last much much longer than four or five months,” he said. “I wish I was superhuman like that — like Wolverine and be able to recover that quickly.”

Adrian during the men’s 100m freestyle semifinal at Rio. (Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports)

Longterm, he added that he expects to “deal with these bilateral asymmetries probably somewhat for the rest of my life.” But for all the physical challenges he faces, the mental side of a cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery, especially for a professional athlete, is particularly daunting.

Along with support from his wife, Hallie, and his mom, Cecilia, Adrian had help from his teammates — he trains at UC Berkeley, where he also went to college — and other athletes. He said Lance Armstrong and Olympic swimmer Eric Shanteau, who both had testicular cancer, reached out. Katie Ledecky sent a handwritten card.

Without needing chemotherapy, there is no current evidence that Adrian still has cancer. But he said he’s on active surveillance protocol for the next few years, which includes an MRI every three months and blood tests every two months.

He said he was dealt a “pretty intense dose” of perspective on life, realizing that his goal of competing in a fourth Olympics could still be ripped away from him with one visit to his doctors.

Adrian expects to be emotional at some point this weekend, but he has no idea when. Maybe it’s when he’s behind the blocks for this first race since December, maybe it’s right after he competes or when he has a moment to himself. With the help of his tunnel vision mentality from before his diagnosis, he’s focused on his health with his eye on Tokyo next summer.

“I’m not over it, but it’s something I have accepted,” he said. “This isn’t Rick and Morty. I can’t use my portal gun and go to a different universe where I don’t have cancer. It’s really about doing what you can and controlling what you can.”

USA Today

 

May 18 19

DWS, London, Day 1: Great Britain and Australia snatch two golds destined for China

by ZwemZa

The last leg of the FINA/CNSG Diving World Series kicked off on Friday 17 May in spectacular fashion as Thomas Daley and Matthew Lee didn’t disappoint the home crowd with a showstopping performance in the men’s 10m synchro platform, with Australia’s Maddison Keeney and Anabelle Smith mirroring the feat in the final two rounds of their 3m synchro springboard final.

While both nations managed to overtake their Chinese rivals’ early leads in those events, the women’s 10m synchro and men’s 3m synchro ended with China taking home the gold – though again not as expected in the latter as Russia threatened to make it a third upset in the final rounds.

British delight
Already medal contenders coming into the competition ranked third, the first few rounds provided the expected charge of China followed by Russian Federation before the British pair overtook Viktor Minibaev and Aleksandr Bonidar in the third round with a 82.56 score for their inward 3 ½ somersault tuck.

Daley and Lee signalled their intent in the fourth by edging further ahead of Russia with their back 3 ½ somersault pike for 91.80 points, which they replicated in round five to exceed even their own expectations. They leapfrogged China’s Yang Hao and Lian Junjie before holding their nerve to stay in front in the final dive with 104.34 points – one of the highest scores ever recorded in the men’s synchro – for their forward 4 ½ tuck, sending the home spectators into a frenzy.Their golden 477.90 final score even eclipsed the British record of 444.45 points set by Daley and previous partner Daniel Goodfellow at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Daley said of their feat: “When I was feeding my little boy Robbie this morning I didn’t think that would happen. We knew that we were capable of doing that as we’ve been doing it in training but this is the first time everything has come together in one diving list. There’s still more to get out of the list, but we’re pretty happy with that.

“The home crowd support was just fantastic and being able to compete in front of family and friends and beat the Chinese gives you a lot of confidence, especially heading into the World Championships.”

Lee was similarly delighted with their success as he added: “I’ve never interacted with the crowd like that before, turning around with that much confidence and thinking, ‘we’ve smashed it’ and punching my fist in the air. I’m speechless. In the junior worlds I established myself as quite a successful athlete but this is my first senior international gold medal – I’m over the moon. We’ve still got a few more competitions to go here but it’s a great start.”

A clearly disappointed Yang and Lian conceded their early promise of gold with a score 459.00 to instead take home silver, while Minibaev and Bonidar finished their day with 448.50 and a bronze medal.

Youngsters take first gold for China
Great Britain’s success of the day didn’t start there either as Lois Toulson and Eden Chen claimed bronze in the women’s 10m synchro final earlier in the session with a score of 284.76. China’s young pairing of Chen Yuxi and Yuan Haoyan proved unbeatable with their 334.92 points, even with a good attempt by DPR Korea’s Kim Mie Rae and Jo Jin Mi to keep up but eventually finishing with 327.24.

Despite the dominance of the 13-year-olds, they were not so happy with their performances after posting a lower score than the 338.70 they achieved in their senior debut last week in Kazan. “I didn’t think the score was very good,” said Yuan Haoyan. “I’m not used to this big environment but I will train hard to put myself in this kind of environment in the future.”

Chen Yuxi and Yuan Haoyan (CHN)

Chen Yuxi said: “I wasn’t very satisfied with my performance today. I had an injury to my right arm from training so I was struggling when I entered the water. We’re still at the early stage of our careers, so we will try to do our best every time.”

Australia pile on the pressure
The women’s 3m synchro springboard followed similar dramatics to the men’s 10m synchro as Australia’s Maddison Keeney and Anabelle Smith overtook leaders Lin Shan and Chang Yani to keep up the pressure on China going into the final round.

Once again China failed to pull back their early lead to settle for silver with 316.77 points to Australia’s 323.70. It was another bronze in London for Canada’s Jennifer Abel who scored 306.45 together with partner Melissa Citrini Beaulieu, after Abel repeated her London 2012 Olympic feat in the event.

Appearing surprisingly relaxed at their win, Smith said: “We weren’t keeping tabs on the score, we just did our normal thing between each dive.” Remembering the earlier exploits of the home nation also overturning China to take gold in the men’s 10m synchro, Keeney added, “It’s always good to beat the Chinese.”

Final flourish
The men’s 3m synchro provided even more shocks to end an action-packed first day of London’s leg of the Diving World Series, as China’s Wu Luxian and Wang Zongyuan led from the off only to slip in the fourth round, this time to Russia. However, they managed to pull it back in the final dive to reach a 418.68 total points score to Russians Evgenii Kuznetsov and Nikita Shleikher’s 417.12. Ukraine’s  Oleksandr Gorshkovozov and Oleg Kolodiy then managed a surprise podium place with 405.63 to claim bronze, after starting outside of the top three in the rankings and at the bottom of the table in the first two rounds of the final before hopping between silver and bronze position in their last four dives.

Gold medal winner Wu said of what turned out to be a very tense final: “We weren’t paying too much attention to how the other divers were doing – we only focused on every one of our own dives. We always do the same, if anything goes wrong we encourage each other.”

He also said of Team China losing their early leads and failing to claim gold in the men’s 10 synchro and the women’s 3m springboard: “If other people go wrong then they have their problems but we won’t let it distract us.”

Ashley Newman, FINA Correspondent in Great Britain

May 17 19

London opens its doors once again to divers for the 2019 FINA/CNSG World Series

by ZwemZa

The fifth and final leg of the 2019 Diving World Series has landed in London at the site of the 2012 Olympics, the London Aquatics Centre, which will once again play host to the Diving World Series after a four-year absence from the event. London follows Japan, China, Canada and Russia in the series.

Great Britain’s poster boys Thomas Daley and Jack Laugher are excited by another chance to compete in front of a home crowd, as Daley said:

“This might be my best World Series yet and I’m hoping I can finish well in front of a vocal home crowd. I love this venue, I have loads of great memories from it and I have the bonus of training here every day.”

Olympic champion Jack Laugher MBE agreed that he would be buoyed by the home crowd, especially after gaining confidence in Kazan when he took gold for the first time this year on the world stage.

“I can’t wait for the action to get underway now. I was really pleased to win gold last weekend in Kazan and feel things are really starting to come together at the right time. Competing in London is always special, especially having won gold and silver at the European Championships in this venue in 2016.”

London will be no different to Kazan in terms of the young crop of Chinese divers, including the likes of Lian Junjie and Yang Hao, hoping to carry the mantle from their successful older teammates Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen who will again be absent from the line up.

Two-time world champion Hao took double gold in Kazan in the men’s 10m and men’s 10m synchro and will be hoping to improve on his current fifth place ranking.

He said: “I hope I can perform well in London – I have competed here once before in 2015 and the venue is good. It won’t be easy but I’m looking forward to it. My older teammates will teach me.”

Battling the young Chinese divers in the individual events are Daley and Laugher, who will be hoping to claim golds again as they have done in the last two legs of the series in both the men’s 10m platform and men’s 3m springboard respectively. They will also be aiming to retain their top rankings for the series finale in those events. This would be the icing on the cake for the two British divers, setting them up nicely in their preparations for the Olympics in Tokyo next year.

After turning around a poor start in Kazan to claim individual gold in the women’s 3m springboard, Canada’s 27-year-old Jennifer Abel admitted that her experience in the sport had meant that her performances were now based on a more mental game. She will also be one to watch at this event.

Abel agreed that the atmosphere in London would help spur on the athletes and explained that she shared fond memories of London along with the Brits, having won her Olympic bronze here in 2012.

“I’m pretty happy about my year so far and last week I got to win my first gold medal of the year in Kazan, so I was pretty excited about that, especially before this week, which brings back good memories for me. I got my Olympic medal here in London seven years ago so I’m really happy to be back here and pretty excited to contend this week,” she said.

The synchro events will open the three-day competition on Friday 17 May starting with the women’s 10m platform synchro followed by the men’s event, and then the women’s and men’s 3m springboard synchro final. Saturday’s finals will then see the individual women’s 10m and the men’s 3m, before the mixed 10m synchro. The last day of the London leg, and the entire series, will then showcase the women’s 3m, men’s 10m and mixed 3m synchro finals.

Ashley Newman, FINA Correspondent in Great Britain

May 17 19

Hannah Moore, Zane Grothe win the men’s and women’s 1500 in Bloomington

by ZwemZa

Hannah Moore 1500m freestyle (USA Swimming)

The TYR Pro Swim Series at Bloomington kicked off Thursday night with the women’s and men’s 1500m freestyle, one year to the date that Katie Ledecky set the world record in that event, just 45 minutes up the road in Indianapolis.

There would be no Ledecky – though she’s slated to swim in other events there later this weekend – and no world record in the timed finals of the 1500, but U.S. National Teamers Hannah Moore and Zane Grothe put together some solid swims for the women’s and men’s titles.

Moore’s time of 16:11.42 was the sixth-fastest in the world this year, outdistancing the rest of the field by more than 11 and a half seconds. Finishing second was Kristel Kobrich of Chile in 16:23.19, followed by Becca Mann in third in 16:29.45.

“I actually got off the airplane and came right here,” Moore said. “So I’m pretty surprised with that time, but I felt like I had a lot of stamina coming off open water (nationals) the other week. I felt pretty good, and I was pretty happy with the time.”

In the men’s race, Grothe easily outdistanced Marcelo Acosta of the University of Louisville, 15:17.12 to 15:28.66. Ricardo Vargas of the University of Michigan was third in 15:30.04.

“I tried to stay smooth,” Grothe said. “I’m swimming a little better than I have been. My race strategy (in the 1500) is probably one of my weakest race strategies, but I just tried to stay smooth and build through it.  For not over-working it, I’m very happy with that time.”

The meet continues tomorrow with a full slate of events, including the women’s and men’s 100m freestyle, 100m breaststroke, 50m backstroke, 200m butterfly and 400m freestyle.

Complete Results

Jim Rusnak | Director of Media Properties | USA Swimming

May 17 19

The Bond

by ZwemZa

Swimming Australia

There’s nothing more genuine than the relationship between a coach and their athlete – it’s pure, honest and dynamic.

Ahead of the 2019 Hancock Prospecting World Swimming Trials – leading into July’s World Swimming Championships – Swimming Australia has created a new video series which captures this special connection.

The first edition is titled, “The Bond”, and features Queensland duo Richard Scarce and Dolphin, Elijah Winnington.

The 19-year-old has been training under Scarce for the past decade and in that time Winnington has achieved a high level of success – including a junior world record and a Commonwealth Games gold medal.

“The thing that makes our partnership work so well is that I’m one of the only people who can understand his gibberish, it’s like we speak our language,” Winnington laughed.

“He knows exactly what I need to get the best of myself.”

The respect goes both ways, with Scarce saying the young “colt” constantly makes him proud.

“He steps up and genuinely makes me prouder every time he gets in the water – he’s not afraid to push the boundaries,” Scarce said.

Keep an eye out for the next episode in the series which features Commonwealth Record holder, SOPAC’s Matthew Wilson, and his coach Adam Kable.

Swimming Auistralia

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