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Here Comes The Handicap Hurdle

Jul 31, 2009  - Craig Lord

At the heart of suit wars comes a 100m butterfly final on Saturday, via semis tonight, loaded and laden with gauntlets. The truth is that we will not see a race in which we can, hand on heart, describe as "level playing field". The suits account for too much. 

But the man who has everything to gain after that 0.01sec loss in Beijing has made a fascinating offer. One that will not be taken up. Cavic said that Phelps had three choices: swim in a LZR, accept arena's offer to put an X-Glide on or, "I will a Jaked for him". Better still, said Cavic was this gauntlet: he would wear briefs if the whole final would agree to wear briefs.

That wis not going to happen. Not because of Phelps but because there are too many in the race who have placed their new-found pace, their hopes and dreams in a fast suit this summer.

Bow Bowman, coach to Phelps confirmed that there would be no briefs in the next round of the handicap race, the semis tonight. "This is like a horse race," he said. "But here you have to have 'J,' - 'first-time Jaked,' instead of 'Lasix.' You know how they have the 'L' on the Racing Form for the first time?" The coach was talking about the use of a performance booster in horse-racing that has to be declared. Lasix (furosemide) treats fluid retention.

In effect, he meant: swimmers in Rome are entering a handicap race if they opt not to use 100% poly suits.

Asked what he thought about what Cavic had had to say, Bowman replied: "I'm not amused by it. "You know he's a very good swimmer. Super-talented swimmer. He's free to say whatever he wants. We know that Michael usualy lets his swimming do the talking. We'll know by the end of tomorrow night what the deal is."

On the final ahead, Bowman said: "The key is how close Michael can be in the first 50. I mean, his assessment of the race is correct. You know, there's some margin in there. If Michael is within a certain amount of tenths, he's [Phelps] going to win. We just don't know what that is. Maybe we do. Michael definitely has more speed. I mean, Michael is out in 24 flat in Beijing. He just went 24.3 floating this morning. He has more speed.

Bowman said that Phelps was in great shape but his taper might have been a little out. "I think he's doing really well. He's in great spirits. He looks better physically ... maybe I screwed up his taper.  Maybe it's two days off."

Would he discuss the Cavic comments with Phelps? I probably won't. I think enough is enough. Michael knows what he's going to do and he's going to do it. Nothing is really going to change that." Phelps would take the same approach to the race as he had in the 200m free, said Bowman, adding: "He's just got to go in relaxed and not too uptight, and just have fun with it. He had the 200 fly in between and generally once Michael gets a good race like that, then we click in to good races."

Meantime, this from the Italian camp: 

Loris Facci, the breaststroke ace who stopped the clock first at European champs over 200m in 2006 but found himself DQ'd, is in dispute with head coach and Pellegrini mentor Alberto Castagnetti over which suit to wear in tonight's 200m breaststroke final. 

Facci wants to wear leggings, but Castagnetti wants him to wear the full "technological doping" [his words in 2008, not mine] of a body suit. The difference, Italian reports suggests, maybe half a second or more, a medal or not. Jaked, the Italian suit sponsor to the Italian federation, did not start this circus, but it and the corporate backers behind it have surely thrown their weight behind events     that have led to the freaky show here at the Foro Italico.