Rio Pack-Up Begins
With the competitive swimming portion of the 2016 Rio Olympics wrapping up this week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has begun returning swimmers to their storage unit, where they’ll remain until fans care about swimming again in the year 2020.
“It’s a lot like taking down your Christmas decorations,” says one facilities worker as he carries Michael Phelps‘ broad-shouldered frame back to the storage area. “Everybody is excited when they come out, but then you almost forget they all exist within a few months.”
Phelps is promptly wrapped in three layers of bubble wrap and placed inside the massive storage unit.
“Oh, I almost forgot, these go with him!” the worker says, dropping 6 more gleaming medals into a box beside Phelps with a clinking sound.
Another worker passes him, setting down Maya DiRado onto a pile of packing peanuts, then Katinka Hosszu next to her.
“We’ve got to make sure they’re packed up safely,” he explains, “so they’ll be ready for promos before the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.”
Some fans, sticking around to watch the packing up, found the moment emotional.
“I love the Olympics so much,” says a young woman, whose teary eyes are somewhat hidden by a pair of American flag sunglasses. “And now it’s all getting packed up.”
She watches a crew member carry off a set of backstroke flags over one shoulder and Ryan Lochte over the other.
“Ryan was my favorite,” she says sadly. “And now I’m almost back to only remembering him as ‘that other guy, the one who’s not Phelps’.
The storage unit is beginning to fill up. To make room for Lochte, the worker pushes Lilly King and Yulia Efimova closer together. Both look mortified. This isn’t fair. Sun Yang and Mack Horton ended up at opposite ends of the storage locker. How’d they pull that off?
“It’s a shame, really,” says a supervisor, as he directs a team of workers to place the American 4×100 free relay team near Phelps. There’s barely room to fit Nathan Adrian‘s broad shoulders, but Ryan Held and Caeleb Dressel fit in near the front of the unit.
“Such great athletes, such excitement in the sport. For it to only exist once every four years… it kind of feels like we’re missing out, doesn’t it?”
A Breaking SwimSwam Exclusive
But now, in a massive story uncovered by SwimSwam’s team of investigative reporters, we are able to report that the Olympic Swimmer Storage unit will not remain sealed until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Exclusive documents uncovered by SwimSwam suggest that a number of athletes will be taken back out of storage as early as next month.
“A number of the most popular ones will be out all year for display in the NCAA’s swimming season,” says a high-level official, who speaks to us on condition of anonymity. “Simone Manuel, Dressel, Held, King… heck, even Katie Ledecky will be racing several times a month through March.”
SwimSwam has learned that Manuel and Ledecky will actually be teammates at Stanford University and will look to knock off defending NCAA champs Georgia (who will unpack Olympians Olivia Smoliga, Brittany MacLean and Hali Flickinger) and Pac-12 champs California (which snags Kathleen Baker and Abbey Weitzeil from the Olympic vault).
“Remember Joseph Schooling?” one official tells us anonymously. “The guy who beat Phelps in that 100 fly? You won’t believe it, but he’s actually out of storage all year, too. He swims for this crazy Texas team with a ton of Olympians and he’ll also swim a whole bunch of events at the Southeast Asian Games next summer.”
The source tells us about Schooling’s Texas teammates, including Olympians Jack Conger, Townley Haas and Clark Smith. This part feels unrealistic. No college team could have that much talent. Then the source tells us Texas could actually be pushed for the NCAA title by a Cal team that includes Ryan Murphy (of the Rio Olympic backstroke sweep).
This seems even less believable. An NCAA title battle between two teams that loaded with elite-level Olympic talent? And it’ll happen over 4 days in March? And we’ll get to see those guys swim more events plus combine for relays plus jockey for team points in a meet that, in the past, has come right down to the final relay? That just seems to entertaining to be such a well-kept secret.
And it’s not just college. Sources tell us there’s something called the World Cup Series. Apparently Katinka Hosszu puts on a show every couple weeks during the fall, swimming almost every event in the meet lineup and beating fresh athletes for big prize money checks.
And in the U.S., there’s the Arena Pro Swim Series, which travels around the country during the winter and spring with prize money, points and a BMW on the line. Did you know Conor Dwyer and Katie Ledecky won the BMW’s last year? And that the final points leaderboard included Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Nathan Adrian, Maya DiRado, Missy Franklin, Leah Smith, Melanie Margalis and Canada’s Santo Condorelli?
Big, if true.
And all of the stars will reportedly be out of storage for the 2017 World Championships in July, with most nations holding major qualifying meets before then.
SwimSwam will, of course, be following up on these rumors that Olympic swimmers will be competing in broad daylight over the next year, and that the sport doesn’t get put on ice for four years in between Olympics.
Any fans who enjoyed following the Rio Olympics and think they might enjoy following swimming on a more regular basis may find SwimSwam’s continuing investigations a fun and exciting way to stay in touch with a sport for which they are just finding a love.
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