10 years ago this week, SwimSwam was launched in earnest. As we approach our 10th* round of NCAA Championship meets (not including the canceled 2020 championships), I started reflecting on the biggest stories that SwimSwam has ever done.
As I started going through them, what I found was that not only did they tell the story of swimming over the last decade, but even moreso, they told the story of SwimSwam over the last decade.
There were 10 recaps in the top 50. But I think that makes for a boring list, so I’ve clipped them out.
I pretty much spilled my guts in November when we published our 100,000th post on SwimSwam.
#1-#3: It’s All About Phelps
SwimSwam wasn’t launched until four years after peak-Phelps-hysteria in 2008, but we were there for what I would say were the most fascinating part of his career: his rock bottom 2014 DUI arrest and suspension, followed by a sort of rebirth of Phelps in Arizona as a family man. Phelps’ Under Armour ads I think were sort of a short but poignant homage to what he’s meant to this sport – a sport where he still draws so much attention even 6 years after his retirement.
That article was clicked over 5 million times.
#3 was an April Fools joke. They definitely didn’t have quadruplets (though they do now have 3 sons, so they’re almost to a relay anyway). I almost swore off April Fools after that one – People Magazine picked it up and ran with it as real news. I hate April Fools. We’re never doing that again.
#4: 10 Telltale Signs You Have a Swimmer’s Body
Like everyone, sometimes swimmers are happy with how their bodies look, and sometimes they’re not. But part of what we wanted to create with SwimSwam was a community. It’s not a perfect community, there is plenty of fighting and bickering (some productive and for good reason, some petty), but ultimately, we’re one big swimming family, where we can feel, at least, that we’re starting from some similar background and starting point.
#5: Was There a Problem With the Rio Pool?
Data. We love data. You love data. We’ve got the best data guys in the sport. Barry Revzin, Daniel Takata, Andrew Mering, Stefano Nurra, and Kevin Hallman are absolute swim nerds in the best way. Barry Revzin made international headlines for first noticing what we like to call “Revzin currents,” which are currents in pools that we believe are usually caused by the filtration systems. He’s identified this effect a few more times since, and while the pool manufacturers continue to publicly deny them, we’ve seen the mathematical evidence cease (probably after filters are turned off) once articles are published. You be the judge.
#6: Sharks and Minnows
The original swimming meme.
#7: Tokyo 2020’s First Doping Violations Reported, 4 Track & Field Athletes Named
Sometimes, when it contributes to narratives that are also relevant to swimming, we reach beyond the borders of the pools for stories. That was the case here.
#8: US Olympic Roster for Rio 2016
I don’t really know why this one did so much more traffic than the rosters for Tokyo 2020 or London 2012, the other two Summer Olympics that SwimSwam has been around for. Maybe the last Phelps team did it.
#9: 12 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Competitive Swimmer
More Listicles. We do it for the culture.
#10: Photos of Nathan Adrian‘s Suit Rip (NSFW)
The most chaotic 48 hours of my life: this story was on the front page of Yahoo for a day, because “The Berkeley Dream Boat” ripped his suit and beat Phelps anyway. This was our first big break in swimming, it was huge, it destroyed our site for 2 days, it made us re-evaluate our priorities as a company (from a technological perspective), and honestly it changed a lot of rules in swimming. This is why photographers aren’t allowed behind the blocks any more. 🤣
#11: 9 Signs You Have a Swimmer’s Body
Different, but the same
#12-#13: More Listicles
Because other people will never understand us the way we understand each other.
#14: Klete Keller in the Capitol
Not a proud moment in swimming. This story was first picked up by the New York Times, and then the rest of the world, and Keller’s prominence as an athlete, while wearing his Team USA jacket, was a bit of a watershed moment in one of the most significant moments of any kind (not just swimming) in America in the last decade.
#15: Swimming Words
Because other people will never understand us the way we understand each other.
#16: Poland Sends Six Swimmers Home from the Tokyo Olympic Games
This one really isn’t chattered about as much as it feels like it should be, at least in English language swimming circles. Poland made an error with their Olympic selections and had to remove 6 swimmers from their Olympic Team. But, over the last decade, we’ve done our best to serve as a check on governing bodies and their general competence.
#17: 10 Things Every Swimmer Does (But Would Never Admit to Doing)
Coach is always watching 🙁
#18: Event Schedules for Both Waves of the 2021 US Olympic Trials
Swimming has been remarkably bad as a sport at providing organized and direct information (remarkable because our sport is so information-driven). We hope that we’ve made it easier to be a fan of the sport.
#19: Mark Spitz
Before Michael, there was Mark the Moustache. He still has bounce even 50 years later.
#20: More like annoying things non swimmers say to swimmers
Yes, I won the meet. Yes, I know Michael Phelps. No we don’t have an off-season. Can I go to bed now?
#21: Why Michael Phelps‘ Silver Medal is the Perfect Way to End His Career
We like to think about swimming. Sometimes we over-think it. But sometimes, I think we think about it just enough.
#22: TSC Mysteries: Why is a Swimming Mile only 1650 Yards?
Here I have to give a shoutout to The Swimmers’ Circle: a site I owned before SwimSwam with a partner Andy Scherer. When I left to join SwimSwam, Andy was generous enough to let me take my content with me without a fight, and I can’t thank him enough. Our work at TSC was a foundation and bedrock for what SwimSwam became. Andy is now crushing it as a real estate agent, and I couldn’t be happier for him. We learned a lot together, and I think we both came out better for it.
#24: FINA Announces Another Rules Change to Breaststroke Pullouts
Everyone’s favorite stroke to hate: breaststroke. Pullout rules changes make two appearances on this list – and yet we all still hate them.
#25: 8 Nutritional Recommendations for Swimmers
Not all of the questions are complex, deep, require decades of experience to understand. Sometimes, we try to answer questions for the novice swimmer or swim parent too – and as we move into our next decade, we plan to really focus on servicing this part of the sport as well
#26: Power Quotes for Swimmers
Not included was my coach’s favorite: “If you’re not drowning, you’re getting better.”
#27: Mexican Swimming Federation Falsified Times
Another dark moment for the sport. The Mexican Swimming Federation falsified their entry times for the World Championships, and when they were caught, their response was to post a press release that basically said, in Spanish, “FINA tells us that SwimSwam are just trolls who want to make us look bad, so don’t worry about it.”
This really exposed the seedy underbelly of the sport, of governing bodies. There were no real consequences either – the Mexican Federation was suspended a year later, but not for making up entry times for a meet their swimmers weren’t eligible for, but rather for bailing on World Championship hosting duties ($$$).
FINA didn’t face any real consequences from their member federations either for basically sweeping this dirt from plain sight to under a very thick rug.
That, unfortunately, has been the story of swimming for most of its history: recall that Chuck Wielgus oversaw an atrocious era of coverups of abuse of athletes for years, and was never removed from his position of USA Swimming until he died.
My next article: 10 SwimSwam listicles that SwimSwammers loved.
#30: Athletes Present as Night Club Ceiling Collapses in Gwangju
During the 2019 World Aquatics Championships, a balcony inside a South Korean night club collapsed, killing two people and injuring 16 – including US water polo star Kaleigh Gilchrist. In the aftermath, an athlete who was present at the club filmed video that didn’t exist anywhere else in the world of a story that reached far beyond swimming. At the time, we were receiving messages from athletes who didn’t know where their friends were in the fog of the night. Ultimately, no athletes were among the dead, and most, with Gilchrist being the exception, escaped serious injury. But for many, this was one of the scariest moments of their lives.
#31: Dear Swimming, the Best Thing That’s Ever Happened to Me
Has anything more relatable ever been written? Like, ever?
#32: What’s Known About Chlorine’s Impact on Coronavirus
As the coronavirus pandemic gripped the world in 2020, swimmers were desperate to learn about whether they were safe to return to the pool (and to convince pool administrators that there was a safe way to reopen)
#33: 35 Tips from 35 Swim Coaches
There are lots of great swim coaches on this planet earth, and we want to help share all of their knowledge. A rising tide lifts all teams.
#34: Phelps Hugs Schmitt for Reasons Far Beyond Swimming
This sport is about relationships, the people we meet, the people who impact us. For portions of our lives, we see our teammates more often than we see our own families. Those bonds can’t be underestimated.
#35: Age Groupers Need Love Too
While we all love following the collegiate and Olympic swimmers, age groupers are out there grinding and working hard too. When they succeed, we think it’s important to recognize them
#36: ISL Releases Underwater Footage of Lilly King’s Disqualified Breaststroke Turn
Whenever I push governing bodies for more transparency, this will be a hallmark of those conversations. One of our most-read articles ever came when the International Swimming League, for maybe the first time in its history, was transparent by posting video of an incredibly-controversial DQ that ultimately cost the Cali Condors the season 3 title.
People in power are afraid of controversy and transparency and the loss of control that can come with it. But, if the goal is to grow the sport, these things can actually be huge.
#37: 2012 US Olympic Team Call Me Maybe Video
Ahh, the simpler days, when we thought all of our favorite swimmers were BFFs and got along all the time. This was a heart-warming moment.
#38: Santo Condorelli Throws Birds
Santo is a gift to swimming that keeps on giving.
#39: Lia Thomas’ First Video Interview
Every media outlet on earth asked us for this. We declined, because we didn’t really trust what many of the requesting outlets would do with Lia’s words. Some (Laura Ingraham of Fox News, for example) stole it without permission anyway. This is one of about a dozen stories in SwimSwam’s history that have really made a significant splash outside of the bubble of swimming. With the NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships coming up, I suspect this one will climb the rankings in coming days.
#40: FINA Votes for Dramatic Post Olympic Changes to Breaststroke Underwaters
Breaststroke pullout rules + April Fools = pure pandamonium.