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Old 12-30-2005, 09:35 PM   #41
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Default Re: Swimming

World Pool Focus on Beijing

Footballers and tennis players should take a leaf out of the swimmers' book and give themselves a rest. As the swimming calendar becomes increasingly congested, the world's elite swimmers are prioritising their events, and that means just one thing: the Olympic Games.



2005 WORLDS: Michael misses Thorpedo, VDB

Ian Thorpe took a year off after Athens to ensure he would be in top form for the worlds in Melbourne in 2007 and the Beijing Games of 2008.

Pieter Van den Hoogenband and Jana Klochkova also opted out this year for the same reason. Grant Hackett has undergone shoulder surgery and will sacrifice next year's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, to ensure he can compete in the worlds in the same city a year later and at Beijing 2008.

Since 2001, the world championships are now held every two years; in the years before and after an Olympic Games.

So with swimming being such a punishing sport to train for, something has to give. And for the elite, it was this year's worlds in Montreal. Not that the meet was poor; with nine world records, it was far from it.

It's just that people's minds were elsewhere. Even the great Michael Phelps could 'only' manage five gold and one silver; a magnificent haul by any standards, but one that left the media disappointed.

Grant Hackett, though, finally stepped out from Ian Thorpe's considerable shadow and occupied centre stage, becoming the first person to win four consecutive world championship titles, and is rightly honoured as the world swimmer of the year.

The swimming public wants to see the best line up against the best with everything to play for.

So despite Budapest, the capital of one of the greatest swimming nations, hosting what will be a terrific European championships next year, everyone is patiently waiting for the world championships a year later in Melbourne, the sporting playground of another of the world's great swimming nations.

Fun though that championships will be to watch, history beckons a year later.

Thorpe, Hackett and Van den Hoogenband will all be bidding to become the first man to win gold medals at three consecutive Olympics.

So roll on 2007. The world championships will act as the curtain raiser to the one they all want to win: a historic Olympic Games in the most exciting country in the world, China.

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