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Phelps Will Swim In ‘Local Meets’

By Amy Shipley
Mary Descenza switched to a Jaked suit and knocked three seconds off of her best time in the 200 butterfly. Her time of 2 minutes 04.14 seconds was 16th world record of the meet and the first broken in the morning. (Al Bello, Getty Images)

Mary DeScenza switched to a Jaked suit and knocked three seconds off of her best time in the 200 butterfly. Her time of 2 minutes 04.14 seconds was 16th world record of the meet and the first broken in the morning. (Al Bello, Getty Images)

World Championships Archive

ROME, July 29—Michael Phelps plans to provide quite a holiday treat to Baltimore-Washington swim fans this year. He said after winning the 200-meter butterfly final Wednesday night that he intends to compete in some local meets in 25-yard pools just to “see how fast I can go.”

Already tentatively on his calendar is the North Baltimore Aquatic Club (NBAC) Christmas Meet, which takes place Dec. 12-14 at the Naval Academy.

“I have some things I’d like to do in short-course yards,” said Phelps, who has rarely swum short-course events of any kind. He is now a part-owner of NBAC

Phelps’s coach Bob Bowman said Phelps also had been planning on swimming two short-course world cup events in Stockholm and Berlin in November, but might reconsider because of projected delays in putting a ban on long-length, non-textile suits into effect.

Bowman, the chief executive at NBAC, said Tuesday night he would advise Phelps to sit out international competition until the new rules were in place. The sport’s world governing body, FINA, said Tuesday it might not be able to put a ban on long-length, non-textile swimsuits into effect until May 2010.

“I’m selfishly thinking about what I’m going to do with another season of these suits in age-group meets,” Bowman said, “when I have to go back and I have to tell people we should wear jammers, textile jammers, for our team so we can get ready for what’s coming. [And then someone says] ‘Well, the team next next door, this kid’s wearing a Jaked.’”

Meantime, USA Swimming said it intends to participate in an international meet in December that enforces its own high-tech swimsuit ban, and will consider banning suits for domestic meets if FINA does not have a suit ban in place by January.

The United States will compete in a four-nation meet with France, Russia and Britain that is expected to allow only short suits whose fabrics date from 2007 (think Speedo FS-Pro), USA Swimming National Team Director Mark Schubert said Wednesday morning. The meet will take place Dec. 19-20 in Manchester, England.

“Those four countries will make up our own rules,” Schubert said. “We’re going to have a meeting in two days to finalize those discussions, but we’re going to be using all-textile suits.”

USA Swimming President Jim Wood said by phone from New Jersey that the national governing body’s house of delegates could pass legislation at its next meeting September 19 in Chicago to enact an immediate suit ban at all USA Swimming sanctioned events, from the age-group to elite level.

DeScenza Stuns in the 200 Butterfly

Mary DeScenza’s jaw dropped as she stared at the scoreboard. She didn’t even know what the world record was in the 200-meter fly and yet she had just broken it. In a preliminary swim at the swimming world championships. By dropping nearly three seconds off of her best time in the event.

Descenza, an Illinois native and 2007 graduate of the University of Georgia, has never won an individual medal in a long-course world championship meet and never made an Olympic team, touched the wall in 2 minutes 4.14 seconds. She topped the previous mark of 2:04.18 set by China’s Liu Zige.

Descenza’s world record was the 16th of the meet and the first broken in the morning.

Descenza, a Tyr-sponsored athlete, switched to the acclaimed Jaked speedsuit, but attempted to be discreet about the switch. She blacked out the Jaked label, then tucked her swim cap underneath the suit so it hung over the label as she addressed reporters Wednesday.

“Oh my God, I didn’t even think I was going that fast,” said Descenza, who finished second in the night’s semifinals with a time of 2:04.33. “It was a very big surprise, an awesome surprise … Moments like this here are the ones I live for.”

Pelton Wins 50 Back Heat, Doesn’t Advance

Despite winning her heat in the 50 backstroke in 28.86 seconds, Towson’s Elizabeth Pelton failed to advance to the semifinals. She posted the 22nd-best time overall.

“I’m kind of mad I didn’t make it back,” Pelton said. “It’s a 50; it’d be fun to swim again tonight. But no big [deal].”

Pelton has the 200 back and 4×100 medley relay left. Pelton said she expects to swim in the preliminaries of the relay.

The U.S. team got four medals Wednesday: Phelps’s gold in the 200 fly; a bronze in the 50 breast by Mark Gangloff; and a silver and gold in the women’s 200 free by Allison Schmitt and Dana Vollmer, respectively.

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11 Responses to “Phelps Will Swim In ‘Local Meets’”

  1. Helge Hartung says:

    Dear Amy,
    With great amusement, I read Sally Jenkins’ and your articles in today’s WaPo. Phelps lost, and the story du jour for writers like you turns to polyurethane, instead of the current competition. Why don’t you report on a gifted swimmer who, after winning aplenty at last year’s swims, spent more time chasing lucrative contracts than his own records? Whose greedy advisors booked him on every talkshow, instead of studying training plans? And as long as you report swimwear: How about a story about a gifted swimmer, who is contractually obligated to wear last year’s technology instead of the current hype? LZR, thanks to many $$, rather than X-Glide?
    I remember last year’s storylines about the swimsuit advances (at a time when Phelps was felt to have the edge here): Admiration for technological advances, entrepeneurship at its best. Not so this year – why? The wrong guys are benefiting.
    Most importantly, however, I take exception to Sally’s statement that “the swimsuit issue is clear cut – far more than the moral morass of performance-enhancing substances that athletes ingest internally. At least an athlete has to do the work to get the benefit of a steroid. All a swimmer has to do is put on a suit to get a more exceptional performance, a couple of extra seconds.”
    That statement is absurd: Put me in a X-Glide suit, and I’d still trail Phelps and Biedermann by 2-3 minutes. In other words: Both swimwear and performance enhancing drugs only provide a decisive edge for the athlete who trains hard enough to be among the world’s best. That is not the difference. The profound difference is that unlike new swimsuits, substances that athletes ingest are dangerous. To that athlete, and even more so to the young wannabe star imitating this behavior.
    As a pediatrician, I worry about drug abuse – be it doping or “merely inhaling” – and the message it sends to our young people.
    And as a proud citizen, I worry about the narrow-minded, chauvinistic coverage we have to endure every four years during the Olympics, and the equally myopic angle Sally and you provide.

    Regards, Helge Hartung

  2. Peter says:

    You have to be both happy and sad for Mary. She is one of the all time class acts in swimming, and gives back to the sport in so many ways. You want her to get a world record, and gold medals, but not like this, not like this.

  3. Jack Henderson says:

    Dear Amy.
    It appears to me that you will be getting more than you bargained for now that you are raising the question about the tech suits giving everyone a boost.
    First off, Biedermann himself leaves no doubt that a lot of the records currently broken owe a great deal to the new suits.
    Second, you should not start blaming swimmers to use what is allowed. Comparing times between 2008 and 2009 is a ridiculous task, especially sind national teams are bound to one sponsor and cannot just switch from Speedo to addidas or vice versa when it seems appropriate. Having said that you should have a look at the suits adidas manifactured last year and which were not on the same level as Speedo.

    You may continue and blame Biedermann’s performance on the suit, but then you must also face the question about Phelps’ 8 golds last year. Then he was the one in the most advanced suit.

    Where were in those days, complaining about the ridiculous high-tech in swimming? Ah yes, you were busy writing an article which hailed the Speedo LZR being the 26th best invention of 2008. A suit, as you yourself reported, that won 94% of all races at the Olympics, a second skin co-designed by NASA to improve buoyancy, as you wrote yourself.

    Funny to see how perspectives can change so quickly, isn’ it?

  4. Allison says:

    I am appalled to read Helge’s response, primarily from her clear lack of understanding of the sport of swimming. As an ex-collegiate swimmer and a coach, there are certain truths that come with swimming. One of these is that an athlete, at their peak who has been training for a considerable number of years does not improve by multiple seconds at a championship meet. It is completely plausible for an 8 and under, or even a child as old as 12 or 13 to have incredible drops in time at one meet based on training hours, stroke improvement, etc. But someone who has been working at that level for years simply does not drop that kind of time. High school and collegiate swimmers relish even a hundreth of a second drop in time!

    To address your point regarding the reporting over swimming in the past few months: Has Phelp’s behavior this past year been commendable? Absolutely not. I am not excusing his personal choices, and am quick to point out that articles “aplenty” have been written on his ill-advised decisions over the past month. However, the man is talented, and openly admits to not focusing as much on his training as he potentially could have. Is Michael Phelps going to win every race that he enters? Certainly not. But at this point in time, there is not someone who, without aid, can touch him in certain races. I agree 100% that Peter Bierdermann has the ability to upset Michael, but he too admits that the suits provide a distinct advantage. Take a look at the Ian Thorpe’s records that were broken, or the 200 breastroke record that fell yesterday. I admit that each of the new record holders was talented to begin with, but each of them, wearing this new fantastic suit, have overtaken someone who was not wearing one. I believe that speaks for itself.

    Let’s examine something at a more local level: An all-star meet was held this past weekend in Northern Virigina, where children as young as 8 were wearing these newly designed “smart suits.” No less than 6 records were broken by a minimum of 1 second. MINIMUM! It’s not that kids are training differently, strokes are being reinvented or they’re putting something in the water – I hate to say it, but the suit does make the difference. When I started swimming, my first real competition suit was an S2000 (clearly outdated at this point). I personally dropped time when I competed in that suit, and I was 8 years old! The whole purpose behind the reengineering of the suits is to make the swimmer more hydrodynamic and efficient in the water – with those two things comes faster times. Every company who has ever created a “smart suit” has made claims that their suit will make you faster – I personally believe this is living proof of it.

    In regards to your discussion of substance abuse, there is no correlation between a “fast” suit and performance enhancing drugs. The swimming community has cracked down on doping for years, and it is strictly monitored and enforced. The message being sent to young swimmers is beyond clear – just don’t do it. So please, let’s remove some of the melodrama.

    Having competed in this sport for the better part of my life, and continuing to watch it progress as a coach, I believe that we have to get rid of these kind of suits, for the simple reason that they are taking away from athletic talent. I disagree with FINA’s decision to withhold the ban until 2010, as many people do, and cannot believe that someone involved intimately with the sport would support keeping these suits in competition, whether it’s at the local pool or the World Championships.

    As a final note, please spare us the from your discussion of the “chauvinistic” approach taken in regard to the Olympics. If I may, do you recall the days of Janet Evans, America’s long distance darling, or Amanda Beard, who at the time was the sweet 14 year old phenom at the Atlanta Olympics? Perhaps you recall Jenny Thompson, or (the most recent) Dara Torres? Without media coverage, these women would only be household names to swimmers, not the to the rest of the country. Yes, Michael gets his coverage, but it is so deserved. Let’s not get carried away here.

  5. Jack Henderson says:

    Allison,
    you might consider that Biedermann would probably have been faster in Bejing had he worn the LZR at that event. He could not since the German was bound to Arena at that time. It is very probable that his time would have been much better than the the one he actually clocked.
    Second, there has been a significant “improvement” in technology over the past year.
    Third, Biedermann is still a young swimmer and as a coach that you are you might not find it surprising that sometimes the personal bests make larger jumps.
    Fourth and last, it might have slipped your attendance, but Biedermann is by no means an unwritten sheet of paper. He already swam excellent time WITHOUT the current suit since Beijing, also on short course.

    Putting all this together his performance is by no means questionable, unlike of course the pathetic reaction by Bowman and Phelps.

    Last year they were absolutely fine with having a suit that was undoubtly the top tech item to have in the pool. Now that other companies have closed the gap, banning the suits can’t happen fast enough. Now what do you make of that? True champions know how to take defeats, too. I’d rather take Peirsol as a role model. He knows when it’s time to blame himself.

    And by the way, I’m looking forward to finally pick my S2000 again. I don’t fancy the leg shaving part though ;-)

  6. Allison says:

    Jack -

    My point was not to discredit Biedermann’s talent – by all means, I give the man credit where it is due. He is an incredibly capable swimmer, and I’m certain we will see great things from him in the future (as you candidly noted that we have in the past ). But your discussion of his suit only proves my point further – we are eliminating talent in favor of what country has a contract with the most up-to-date suit provider. Could Biedermann have beaten Phelps at the Olympics had he worn the proper suit? Possibly; who’s to say he couldn’t have. But again, it goes back to the discussion of what SUIT he was wearing, not his ability in the water. I understand that the LZR was touted as the greatest advancement in swimming history last year, and that suddenly suit banning has become a hot issue, but for those of us in the swimming community (which I am certain you can appreciate) the warning signs have been there from the start. We are closing the gap between those who are truly talented and the those who are simply good, and in my personal opinion, it has to stop.

    I also agree with you that there have been vast improvements over the past several years in suit technology. Half the things that my swimmers wear are futurisitc pieces of cloth that I couldn’t have dreamt about when I was swimming. But there comes a point when we need to level the playing field back to where it once was. Put limiations on what can be worn, and ensure that ALL companies abide by these rules – Speedo, TYR, Arena, Nike, whomever. Swimming was never about who was wearing what – it is about who was the fastest, the most talented and the most capable in the water.

    As a note on Aaron Piersol – he does appear to be self depricating and humble in front of the cameras, and I will openly say he takes credit for his ‘failures.’ However, the persona he portrays to the media and who he is when the cameras stop rolling are two very different, very separate people. Sadly, I find him to be a little arrogant. Every person has a different view of people however, and I will not speak to your knowledge of his personality or attitude. My personal role model was Jenny Thompson (without dating myself), but I’ve had people tell me similar stories about her, so I have long since dismissed the idea that people behave similarly towards everyone.

    Every swimmer makes mistakes in his career – Gary Hall certainly did, and he recovered from his snafu. I have to remember that Phelps, despite it all, is still a 24 year old boy and that his tendency to act prior to thinking is common. I’m not excusing it, nor am I condoning it. As a coach, it’s hard to reprimand a swimmer for throwing a tantrum when their role models behave in a similar manner, but it is part of the growing process and the formation of a true athlete (confident and graceful in both victory and defeat). I’m confident that Phelps still has growing left to do.

    I couldn’t put on that suit if I wanted to anymore – I think I would be lucky to fit my suits from college at this point too.

  7. Jack Henderson says:

    Allison,

    thanks for your reply. Whatever you say about the suits you are spot on. I’m also wondering where “my” sport has vanished. At the moment it’s like Speedo vs Jaked as in Ferrari against Mercedes in Formula 1. One season you are on top, the other you are trailing behind? One year in the pool lost because some guy in the lab can’t do his job? I do not want that. And as far as I have talked to other swimmers they don’t want it either.
    Two days ago Franziska van Almsick stated on German TV that technological advances should be allowed. Her argument was that people are flying into space, so why not do something in swimming. My first thought was, well, flying is alright, but we don’t want to *swim* to the moon. Even Biedermann who was sitting right next to her and who strongly supports the return to jammers was speechless.

    About Phelps’ reaction, my first thought was he might be thinking about the stick he’d get from the US press for not finishing first. Just like after the 4×100 relay (“Phelps like a pedestrian”). So there was no big deal to make about his not shaking hands in the first place.
    However, I didn’t like that all of a sudden the very next day his coach who is a mature guy in his 50s would slate Biedermann in a rather personal manner. He may be right about the facts, the whole suit issue, but his choice of words and especially his timing – just after the first defeat after everything went his way for years – were totally inappropriate. It’s not what you say, but how you say it.

    And you are right about another thing: those suffering are the athletes as their performance is always questioned now. That goes for Biedermann now as it goes for Phelps in 2008. And with raising this issue so harshly Bowman did a huge disservice to Phelps.

  8. Jack says:

    Helge, your sense of Nationalism for Deutchland is admirable, however your lack of swimming knowledge is quite apparent in your statements. When Sally stated “All a swimmer has to do is put on a suit to get a more exceptional performance, a couple of extra seconds.” That is absolutley spot on correct and also extremely unfortunate. Now I don’t expect that you ever swam at a high enough level to fully understand the hydrodynamics, drag, and bouyancy advantages of the new suits, but I can assure you they can and will drop seconds in races of more than 100 meters and particularly the 400. Biederman is a great swimmer and for now a champion and world record holder, but I also give him credit for acknowledging that he wouldn’t have performed like that and broken the record without his suit. You can add US swimmer Ariana Kukors to that list as she also stated she felt the suit had a huge impact on her performance. When a no name swimmer smashes a 200 meter record by a second and a half not much else needs to be said about the effect of the suits on performance.

    It’s become an arms race and I like the other Jacks analogy to formula one. But, swimming is about the swimmer and the water, nothing else, and that’s the way it should be. The answer is very simple…..set some specific standards for suit construction allowed at meets and let them get back to swimming against each other instead of against the other suit manufacturer.

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned here is the effect on age group and high school swimmers. The beauty of the sport has always been that you show up with a suit to cover your privates and compete. Training, technique, mental maturity, and natural talent were the only factors. Now a 12 year old in a championship meet can be out-gunned by another 12 year old simply because their parents are willing and able to purchase a $1,500 suit the kid will grow out of in the next 3 months. Think about the psychological effect on the other age groupers before and after the race. This technological race has no place in our sport and FINA needs to get on the ball and show some real leadership here. The purity of the sport is in serious question.

  9. Speedo is all I wear says:

    Oh joy, Michael will be swimming locally! Doesn’t the Naval Academy have a strict “drug” policy, therefore he won’t be allowed on campus to compete in December? Want to swim in a real meet Michael, come to Tom Dolan Meet in DC.

  10. Jack Henderson says:

    Jack,

    one thing to consider is that Biedermann is by no means a no-name swimmer. Maybe in the US, but there even Phelps has to struggle to get some attention. And he would probably be better known had he had a fair chance last year in Bejing when he finished 5th without the LZR.

    And you can’t really say something against Helge’s strongest point that last year everything was okay (the US won everything) and now that someone has the audacity to beat Phelps not even 24hrs later his coach comes up with a statement like “No 10-yr-old will start swimming in order to beat Biedermann’s time”.

    I’m looking forward to the new jammers era. Erase all records and mark Phelps 8 golds with an asterisk as well.

  11. Jack says:

    I was refering to Kukors when I said “no-name swimmer” and I should ahve qualified that. She was as surprised by her result as anyone in the swimming community.

    1) the advantage the Lazr offers is very slight compared to the Jaked or the X-glide.
    2) Phelps competed primarily in pants and not the full suit which really reduces any bouyancy or drag benefits obtained by wearing a full length version as most of the bouyancy benefits come from the closed back and chest area. This is why people are getting DQ’d for wearing two suits.
    3) I can also say that anyone who cares more about a medal than a contract could have worn their own Lazr at Beijing. Many did just that and still were dominated by Phelps.

    You want to attach an asterisk to Phelps records from 2008, fine that’s an opinion. Keep in mind that many of the records broken were his own previous records for the 3rd or 4th time. IMO if every swimmer was wearing briefs at the time, he would have dominated just as handily as he did last August.

    In any case, it just goes to show that this really is a bunch of nonsense that the sport doesn’t need. We should be talking about technique, training and the art of the swim rather than the latest swim suit technology.

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