From upper left clockwise: Johnny Weissmuller: 5 gold medals in 1924 and 1928; Don Schollander: 4 gold medals in 1964; Dara Torres: 4 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze in 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008; Mark Spitz: 9 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze in 1968 and 1972; Jenny Thompson: 8 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004; Michael Phelps: 18 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze in 2004, 2008 and 2012
From left to right:
Johnny Weissmuller: 5 gold medals in 1924 and 1928; Don Schollander: 4 gold medals in 1964; Dara Torres: 4 gold, 4 silver and 4 bronze in 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008; Mark Spitz: 9 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze in 1968 and 1972; Jenny Thompson: 8 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004; Michael Phelps: 18 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze in 2004, 2008 and 2012

Except for Katie Ledecky, who won five gold medals and set world records, the US swimming team had a relatively weak World Championships. Despite the fact that the Americans were atop the medal standings, they had the lowest totals in an Olympics or Worlds in the past 50 years.

Americans have been dominant in swimming. At every Olympics since 1964, the American swimming team won the medal count, often overwhelmingly. There was one bump in this relatively smooth ride through the past 50 years of international competition, when the East German team had the largest medal haul, led by Kristin Otto, the first female to win 6 gold medals in a single Games.

But according to Michael Phelps in this NBC OlympicTalk blog post, the American swimming team finds itself in unfamiliar territory: “Honestly, I really don’t know what to say about what I’ve seen over there,” said Phelps. “An interesting place

nagasaki
Nagasaki Peace Park
On August 9, a plutonium bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, 70 years ago. The primary target of the B-29 carrying “Fat Man” was a city in Kyushuu called Kokura.

Kokura was the location of munitions factories, which had been targets of US bombers in previous days. In fact, the smoke of burned-out factories, as well as the dense smoke from burning coal tar done with purpose by Japanese on the ground, was so bad that the bomber pilots decided to move on to their secondary target – Nagasaki.

And the rest is history.

This last tidbit is tiny in the context of this story. The reason isn’t clear to me, but the sport of Keirin was initiated in the city of Kokura in 1948. Keirin, a bicycle race that takes place on an oval track, was devised to raise money through gambling. According to this article, over 55,000 people came out on a single day to the Kokura Velodrome, raising close to 20 million yen, motivating local governments to arrange similar activities.

Keirin became an Olympic sport in 2000 at the Sydney Games. Racing around a track for 2 kilometers, differentiated by its use of an accelerating motorized bicycle that sets the pace, Keirin has become one of the most popular racing events in the Olympics.

keirin japan

He already has 22 Olympic medals. And he wants more at Rio. Amazing.

OlympicTalk

Michael Phelps and longtime coach Bob Bowman are known for setting goal times for big meets, and keeping those times secret.

Before the U.S. Championships, Phelps asked Bowman to scribble a time for his first event of the meet Friday night, the 200m butterfly. Phelps did the same, writing his numbers separately.

The result?

“Substantially faster than what both of us put down,” Bowman told media at the meet in San Antonio.

Phelps, the 22-time Olympic medalist, clocked his fastest 200m butterfly since he set the world record in 2009 at the U.S. Championships on Friday night. He won in 1:52.94.

The time would have won gold at the World Championships, which are being held concurrently in Kazan, Russia, by .54 of a second. It would have won the 2012 Olympics by .02.

Simply, it’s the most impressive swim for Phelps since he came back to the sport following a 20-month…

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Cunha Canal that FLows into Guanabara Bay
The Cunha canal that flows into the highly polluted Guanabara Bay.

“Athletes in next year’s Summer Olympics here will be swimming and boating in waters so contaminated with human feces that they risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete in the games, an Associated Press investigation has found.”

So starts this report from Associated Press released July 30. The pollution is Guanabara Bay has been an issue over several decades, impacted by the growth of Rio de Janeiro and the inability of the country to keep up with the waste management needs of the population. In short, Guanabara Bay has become the cesspool of the Brazilian capitol. The AP report continues: “Extreme water pollution is common in Brazil, where the majority of sewage is not treated. Raw waste runs through open-air ditches to streams and rivers that feed the Olympic water sites. As a result, Olympic athletes are almost certain to come into contact with disease-causing viruses that in some tests measured up to 1.7 million times the level of what would be considered hazardous on a Southern California beach.”

Garbage on the shore of Guanabara Bay_1June 2015
In this June 1, 2015 file photo, a discarded sofa litters the shore of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)

According to the report, athletes competing in canoeing, sailing, rowing, triathlon and open-water swimming are at risk. In this recent article from Nick Zaccardi of NBC OlympicTalk, US officials related to these sports are taking a realistic tone, stating that the safety of their athletes is the highest priority, that they are heavily encouraging the organizers to improve the conditions, and that they will follow the medical recommendations of experts.

“Athlete safety is always of the utmost importance to USA Triathlon, and we take this situation very seriously,” USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach said in a statement. “We are in direct conversation with our athletes and listening closely to any concerns. We will continue to work collaboratively with