"Retirement Was Something I Was Ready For"
At two, she starts to swim, at 16 she breaks her first world records, at 17 she gets three Olympic gold medals, at 25 she retires from the pool, and at almost 39 she has two children and continues to be an inspirational idol in the United States. Janet Evans, the smiling young swimmer who raced to victory in the most demanding events of the 1988 Games in Seoul – the 400m and 800m free, and the 400m individual medley – is a happy woman, one with plenty of energy and always eager to give back to the sport what she got out of it.
Despite being a short (1.67m) and light (54kg) athlete, Janet has been one of the most iconic swimmers of the late 1980s and early 1990s, with a career that comprised five Olympic and five World Championship medals, seven world records, and more than 40 national titles. Purveyor of a peculiar “windmill” stroke, the Californian star – she was born on August 28, 1971 in Fullerton – had a very successful career from 1987 to 1996, the year in which she announced her retirement at the end of an Olympic Games in Atlanta at which she started out by handing the Flame over to Muhammad Ali at the Opening Ceremony before going on to finish 9th in the 400m freestyle and 6th in the 800m.
Winner from lane 8 and 1
The history of sport, including swimming, is full of surprise winners: unpredicted (sometimes “unpredictable”) winners. Although their number does not match that of those who predictably won the competition where they were favourites, those who won from lane 8 or lane 1 are not exactly rare. Now that the time seems to have come for swimming to be contested in 10- lane pools, we recall a few of the special feats accomplished from an outside lane.
WINNERS FROM LANE 8In swimming, the most glamorous win from an outside lane is that by a swimmer who had been counted among the favourites on the eve of racing but then made a serious error of judgment and missed the cut-off for the final. Salvation came in the form of a teammate who stepped aside to allow a goldmedal prospect access to the final eight by the skin of her teeth. The case in point is that of 16-year-old, classy and beautiful German Franziska van Almsick, who at the 1994 FINA World Championships in Rome won the 200 metres freestyle from lane 8.
A Swimmer Leading a Football Nation
The Football World Cup in South Africa is the
main attraction in world sports in 2010, but what
has swimming in common with this sport in
Brazil, the most successful soccer nation on the
planet? The answer can be found at the Clube de
Regatas do Flamengo, a club that boasts one of
the biggest army of fans of the Beautiful Game
around the world – and since January one that is
presided over by a woman: the former Brazilian
Olympic swimmer Patricia Filler Amorim.
This 41 year-old mother of four boys wore the colours of the yellow and green flag at the Olympic Games in Seoul 1988. Today, she is in charge of a club with about 35 million fans – and that’s just in Brazil. The passion for Flamengo is so strong that it is called the “Red and Black Nation” and to be President of this “state” pushed Amorim into the realms of celebrities: she is in constant media focus. In spite of being confident in this new position, Amorim is still uncomfortable with her newfound celebrity status. “When I was a candidate I didn’t think about that! It was better, because if I realised it I would have given up!” she jokes. “More seriously, I’m trying to appear only when it is essential.”
In synchronised swimming, what do the Olympic gold performance and the 24th place of the duet event have in common? What is the shared experience of the winner of a World Championships’ medal and an athlete coming from an emerging country? Two things: many hours of endless work and choreography in the water. For many years known as “aquatic ballet”, synchronised swimming’s main addedvalue is the display of a complicated figure routine in an element that makes things more difficult to achieve, namely the water.
Many who have once watched a synchronised swimming
routine, either on TV or at an
recall the moment as amazing.
It all looks so effortless,
while the fitness of the swimmers
and their radiant smiles
stand out as an important
prelude to their stunning performance
in the water.
If synchronised swimming is often seen as a breath-taking expression of artistic beauty, one often overlooks the technical skills and hard work that athletes endure to achieve excellence.
What steps are necessary
for such excellence and
success? We put that question
to experts in the field. Experienced coaches Denise
Sauvé (CAN) and Anna
Tarrés (ESP) have placed
their teams at the top of the
synchro world hierarchy, with
Canada winning two bronze
medals (Solo Technical and
Combination) and Spain
sweeping one gold (Combination) and six silvers (Solo,
Duet and Team events both
Technical and Free) at the
World Championships in Rome.
The coaches join Virginia Jasontek, FINA Technical Synchronised Swimming Committee (TSSC) Honorary Secretary, and Jenna Randall, the British synchro swimmer, in sharing their keys to success and commenting on the recent evolution of the competition format.
SPEEDO swimmers combine efforts to fight malaria
Thousands of Speedo swimmers, including 14-time Olympic champion, Michael Phelps, have helped combat the spread of malaria in Africa by teaming up to raise an astonishing 193,647USD as part of World Swim Against Malaria on June 25, 2010.
Phelps and fellow Olympic Gold medallist Rebecca Adlington were among the 9,917 athletes, staff and friends of the world’s leading swimwear brand who took to the pool to raise money to purchase vital bed nets offering defence against malaria-carrying mosquitoes, ensuring that 76,322 children will be protected from what remains one of the world’s most deadly diseases.
As well as raising much needed funds for World Swim Against Malaria, the efforts of Speedo swimmers also amounted to a total distance of over 40,074km - the equivalent total distance of a round the world swim.
Michael Phelps: 99 seconds with 99 days to go for the 2010 Youth OG (Video)
With the occasion of the 99 days to go for the start of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore (August 14-26), Michael Phelps (USA), one of the ambassadors for this competition, gives a 99 second-interview, where he briefly talks about his success, the keys to shine in the pool and addresses a special message to all those participating in Singapore. His words will certainly inspire the future champions, knowing that Phelps is the best swimmer in history, with 14 Olympic gold medals, eight of them conquered in one single edition of the Games, in 2008 in Beijing (an unparalleled feat).
When he was appointed 2010 Youth Olympic Games ambassador, Phelps had declared: “The Youth Olympic Games is an excellent initiative, not only for the athletes competing, but also those who are inspired to get into sport and be more active. I am delighted that I have been given the opportunity to become the first official Ambassador of the Youth Olympic Games, and can’t wait to get working with the YOG team to promote the first event this summer!”
World Swim Against Malaria
After supporting the project on its launch in 2005, FINA is once more associated to the “World Swim Against Malaria”, a global initiative to bring swimmers together, in order to raise money to fight malaria. The aim is to achieve one million people swimming on the same day all around the world, on June 25, 2010.
FINA committed to support, in close association with Speedo, this project because this was a real opportunity for the swimming community around the world to do something very simple, but very substantial, for a humanitarian cause which could save thousands of lives.
Aquatics honoured at the 2010 Laureus World Sports Awards
South African open water swimmer Natalie du Toit, who is breaking down the barriers between disabled and able-bodied sport, recently received the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award, in a ceremony held in Abu Dhabi (UAE).
A delighted Natalie said: "It is a great honour to be receiving this prestigious Award. It is the third time that I've been to the Laureus Awards and the second time that I've been nominated. In 2010 we will be holding the soccer World Cup, and to hold South Africa's name high is very special for me. Being a Friend & Ambassador for Laureus makes it very special for me to see what sport can do, how sports people can go into communities and really uplift them. I've seen those community projects, so to Laureus 'well done'."
Mind over Matter
The success of Junya Koga, a Japanese backstroke star, owes more to the strength of mind than to hard work. His experiences of karate practice have given him new strength and led him to new heights in swimming.
The 22-year-old sprinter, who won the gold medal in the men’s 100m backstroke at the FINA World Championships Rome 2009, began to attend Karate practice in December last year after his acupuncturist, Hiroshi Shiraishi, introduced him to karate master Kenji Ushiro. “Thank all the people around you and do not forget it,” told him Shiraishi, who is known for taking care of many top athletes, such as former athletics’ super star Carl Lewis at Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 and Daichi Suzuki, who won the gold medal in the 100m backstroke at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Ushiro, who learnt the old-style karate of Okinawa, had advised him, “Be prepared in your mind”.
North America is coming back
The last FINA Synchronised Swimming World Trophy, held in November 2009 in Montreal (CAN), gave fans a rare glimpse of something that had not occurred since 1996: a country other than Russia at the top of the podium. Three gold medals (highlight team, thematic duet and thematic team) secured Canada’s victory at the World Trophy, opening a door that had been closed for more than a decade.
For 25 years, the United States and Canada made a “gold-medal relay” of the main competitions around the globe, but the Russians have exerted their domination since 1997. With Canada’s late success, many synchronised swimming fans and specialists now ask the question: “Can the ‘founders’ regain their former glory?"
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