SWIMNEWS ONLINE: May 1996 Magazine Articles

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Steve Clark and Matt Biondi

On the subject of men freestyle swimmers, Haines said that Steve Clark was one of the great impact swimmers he had trained. "Steve Clark started swimming in Los Altos when he was 8 or 9 years old. He came to Santa Clara, and he and another guy, Eddie Townsend, both had to stand close together to make a shadow in the high sun, they were so damned skinny."

Later, Steve went to Yale, where he swam a new American 100 yards record of 46.7 seconds in the NCAA's.

Yale's Payne Whitney Exhibition Pool was like the Taj Mahal of swimming. It seated 1,500 people in plush seats around an elevated amphitheatre that circled the pool. More world records were broken in it than anywhere else. It was here that Bob Kiphuth, the great Yale coach, reigned like a demi-god. He protected every aspect of the pool as if it was a holy shrine.

Haines with Steve Clark, who won three relay golds at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and held the 100m free world record in 1961.
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © International Swimming Hall of Fame

"The first time I ever visited there was when I was a young coach. I started to step out on to the pool deck. I was wearing my regular street shoes, and I heard Kiphuth shout: 'Hey kid! Go back and get a pair of rubbers.' I said: 'Yes, sir! Yes, sir!' and went back and put rubbers on.

"But the worst thing you could do was to go from the pool deck to the amphitheatre by climbing over the bannisters. This set Kiphuth into a terrible rage," said Haines. "When Steve heard that he had broken Jeff Farrell's American record of 48.4, he was so excited that he forgot the rules. Up he goes, over the bannisters, to where his mother was sitting."

"She was knitting, for gosh sake! maybe it was crocheting! 'Hey Mom, Steve calls 'I went 46.7' His Mom says: 'Is that good, Steve?' Steve had the perfect parents, let me tell you!" added Haines.

Haines classifies Matt Biondi as "one of the great impact swimmers, and a real Hall of Famer.

"Matt went 41.8 for the 100 yards. He still holds the record. The reason he went 41.8, and the reason he went his 48.4 world record for 100 metres in Korea, was that the guy was training overdistance; he was training for the 500, he was training for the 200, he even swam the 500 in dual meets, and he was our greatest 200 swimmer. But, as soon as he stopped training for the 200, and overdistance, he never ever, even in the 50, swam as fast again."

"He never swam 48.4 again because he quit training for the 200, and it was really sad for me to watch the Olympic Games in 1992, and to see that our best 200 guy, with 1:46.2 or 1:47, whatever it was, wasn't on our relay. He didn't swim the 200 so he couldn't qualify. But Matt was a great impact swimmer for our sprinters."

Schollander, Spitz, Saari and Roth

Haines talked about two other impact sprinters, Don Schollander and Mark Spitz, both of whom he had trained. "Don was a great worker in practice. Let's say, for example, that we were going into the hard part of the season. I think we were going 15 x 200, and we were going 5 sets of three, descend the first three, and the first 200 in the next three had to be as fast as the second 200 in the first set, and then they had to descend that set, and they had to keep going, and they got down to 14."

Haines with Don Schollander, who became the first swimmer to win four golds at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
For larger 64k photo click on image. Photo © International Swimming Hall of Fame

"Spitz and Schollander were not exactly what I would call 'We'll go out and have a beer together' types. Schollander would be in one lane, and Spitz would end up in his lane and drag on him. He was the greatest drag swimmer of all time. Schollander didn't like that one bit. Neither did he cherish the thought that this young swimmer was going to knock his socks off if he hung around long enough."

Schollander was the first swimmer in the world to break two minutes for the 200 metres freestyle. He brought the time down to 1:54.3. For four years, Schollander remained one of only two swimmers in the world to break 2 minutes for the 200 up to 1964.

For many years, making the American men's Olympic 4x200 relay team was the toughest task in the world. "To make that team, a swimmer had to shave. Don Schollander made the 1964 team without shaving. He was the last person to make the team without shaving. Don did not shave until his first event in Tokyo.

"Even the great Roy Saari, along with all the other guys, had to shave to make the team, but then you must remember that he had been ill and was hard put to it. He made the relay but he had to shave to do it, and then, with the 400 I.M. and the 1500 coming up later, I think it took a little bit of the edge off him.

"In the 400 I.M., Saari was swimming a pretty good guy by the name of Dick Roth. Roth had a big attack of appendicitis at the Tokyo Olympics, and he was hospitalized. The hospital said they wouldn't release him. Well, when we got there, he was actually going down the hall, hopping on one leg, getting his pants on to get the hell out of there. He was scared because they had told him that they were going to operate on him. And, when we did get him back home from Japan, the next day his family doctor took him in and took his appendix out right away. That's how bad it was."

Mike Burton

"Back in the 30s Buster Crabbe, Jack Medica, and Ralph Flanagan were the dominant Americans. George Breen was one of our first real impact swimmers over the distances. This guy didn't start swimming until he was in college, and he broke the world 1500 record in our Olympic Trials in 1956, I think, and then again in the heats of the 1500 in the Melbourne Olympics. But then, of course, Australia's Murray Rose bombed everyone over there in the finals.

"Brian Goodell in Montreal, 1976, and George DiCarlo in Los Angeles, 1984, were uncanny in the distances. But, before them, there was Mike Burton, maybe the toughest guy who ever pulled on a Speedo.

"Burton won the 1500 in Mexico City, and 3 or 4 days before the 400, he and a couple of other guys became violently ill. When we were riding back and forth from the Olympic village to the pool, we kept seeing a sign, 'Chucky's Pizza.' or something like that, and the swimmers kept saying 'Gee!, we ought to get off the bus and get a pizza.' I said: 'You guys get off to get a pizza, you're not going to swim in the meet. Don't get off. I don't want to catch you!'

"So, one day, I wasn't on the bus, and they got off and, on that day the elevators in the Olympic Village weren't working, and we had to carry Mike Burton down four flights of stairs, and take him to the infirmary where they fed him intravenously for about three days. Then he snapped out of it, and he just managed to qualify 7th for the finals. He just barely made it in. 5/10ths of a second more, and he would have been a spectator."

Just before the final of the 400, Burton asked Haines what time he thought it would take to win, and Haines replied: "Ralph Hutton says he's going to go 4:11.0". Burton said "Well, I'm going 4:09.0 tonight."

"Well, that's what Burton did, he went 4:09.0-exactly! And, of course, he won. Not great by today's standards, but he won. Then, in the 1500, Burton won in world and Olympic records."

Talking about the American Trials for the 1972 Munich Olympics "Burton was in an outside lane in the heat of the 1500 metres trial, and when I looked over to where he was swimming, there were about 20 or 30 people, coaches, swimmers and parents running along the pool deck, yelling for Mike Burton to qualify. Then he made the team and went to Munich. That guy was unbelievable!"

Quick 'Psych-Up'

"The reason I say that Burton was one of the toughest guys in the 1972 Olympics, is that he was not swimming well there until we got to the 1500. In Munich there was the great fiasco of Rick DeMont's disqualification. Just before he walked out on the pool deck to swim the event, Burton found out that DeMont was not going to be swimming the 1500 that night. Actually, Burton and DeMont heard the news at the same time.

"They had disqualified DeMont because of the fiasco in the 400. He had asthma and had taken an over-the-counter medicine called 'marex', and it might have been more of a medicinal thing than a performance-enhancing drug, but it was on the banned list, and so he got knocked out of the 400, and lost his gold medal to the Australian swimmer.

Haines said that Burton had only about two minutes in which to gather himself for his new role as favourite. "I don't think Burton was anyone's favourite to win, but by the time he found out about it in the ready room, and went out on the pool deck, Burton got himself together and swam one of his great races. As a matter of fact, he was in such great possession of that race, that, about half way through, he allowed the Australian swimmer to go ahead of him, and got on the guy's hip.

"The other swimmer didn't move over, and so Burton stayed right there with the guy until about the last 150, and then he tumbled and got away from him and won the race. Burton was the first 1500 swimmer in history to win back-to-back 1500's in the Olympic Games. Of course, Vladimir Salnikov, the great Russian swimmer, has done it twice. I consider these guys to be impact swimmers."

Haines cited more great impact swimmers. "Donna de Varona was one, Claudia Kolb, of course, was another. Claudia was one of the toughest swimmers of all time. And then there was Mark Spitz. A lot of people remember him for his 100 and 200 fly, but he could swim every distance from 100 to 1500. Many people don't know that, or don't remember that he swam in a meet one day in torrential rain over at San Leandro, a junior college school. At about 300, I stood up and called 'Am I the only guy here who knows this guy is breaking the world record?'

"Then everybody started to take notice. Nobody was watching because the rain was pouring down on them. Mark broke the world record in the 400. And later that summer, he set world records in the 800 and the 1500. Of course, they didn't stand for long, because later in the nationals, Mike Burton annihilated these times, but, nevertheless, I mention this to show that Spitz was also able to break world records over the longer distances. His background of aerobic, overdistance training prepared him for the 100 and 200 distances."

Importance of Overdistance

Haines said that he had always been an advocate of aerobic overdistance training. "The reason that Spitz, Clarke, Schollander, and all these guys were able to do what they did, was because they had a background in overdistance training. And, if you go through the history of swimming, and you look at the great 100 metres champions, you'll learn that practically all of them were great 200 and 400 swimmers."

"Johnny Weissmuller was 400 metres American champion, and he was the 100 champion. Wally Ris, who won the 100 in the 1948 London Olympics, was a great 200 swimmer, although you don't read much about him swimming 200. But he trained for the 200. The great Australian swimmers all dropped down from the 400, 200 to the 100, and these guys were impact swimmers. Although Janet Evans' times have plateaued now at a slower level than her world's best, she is undoubtedly one of the great impact swimmers in history."

Haines said that another girl that he had the "good fortune to coach" was Keena Rothammer, one of the few swimmers to have beaten the great Shane Gould of Australia. "Shane won the 400 in Munich in 1972, and Keena, I think, was 3rd or 4th. I don't even know if she got a medal. But, when she got through, she came up to me and said 'George, I'm going to win the 800.' I said; 'I think you can, Keena.' I had my tongue in my cheek, you know, because here she's going to be racing Shane Gould."

Haines related how Keena Rothammer swam "one of the greatest negative-split races, maybe of all time...up to that point, anyway, because her second 400 was about 1/2 a second faster than her first 400, and she won in new World and Olympic record times. Her time was about 8:55, not great compared with today, but it was good then."

Subdued Kicking

Haines said that Keena Rothammer had an unusually powerful kick. He described how he tried to get her to subdue her kick, to make it more relaxed, and to teach her how to use it only when she had to. Don Schollander also had a very powerful kick. "That guy could break a minute for 100 yards on the kick board. We had to subdue his kick," said Haines. "A lot of 6-beat crawl swimmers have a tendency to overkick. When you see swimmers turn blue around the lips and back of their shoulders, the first thing you ask is: 'Are they in condition? Are they overkicking? Are they holding their breath on the way out?' "

Haines said that swimmers such as Schollander, Keena Rothammer, and Chris von Saltza, all of whom had a powerful kick, had to learn to subdue their kick, and make sure they were breathing properly, and with the right pattern.

Haines pointed to Australia's Kieren Perkins as a great impact swimmer. "He is a perfect example of a guy who can kick, and use his legs throughout the 1500, as well as in a straight 400 swim. But he subdues his legs and is able to change from a little bit of a 4-beat kick into a 6-beat. All leg-talented swimmers have to be able to do that. Perkins is one of the great ones, and must be a tremendous trainer."

"The guy is unbelievable," says Haines, as he bestows on Kieren Perkins an accolade he reserves for only the greatest of the great.

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