Rome 2009, Day 8
Men's 4x100m medley heats
The 4x100m medley world record came under threat in morning heats as three teams got inside 3:30. At Melbourne 2007, no team got inside 3:38 in heats. The German quartet of Helge Meeuw (52.46), Hendrik Feldwehr (58.22), Benjamin Starke (51.11) and Paul Biedermann (47.69) set a championship record of 3.29.48, just 0.14sec shy of the standard set by the US in Beijing. Also inside 3:30, Australia and the US.
Well done the boys from Tahiti - Vincent Perry, Rainui Teriipaia, Heimanu Sichan and Anthony Clark, wore a colourful array of Speedo briefs to clock 4:08.78 for 39th place.
Meantime, back in the fast lane, head Germany coach Dirk Lange has been a positive force for a renewal of spirit and confidence in a German team that has suffered mental fatigue of its own making (and of someone else's making in 2008) in recent years. What happens next will be fascinating.
Lange said this morning that the constant reporting of the suits issue was boring and has been bad for swimming. Actually, Dirk, it is the 39 world records that are considered to have been boring and farcical (very sadly for swimming and tragically for those who set standards described far and wide as "unbelievable"). But that is what has happened and if waving a flag in the air and celebrating each and every one of those standards is your thing, go for it. The world media, you may have noticed, has taken a different line: it undermines the meaning of a record and swimming as a serious sport. And it is the suits that have been bad for swimming, not the coverage of them.
And soon the suits will be gone. And soon you will have to make sure swimmers in Germany and elsewhere around the world can cope with a swimming again and not gliding and sliding, can cope with having to do a great deal of core work over the next winter if they are to step up and be a force next summer. Many will do just that, some will fall by the wayside.
January 1, 2010 is the deadline but the best things teams can do is surely to put the plastic fantastic in a bag the moment the curtain falls on Roma 2009 this evening. Americans says they will, the same in Australia, I hear. We shall see. There are some who will go home to prepare for a bombastic last-blast in the plastic fantastic at short-course meets between now and the end of the year. That will only make it harder for them to come off the fabric juice in 2010.
Germany has stepped up at this meet. In 2010 it, alongside all other teams, will have to do so over again. Thankfully for Lange, while he appears not to see why it is important to call this meet what it is, his two stars, Paul Biedermann and Britta Steffen are looking forward to the future and can't wait to get back to a textile suit that will not overshadow their hard work and achievement, that will not overshadow the work of their coaches - and indeed any real progress that Germany as a nation may be making.
They will get their heads round the rollback and make it work for them. Not so those who cannot put what has just happened in context.
The medley relay stats, 2007 - 2009: