While many swimmers around the world have put on airs of persevering in spite of the Olympic postponement, at least one former World Record holder is treating this instead as an opportunity.
In an interview this week with the ARD Olympic Podcast, German breaststroker Marco Koch said that the year-long postponement is “optimal.”
“We have decided that a year is actually optimal,” Koch said. “Otherwise we would have only about 8 months together and of course something can go wrong. So we have a little more time together that he can get to know me a little more.”
The Olympics are now scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8, still in Tokyo. The 30-year old Koch turns 31 in January.
Koch’s situation is unique in that he decided to change coaches 7 months before the original 2020 dates of the Olympic Games. Prior to returning to his former coach, Koch was working with Henning Lambertz, the German National Team coach.
Koch said at the time that he believed Lange could help him improve his front-end speed, giving him the opportunity to use his endurance to hold on over the closing meters of his swims.
Koch was 5th at both the 50 meter and 100 meter turns of the 200 breaststroke at the 2019 World Championships, which is the same position where he finished. The eventual champion and World Record breaker Anton Chupkov was actually last at the 50 and 100.
Koch was the World Record holder in the 200 breaststroke in short course meters, swimming a 2:00.44 in November of 2016. That mark stood until Russia’s Kirill Prigoda broke it at the 2018 World Short Course Championships in 2:00.16. Koch was the 2015 World Champion in long course in the 200 breaststroke, and the 2016 World Champion in short course in both the 100 and 200 breaststrokes He also has 4 European championships. Coming out of his World Championship season, though, Koch finished in just 7th place in his specialty race, the 200 breaststroke, at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Koch got within a second of his best time at last December’s World Short Course Championships, swimming 2:01.42 for a bronze medal. He had some positive scoring results, but struggled time-wise in his inaugural International Swimming League season for the New York Breakers. His ISL season best came in the American Derby meet in College Park where he went 2:03.79 – slower than he was at that stage in prior years. He won the 200 breaststroke in the Budapest meet in 2:04.27, which again was slower than he had been at that time of year in prior seasons.
He also struggled with speed, which he says is one of his focuses. He was 7th in his last meet of the ISL season in the 100 breaststroke, for example, and a full second behind 6th place. He was last in the 50 breaststroke at that meet.
Koch was 5th in the 200 breaststroke, his only race, at the 2019 World Championships in 2:07.60. That time was .13 seconds slower than his German Record from 2014.