In hindsight, we should have seen this coming. After last year’s disappointing World Championships, we should have seen that the old guard would be replaced. The average age of this year’s Olympic team is nearly five years younger than it was in 2012 (23 years old in 2016 vs 28 years old in 2012). Two-thirds of the team will be in their first Olympics.
How will the youngsters fair in Rio? There are some who consider the US Olympic trials the toughest swimming event in the sport — with only a maximum of two swimmers per event, third place gets left at home, despite frequently being a medal contender. With that in mind, the Americans typically arrive at the Olympics much looser than they were for the Trials.
I thought the nerves showed – times were slower than what everyone is capable of swimming. Despite the slow times the racing was terrific. In an environment where second is first and third is last, everyone raced each other rather than the clock – and it led to fantastic finishes and heartbreaking results for some (several races saw people left at home by mere inches or a scant few hundredths of a second).
I expect most to swim faster than they did at Trials, but the Americans won’t be as dominant as they have been in past Olympics. With the rise of Adam Peaty and James Guy from Great Britain, the Campbell sisters from Australia, and Hagino and Seto from Japan, the Americans won’t be the favorite in very many events. But they will still be medal contenders in every event (except the women’s 200 Breast).
Now it is time for my quadrennial complaint about NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. They. Are. HORRIBLE. Let’s start with the lack of live coverage on the west coast. They cover it live out East, but those of us in the Pacific time zone have to pretend the outside world doesn’t exist for three hours. Next they didn’t bother to show every race. They aired every day from 8-9, but they needed an extra 30 minutes. Believe me NBC, you aren’t airing anything else worth watching. Their coverage consists of 10 minutes of swimming, 20 minutes talking about Michael Phelps, and 30 minutes of commercials. Finally, my biggest peeve as a 1500m swimmer myself is their shameful coverage of the 1500 – They showed 6 laps, cut to commercials, came back to an interview with Missy Franklin, showed another round of commercials, then showed the final 6 laps. When they were actually talking about the race they were complaining about Americans not winning this event – gee maybe it is because you don’t show any of the race! The race is typically broken into 500s; I would like to see how the best swimmers pace the race. Can’t do that with the race interrupting all the commercials. I have 1,000 different ideas of how to improve their coverage, but sadly they will never consult me.
The Olympics are a month away. It is time for the swimmers to fine tune their strokes, starts and turns, get some yardage in before that final taper before Rio, where we should see some more exciting racing.