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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Who is the second best all-around male swimmer of all time?

Another Swimming World article, for swimming fans only.


Skip Thompson said...

Nice article Ryan Lochte. I have a couple of corrections to make about Mark Spitz. You are correct that he set an American Record in the 200 IM in SCY. You are incorrect in stating he never swam the event at a big Long Course meet. At the 1967 AAU Nationals that were held in Oak Park, near Chicago he swam the 200 IM in 2:13.6 and was 3rd behind Doug Russell at 2nd and Greg Buckingham who broke his own WR of 2:12.4 with a 2:11.3

He was ranked 4th in the FINA World rankings behind Buckingham at 2:11.3, Russell at 2:13.2 and Frank Wiegand from East Germany at 2:13.5. That was the second time he swam the event at a big LCM meet and never swam it again. According to Sherm Chavoor in the book the "50 Meter Jungle" he gave up to much time on the breast leg and with Gary Hall on the rise, he decided to focus on other events like 100 and 200 Free and Fly.

Mark Spitz, never, ever, had the American Record in the 100 LCM Back and the reason people bring that up is because there is a mistake on the USA Swimming site that has him listed with Mike Stamm's time of 57.7 from the Munich Olympics and they have not corrected it.

I don't believe Spitz would have ever won the 200 IM at the 1972 Olympics because he was just to weak in breast against world competition.

And he would not have won the 400 Free at the 1972 Olympics because he did not swim a good mid distance race since he won the 500 Free at the 1969 NCAA meet. His time at that meet was 7 seconds slower than John Kinsella's AAU time from AAU Nationals that same year and John was a JR in High School. At the 1970 Big Ten Championships, he was beaten by everyone in the 500 Free finals and Gary Hall was the winner

I am glad you included Hall in this because he sometimes does not get the respect that he deserves. Swimming World ranked him the 42nd best swimmer of the 20th Century.

John Craig said...

Is this Frank Thompson, the backstroker from Michigan? (Don't know if you also go by Skip.) If so, I actually met you at a masters nationals around a decade ago.

Anyway, thanks for your comment. Your memory is better than mine, I hadn't remembered that he swam the IM at Oak Park. I still say he would have won the 200IM in Munich. He was much more erratic early in his career than later. The first time he ever own four events at a nationals was in the summer of '71. Even in '70, when he set his first world record at the 100 free, he only won two events that summer. His breaststroke wasn't that bad: he did go a 1:02 in high school to make h.s. All-America. (And remember, the AR at the time was something like a 58+.) I think with just a little bit of IM work he could have beaten Gunnar Larson. (I made the case for this in the comments section of the SW website.)

You're absolutely right about that 100 back record, I just made the same point on the SW comments section.

I think I can correct you on that 500 free record. Spitz won his freshman year, 1969, with a 4:33.0, narrowly beating Hans Fassnacht, who went a 4:33.2. John Kinsella didn't break that record until the spring of his senior year at Hinsdale Central, which was 1970. He went a 4:27.1 that year, and also set the national h.s. record in the 400 yard freestyle that year with a 3:31.5. (Back then the boys were still contesting the 400, not the 500 yard freestyle.) Kinsella then went to Indiana and his freshman year there, in 1971, swam a 4:24.4 to set an AR which lasted for a while. I heard he subsequently got a little lazy at Indiana, as did Spitz, which may explain that lousy 500 free at Big Tens. However, while Kinsella never realy improved substantially after his freshman year, Spitz hit his peak in his senior year, '72, when he went a 47.98 and 1:46.88 in the fly's to set ARs which lasted for five years each. If the story I heard about that 800 free he did at Olympic training camp is true (out in 4:30, back in 4:15), then I think he could have won the 400 free in Munich. (He couldn't have won it on top of all of his other events, just if there had been two of him.) It did take some conditioning to go a 200 free in 1:52.78 and a 200 fly in 2:00.70, so we know he was in shape.

Yes, Hall was amazing. He never won Olympic gold, and to the non-swimming public, Olympic gold is everything. But at a point in time ('69-'70) he was better than Spitz, and also one of the greatest swimmers ever, as well as one of the greatest all-around swimmers.