SWIMNEWS ONLINE: August 1997 Magazine Articles

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Backwash features short clips, gossip, letters and opinions. Contributions are welcome.


Not Our Mistake

Anita Lonsbrough reported in the last issue that Susan Rolph would be given a share of the European Record for the 200 IM (25 m pool). She took the information from The Swimming Times, the official magazine of the ASA. However, when she phoned the LEN office in Rome to confirm if the prize money attached to the record swim would also be forthcoming, she was told that the record was never approved, as Rolph had to better the exisiting time standard, not just tie it.

Still Going Strong

More Olympic medallists have remained active than in the past because of the lucrative prize money ($25,000 for a gold medal, $15,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze) offered for the first time by U.S. Swimming last year. The U.S. Olympic Committee added another $15,000 for every champion (relays included), and swimwear companies, most prominently Speedo and also Nike and TYR, give five and sometimes six-figure endorsement contracts to the leading swimmers. Ten of the 15 Americans that won medals in individual events competed at the U.S. nationals this summer. Only two others, backstroker Whitney Hedgepeth and IMer Eric Namesnik, retired. Backstroker Jeff Rouse and IMer Allison Wagner, who redshirted at Florida this season, are taking the season off. Sprinter Angel Martino gave birth to a baby boy in May but has not retired.

Big On Competitions

Big on competitions: Chuck Wielgus, who replaced Ray Essick as Executive Director of U.S. Swimming on July 15, held a news conference on the first day of the U.S. Nationals. Wielgus, 47, was most recently the Executive Director of the Senior PGA Tour Sponsors Association and the former Executive Director of U.S. Canoe and Kayak. He never swam competitively but has experience in the sport as a summer league coach in Vermont in the late 1970s.

Don't expect any immediate changes in the governing body. Wielgus will spent "four or five months" getting educated in the sport. However, when asked about U.S. national team director Dennis Pursley: "single focus" philosophy, Wielgus did say he's "big on competitions and thinks an athlete can compete more than every four years and believes a lot has been spent on a sports science program that has not been focussed on performance."

Seeking Justice After 20 Years

Rick DeMont won the 1972 Olympic 400 freestyle, only to become the first gold medal winner to be stripped of his medal for drug use. DeMont was a life-long asthmatic and was taking Marax, which contained the banned substance ephedrine. He had declared to the US Olympic Team medical staff the various drugs he was taking for his condition. In addition to Marax, he also occasionally took Sudafex and Actifed. Apparently the 11-member medical staff never looked at his medical form or any of the 314 other American athletes' forms at the Munich Olympics.

DeMont was stripped of his medal, and not allowed to swim in the 1500 free, in which he held the world record. The following year at the first World Championships, DeMont became the first sub-four-minute gold medal winner in the 400 free. For 20 years DeMont has been seeking vindication. Last year the International Olympic Committee rejected his case, claiming that no documentation could be found indicating he was an asthmatic and listing the various medications he needed for his condition.

DeMont is now suing the U.S. Olympic Committee for $12 million in damages.

Breakout Fly Stroke Short Lived?

Arizona Desert Fox's Bob Gillett, who taught Misty Hyman the underwater fish-kick that's made her the top flyer in America, can't believe that U.S. Swimming is not supporting the revolutionary extended breakout.

"The only countries that might save it from being banned are the Russians because Pankratov uses it and Japan with Aoyama," says Gillett. "Australia and Canada are against it because they don't have anybody (using the breakout). If we (the U.S.) stood firm with the Russians and Japanese, it (the underwater start) would stay in. They (U.S. officials) have an unreasonable belief everybody will do it. Swimmers won't because you have to have good dolphin technique. Without the breakout, the successful flyers will be limited to your big swimmers or those on drugs."

Dennis Pursley, the U.S. team director, says "There is a feeling some restriction will be imposed. It's a losing battle. Based on that premise, let's get the best situation we can. That's why we are supporting the 25-metre limit."

Wasted Opportunity

The English team that competed at the Canadian Nationals was not allowed to swim in the finals, as the meet was the trials for the Pan Pacific Championships, but the team nevertheless received $7,000 from SNC towards its travel costs. Could these funds not have been better spent? We love the Brits, and like to compete against them, but they should only be invited when they can compete against the best Canadians.

Publicity Stunt?

A short course world record attempt by Michelle Smith in Ireland where there are no 50-m pools made quite a splash with the media A sponsor pledged 20,000 Irish pounds in the event of success. Smith fell short by three seconds, as the record time of 2:05.65 has resisted all challengers since 1981 when Mary T. Meagher established it.

On August 9, she tried again, this time swimming a 2:07.04, in Cork, Ireland, bettering the existing European mark of 2:07.18.

All this activity is just 10 days prior to the start of the European Championships in Spain, where she is entered in six events and for the first time will be using her married name - Michelle de Bruin.


Congratulations on your new format for the magazine - it looks great.
Many thanks for giving my swimmers the opportunity to be the first foreign team to participate in the TOP Program. The kids are really excited. Seeing their results in print in your May issue has spurred them on. All of our 10 and unders are now very keen to participate.

Even though we have been out of the country for five years, I still eagerly await the arrival of your magazine. I use the TAG rankings to motivate my kids all the time. Here in Australia, we are just getting started on a ranking system, but we have a long way to go.

If you ever decide to open up TAG to foreign teams, I'll be the first in line!

Thanks for your efforts. You never appreciate what you have until it's gone.

Lynn Fowlie, Head Coach
Ginninderra Swim Club
Canberra, Australia


It seems like Bill Bell has hit a nerve again with the debate over Canadian swimmers going to the U.S. for university. In all the debate over what would be best for the athletes in terms of swimming performance, education, and well-being, the debate always fails to consider the individual athlete. In a system that is supposed to be "athlete focussed," the athletes should be encouraged to do what is best for them. For some, a change of scenery, different education alternatives, a challenging competitive training situation, and financial security may be fulfilled by going to the U.S. For others, staying in familiar surroundings of the Canadian system may be what they need. But the decision should be driven by the athlete's needs, not what SNC or the swimming community thinks would be beneficial for them.

I have to comment on a few points that Alan Fairweather brought up. I feel that he stated the facts but certainly was misleading in how he presented them. It appears by what Allan eluded to that of the 34 Olympic medallists in the last 20 years, three of them were products of the U.S. university system and the other 31, of the Canadian university system. However, all of the female medallists, with the exception of Marianne Limpert, won their medals before attending university. They were still age group swimmers. Of the male medallists, many obtained their education only after they had retired from swimming altogether.

In the U.S., the NCAA is required to publish the graduating rate of student-athletes. The NCAA has strict regulations governing the educational progress of the student-athletes and has made it a priority to ensure that the student-athletes do graduate with a degree. Of the swimmers Fairweather listed who were attending a Canadian university when they won an Olympic medal, none graduated with a degree in four years. One has been in school for 10 years. This certainly is not the fault of the swimmer. Many swimmers trying to obtain international experience take to participating in the World Cup circuit and thus miss a month or two of university classes. This being next to impossible to make up, they often find themselves dropping a course or two and end up with only one or two courses completed at the end of the semester. It is no wonder it takes them seven or eight years to graduate. For American trained-swimmers. they can participate in their dual meet schedule, conference and the NCAA Championships with a minimum number of days missed and still get international competition.

Personally, I feel very strongly that being able to compete on a daily basis with the best in the world only benefitted me as a swimmer and competitor. You must remember that there are not only Americans attending U.S. universities, but also swimmers from all over the world. I can't explain what it does to your motivation watching Tracy Caulkins break the American Record in the 400 IM in a "get out swim" in practice, or seeing Martin Lopez-Zubero break 2 minutes for 200 back (LCM) in practice, or swimming beside Anthony Nesty while he did 100 x 100 (LCM) fly on 1:20. And that just to give a few examples.

I hope that SNC continues to work towards addressing the needs of the elite athletes and can provide the university bound swimmers with a variety of options that will enhance their performance, education, and well-being.

Sandy Goss,
Director of Moss, Lawson & Co. Ltd,

Sandy won two Olympic silver medals swimming freestyle on the medley relay in 1984-88, and was an All-American 26 times.


When is a Stroke Not a Stroke? In typical fashion, Coach Colwin has not only dissected a serious problem with precision, but then proposed a workable and practical solution that will end the confusion and endless piecemeal approach to the issue of stroke definitions above and below the surface.

While I am in favour of both stroke innovation and new events, some innovations become a natural new discipline, as underwater swimming has become. It is radically different in the set of abilities and training needed to be successful and should be considered by FINA for a new type of event, in this writer's opinion.

Fin swimming, similarly, should be looked at, due to its popularity in parts of the world. The world of swimming should be able to add new events and new disciplines without pulling into question the validity of results from the traditional and classic stroke events.

John Leonard, Executive Director
American Swimming Coaches' Association
World Swimming Coaches' Association
Fort Lauderdale, Florida


I have read with interest the article When Is a Stroke Not a Stroke? by the noted swim coach Cecil Colwin.

For some years now the development of the various swimming strokes has caught my interest. Being a former 'exponent' of a stroke, butterfly, which came from another stroke, breaststroke, I have observed the changes in all the "form" strokes that have occurred over the past forty years.

In 1956 Australia's Terry Gathercole was the only swimmer in the 200 metres Olympic breaststroke final to go the whole distance on top of the water. The winner, Masaru Furukawa of Japan swam 75% of the race underwater. Five months later FINA banned underwater swimming and the result was that the 1960 Olympic champion, Bill Muliken won the title in a time almost three seconds slower than Furukawa.

In the 1980s we saw the controversy over the underwater backstroke start. Swimmers like David Berkoff from the USA and Japan's Daichi Suzuki went as much as 35 metres underwater with their "submarine" take-off. Suzuki won at Seoul over 100 metres, however FINA soon banned this form of swimming.

And now we are faced with the butterfly stroke. Swimmers are pushing the rules to the limit and swimming(!) a large portion of their distance using the underwater dolphin kick. This particular issue has become the subject of much discussion here in Australia, where it is argued by some that our Scott Miller is the fastest swimmer in the world, not Denis Pankratov, because Miller swims on top of the water.

I agree with author Cecil Colwin that coaches and swimmers should receive credit for exploiting the rules of the stroke. But I also agree with him that this is not the real intention of the rules.

Something must be done and the sooner FINA acts on this issue the better. Would it not be catered for by a simple change to FINA rule SW 8.5!

As the rule stands now it allows the swimmer, at the start and the turn to use "one or more leg kicks" to bring him or her to the surface.

If the rule were to be changed to read as follows I believe the controversy could be ended:
"At the start and at turns, a swimmer shall be permitted to take a maximum of two legs kicks and one arm pull under the water, which must bring him to the surface."

In relation to the other points made in the article by Cecil Colwin I must say I found myself in agreement in just about all of his arguments. However I would not support his desire to legislate for a "crawl" stroke.

I was brought up on the theory that freestyle meant just that - freestyle. In other words, anything goes. As someone who could swim butterfly faster than crawl I could not opt out for another stroke.

Might I compliment the author for stimulating discussion on the points in his article and hope this discussion will hasten the change to the butterfly discipline.

Kevin Berry
Sydney, Australia

Editor's note: Kevin Berry won the 1964 Olympic 200 Butterfly.


When is a Stroke not a Stroke? When It's a Kick! The key is the word Kick. My opinion is that the butterfly stroke has evolved as far as it can in its present form. It does differ from the other strokes in that it is a total stroke, that is, the stroke itself and the dolphin action of hips and legs are a totality, not stroke and kick as the other three strokes.

The underwater kick being used in butterfly races is a genuine kick and bears little if any relationship to the complete fly stroke. This kick is not a dolphin kick and is nothing like the dolphin action in the butterfly stroke; it is really a double freestyle kick and as such has no place in butterfly racing.

I have tried very hard over the years to teach this underwater kick with my flyers, and these included Susan O'Neill, for several years with strictly limited results. Susan could not do it and I have had only one fly swimmer who can, and she is limited to perhaps 12 m only under water. It seem to me that those feet need to be much like the action of penguins to be successful. The one thing I am sure of is that it definitely is not a fly kick and should not be used further than 15 m in races - the same as allowed in backstroke.

One other thing - it may have the effect of restricting genuine flyers from doing the real thing and that would not be good for this very beautiful stroke. It may be possible to marry this fast flutter kick to the fly stroke but it would then have to be a 3 or 4 kick pattern to each stroke. It would then be, in my opinion, a different stroke.

I agree with Cecil Colwin's thinking on the "crawl" stroke returning in that word form, it makes much more sense and is easily identified as such. I hate to see the traditional strokes being bastardised by underwater movements, call it swimming or kicking if you like.

My belief is that we have gone through a long period of time to get our act together in the strokes and any increases in speed should be made through experimenting with the strokes or training - ON the surface of the water, not under!

Bernie Wakefield
Brisbane, Australia


Pablo Morales - Lord of the Flow (SWIMNEWS, July, 1997)

Cecil Colwin's piece on Pablo was wonderful. Of course, I happen to know most of the people mentioned so there were great images in my mind of Pablo, Bill Thompson, George Haines, etc, when I read it.

When I coached in Alaska there wasn't a single long course pool in the state. I always took my teams to a 50 m facility down in the "Lower 48" for a couple of weeks prior to Junior or Senior Nationals. My best friend, Steve Power (#2 in the World in the IMs in the early 70s) was an assistant coach at Concord Pleasant Hills for a couple of years, and so that's where we trained. Mitch was on the deck then, and people like Pablo and Nancy Hogshead were in the water right next to my kids. That really got us going.

I really liked the article. Pablo has sterling character and that came through quite well. That he was one of the best swimmers of his era or ANY era makes his story compelling reading. I know thousands of kids will read the article and be inspired.

Scott Lemley,
Wrightwood, California


On reading about the "new" concept for reviving Canadian swimming which involves centralization and institutionalization I have these comments.

Where was the centralization when Canadian swimming was at its zenith - between 1976 and 1982?

True, you had Don Talbot, but your swimmers had generous funding. Your best swimmers were training with their personal coaches in their home environments. Has the world changed that much?

Not for Australia. Remember that of the Olympic team in Atlanta only seven were trained in Canberra at the AIS. The rest opted to train with their personal coaches at home.

Institutionalization is rejected by many countries and it is rejected by the majority of Australia's top swimmers.

However, if this is the path to be taken by SNC then I suggest that the swimming community not be hoodwinked and insist on equality of funding for all swimmers of the same standard.

This has not happened in Australia - yet. The 900 employees of the Australian Sports Commission have so far had more influence on the Ministry of Sport than the Coaches' Association. But we are working on it!

Money, in-kind support, has been used to coerce swimmers to relocate to Canberra.

It is difficult for many swimmers and parents to reject between $35,000 to 40,000 and accept as little as $2,000 for home funding.

A similar situation should not be allowed to occur in Canada even if the home coach and existing home programs are rejected as becoming the main thrust of the national effort for "regeneration" of the sport.

Form just one "Institute" but use it as a resource and training centre, not for full-time training of swimmers.

Forbes Carlile,
Ryde, Australia

Remember... It's not true until it has been officially denied

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