Beijing 2008: Local Swim Stud Lorin Koszegi Discusses Michael Phelps

It seems to me that there is always controversy involved with every Olympics, but it just seems there’s been a lot of issues with the Beijing Games, starting back even before the Games began when the promised press access was denied. There have been all of the issues with the Opening Ceremonies and the murder of the father-in-law of the coach of the U.S. Men’s Indoor Volleyball Team. There’s the matter of the photo of the Spanish Men’s Basketball Team. And now sore losers Bela and Marta Karolyi seem to be trying to cause a big stink over Tuesday’s night women’s gymnastics finals.

But – taking my cue from NBC – it’s time for something completely different.

One area where there is no controversy involves Michael Phelps’ quest for history to win eight gold medals in this Olympics – well, no controversy if you don’t count Mark Spitz’s hissy fit. Phelps has gone out in five finals, and not only has he won five gold medals, he has set a world record in each event. I’m not much of a swimmer, but even I can tell what this guy is doing is just amazing.

But like I said, I’m not much of a swimmer, so why should what I say mean anything when it comes to Michael Phelps and his swimming feats? It just so happens, however, that I actually know someone who knows a little something about competitive swimming. So I thought I would get his thoughts.

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Lorin Koszegi is the Masters Swim Program Coach for The Department of Campus Recreation at the University of Houston, and he is also a former Junior Olympics champion. “There are so many aspects of watching [Phelps] swim that amaze (no one but him can hold such long streamlines off walls near the end of a race), but what really strikes me in recent days is his ability to recover so quickly,” Koszegi says. “It seems as if he doesn't have to have any strategy at all regarding which events to swim all out, or which (e.g. preliminaries) to hold back just a bit. He just goes all out all the time, often with less than an hour to recover, matching or besting world records every time.”

What really gets Koszegi is the effort, or lack thereof, expended by Phelps in his swims. “What many non-swimmers don't understand is the skewed ratio between effort level and swimming faster by even just half a second during, say, a 100-meter swim - we are normally happy with just a few tenths!” Koszegi says. “The amount of energy needed to achieve those precious extra tenths seems always to be crazily out of proportion to the gain. And Michael Phelps is doing this several times each day, 17 times during the Olympics, besting records by seconds rather than tenths.”

It’s good to see that those in the know are amazed by Phelps, and that it’s just not hype. “Fun to watch!” Koszegi says. And we’ll get some more fun tonight as Phelps goes for gold medal number six in the 200-meter IM.

And I know that I mentioned continued gymnastics controversy, but did you hear that over 100,000 condoms have been distributed to the Olympic athletes? First, I didn’t know Shawn Kemp or Karl Malone made the so-called Redeem Team. Second, at least a condom’s not being wasted on U.S. runner Kara Goucher, though not for lack of Redeem Team effort.

Now if you watched the women’s gymnastics on Tuesday night, you heard some references to the ages of the Chinese gymnasts, along with the implication that they’re not old enough to be competing and that the Chinese were breaking the rules. The loudest voice in this regard was Bela Karolyi – which is kind of funny being that Karolyi generally rails against the age limits he’s now wanting enforced. But along with the whole age thing, another controversy has arisen, a controversy alleging that America’s Alicia Sacramone was forced by way of a conspiracy to wait too long before being allowed to begin her competition on the balance beam, and that as a result, she lost focus and fell off of the beam. The chief source of this allegation is one Martha Karolyi, the wife of Bela Karolyi and the coach of the U.S. Women’s Team.

I’m going to call bullshit right here. The U.S. Team lost; the Chinese Team won. The Karolyis are being poor sports and sore losers. Thankfully, the gymnasts under their control are superior human beings who are gracious and willing to accept fault for the result. But as Dan Wetzel writes, this isn’t really a matter of who won or lost, it’s a matter of the Karolyis having to always be the center of attention because being the center of attention brings them lots and lots of money and power in the gymnastics world.

And I know that I generally only mention Jennie Finch when it comes to softball, but Houston’s Cat Osterman tossed a no-hitter for the U.S. team yesterday as the Americans continue to dominate in the final-ever Olympics softball competition.

As for tonight’s viewing pleasure, we’ll have the Michael Phelps final along with three other non-Phelps swimming finals, more beach volleyball, and women’s gymnastics. – John Royal

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