2020 was a year unlike any other in the lifetimes of most reading this. It was a ‘precipice year,’ where a number of generational-type issues came to a point simultaneously.
What was supposed to be a year where the world’s greatest athletes would assemble in Tokyo for the world’s largest gathering at the 2020 Olympic Games instead became a year where athletes were struggling to find places to train, and where all of us were more isolated than ever.
The end of the year provided a light, though, in the form of the International Swimming League season, where many of the world’s top swimmers were able to travel to Budapest and live in their ‘bubble’ free from many of the stresses over when and where to find pool time to train and race that existed to the outside world.
So how do we approach this year’s awards, where most of the world was without competition for at least 4 months, where much of the world was without training for at least as long, where there was some semblance of a “world’s-best” event, but with enough names absent (some by their choice, some by the choice of others) to not make it definitive?
Our approach this year was to try and view the season holistically. ISL wins mattered, but because of the nature of that event, we tried not to let them diminish the accomplishments done at other meets. We also made sure to look back to before quarantines, when coronavirus was still just another doomsday headline in a world where the ‘big one’ seems forever just around the corner. It seems like forever ago, but there were some big swims done in the early part of this year, when athletes still thought they were building to a mid-summer Olympics.
There is always some disagreement about these awards – their subjective nature invites that difference of opinion. We found that this year, some awards became more clear-cut because of the disruptions, while others became almost-impossible to decipher. In a year where the world was ready to declare “only long course matters in an Olympic season,” suddenly short course was grabbing most of the headlines.
But on another level, it was a fun challenge. In a year where it’s easy to throw up our hands and say “what a lost year it was,” quite a lot happened. World Records were set in at least 10 events, European Records were set in 8 events, Asian Records were set in 11 events, and American Records were set in at least 23 events. An Olympics delayed turned into an opportunity for swimmers like Claire Curzan and Torri Huske, who now appear on the verge of making their Olympic debuts 3 seasons earlier than anticipated.
One thing is for sure: 2020 isn’t a year that will soon be forgotten.
Read on to see who made the best of a really hard year.