Sizing Up The Sprinters: Men’s Blue-Riband Battle Of 2 Halves & 3 Clubs At Rio 2016

Giants and Amazons (clockwise from top left): Nathan Adrian and Florent Manaudou, Cameron McEvoy, Vlad Morozov, Ning Zetao, Federico Grabich, James Magnussen and Santo Condorelli - all images by Patrick B. Kraemer, barring Grabich (courtesy Jorge Aguado) and Condorelli (courtesy Swim Canada)

When the clock stopped at 47.56 for Australian Cameron McEvoy at the Super Series in Perth last week, questions of ‘size matters’ came back into focus. It was not the speed of the swim alone but the way in which McEvoy swam it that drew the eye: 23.14 out, 24.42 back. That poses a threat to giants – and a dilemma for those slight in their might

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When the clock stopped at 47.56 for Australian Cameron McEvoy at the Super Series in Perth last week, questions of ‘size matters’ came back into focus. It was not the speed of the swim alone but the way in which McEvoy swam it that drew the eye: 23.14 out, 24.42 back. That poses a threat to giants – and a dilemma for those slight in their might



I believe Alex Popov was a bit taller – about 200 cm.

Where the anthropometric data in the table came from, BTW? Is it official? Adrian seems to be much lighter than 103 kilos (just look at his skinny legs! :)). Florent – maybe (this dude is the biggest here for sure). And Magnussen is about Adrian’s size IMHO, so there’s no way they have 10 kilos difference.

Craig Lord

As I note, Eugene: official team biographies at the time they swam the times in the boxes. For the point of this exercise, it matters not much whether they are a cm or 2 out or a 3-4 kgs (wrong weights and heights and ages on biographies is another story; happens far too often): the range is clear, the point, too

Felix Sanchez

A memory that has always stuck with me and could be viewed as the prelude to this 2007 story came four years earlier at 2003 Barcelona worlds.

Although we’d already seen great things from him, it was this year- I believe – that we first clearly realised Phelps was THE talent of talents. While Phelps was dominating butterfly and IM at this time, the moment which I believe changed the course of swimming history came in the 4×200 relay. At this stage Phelps was relatively unknown as a freestyler, so when he was up in the first leg against Hackett, it seemed a tough ask. The great Aussie, as was his way, went out hard, and there was an immediate sense that he wanted to show the young star that this wasn’t his territory. However, as the race went on, Phelps managed to hang on to his coattails. Heading towards the end of the third 50, Hackett still had a clear lead, but Phelps hit the wall, stayed down, and all of a sudden he popped up ahead. He kept that lead to the end of the leg.

The skill was refined over the next few years, but this was the moment. This was the turning point (sorry pun): the first time since the 15m rule that we saw clearly how dolphin kick could be a big difference maker in elite long course competition.

Craig Lord

Not quite the first, Felix: Misty Hyman had been doing that and on her side, too, very effectively between the 15m rule imposed 1998 on ‘fly through to her 2000 Olympic win in Sydney (one of a few examples) … Misty is now Bob Bowman’s assistant – and he has spoken about what he learned from her. Barcelona 2003 was significant in terms of Phelps’ development, through, as you suggest – the moment we all saw him as ‘the man who might topple Spitz; the man who could out-Thorpe Thorpey and everyone else’ etc. The significance of Melbourne 2007 was the honing of the skill and taking it to a whole new level not quite team wide but much deeper through the ranks than the 1 or 2 protagonists.

Felix Sanchez

Yes and no. Of course there were good under water swimmers all the way through, but even when she caused the big upset, I think most of us thought of Hyman’s skill the same way we viewed other short-course specialists. I loved watching Thomas Ruprath’s submarine impressions, but the Phelps deep dive masterfully integrated into long-course swimming felt like something new.

Burton William

Speculation and conjecture six months out us all well and good but the bottom line is too many variables at thus point.

Grab uh and Cindorelli in the Finals?

I’d say mire likevGkolomeev and Dressel and — who,jniws? — maybe even the world revird- holders too if ge can ever get healthy. McEvoy abd Adrian are almost locks byt Chalmes is too young. Mebbeveven stupa ovum but ge’s mire a 200-400 guy.

Manado y’all the one to beat ( Zetai’s win @ Kazan was the fluke of ALL flukes!) but just remember: the bigger they are the harder they fall.

Just ask Andy Cian. He wS world 100 free records holder going into the ’76 U.S. Trials but finished ninth in qualifying and didn’t make the finals.

With thevGOAT concentrating on the shorter events and presumably eschewing the race where Ryan Lochte is defending champ the 100 free might just suit him like a Lazr racing suit and makvHIM the evenr’s “wild card.”

And don’ forget the U.S. Ooen/ NCAA record- holder in the 100 yard freestyle, the redoubtable Mr. Morozov. He’s due for an lcm breakout — long overdue done might suggest.

Craig Lord

I know what you mean, Felix but to call him first and new would be wrong in my recollection and my experience of watching swimming and reporting on it. I recall watching Hyman short and long-course and realising how the 1988 submarine backstrokers had started something that would need refining and how the likes of Hyman and others were working on an adaptation, including sinking below the wave, before any of us had heard of Michael. Of course, he mastered something others had done before him and was among those who took it to a new level by 2007 (and anyhow, he has plenty of ‘first’s to his name as it is 🙂 The Fifth Stroke was something many more than one person was doing by Melbourne 2007 – and at that point we’d never seen it used so effectively, by Phelps or by any others.

Craig Lord

Burt, speculation is when folk start guessing who will win (and yes, way too early for that kind of thing, tempting as it always is). The point of this article is not to suggest who will win so much as how it might be won – and the question is left open: it is to note the battle line, using obvious examples – while noting that there will be other protagonists. Besides, guessing who will represent the USA at this stage is surely speculative, as is most of the rest of what you wrote here 🙂


Who is James “Manginess”? In lane comeback.. 😉

Craig Lord

He’s James Magnussen before he gets back to full fitness, Verram 🙂


I think the race will be won in the back end, not sure by who yet because we do not know who will perform at trials, and therefore compete for medals in Rio!

Craig Lord

Yes, I think so, too, gheko.

Felix Sanchez

Craig, to call him first and new certainly would be wrong – that’s why we’ve both avoided doing so.

After all, by the time this race arrived, Phelps had already demonstrated great under water skills several times that week and previously. The reason this single moment really caught the attention of so many people was that someone who was then not considered a freestyler (no individual freestyle event) was able to use the fifth Stoke to dismantle the race strategy of a freestyle legend. That felt like something new.

Craig Lord

Absolutely, Felix – a thrilling ‘dawn-of’ moment, no question. (fond memories of Barcelona 2003 on a number of levels)


Phelps’ underwater prowess in 2007 Melbourne was best exemplified in his 200 free WR.

It was his walls and explosive underwear that got him to manage just under Thorpe’s WR.
There was a video that displayed side by side both Phelps’ 2007 WR and Thorpe’s 2001 WR on the same time, and while Thorpe was noticeably faster on the water, Phelps killed it on every walls.


First, we would have to see the form of Magnussen and who will hit the A times on France and Australia, and based on the last Worlds, the “surest” qualifiers would be the guys below:

Gabrich (But he did not break 50 this year and he already competed, will he have a Hanser Garcia-like carrer?)
Chiereghinni (Who would be on the bulk side, with 1,95 and 92kg)
Manadou, if he passes the French time for qualification (He has the ability)
Last one on final I would bet on Morozov, but if he flops, my bet would be Tiemens

Craig Lord

Yes, Rafael – and some I mention, like Chalmers (we can’t know what he might get to this season, just as it may be unclear as yet where Chiereghinni is going, after 48.11 in 2013 – still his best – and 48.27 last year) etc. My chart is not a fixed suggestion of who is going to make the final, of course – it is a sample of those who could as a method of showing the relatively vast spectrum of size and related skill in the sprint club over two laps. On the clock, Chad Le Clos is another who could make that final – if that’s part of the plan – schedule probably against it but we won’t know for a while yet.


Aswimfan – do you know the link to that video? Would love to watch it. Agree that this was the race where the underwaters were so prominent (of course it helped that VDH popped up straight away).


MP’s dolphin kick is like Michael Jackson’s “moonwalk”: he was not the first to do it, but he did it like no-one else.

Someone has named Gkolomeev. I too would keep an eye on this guy, but in the 50 rather than the 100 free.

I definitively prefer swimmers who race with finesse, a-la-Ervin, to those who power through the water and/or rely on a powerful dive.

Totally out of topic here, but I am worried about the Zyka virus phobia and how it could affect participation to the Olympics.

Craig Lord

Therealuigi: keeping an eye on Zika but not going to join the panic. It will be winter in Rio in August etc.,. The area of most concern is that which impacts women and participation. Just what are the ‘older’ (relatively) women swimmers (others) supposed to think/to trust authorities, in the face of advice such as ‘don’t get pregnant within two years of returning from the Zika zone’? Watchful.


Read this, Craig. Spanish is close enough to Italian that I can understand Ms Belmonte is among those concerned. Not a minor name, you will agree.

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