With this past weekend’s throttling of the European All-Stars, Team USA moves to 7-0 all time in the international dual meet extravaganza. The first three victories came against Australia, who briefly challenged the US around the Sydney Olympics for world dominance.
The next four victories have come against a team from Europe, and given the bounty of talent in European swimming at the moment, it’s somewhat unbelievable that they haven’t won a single time. To be fair, they brought the meet down to the wire in 2013, where a 200 medley relay tie-breaker was used to decide the final outcome.
In 2015, it was back to business as usual, with team USA bruising Europe once again to the tune of 155-107 score. While there were highlights for Europe here and there, I can’t help but be struck by the amount of races Europe should have won but didn’t.
The key to understanding this, especially for American audiences, is to realize that America is the country in the world where swimming is least individual. Nearly every swimmer on the American squad has a lot of experience swimming dual meets, stepping up and competing as a team.
In fact, the exceptional performers on the European squad in this meet can be traced back to some good old American team swimming. It’s easy to forget as she’s criss-crossing the globe and hoovering up prize money, but Katinka Hosszu swam at USC and continues to be trained by an American coach.
Let’s look at a few examples from the first day of the competition:
- Ryan Lochte‘s 400 IM- You could argue it takes little courage to win an event you are the world record holder in, on the other hand he has basically abandoned this event internationally at 31 years old. Had Hungarian David Verraszto been able to match his time from Netanya (4:02.43), he could have won the race.
- Simone Manuel‘s 100 Free- Yes, Simone Manuel swam great in this race, but frankly Ranomi Kromowidjojo choked under pressure. She would go on to tie her own world record later in the meet, after the meet was a foregone conclusion, so you would think she could have easily come closer to her best in the 100 and outlasted the big swim from Manuel.
- Melanie Margalis‘ 200 breast- If you were setting odds for Melanie Margalis to beat Yuliya Efimova heads up in a 200 breaststroke race, how much of an underdog would Margalis be? 5-1? 10-1? Coming into this race Efimova had a PB of 2:18 and Margalis sat at 2:23.
- Cody Miller‘s 200 breast- Once again, non-Hosszu Hungarians were awful in this meet, and a hungry American swimmer was happy to seize the day. Daniel Gyurta is the world record holder and although he appeared a bit off in Netanya, still should have dispatched a swimmer like Miller easily. Instead, Miller stepped up and Gyurta stepped down and the rest was history.
Folks, that’s four great examples in just the first handful of events. Look at this meet’s results and you’ll find plenty more. It should hearten fans of American swimming to see this as we approach Rio.
It can be easy at this point in the Olympic cycle to get nervous about Team USA. After a lackluster performance in Kazan, with the Chinese surging, Australia seems to be gaining momentum at the same time.
I’ve given in to this panic before, but this time I’m staying faithful in the Stars and Stripes. The team we will send to Rio will have a huge advantage over every other country, the same advantage they’ve had for years. They will be a TEAM.