Istanbul, world short-course championships, day 1 finals:
After the knocks and bumps of a morning all but void of spectators, the internet fading in and out at random (it got better but the web service still needed a course of viagra by the close of play), organisers set the stage for the first of five nights of finals with an opening ceremony that greeted athletes and a far more decent crowd of about 2,000, counting some of the teams up in the stands. On your marks ... the first final:
Men's 200m freestyle
World long-course champion Ryan Lochte (USA) became the second man ever to retain the crown when he held off a signature fast finish from world-record holder Paul Biedermann (GER) for a 1:41.92 to 1:42.07 victory. The champion's teammate Conor Dwyer gave the Stars and Stripes a second bite with a 1:43.78 effort for bronze.
Next home was Jarrod Killey on 1:44.04, Dwyer just pipping him on the way home. Leader at the half-way stage, Ben Hockin, of Paraguay, clocked 1:44.24, with Kiwi Matthew Stanley on 1:44.55 and Viatcheslav Andrusenko (RUS) on 1:44.68. The final closed at 1:45.38, for Germany's Dimitri Colupaev.
Lochte took control of the race from the start, breathing both ways, using every turn to judge his timing, his place and that of those who might beat him, driving off the wall to regain any edge lost down the length. By the end, as Biedermann fought back, the story was as it has often been: Lochte hung on, gold No1 in the bag, the 100m 'fly semi ahead of him.
If the world record of 1:39.37, a shiny suits effort by Biedermann six weeks before a ban on non-textile booster apparel, was safe, so too was the stunning world textile best of 1:39.70 set by Olympic champion Yannick Agnel in Angers last month. Agnel then chose to race at a home European s/c championships in Chartres, winning the 200m crown in 1:41.46, but on the way to Barcelona world l/c titles next July opted to give Istanbul a miss.
Dwyer's success marked a gradual progress through the ranks that is starting to reap dividends in international waters. A former Gator now considering whether to take a post-Grad course at the University of Florida "in case I get bored just doing swimming", Dwyer told SwimNews: "I came there [to the Gators] in summer of 2009. Training with guys like Ryan Lochte and Peter Vanderkaay ... it kind of takes the pressure off just knowing how gold medallists train and what you have to do to get to that level."
Asked about the "tough" side of coach Gregg Troy's reputation, Dwyer did not hesitate: "Yes, he's tough but its manageable. He tells you what you have to focus on to get to where you want to be. He's taken me from nowhere to the world top 10. I love coach Troy and he's been great for me."
Spending almost each day in the water next to Lochte helps too: "He's one of the most talented guys I have ever seen. It's great to have him as a training partner and I think its accelerated my development too. We do a lot of training, in and out of the pool. We do a lot of stuff normal swimmers don't do. You're gonna feel bad in the water from that sometimes but if you just keep do everything, follow it through, without skipping practice, you will [gain] from all that works and when we race at meets like this we know that we have done so much more than others have."
A graduate in sports management in 2011, he would like to stay in the sport for the duration. His grandfather has long worked with Chicago clubs. "Some day I'd like to get into a pro team and work with them long term."
Victory for Lochte, meanwhile, brought him level with Gustavo Borges (BRA, 1995, 2002) as the only other man to win the crown twice.
History in the making:
World s/c Podiums
All-time textile rankings top 5:
From the archive:
Until the advent of Cesar Cielo, Gustavo Borges was the most successful swimmer ever to emerge from Brazil. Born on December 2, 1972 in Ribeirão Preto, Borges was a super-talent in the making by the time he was 15, his coaches after that age including Maurício Frajacomo, Alberto Klar, Gregg Troy, Jon Urbanchek and Alberto Silva. Now a member of the FINA Athletes' Commission, Borges ended his career in the wake of one last freestyle relay for Brazil at the Olympic Games at Athens in 2004. An imposing figure towering in at 2.03m, he claimed Olympic silver over 100m free (1992) and 200m free (1996) and bronze in the 100m free (1996) and in the 4x100m freestyle (2000). His medal-winning days as a senior international began in 1991, at the Pan-American Games. At home in Rio de Janeiro in 1995, when Copacabana Beach was the spectacular scene of a pioneering world titles event in a temporary pool, Borges claimed the 200m free crown. Two years on in Gothenburg he retained the crown and remains the only swimmer ever to have done so. This quote given to SwimNews by Cesar Cielo sums up the home impact of Borges's success story: "I grew up watching [Alexander] Popov winning his races every time so I have Popov [RUS] as my idol. I always tried to swim like him. He used to swim with Gustavo Borges, he was one of his rivals, and I watched all their rivalry as a boy. Both Popov and Gustavo are my idols. I was lucky because I got to swim with Gustavo for almost two years before he stopped swimming and I tried to get as much experience from him as I could. He told me a lot of stuff about Popov. They are people I looked up when was young and I learned a lot from watching them."