The Award: The SwimSwam Buzz Award goes to a swim that nobody was really thinking a whole lot about, but got the global swimming community stirred up in almost a viral way.
The Winner: Camille Muffat, France, for her swims at the 2012 Mare Nostrum series.
Home Cooking: In one weekend in Canet, France, Olympic Nice swimmer Camille Muffat had a nearly indescribable set of performances that still boggles the mind. First, she swam the fastest time ever in textile with a 1:54.66. That’s obviously an impressive time, but split 58-56, it was just that: an impressive time.
What she did the next day in the 400 free was the true showstopper. She swam a 4:02.9 to win and break the Meet Record, an amazing in-season time in its own right, but her splits were what really pushed that swim to another plane. She was out in 2:04.4, and came home in a 1:58.5. There’s only 50 women in the world who did a 1:58.5 last year in the 200 free period, and I doubt there’s another one who could have done so in June immediately after swimming another pretty quick 200 free (keep in mind that the 1:58.5 was from a turn, so without the benefit of a start on the first 50 meters).
She wasn’t done, either. A month later, she swam an 8:23.6 in the 800 free that even after the Olympics left her ranked #8 in the world, and her splits were even more unreal. She was out in a 4:18, and came back in a 4:04.9. Only 9 women in the world swam better than a 4:04.9 in the 400 free from a dive in 2012. The second-half of her 800 free would have final’ed at the Olympics in the individual 400!
Let Down for Gold?: So inexplicable were her summer swims that when Muffat won gold in the 400 free at the Olympics, swimming a traditionally-split 4:01.4, there was an air of disappointment. I don’t know what we were all hoping for, is a 2:01-1:58 too much to ask?
Ultimately, Muffat has proven in 2012 that she’s not just a good swimmer. She’s a great swimmer. When you look across all sports at the greatest of all time, they just have a way of controlling the game, the race, the match. Michael Jordan with the ball fully extended while he wags his tongue at a defender, Usain Bolt pointing at the crowd while crossing the line for a World Record in the 100m dash. There haven’t been many swimmers in history who have been able to achieve that sort of manipulation of their races, but Muffat’s at-will speed in the distance races is just awesome to watch. She excited swim fans about the 400 free in maybe a way that they’ve never been excited about that specific race, and certainly like they’ve never been excited about it in the middle of a season.
Katie Ledecky in the 800 free at the U.S. Olympic Trials: We knew she was good, but she was only 15. She went out hard, and there was disbelief in Omaha as she just. kept. going. The Olympic gold medal swim was awesome in its own right, but this Olympic Trials swim had everyone talking.
James Magnussen’s 100 free at Aussie Trials: James Magnussen was the best 100 freestyler in the world before he really found that much speed. Then, at Trials, he swam a 21.7 in the 50 free and in the 100 was suddenly not behind the pack at the turn. Look out world. He roared to a 47.10, easily a textile-best. Even though things didn’t work out as hoped at the Olympics, the young Magnussen showed that he has the potential to be among the all-time greats if he can put things together for Rio.