29 June 2009

Just In Case...

You needed MORE reasons to be excited about the upcoming FINA World Championships in Rome, Italy...

FINA is, for the uninitiated, the international governing body of swimming, synchronised swimming, waterpolo, and diving. And we all know that swimming is the world's greatest sport.

The championships are fast-approaching, running from July 18th until August 2nd (it sounds long, but that's because it includes the four disciplines of swimming, diving, open water, and synchro).

Swimming has recently come under fire due to the advent of technologically advanced swimsuits, which some claim "take away" from the athletic performance of the swimmers. Sure, maybe they do, but that's really only because people keep going on about them. These aren't average Joes who buy $1000 suits and become overnight world record holders. You may know that I used to swim (seems like sooo long ago now!) and I can tell you without a hint of exaggeration that when you're a swimmer, water is your world. And when you spend up to six hours a day practicing every aspect possible of your stroke, streamline, turns, pullouts... you're willing to go the extra mile when choosing a racing suit that's going to contribute, even the tiniest amount, to all the hard work you've already spent your life putting in.

So to me, the swimsuit thing is a non-issue. It's kind of boring to think about when you see that Federica Pellegrini (who I am NOT a fan of, by the way. I'm Team Manaudou) has recorded a 4:00.41 for 400m freestyle. LONG COURSE! That is SO fast. My entire swimming career, the record stood at 4:03.85 which was set by Janet Evans in 1988. It's come down in leaps and bounds in recent years, obviously - mostly between the aforementioned Pellegrini and Laure Manaudou, who won the 400m freestyle in Athens, where I competed! Yay.

Then there's added excitement from Stephanie Rice, the prodigal Australian medley specialist who has recently branched out to include everything from 100m freestyle to 200m butterfly to her programme... her ex-beau, Eamon Sullivan, who has this year knocked so much time off the 50m freestyle world record it's phenomenal (when I swam, it was 21.64. It's now 21.28)... French monsters Alain Bernard and Fred Bousquet... Michael Phelps - who needs no introduction...

and my personal favourite!!!

Kosuke!!! Kitajima, in case you didn't know. The "Little Tsunami" out of Tokyo shot to international prominence in 2003 at the World Championships in Barcelona (a meet where other old favourites such as Aaron Peirsol and Yana Klochkova still reigned), then proceeded to win the breaststroke double in Athens over the much-favoured and much more outspoken American Brendan Hansen (to be fair, he can't help that. He's from Texas). In 2005 when FINA allowed the much-disputed butterfly kick in breaststroke pullouts, Kitajima only got faster. In Beijing, he did the double again, with a shiny new world record to go with it - 58.91 over the 100m (that's ridiculous. I challenge you to swim a 50m breaststroke long course in under that time). In June of last year he had already lowered the 200m record to an unthinkable 2:07.51. He also helped the Japanese medley relay team to a bronze in the 4x100m event - something that, let me assure you, they could not have achieved without him. Splits say EVERYTHING.

Sure, Kitajima's double-double was overshadowed by the outstanding achievement of some highly evolved fishboy from Towson, Maryland named Mike, but there's no denying he's truly a superstar.

Did I mention that swimming is the greatest sport ever?

WATCH WORLDS. July 18th - August 2nd, Rome, Italy.

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