Great Day Out at ‘SWimbledon’: The Dawn Of A Golden Era For Professional Swimmers?

New Vision - photo by Patrick B. Kraemer

The following editorial was published on November 16, 2016. As Katinka Hosszu cites tennis and boycott and possible models for the reform of swimming and FINA on the pathway to professional era for swimmers, we take our vision out of the archive, invite the Hungarian to read it as a way of diving a little deeper into a topic many others have been discussing for many years – and then suggest that she acknowledges and makes contact with those coaches and swimmers already on the pathway of pioneers.

Editorial

After considering the woeful state of the world cup, casting a glance at one of the biggest battlegrounds ahead – access to decision making – we looked at what’s not worked, why and what might be done about it if the sports wants to lay the foundations of something better. That includes understanding swimming seasons, while recognising that the sport is not and cannot be a sport for all seasons in the way that tennis, backetball, baseball, football and other pro-sports are. Swimming is unique. Some believe that means a once-every-four years sport is the best of it (which it is) and the best it will ever be, no need for much in between beyond the World long-course Championships (now every two years after many years in which the showcase was held every four years in between Olympics).

Others believe the world cup is still the best way of organising a regular tour-style gathering and spread swimming across the globe, even if, as is the case, the bulk of world-class programs don’t go there. SwimVortex is aware that swimmers have been discussing what to do about the unhappy state of their in-season world. Most heartening news, for it is swimmers who must, ultimately, own change, move change and work for a professional future that will not be delivered through any of the vehicles currently available to them.

Below is a fictional glimpse of a different pool in a time of professional swimmers and improved governance. As you read, please keep in mind the following:

  • NB: references to formats and distances and strokes in the following should not be read as concrete suggestions: this is simply a caricature-style demonstration of the scope swimming has to do something different in a constructive manner beyond the championship moments and therefore lessen the impact of comparisons that need not be; the moment is left to itself, the with challenge and fun and education and entertainment and community all considered, as are the traditions, history and the lore of the sport. That a radical shake-up is required in swimming is a matter of opinion and there are and will be those who believe nothing, or little, needs to change. As I suggested here, tinkering won’t get the job done. The status quo and the structures of governance that exist are not set up to favour a professional swimming realm that has the interests, welfare and pockets of athletes at the top of the mission statement. That will almost certainly mean a long list of reasons from some quarters why something like the below cannot and should not and ‘will not’ be done. No matter. It will, ultimately, come down to what swimmers want  and whether that includes their freedom from total federation control, freedom to make their own choices, the desire to own their sport and to benefit from a professional era that is yet to make it to the swimming realm.
  • Precisely what the specific formats and timings of any change should be, would, of course, have to be the subject of much wider discussion with those steeped in the guidance, preparation and schedules of athletes. Only when the sport has a good grasp on seasons and where a new style of annual competitions might fit in the calendar to the benefit of swimmers and their greater goals will the way be clear to consider the kind of arena, entertainment and presentation that would suit both live and remote audiences and take swimming to a new level and a realm more recognisable and accessible to the world that did not grow up in the pool.
  • the below is a fictional account in which the roles of swimmers and what they say in the script are also fictional; they are there as part of the theatre set and play
  • I’m told that athletes don’t have the capacity to get through an article of this length. I don’t believe that. Athletes know well that life is not a tweet. They know if they put into their training the 2min Vs the 20min effort, they can kiss goodbye to unlocking their potential.  Here’s a good reason to stretch your brain cells beyond “10 reasons why a fart can make a training set” and so forth.

A Swim down to SWimbledon

Winner Anthony ERVIN (R) of the United States of America (USA) celebrates with his 3rd placed teammate Nathan ADRIAN after competing in the men's 50m Freestyle Final

Sprint Classic ahoy – Anthony Ervin and Nathan Adrian will be among those gunning for dosh in the dash – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Roll-up, roll-up. The Pro-Swim Classic is born. Some have dubbed it Swimbledon: swimming’s attempt to create a race-for-wages series that starts with domestic and regional qualification rounds leading to a two-week festival of three events every year around late January and February.

And where we say swimming, read swimmers, for the athletes themselves own the biggest stake in ProSwim Classic and have had the biggest say in what is valuable to them in-season and what they feel will sell to the wider world.

That goes for current athletes and former greats of the sport, starting with the founder members of the Classic, the “Final 4 Club”. Backing for ProSwim was sought from all who ever finished in the top four in an an Olympic swimming final. These greats of the sport are the first elders of a new era in the sport in which they excelled. The idea is borrowed from tennis, in which Wimbledon has a Final 8 Club for the venerated of their sport.

The Grand Slam format at the helm of professional tennis does not translate to a sport whose summit is held every four years, the Olympics, with a long-course World Championships showcase every two years in between, the traditions of those peak moments much treasured.

However, the decline of the swimming world cup that in its latter years made a handful of swimmers wealthy, rated quantity over quality and failed to attract support from the vast majority of world-class swimmers, the damage of dilution prompting a rethink in the ranks of athletes, coaches, sponsors, broadcasters and others.

Star Wars by Patrick B. Kraemer

Taking the plunge into a professional era by Patrick B. Kraemer

In the absence of any response from FINA, the World Swimming Association and the Professional Swimmers’ Association secured a multi-million golden handshake from Hancock Prospecting and organisers of the Classic announced a year ago their intention to get the show started this season, Australia the first host of the Classic Final and Fortnight.

Pro-Swim stretches from September to February each year, domestic and regional qualification rounds leading to the Classic, a fortnight of world-class swimming and much more that brings the world swimming community together in an aquatic forum like none before. Two events three days long are followed by the Pro-Swim Final held over four days, the first of which will be held in Perth, Westerm Australia afrer knockout stages in Brisbane and Sydney.

Swimmers will have their nation recognised but they will race for a professional team.

There are two sides to Pro-Swim: in domestic rounds, with prize money stretched from that level right through to the Classic fortnight, swimmers can qualify as individuals in the traditional competition program. The Classic will be a Professional teams event including knockout stages in solo events with a twist, in sprint, mid and distance. The Classic will also feature opening days at each of the three rounds dedicated to relays with a difference. December will serve as the annual transfer window for Classic Teams to finalise their squads after the domestic and regional rounds of Pro-Swim are done.

After a bidding process, the first 10 Classic Teams, each with 24 swimmers, 12 men and 12 women, have been declared, selection to any squad requiring a world top 30 ranking as of December 1, the start of transfer season.

The first ProSwim Class Squads are: Team Discovery; The Energy Squad; Volvic Victors; Team Arena; Team Speedo; FINIS Flyers; Phillips 66; House Charity; Aquasphere Aquatics; and The SwimZi Squadron. Swimmers who do not find a place on a team (their incentive to rise up the rankings and gain access to the team element of the Classic) will race in solo events and earn prize money in precisely the same way. The only difference is that most of them will not race in relays and their swims will not count for points that go towards the overall Pro-Team prizes. Some of those who are not part of a Pro team can be elected onto teams by fellow swimmers for specific events on Team Trials Day.

Rules? All Change

Nathan Adrian (USA) powering his way back to the Olympic podium in 2016 - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Nathan Adrian (USA) powering his way back to the Olympic podium in 2016 – by Patrick B. Kraemer

A new era has required not only additions to the swimming rule book but a rewrite of the existing law of the sport. The Professional Swimmers Association, working with World Swimming Association, Classic organisers and the Swimming Oversight Senate (SOS), a new independent watchdog for the sport, have laid down rules of engagement that control the activities of agents and others.

For its part, the international federation agreed to groundbreaking changes in the rule book to cover the demands of a new era and the Classic. Among the most significant changes:

  • a lifting of restrictions on the size and shape of logos
  • permission, for the first time, for alcoholic drink makers access to the sport through advertising

Australian vintners have expressed interest in partnerships in two of the Classic’s “Islands” of activity, namely the “Dryland”, a meeting lounge, with catering, where athletes, Hall of Famers, sponsors, officials, parents and guests corporate and social as well as media can meet; and “Fame”, an exhibition that will be organised by the International Hall of Fame at every Classic in celebration of the achievements of swimmers, coaches and others in swimming. ISHOF will also host annual induction ceremonies during the Classic, the thread of history linking former greats and contributors to the current wave of talent.

Michael Phelps - who took the plunge for clean sport and unlocked the door marked "Time for Athletes To Be Heard" - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Michael Phelps – who took the plunge for clean sport and unlocked the door marked “Time for Athletes To Be Heard” – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Adam PEATY of Great Britain jubilates after winning in the men's 100m Breaststroke Final in a new World Record time

Adam Peaty (GBR) – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Sustainable Swimming

The Pro-Swim Classic Board have made a priority of keeping costs under control, consideration granted to the carbon footprint of the sport, a “Sustainable Swimming World In Motion” to be launched during the first Classic Final.

With lifestyles, training commitments, carbon footprints and money in mind, organisers also opted not to create new events for qualifications rounds. Meet organisers from around the world were asked to apply for domestic and regional “Pro-Swim Qualifier” status, allowing existing events to tap into new resources and avoiding costly and unnecessary additions to the competition calendar. As such, in January, the Austin round of the Arena Pro-Swim meet served as a regional qualification round for the Americas, while the Euro Meet in Luxembourg hosted Europe’s regional qualifier.

The host of next year’s final will be Long Beach in Califiornia after knockouts at Mission Viejo and Arizona State University, while Paris, Rome and London are among parties interested in hosting the event in its third year. Classic organisers and sponsors have placed emphasis on holding the events in locations with a strong swimming tradition, backed by success in the pool and audience.

Discussions continue over whether to have fixed venues for the event in the way the Grand Slams in tennis, Opens in golf and F1 grand prix events follow a regular circuit and in so doing establish traditions that transcend the race, help develop crowd-friendly environments and keep costs at bay.

During a press and teleconference today, Classic Board member Michael Phelps noted:

“We wanted an annual celebration of swimming, a fortnight each year when the best of the sport gathers in one place and has a party in the pool, with racing, exchange of ideas, guidance on safety, the latest trends and products and some great days out for what we intend to be a growing base of swimming fans. Its our church if you like and we have to go out and find those followers.

James Guy - racing Michael Phelps in the last race of the GOAT's career

James Guy races Michael Phelps in the last race of the GOAT’s career – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Michael Phelps of the United States of America (USA) Press Conference

Michael Phelps by Craig Lord

He added: “We didn’t want this to be a match of other championship moments. There’s no need to replicate those. The Olympics and World long-course Championships are long-established, they’re great, they’re not going away and they will remain the peak moments of our sport, a time when swimmers stand up and get counted for country, team and self.”

He then explained the thinking behind the Classic: “What swimming needed was a showcase that could achieve several goals in one. Among them is the freedom of great swimmers to have acess to great international competition based on their world ranking not the strength or whim of their home federations. Many of us were lucky on that score but many are not and get locked out of being a part of the highlights of their sport even though they’re are serious athletes right up there with the best in the world.

“We also wanted to create an annual one-stop show for anyone who loves swimming, a must on the calendar for swimmers, coaches, parents, fans and the officials, sponsors, merchandisers and marketeers who make all of this possible in a way that truly promotes our great sport up the ranking. We wanted to create an event with an impact that ripples well beyond the race, all the way out to swiming for life, safety and health. There is so much untapped potential in our sport.”

He set those out as follows:

  • provide a showcase in which swimmers have the majority stake and say and step up into responsible roles in which they take charge of their futures
  • provide a living wage for professional swimmers;
  • provide a regular swimming spectacle at which athletes can put their skills on show beyond the summer championship moments;
  • provide a format that delivers instant results without the need to calculate who won;
  • provide a forum for ideas and skills and different ways of showing what a great sport swimming is;
  • provide regular haunts for that spectacle and therefore have the racing as the heart of something bigger, a show and a great day out for the fans, a way of reaching new people and bringing them to the water and intriducing them to a sport that’s for life and saves lives;
  • provide domestic and regional rounds that don’t require swimmers to travel extensively when being home for uninterrupted periods of training is the right thing for them
  • and to do that at times of the year that fit the training cycle and in formats that are challenging, fun and great for fans and the new fans we want to get through the door and loving swimming the way we do.

Hancock, the headline sponsor, is now working in partnership with other backers, including swimming’s traditional partners such as kit makers and timing outfits, to help to kick start a new era in swimming after the old World Cup proved a poor vehicle for promoting the sport and supporting professionalism among swimmers.

The cup scanned across four continents, nine events and three months, rendering the “tour” out of bounds for the vast majority of world-class swimmers for reasons stretching from school, training for the long-term, lack of financial resources to cover the high cost of travel and all that goes with it and on to the choice of programs that favour long-course over short as they prepare for the ultimate dream and challenge: the Olympic Games.

With that in mind, the first moves to rationalise the international swimming calendar have begun, the international federation having agreed to bold and sensible moves. Between Olympic Games in future, there will be one World Championships held in long-course in the middle of the Olympic cycle. Two ultimate peaks every four years is enough. This hands back value to both the world titles showcase and the continental long-course championships, which will also now be held every four years, in years 2 and 4 of the Olympic cycle.

Katie Ledecky and Janet Evans - one pace in the pantheon of greats sealed, the other in the making - Photo by Peter Bick

Janet Evans raced at world titles 4 years apart, while Katie Ledecky, left, races in an era in which the global showcase is held every two years, its impact diluted – Photo by Peter Bick

Joe Schooling - the next man and the last one to stop Michael Phelps - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Joe Schooling –  by Patrick B. Kraemer

Those previously guiding swimming at FINA, LEN and other bodies had for many years diluted swimming and the value of that most precious stock: champion. They organised the sport not on the basis of what was sustainable for swimmers and coaches and their programs but what suits their desire to be on the road as eternal, career sports-politicians and the most highly paid ‘volunteers’ you will find in any realm in this world.

The rot set in with a vengeance in 1999 when LEN switched to holding its European titles every two years and added a short-course showcase to the calendar every December. It was not long before FINA (several of those at the helm of both bodies the same people) followed suit: world titles l/c every two years, world s/c titles every two years. LEN was forced to shuffle its dates and got landed with a showcase that takes place three months before an Olympic Games once every four years. Damaging dilution all round has been the result.

Now, the World Championships will shine like a beacon of peak form two years beyond and two years out from each Olympic Games once more. Further, four entries per natio will be allowed at future World Championships, with three allowed to qualify for finals, returning to the sport the potential for national clean sweeps. To take account of that change, trhe World Championships program will run elite heats for all events before development heats kick in.

All entered in development heats and subsidised by international and regional federation support funds must report for finals and will be granted a seat in a dedicated section of the swimmers’ stand. The move is designed as part of new education and development opportunities offered in conjunction with organisers of the Classic. Failure to attend finals and the chance to learn from the best in the world will result in loss of funding and a penalty stretching to exclusion from the championships.

MAKING ROOM FOR PRO-SWIM

Time for action and a new start …. image by Patrick B. Kraemer

Time for action and a new start …. image by Patrick B. Kraemer

A big plus for Pro-Swim is that it taps into existing meets and race schedules for domestic and regional rounds. The alternative would have been to create a new presence on a cluttered calendar that has suffered from what can only be described as a bolt-on diet.

Swimmers will earn money based on placings through all qualification rounds, domestic rounds relying on home sponsors and funding, with qualifiers in regional rounds and the Pro-Swim Classic paid from a pot of US$10m funded in part by broadcast income, sponsors, the purchase of team entry by professional teams, ticket sales and corporate events. The Pro-Swim Classic will brings together the 250 (each team is allowed to select one reserve, man or woman) best world-ranked swimmers in the world for the Classic fortnight.

The earning power of the athlete depends on what they swim and where they finish and where their team finishes. The budget allows for a swimmer at the lower end of the spectrum of commitment and success – for example, racing several events in domestic rounds, two events at the regional round and two events in the first round of the knockouts and a relay at the three rounds of the Classic – to earn at least $12 to $15,000.

Katie Ledecky (USA) and those most likely to be the greatest threat to a clean sweep on freestyle - images by Patrick, B. Kraemer, Ian MacNicol, Peter Bick, Speedo and Arena

At the high end, a swimmer racing at all three domestic rounds, excelling at the regional round and going all the way as a winner of one Classic solo race and a member of the winning Team in relays and the overall Pro-Swim Team prize could earn upwards of $250,000 in one season.

In a deal struck with the international body, all podium placers at the Olympic Games and World Championships will be granted automatic entry to the Classic following their season of success, with only two requirements: that they race in one round of the qualification stages at domestic level and race at their respective regional round and meet a time target in at least one race that confirms their form.

At a press and teleconference today, Phelps was asked why new rules on branding had been brought in for swimming. He replied: We understand why at the Olympic Games there are certain restrictions on branding at a time when certain sponsors are paying vast sums of money to be a part of the Games, to help fund it and when representing your country is what it’s all about. What we wanted the Classic to do was work for the swimmers, the programs and the sponsors that back them and swimming.

“We talked about it long and hard and in the end could see no reason for restricting the size of logos. In fact, we saw a lot of reasons, including how much fun you can have with the look and presentation of the sport, if you free up the creative process for sponsors.”

Building blocks - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Building blocks – by Patrick B. Kraemer

After knockout stages in Brisbane and Sydney, the first day of the Classic final will be devoted to the “Team Trials”, a series of relays with a difference. The 10 professional teams paying for access to the Classic Team Trials will have no restrictions placed on them when it comes to the colours and branding on tracksuits and race suits. Each team may have up to 12 swimmers, the selection of which will require a spectrum of sprint to distance and stroke skills in order to mount serious challenge (see highlights below).

Those who make the Classic cut for solo racing but do not have a team place may wear the branding of personal sponsors as long as those apply with international rules (such as no tobacco companies). For the first time, brands involved in the production and sale of alcohol, such as beer makers and wine producers, will be allowed to advertise and sponsor events in swimming.

Phelps also welcomed a move by the global body for the sport to link the classic to the world championships by allowing any who finish in a category top 3 place a wildcard entry to the global long-course showcase if they do not secure national selection in domestic trials. Their place at the World Championships will not impact on the ability of nations to select a full quote of swimmers for each event.

Phelps was joined in the teleconference today by fellow Pro-Swim Board members Stephan Caron, Therese Alshammar, Roland Schoeman, Karen Pickering, Cameron Van Der Burgh, Pieter Van Den Hoogenband, Ruta Meilutyte, Geoff Cheah, coach representatives, including Jon Rudd and George Block, as well as Jim McDonald of Hancock Prospecting.

The Board was making its plans known after consultation with a team of business advisors that including representatives from the likes of Paribas and other investors. Broadcast representatives from a number of key networks, including ABC and NBC, the broadcasters that secured the rights for the first two Classics, have also played a key role in getting the show on the road.

Caron laid out a vision of what the Perth venue will look like in Classic mode before others spoke to some of the highlights of a four-day event that promises a thrilling start to a new era, one in which swimmers themselves have insisted on contracts that oblige them to repay all earnings in the event of a positive test for banned substances that leads to a penalty at any time in their careers. A doping record will rule a swimmer out of contention for the Classic.

The model of one sponsor or organising committee fits all and controls all is replaced with a system of zones at the Classic that will be managed by experts in specific fields

Adam Peaty, with Chris Walker-Hebborn, celebrates one of his four golds at Berlin 2014, while Florent Manaudou noticed up the same tally. Defenders this week, they are joined by another title hope, James Guy, on his European Championships debut - images by Patrick B. Kraemer [Guy by British Swimming]

The Arena

  • WATER: The race pool, suprises ahead on lane colours and coats of arms for teams, Classic organisation committee in partnership with sponsors and technical experts
  • HAVEN: Training, warm-up and down pool, massage and rest areas.
  • COAST: The stands – public sales of tickets for the general public; plus corporate seats, ticketed; Parents and Friends of Swimming (ticketed, no sale, including invitees, prize winners and officials); Clubs (ticketed, by invitation); Teams (allocated); Media (allocated).
  • SHOAL – a zone where the achievements of swimmers, coaches and others are celebrated in a showcase of achievements in and out of the pool, organised by run by the International Hall of Fame in partnership with sponsors. Entry ticket access, plus extra stand-alone ticketing avaliable for those who wish to visit the exhibition and attend associated live events.
  • POOL – a hall for lectures, presentations, education and the exchange of ideas, organised by the World Swimming Coaches Association in partnership with sponsors; part open access, some events requyiring an extra ticket beyond accredittation or purchase of general ticket to the competition.
  • DRYLAND – a meeting place, with catering facilities and rest areas, for athletes, Hall of Famers, sponsors, officials, parents and guests corporate and social as well as media
  • MEDIA – stands, mixed zones in Water and Haven, centres for broadcasters and written media, press and online and access to all other areas.
  • FORUM – access for all – a marketplace for products, goods, books, souvenirs, a Classic Square in which talks and signings can take place; plus “The Stump” for organised presentations and “The Drop”, a box in which anyone may submit a suggestion for how the event, organisation or format, might be improved. The forum will include catering/food stalls and tabled eating facilities and be a place of day-long entertainment for spectators who have paid to enter the venue. Some stalls and events will be based on the free side of the ticket barrier.

Innovative presentations, including billboard video presentations during race walk-ons, poolside interviews, skill demonstrations and crowd interaction are promised in between events. And in between race sessions, crowds will not want to leave the venue, the program stacked with day-long entertainment.

Here are some of highlights ahead at the Pro-Swim Classic Final in Perth

WATER

Gregorio Paltrinieri, left, and training partner Gabriele Detti celebrate Italian gold and bronze in the Olympic 1500m freestyle - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Gregorio Paltrinieri, left, and training partner Gabriele Detti  – by Patrick B. Kraemer

The first day will feature Team Trials, relays for men, women and mixed, including innovative events such as the Classic 500 Split – a 10x50m relay of five men and five women. All events at the Pro-Swim Classic will include a series of knockout rounds ascending to head-to-head finals on the last day of the Classic Final.

The Classic Final will feature the following events:

Sprint –

  • Classic Dash – a knockout skins event concluding in a head to head final

Mid –

  • Classic 250 – a 250m final on all strokes, the knockout rounds a series of 3x200m swims, the medley featuring a 200m medley ending with an extra 50m freestyle

Distance –

  • Classic 500 – knockout rounds of 3x300m swims lead to a showdown 1k final

The knockout stages of all events will take place simultaneously. For example, the early rounds of the skins will be raced in five lanes next to three lanes devoted to the distance crew neduring their 3x300m challenges.

BelleMooreJennieFletcherAnnieSpeirsIreneSteer1912In between the racing:

  • Heritage Hour: a demonstration of pioneering moments in the sport, including re-enactions of events that did not survive the test of time, such as the Olympic obstacle race.
  • “Skills” – training sessions with local clubs and teams in which world-class coaches and swimmers pass on their knowledge, with crowd interaction, featuring a sprint special with Cameron McEvoy, Roland Schoeman, Florent Manaudou and Ben Proud on the men’s side and Britta Steffen, Libby Trickett, Therese Alshammar and Ranomi Kromowidjojo. There will be special appearances from Jodie Henry and joint Olympic champions of 2000, Gary Hall Jr and Anthony Ervin – sponsored by The Race Club
  • New Wave: a demonstration of Monofin Swimming, ending with a speed test open to one swimmer from each pool team – sponsored by FINIS
  • Shoal – Hall of Famers take to the water for a special event.

OPEN WATER

Off Venue:

  • Swim The Swan – Dawn of Heritage – a marathon on the same course as the inaugural World Championships back in 1991
Lewis Pugh - Polar warrior - courtesy of Lewis Pugh

Lewis Pugh – Polar warrior – courtesy of Lewis Pugh

Followed by a presentation for and on behalf of charities who work to save the Oceans:

  • High Seas and the importance of protecting marine environments – with Lewis Pugh and Aaron Peirsol

HAVEN

Warm-Up and Training sessions are open to the ticketed public (viewing from stands, with a signing corner available to fans)

COAST

The Classic audience will benefit from the work of an Arthouse Film Company production, with feedback slow-motion films of swimmers in action, getting set, the twitch of a muscle, the careful placing of goggles, a part of the presentation of each athlete. The videos on the big screen will include introductions of swimmers, profiles and pre-filmed footage of their skills and strengths, interspersed with video interviews with athletes, coaches, parents and others.

bobbowmangoldenrulesSHOAL

The International Hall of Fame will have its inaugural Famers exhibition, the theme:

  • “Dolphins”, a history of Australian Swimming – sponsor – Qantas

Among live presentations and talks:

  • Shane Gould – What Is Swimming?
  • Mike Wenden – The Gold In Good Governance
  • In Counsilman Corner today: coach Bob Bowman – “Let Me Embrace Thee, Sour Adversity” – why and how it helps

POOL

Among highlights:

Presentations

  • What it takes to be a Professional Swimmer – with PSA president Michael Phelps and board members Stephan Caron, Karen Pickering and Alex Baumann
  • The Good, The Bad & The Long Term – a lecture by Jon Rudd, sponsored by WatchWearers
  • Pre & Post Performance Compression Apparel – with the team from the School of Pharmaceutical Science, Biotechnology & Motor Sciences at Bologna University, sponsored by Arena
  • Swedish Center for Aquatic Research – what we learn from fish, with coaches Milt Nelms, Patrick Miley and guests
Making Waves - Shirley Babashoff - Santa Monica Press

Making Waves – Shirley Babashoff – Santa Monica Press

Screening:

The Last Gold” – screening, followed by question and answer session, presented by the World Swimming Coaches Association.

DRYLAND

  • Exhibition: The Paintings of Rick Demont
  • Seafood Bar sponsored by Veuve Clicquot

FORUM

  • Star Sign: Shirley Babashoff to sign copies of her book “Making Waves”
  • The Stump: How we keep sport clean – expert Michelle Veroken and special guests engage in a question and answer with the crowd on anti-doping and finding the right education/punishment balance
  • Launches:
  • FINIS launches its latest monofin
  • Speedo – a goggle for all seasons

THE TALBOT TUCKER – sponsored by Penfolds

A celebration dinner on the Sunday evening in the company of special guests, including a shoal of former greats of the sport (corporate tabled; and ticketed) and featuring:

  • The Classic Awards 
  • A Classic Lifetime Achievement Award
  • The Classic Carlile Memorial Lecture: Mark Schubert on “Taking Back Control”, delights and dangers of a professional era, followed by Panel discussion including Stephan Caron, Matt Biondi, Ian Thorpe, Shane Gould, Milt Nelms, Bill Sweetenham, Bruce Gemmell, Stefano Morini and more

And with that…

BACK TO THE REAL WORLD

Go! - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Go! – by Patrick B. Kraemer

So there it is, one way of thinking about how swimming might shape its future. There are lots of other ideas and models and variations on the theme out there as swimming reaches a watershed. Whatever they are, best think big and believe that swimming can, in the real words of Michael Phelps “make it to the next level”.

The path of least resistance is certainly there for the sport to sink back into and settle for the same old, let the world cup limp along, tolerate poor decision-making among the leadership group at FINA, moan and shrug and believe you have no power to influence the realm you work in.

Who knows what tomorrow’s swimming will look like. Some things we know, such as:

  • there is nothing wrong with the Olympic cycle and the Olympic Games as the pinnacle of the sport, beyond the woeful state of governance and where that has left all Olympic sports when it comes to issues such as anti-doping.
  • swimming is a stronger sport for having the long-course environment as a showcase for one of the most aesthetic, one of the toughest and among the purest (you and a dense element, no tech, no engine, gear and pedal to make it something other than you) sports out there. Above, I deliberately left out mention of l/c and s/c. The smart thing to do would be to go for long-course, held in the sun, harnessing the very best of the sport and the environment in which it can be held but no harm in a four-day festival of fun in having a short-course element to it. Planning required but nothin insurmountable.
  • the future is yours, you the athletes who face a choice: take control of your affairs and have a say in the direction you’d like swimming to be headed in or resign yourself to being a small player whose sport comes alive big time once every four years with a couple of highlights in between that are built with and on structures that will never generate the kind of income required to make swimming a home for truly professional swimmers who work to be among hundreds not a handful who can earn a living from it.
  • swimming has swum more than a quarter century past the point when swimmers were able to accept payments for racing and appearances without that breaking FINA rules; swimming is more than a quarter of a century past the point at which sports politicians decided that swimming needed professional management and a professional office to go alongside what have turned into very well paid ‘volunteers’, many of whom pay no taxes on per diems they pocket for expenses they never incur.
  • swimmers have been content to go with the flow and nod their caps to federations and others who hold the keys to governance domestic and international.
  • swimmers have started to grow up, an aspect of the Rio Olympic Games the day of the Thirtysomething, with Michael Phelps, at 31, setting the record for the oldest Olympic swimming champion in a solo event just before Anthony Ervin raised the bar to 35.
Juniors are making their mark on the spectrum of speed at the Pan Pacs for developing talent - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Can swimming stand out in-season? – by Patrick B. Kraemer

So, with all that said and done and much more than could be said, the questions are clear:

  • Has the day come for you, athletes past and present – talented in the pool and brimming with ideas and mindsets that could help swimming reach a new level as a sport – to engage in the process of reform?
  • Do you have access to the decision-making process?
  • If not, do you want to do something about it?
  • If so, what?
  • Is swimming a sport that wants to dream big and set goals that it intends to achieve?
  • If so, what role will you play?

A SWimbledon of one kind or another is out there waiting to happen in one form or another. It won’t happen if you, swimmers working with coaches and other to press for change, with or without FINA, can’t find a way to seize the day.

NB: By all means criticise any of the above but better still, offer your vision and help get the swimming future debate rolling.

Roll-up, roll-up. The Pro-Swim Classic is born. Some have dubbed it Swimbledon: swimming’s attempt to create a race-for-wages series that doesn’t clash with the sport’s premium showcases at the Olympic Games and World Championships and hands swimmers control of their own destinies at the start of a new professional era in the pool. The following is an editorial and fictional account of where swimmers might dream about swimming to

Comments

longstroke

Obviously a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes. Every swimming fan hopes the advent of a new format with a more professional outlook will better showcase the sport and provide better earnings opportunities for those who matter the most – the swimmers.

It was said the international federation had agreed to the staging of the LC World Championships every four years in the middle of the Olympic cycle. Presumably this means the WSA. But when will it be – 2018, 2022? I was also a bit confused by the reference to the continental championships also being held every four years, in years 2 and 4 of the Olympic cycle. What does this mean in terms of timing? I would have thought there was merit in having the Pan Pacific and European Championships once every two years ie. in non-Olympic/World Championship years. The acid test will be whether the major federations would agree to such a format and agree to send their strongest teams to a World Championships under the auspices of the WSA.

There was a rallying cry for the swimmers to take control of their destiny. Those who really care about the sport hope they do because only then will the federations consider throwing their lot behind the WSA. If the federations of the USA and Australia back it then FINA will be on its death knell. If Japan, Canada, Great Britain and a few other European countries also add their support then FINA will be just a shell with some tens of millions of euros in the bank and then there’ll be an almighty bun-fight about where this money should ultimately go.

clive rushton

Excellent vision and great description. Now we have to make it happen.

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