Are We Taking Gretchen Walsh for Granted?

Gretchen Walsh just swam the fastest 50y freestyle in history last night at 20.79… but no one seems to care. Why not?

As an avid swim fan for nearly two decades, I’ve seen a lot of fast swimming. It’s always exciting to see records get broken and new limits reached in our sport. What isn’t fun, though, is when people see someone who *could* be fast and let their expectations dictate their reactions to said athlete’s performance.

Case in point: Gretchen Walsh. The Virginia junior has been on a warpath this season, swimming times (unsuited, unrested) that 99.9999% of NCAA athletes could only pray to achieve at the pinnacle of their career to the tune of 20.9 50 free, 49.1 100 fly/back, 46.4 100 free. So when she broke the American record in the 50 free, it felt expected. Even if it’s at a mid-season meet.

I’d caution swim fans to be careful with expectations. You never know when something great is going to happen in the pool. When it does, I’d advise celebration, because we don’t know the next time it will happen again.

Moral of the story: Gretchen Walsh went the fastest time anyone ever has. Yay fast swimming!

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20 days ago

There’s a lot going on that some is directly related to Gretchen herself, but there are several other factors –

  1. We are in full Olympic year mode…everything is ramped up, ratcheted up, you name it.
  2. UVA/DeSorbo is still crushing it…even with the ‘loss’ of several key stars on their roster…having said that, Kate Douglass hasn’t left, just no longer competing with UVA.
  3. Addition of Claire Curzan…all that does is just make practice more competitive…if it wasn’t already…now there’s just one more person in the pool that’s trying to win each repeat, each set, each practice…
  4. Ups (and downs) of Worlds/2023 for Gretchen. I’m sure she heard the noise about how she did do so well in the trials/nationals
… Read more »

Friederang Stephen
20 days ago

Amazing speed; unbeatable kick. Gretchen tied MacNeil’s time to the hundredth and is the fastest American ever since the time-enhancing suits have been allowed. Really hard to say what she could have done against a Dara Torres, for example, in a swim suit as compared to a “high tech” suit. So, just in my gut, not even my heart, that’s one reason though I’m super impressed with this amazing athlete, I hold back just a little in my excitement.
As far as what she can do long course, I think we’ve underestimated how our great swimmers in short course can do in the Olympic events. Kate Douglas is a good example. Again, especially in these suits, and especially girls… Read more »

Sweet Sweet Peter Rosen
20 days ago

Feel like she was really fast 12 months ago, and didn’t improve much at NCAA’s. Nothing wrong w being unstoppable year round, just can’t imagine her going much faster come march

With that said I had 5 text threads about here this weekend. Pure 🔥

Reply to  Sweet Sweet Peter Rosen
20 days ago

I know you aren’t being critical, but this is another “old school bias” in swimming that mutes the celebration of fast times swum at meets outside of NCAA’s. She just broke 49 for the first time in the 100 fly and went 48.30. When you’re already at the top, a drop like that is so rare and special. Who cares if she doesn’t go faster than 48.30 in March?

20 days ago

For college swimming fans, Gretchen Walsh is far and away the most exciting female swimmer to watch. I can’t think of a swimmer since Natalie Coughlin who has been as dominant across as many strokes/distances throughout the entire college season. It is a shame that UVA has such a strong team, as we may never see her mow someone down on the end of a relay (UVA is usually leading).

Outside of college swimming, there will always be a contingent that not only dismisses SCY results, but actively tears down SCY achievements. For every commenter saying “wow 48.30!” there will be 2 more saying “bathtub” and “she kicked past 15M.”

I think it is less about “fast swimming fatigue”… Read more »

24 days ago

In a competition of time, why is “hype” so damned important and to whom? Where in the spectrum of strengthening and conditioning for the sport of swimming does it become paramount to cheer lead for success? Do athletes somehow loose their extraordinary capabilities if no one hears about them?
There seems to be a mad march to pull competitive swimming into the colosseum to make it relevant; like all those other blood sports.

Any swimmer or coach that worries about filling auditoriums or the internet already has issues. The swim was quick, the record was broken, the award ceremony simple, and I am sure Gretchen will focus on improvement and pay little attention to the noise. I stand in awe.

24 days ago

I really like her. She is THE yards swimmer to watch and I get excited to see her results in ncaa competition BUT I don’t feel the same about her as a long course swimmer so at the moment I don’t have her in the same conversation as Sarah Sjostroem/siobhan haughey/MOC etc when it comes to international competition. I’d like her to prove me wrong in Paris though. Also, would love to see her at the next SC worlds because I think she could really dominate across a few events (assuming the selection policy allowed for selection from yards swims).

Swimmin in the South
24 days ago

She got the relevant LC International experience last summer. She’s on the move all around. She’ll be a major player next summer. I’ve watched her progress since she was a youngster at NAC. Development is relative and her path has been long and rich. It will all pay off in spades.

Pieter H
Reply to  Swimmin in the South
24 days ago

She already got relevant LC international experience in 2019 when she won 4 golds (including 50/100 free) at 2010 junior worlds.

24 days ago

i kinda just got used to it personally

About Coleman Hodges

Coleman Hodges

Coleman started his journey in the water at age 1, and although he actually has no memory of that, something must have stuck. A Missouri native, he joined the Columbia Swim Club at age 9, where he is still remembered for his stylish dragon swim trunks. After giving up on …

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