The “Best of” 2016 Olympic Swimming (plus a short reading update & triathlon race recap)

I spent most of last week watching the Olympics instead of reading, so I figured it was appropriate to shift the focus of this week’s It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? post. I did finish Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney, which wasn’t too mentally taxing (and was exactly what I needed last week). And, because I’m getting swept up in all things Olympics, I started listening to 1996 Olympic gold medal gymnast Dominique Moceanu’s memoir, Off Balance. Finally, a friend gave me a copy of You Are An Ironman by Jacques Steinberg, which got me to tear up in the first fifty pages. I’ll be reading this one in bits and pieces over the next week or so.

West Point Triathlon Race Recap:
I competed in the West Point Sprint Triathlon (1/2 mile swim, 13.9 mile bike, 5K run) on Sunday and it was a brutal day for racing! High of 95 and 95% humidity, plus an [8:40] AM start time (relatively late). Prior to seeing the weather forecast, my goals were to beat my time from this race last year ([1:34:46]) and to finish in the top 3 in my age group (vs. 4th last year). The swim went well, the bike went OK (but was a little slower than last year) and the run was horrifically painful and terrible. I walked four times during the run (basically every time I felt like I was going to throw up) and finished with a 5K split of [29:31] ([2:15] slower than last year). So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw my overall results and realized I’d done a best time of [1:33:35] (4th in my age group)! Turns out I’d shaved 4 minutes off my swim, which saved my overall race. I didn’t finish in the top 3 as I’d hoped, but I’m thrilled with a PR in those steamy conditions!

Best of 2016 Olympic Swimming

Now, on to what I really spent my time doing last week. Overall, the US Swim Team far surpassed expectations going into Rio. The team was fairly young and many swimmers were first-time Olympians. And, it was these rookies that really stole the show (well, as much as it’s possible to steal the show from Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps). Also, Australian swimmers didn’t perform as well as expected, particularly favorites Emily Seebohm, the Campbell sisters, and Mitch Larkin. This recap is fairly US centric for a few reasons: A) US swimmers kind of dominated (33 medals vs. 2nd place Australia’s 10 medals) B) I know the most about US swimmers and C) NBC’s coverage and interviews are extremely US centric.

The “Best of” 2016 Olympic Swimming

The Performances

Biggest Upset
Women Winner:
Simone Manuel (USA) upsetting the heavily favored Campbell sisters (AUS) to tie Penny Oleksiak (CAN) for gold in the women’s 100 freestyle, in the process becoming the first African American to win an individual Olympic swimming medal. Prior to the Rio Games, Manual was ranked 9th in the world in this event.

Women Honorable Mention: Maya Dirado (USA) upsetting “Iron Lady” Katinka Hosszu (HUN) in the women’s 200 backstroke. Prior to the Olympics, Dirado was ranked 4th in the world in this event.
Men: Joseph Schooling (SIN) winning gold in the men’s 100 butterfly over Michael Phelps (USA) and Laszlo Cseh (HUN). Prior to the Olympics, Schooling was ranked only 13th in the world in this event.

Breakthrough Performance
Kathleen Baker (USA) wins silver in the women’s 100 backstroke after being ranked 8th in the world pre-Olympics.

Men: Ryan Murphy (USA) wins gold in the 100 and 200 backstroke in his first Olympics. He also broke the 100 backstroke world record in his lead-off leg of the gold medal winning men’s 4×100 medley relay.

Most Awe-Inspiring Performance
Dana Vollmer’s (USA)
bronze medal in the women’s 100 butterfly (plus a relay silver and gold) just 18 months after having a baby.

Most Dominant Swimmer
Katie Ledecky (USA):
I mean, no one is even close. She might even be the most dominant athlete at these Games in any sport, male or female!

Best Race
Katie Ledecky (USA) vs. Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) in the women’s 200 freestyle.

Men: Michael Phelps vs. Masato Sakai (JPN) vs. Tamás Kenderesi (HUN) in the men’s 200 butterfly. Only 0.26 seconds separated Phelps with the gold from Kenderesi with the bronze.

The “Who?” Winner
Dmitriy Balandin (Kazakhstan): Gold Medalist in the men’s 200 breaststroke out of Lane 8, to which NBC Commentator Rowdy Gaines stated “I’ve never circled that lane before!”

Biggest Heartbreaker
Missy Franklin (USA)
failing to make the finals in both her individual events (women’s 200 freestyle and backstroke).

The Dara Torres “Age Is Just A Number” Performance Award
Anthony Ervin (USA):
Won his second gold in the men’s 50 freestyle sixteen years after winning his first at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

The Reactions

Best Reaction
 Simone Manuel (USA) after tying for gold in the women’s 100 freestyle and becoming the first African American woman to win an individual Olympic swimming medal.

Men: First-time Olympian Cody Miller (USA) after winning bronze in the men’s 100 breaststroke.

Most Obnoxious Reaction
Katinka Hosszu (HUN)
 pointing at herself while sitting on the lane line after her world record setting performance in the women’s 400 I.M. (and her husband simultaneously pounding his chest on the pool deck).

Best Show of Tears
Ryan Held (USA):
the First-time Olympian sobbed on the medal stand after winning gold in the men’s 4×100 freestyle relay.

Best Interview
Lilly King (USA)
calls out Yulia Efimova (RUS) for doping violations, causing the IOC to essentially ask athletes not to comment on the doping scandal. Thankfully, King and NBC Commentator Rowdy Gaines chose not to keep quiet.

“If you’re shaking your finger number one and you’ve been caught for drug cheating, I’m just not a fan.” – Lilly King

The Drama

Best Rivalry
Michael Phelps (defending Olympic gold medalist) and Ryan Lochte (world record holder) in the men’s 200 IM:
These two combine for the 15 fastest times in history in this event, so this is a nod to the longevity of this rivalry.

Most Hyped Rivalry That Wasn’t A Rivalry
Michael Phelps vs. Chad Le Clos in the men’s 200 butterfly:
After Le Clos out-touched Phelps for gold in London and talked trash in the media over the past four years, Phelps wins gold while Le Clos fails to medal.

Biggest Choke
Emily Seebohm (AUS):
Coming into Rio with the fastest time in the world this year in the women’s 100 backstroke, she finished a disappointing 7th place.

*You may be wondering why Missy Franklin doesn’t occupy this spot…and it’s because she hasn’t looked like her old self for the past two years and barely made the U.S. team at Trials. Conversely, Seebohm has looked fantastic all year until these Games.

Best Recovery from a Choke
Katinka Hosszu (HUN):
After failing to medal in a single event at the London 2012 Games, she wins three golds (200 and 400 IM, 100 backstroke) and a silver (200 backstroke) in Rio.

Most Intriguing Scandal
Katinka Hosszu’s marriage/coaching relationship:
 NBC Commentator Dan Hicks brought this issue to the forefront with his comment crediting Shane Tulup (Hosszu’s husband) with being “responsible” for her turnaround following the London Olympics. There is more to this story. Former friends of Hosszu’s have spoken out about the unhealthy nature of her marriage and coaching relationship with Tulup (you can read more about this here and here). I don’t think this one is over and will be interested to see where she is four years from now.

The Superficial

Camille Lacourt (FRA)

Female: Pernille Blume (DEN), gold medalist in women’s 50 freestyle

Prenille Blume, Camille Lacourt

Best Nail Color

Missy Franklin
(the top hand below)

Missy Franklin nails

Cutest Personality

Adam Peaty (GBR):
After winning gold and breaking his own world record in the men’s 100 breaststroke, Peaty gave an adorable and humble interview to NBC poolside commentator Michele Tafoya.

Weirdest Ready Room Routine
Chad Le Clos
 (RSA) shadow boxing and weirdly vibrating his shoulders.

Most Intimidating Face
Michael Phelps’
reaction to Chad Le Clos’s weird ready room routine, which has since inspired countless internet memes.

Michael Phelps, Phelpsface

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  1. What a great post.. so much fun to read!!!
    Congratulations on your race, too. That’s an amazing finish, especially under those conditions! Any more races on the horizon or will that be it for the season?

    Posted 8.15.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Thank you 🙂 This is it for me for the season. I will probably run a 5 or 10K in the fall, but this is it as far as tris go.

      Posted 8.16.16 Reply
  2. Carmen wrote:

    Wow! I bow to you. This weekend was brutal for a race and you did great!
    A very entertaining and informative post, Sarah. I’ve missed most of the Olympics but you have summarized your favorite events very well. I’ve been wondering all the Games what happened to Missy Franklin, and you answered me.

    Posted 8.15.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Thank you! And – yes – it’s heartbreaking what happened to her at the Games, but I wasn’t entirely surprised. She’s had back problems over the past 2 years and she just announced that she will now go back to Cal to finish college and train with the team there (but not compete at the NCAA level since she’s gone pro).

      Posted 8.16.16 Reply
  3. Kathy wrote:

    I caught a lot of the swimming this week too. Along with a friend’s visit, I didn’t get much reading done. Here is my weekly report. Happy reading!

    Posted 8.15.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Hope you enjoyed the swimming!

      Posted 8.16.16 Reply
  4. Congrats on your tri and I enjoyed your post! Happy Reading!

    Posted 8.15.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Thank you 🙂

      Posted 8.16.16 Reply
  5. Fun post, thanks! I have been watching the Olympics but you broke it down well to understand all the hype better. I dislike the U.S. centric coverage of NBC and the constant interruptions but whatever, I still enjoy watching it. Congrats on your race– you rock!

    Posted 8.15.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Thank you 🙂
      There are so many commercials – I watched a lot of it on a DVR delay! But, I get it…Olympics coverage is expensive to put on and ads are how it gets paid for. And – I think it’s typical of each country (at least the big ones) to focus on their own athletes in their coverage…I was living in Australia during the Sydney Olympics and the Aussie coverage was also extremely Aussie centric.

      Posted 8.16.16 Reply
  6. The Olympics are the only thing I miss about not having a TV. (I know I could probably watch on my computer somehow, but have not figured that out.) At least you give me all the high points – I feel almost like I’ve been there!

    Posted 8.15.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Believe me, I understand the Olympics being the thing you miss! And – I don’t think you missed out…you have to enter your cable subscription log-in info to get access to the Internet livestream. But, lots of the highlights will end up on Youtube eventually.

      Posted 8.16.16 Reply
  7. Catherine wrote:

    Well done, you! You covered all the key points. I don’t have a photo but Bronte Campbell also rocked a great manicure. And I found Efimova’s #1 finger waving more offensive than Hosszu’s. Really hard to get past a doping suspension. Hosszu wins for most obnoxious spouse!

    I won’t argue about Lacourt- especially since I noticed him as well, but I’d also say Gabriele Detti from Italy is right up there in the eye candy category.

    Posted 8.15.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I totally missed Bronte’s nails! I’m going to have to stalk her instagram to see if I can find a pic! Efimova’s finger wagging was obnoxious! I think it was a little more subtle than Hosszu’s, but probably more meaningful.

      And there was another Italian who I thought was hot…maybe the gold medalist in the men’s 1500??

      Posted 8.16.16 Reply
  8. Lindsay wrote:

    What a fun recap! That picture of Michael Phelps cracks me up — I actually paused the TV the first time I saw and it went off in search of my husband so he could have a chuckle too! We definitely noticed Katinka Hosszu’s husband’s intensity! I’ll have to check out those articles you linked to.

    Posted 8.15.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Glad you enjoyed it!

      Posted 8.16.16 Reply
  9. I love this! Ledecky was unstoppable! haha @ Phelps’s face. I really wonder what he is listening to in those headphones of his.

    Posted 8.15.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Wasn’t she amazing?! And I do wonder about his music..I wonder if that’s on the Internet somewhere. Down the rabbit hole I go…

      Posted 8.16.16 Reply
  10. Michael Phelps face? priceless!

    I just love the Olympics and I love your recap of the swimming!

    Posted 8.15.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Thank you and I’m always glad to find fellow Olympics fanatics!

      Posted 8.16.16 Reply
  11. Naomi wrote:

    This is a fun post! I have to admit, though, that I’m more familiar with the Canadian swimmers, but I guess that’s the way it should be. 🙂
    Congrats on your triathlon time! But sorry to hear you’re still having the barfy problem. 🙁

    Posted 8.30.16 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Canada had a nice win in the women’s 100 free! Penny Oleksiak. And thanks – really need to figure out the barfy issue – it’s so not fun on race day!

      Posted 8.30.16 Reply
      • Naomi wrote:

        Yes, Penny is suddenly quite popular. 🙂

        Posted 9.1.16 Reply

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