Weekend Wrap-up: The Revenge of the Jammer
By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
A few years ago, when the “suit era” officially ended after FINA banned full-length polyurethane swimsuits, many swimmers, fans, coaches, and media members asked the following questions: “Would we ever see incredible times like these again? Would swimmers ever approach these times achieved in ‘tech suits’?” The times and records seemed too incredible. Too fast. Too impossible to achieve. After breaking literally hundreds of world records, some thought that we’d never see swimmers approach those times. Not in regular ol’ jammers.
This weekend, a few NCAA swimmers answered those questions: Yes, swimming is getting faster without the “tech suits.”
Lesson one: Vlad Morozov. On the very first night of the NCAA Championships, USC’s Morozov sent a message to the rest of the swimming world that these “in-between” years from the London Olympics to Rio will feature incredible performances and broken barriers.
Morozov split a 17.86 in his 50 freestyle during the 200 freestyle relay. The time – 17.86 – has now become infamous in the swimming community. People who haven’t followed swimming since the London Olympics wrote on Facebook walls, “Just heard someone split a 17-point in the 50 freestyle!!!” Others took to Twitter. I received a plethora of texts and a few phone calls. The buzz was as significant as when Michael Phelps was in the swimming pool a year ago. Morozov even made it onto ESPN’s “Top Ten” plays-of-the-day recap. Never before has any swimmer in history slipped under the 18-second barrier in a relay split. Women even Tweeted to me: “17 seconds is what my son goes in the 25 free.”
Few people imagined that a 17-point was possible. Nathan Adrian came close a few years ago, but that was during the era of tech suits. Morozov, who swims for Russia, proved to the world that barriers are meant to be broken. He proved that there are time drops yet to be had in a highly contested event such as the 50 freestyle. He opened imaginations.
Maybe, one day, we’ll see a 16-point?
Lesson two: Kevin Cordes. The Arizona Wildcat split :49 in the 100 breaststroke. This is no April Fool’s joke: Cordes split 49.5 in his 100 breaststroke during Arizona’s 400 medley relay on the NCAA’s opening night. He became the first person in history to break :50 point barrier, thus merging breaststroke with freestyle, butterfly and backstroke in the “40-second club.” Cordes’ :49 sent shockwaves through the swimming community. Brendan Hansen and Eric Shanteau Tweeted messages of awe and support for Cordes’ incredible swims. Mixed with Morozov’s 17-point, even casual swim fans perked up their ears. Maybe something was in the water at the IUPUI Natatorium last weekend.
But Cordes wasn’t done yet.
On the final night of the meet, Cordes stamped an exclamation point on the end of the fast weekend during his 200 breaststroke by popping a sizzling, forehead-slapping 1:48.6. (That’s coming home in :56 for the final 100 for those keeping score at home.) Of all the performances at NCAAs, this was the most incredible. Never before had a swimmer dipped under 1:50-point. Cordes smashed 1:50-point barrier. Destroyed it. He finished a full three seconds ahead of his teammate, Carl Mickelson. And Mickelson’s time was incredible in its own right (1:51.9.)
Even Bob Bowman Tweeted in agreement that Cordes’ time was the greatest yards swim in history.
It would be tough to argue otherwise.
There were other unbelievable swims, too. Like Tom Shields’ NCAA record-breaking 1:39.6 200 butterfly, and Michigan’s NCAA record-breaking 200 medley relay, and Morozov’s NCAA record-breaking 40.76 100 freestyle. The list goes on. Even the depth of the men’s 200 IM was incredible. (1:43.6 didn’t even quality for Top-8!)
The take-away from last weekend?
In the year after Michael Phelps ended a career defined by breaking barriers, more barriers continue to be broken. Fast swimming continues. Tech-suit times are slowly fading into memory, while new records are achieved in jammers. New times, non-techsuit times like “17.86” and “1:48.6,” are infamous.
Welcome to a new era of swimming. It’s fast. It’s jaw-dropping.
And it will continue all the way to Rio.
Mike Gustafson is a freelance writer with USA Swimming and Splash Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @MikeLGustafson.