SWIMNEWS ONLINE: October 1997 Magazine Articles

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


Not our mistake

In the August 1997 SWIMNEWS Making Waves we ran a picture of Andrew Baier from the COBRA Swim Club. His mother called to tell us that, in fact, that picture was one of James Reed, COBRA. Mrs. Baier sent a picture of her son Andrew, who is featured in this month's Making Waves. The original mistake was made at the club level by one of the assistant coaches (who remains nameless).

Life could have been different

If you wonder why we are publishing articles on the former East German and current China drug use problems, consider the following. In a conversation with Cheryl Gibson, the Canadian 1976 Olympic silver medallist for the 400 I.M., she said "My life would have been quite differerent if I had been the gold-medal winner."

Biggest competition this year

From September 3-7 in the "Podoli Sports Complex" in Prague, the Czech Republic hosted the biggest event ever, the VI LEN European Masters Championships.

There were 9228 individual and 658 relay entries, up from 8302 entries two years ago, by 3112 participants from 706 clubs from 31 European LEN member countries.

Former swimming stars who distinguished themselves were Dimitri Volkov, RUS, with two records for 50 and 100 breaststroke in the 30-and-over category. Josef Hladky, in the same age category, returned to his hometown Prague and his old club, the organizers of these championships, from Heidelberg where he currently resides. He won the 50 free and 200 I.M.

Other former greats in competition: Ukrainian stars Sergei Fesenko and Alexander Sidorenko, Galina Prozumenshikova, RUS (1964 Olympic gold medallist), Germans Manuela Stellmach-Schubert, Petra ThŸmer -Katzur, Angela Franke, Caren Metschuk-Mann, Klaus Katzur, and Lars Hinneburg.

The oldest competitor was Jan Karpisek, CZE, born in 1906, who won the 50 free for the 90-years-and-older category. Another 85-years-and-older category winner was Margarete Gottschalk, GER, born 1909, with firsts for the 100 back, 50, and 100 breaststroke.

Only seven swimmers did not finish their events. Entry standards were imposed on the longer events to keep the time it took to run them under control.

Comeback for Franzi?

The comeback of German star Franziska van Almsick is scheduled for Nov. 6-9 in Regensburg, at the German world championship trials. After a hand injury prevented her from taking part in the European Championships in Sevilla in August, the 19-year-old Berlin native has a lot of ground to make up.

The defending world champion in the 200 freestyle has stated that she wants "to be fully there" and will not be satisfied to just participate.

Aussies hire Arbeit

The decision by Australian Athletics to hire Ekkart Arbeit as head coach in preparation for Sydney 2000 has sparked a media uproar. A former East German, Arbeit was reponsible for the throwing events from 1982 to 1988, after which he was head coach of the GDR Athletics Federation until the reunification in 1990.

Given the present climate in Germany, the decision can only be qualified as unwise; Arbeit is believed to have played a major part in doping in East German track and field, and has since been exposed as a Stasi informer.

Critics wonder how a country like Australia, supposedly dedicated to the anti-doping cause, could consider such a move without having fully researched the past of their candidate. Forbes Carlile, the renowned coach of Olympic champion swimmer Shane Gould and militant anti-doper, said, "What next? When they do something like that, we might as well hire a Chinese coach to look after our swimmers."

The importance of winning at home

(With reports by AAP from Australia) Like the Olympics, the Chinese national games are held every four years. Like the rest of the country, Chinese sport (when it was encouraged at all) has been inward-looking for almost 50 years.

The national games are organized by the central government, but athletes compete for their provincial teams. Winning athletes and coaches are rewarded, both directly through prize money and other material benefits, and indirectly through increased support.

East Germany's sports system looked outwards, with an avowed aim of demonstrating ideological superiority. China's sports system seems just as obsessed, but its focus is turned inwards. The national event is a higher priority for China's sports than the Olympic Games.

Jizhen Wei, a vice-president of the Chinese Olympic Committee, explained "Every province hopes to have a good result to show their capability to the whole country, especially to their province people." Wei said coaches and athletes "peak" for the national event, describing world championships as a "test event."

International federations have taken different attitudes to world records set at the Chinese national games, with the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) saying the 23 records in that sport will not be recognized, and the International Amateur Athletic Federation (and FINA) saying that they would be, provided all the normal requirements were met.

The IWF said the swag of world records set at the games were open to suspicion as the first positive drug test at the event was confirmed. Xiaoli Zhang's positive test follows the disqualification earlier in the games of two other female weightlifters for trying to submit pre-prepared tubes of urine at drug tests.

IWF vice-president Sam Coffa of Australia told AAP the games were not included on the IWF's list of internationally recognized events for 1997 and had therefore not been approved for world records.


Yesterday we received the September issue of SWIMNEWS. Usually this is an occasion of some interest around our home as our entire family is involved in the sport and we enjoy finding out what's been going on elsewhere.

This issue, however, was quite dissappointing in its treatment of the Canada Games and in particular the team from the Northwest Territories. In your team highlights section we not only suffer the indignity of being included with another jurisdiction but an NWT swimmer is not even mentioned. We have no problem with Yukon swimmers being recognized but the NWT is the NWT! We have been at every Canada Games since the mid 1970s and take great pride in the fact that competitive swimming has been active here since the early 1970s.

Yes it is true we didn't medal or even place. For our group of 12-15 year old swimmers though, personal bests and age group swims were excellent. We compete in the Alberta section and every one of the swimmers in Brandon has ranked in Alberta age group rankings numerous times over their careers.

Perhaps if your correspondent had taken a minute to talk with one of our coaches or parents you could have found at least one single highlight worth mentioning.

NWT swimmers and their parents would appreciate being treated with a little more dignity the next time around.

Ian Legaree,
Yellowknife, NWT


I would just like to comment briefly on your magazine on some of the things that I have noticed personally.

I really enjoy the new format and I think that the magazine is great with all of the extra international coverage within. Although the international coverage is great, I feel that your magazine is losing focus on what should be, in my opinion, the Canadian aspects, which affect us all. I am speaking in reference to the cover of issue #231. Canada, I feel should be the main focus of your magazine. The write-up of our National Championships was well done, with some great personal stories of some rising stars, but I felt that an American backstroker on the cover was unsuitable, especially after our National Championships.

In our country today, many of our young swimmers do not have national heros to look up to as they did in our great history of the sport. We as a country probably know more about swimmers from other countries then we do ours. With Canada on the rise in the sport of swimming, talents such as Mark Versfeld should be showcased, so that young swimmers can model themselves after and be inspired by some Canadian heros. Remember that old saying "A picture is worth a thousand words!"

SWIMNEWS is a fantastic publication, easily the best on the market, but let's not forget our roots.

Craig Potsep, Head Coach
Vancouver Pacific Swim Club


As our young swimmers get to be teenagers, they are under greater pressure to have summer jobs. Therefore our timing of those LC champs in July are just murder since our kids can't accept jobs when we hold this event in July 3-14 time period. In fact, this past season (July 10-14) made it next to impossible for a kid to take employment in the middle of July.

We've made great strides to keep the 15-16-year-olds in swimming by creating this additional grouping at age-group champs, but now we must also take into account their need to get summer jobs. This group of swimmers shouldn't have obstacles set up by poor planning of meet schedules. In fact, if you asked parents of even the younger swimmers, they'd say "let's get the summer holidays started at the same time school is over."

A swim meet in the second weekend in July is just too late. It's hard to keep those younger ones in the water and motivated when they want to get summer started. As far as teenagers are concerned, their exams are always over by June 20-24 and it seems appropriate to move your age-group champs to an earlier time than July. Do you have some other reasons that I'm not aware of?

Len Hutchings,
Muskoka, Ontario


The present format of SWIMNEWS is very good, especially for the followers of high-level competitive swimming. It is not only interesting because of the detailed reports on competitions but also because the background stories in each issue are well researched.

The articles about the former GDR swimmers and their coaches, particularly those who are still working for the German Swimming Federation, are of interest to me as I coached the West German women's team for the period 1980-90. The performances of my team were constantly compared not only to the East German women but to those of the whole East block.

Of course that was not very enjoyable!
However, I am of the opinion that we have to let bygones be bygones. What coach during the period of the late 1970s and 80s really knew exactly what their swimmers were really up to?

In my opinion we should try and clean our house as it stands now. The most important issue is "doping," but we have other problems to clean up like:

A special thanks to Cecil Colwin and Karin Helmstaedt for their great articles.

Niels E. Bouws,
Heidelberg, Germany

Going to the dogs

I'm a new subscriber to your magazine and I would like to receive another copy of your September issue. It was delivered by mistake to the wrong address and the neighbour's dog ate it.

Marco Aurelio Barbosa Sanchez


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

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