Everyone is swimming faster! Michael Phelps still wins.


The Swimming World Championships in Rome have just finished up and Michael Phelps closed it out with a gold medal performance on the American relay team. That left him with a total of five golds and a silver for the competition, not too shabby. But perhaps even more than the continued domination of Phelps, the real story from Rome seems to be the 43 world records set there. Brian Cazeneuve from Sports Illustrated puts in his two cents:

It’s gotta be the suits. What else could explain the absurd number of world records set in Rome? In 2008, a year when the rise of records left people calling for drug inquiries, pool measurements and the return of 1920s swimsuits, there were 102 records set throughout the year. That’s almost one every three days. In Rome, swimmers set new standards 43 times in eight days. FINA, the sport’s international governing body, has said it will adopt new regulations to prohibit some of the materials in the suits of the last two or three years. They will also restrict the length of some of the suits for both men and women. Still, those regulations won’t go into effect until Jan. 1 and even those will be against the objections of many suit manufacturers who want to liquidate their stock of the suits that will soon be illegal. Once that happens, some of these records could stand for some time.

So all these new-fangled swimsuits are going to be made illegal? When I heard the story the first thing that popped into my mind was the sound of those speed skates in Nagano in 1998 and every Olympics since. Called “clap skates” these things broke every record there was to break in speed skating. But they are still legal today.

With the skates in mind as a precedent then, it seems a bit odd to me that the swimsuits should be banned. Further strangeness in this story comes from the fact that all of the records in swimming HAVE ALREADY BEEN BROKEN by them. If the reason for making the suits illegal is to make the times of the swimmers closer to something a normal human should be able to do, than don’t we have to re-swim every event since Beijing? FINA, the governing body of international swimming, needs to get their heads out of the suits and let technology through on this one.

OK, but then what about aluminum bats in Major League baseball? If we should let in the swimsuits, then why shouldn’t we let in the bats? OK, here’s why: The swimsuits have already been used, the records are already broken. With baseball, if they choose to not let those bats in, then fine, that’s up to them. But FINA shouldn’t have gone back on their previous approval. I don’t care too much about what choices a governing body makes in terms of technological advances, so long as they stay consistent. Baseball has, speed skating has, swimming seems to have had a false start.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Nadal’s 31-match streak ends at the French Open

Sometimes greatness is taken for granted. Fans expect Florida or USC to be playing for a national title year in and year out, the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox battling for American League pennant every season. When it doesn’t take place, it throws the sports universe off base.

Well, another sports gimme has ended. Rafael Nadal’s unbeaten streak has ended at the French Open.

The four-time defending champion lost to Sweden’s Robin Soderling 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the round of 16 on Sunday, thus ending his 31-match winning streak at Roland Garros.

Here is the New York Times match account:

In his 31 previous matches at Roland Garros, Nadal had never been pushed to five sets in victory. He had not lost so much as a set in any match here since the 2007 final against Roger Federer, but Soderling changed all that with a varied but consistently aggressive approach: clubbing forehands with or without clear openings, serving big under pressure with the exception of the second-set tiebreaker and pushing forward to net on a semi-regular basis.

But Nadal, the Spaniard from Majorca who is seeded and ranked first, was clearly not the same irresistible force as usual. He failed to generate depth consistently, which allowed Soderling the space to keep applying pressure. He made errors off the ground from positions where he would normally generate winners or high-bouncing shots to the corners. He also looked, at times, less convincing than normal on defense, as Soderling made him stretch and then stretch some more.

But Soderling, an erratic player with a reputation for cracking under pressure, still had to summon the gumption and the shots to do what no other player had done in the five years since Nadal emerged with his topspin forehand, two-handed backhand and matador’s brio. With Nadal down, 1-2, in the fourth-set tiebreaker, Soderling ripped a backhand pass that Nadal could not handle and on the next point, Nadal made an uncharacteristic unforced error with his backhand.

It was 4-1, and it would soon be 6-1 when Nadal’s forehand pass hit the tape. Nadal would save the first match point he had ever faced at Roland Garros with a forehand winner down the line, but on the next point, he moved forward and pushed a forehand volley just wide.

Soderling pumped his fist, quickly shook Nadal’s hand and then the umpire’s hand, as well. Only then did he show just how much this moment meant to him, running back on court, throwing back his closely cropped head and roaring with delight before tossing his racket into the stands.

Earlier this season, Nadal defeated Soderling in straight sets on the clay surface at a tournament in Rome. The Swede has never advanced this far in a Grand Slam tournament before, as the deepest he went was the third round at the 2007 Wimbledon.

Brandon Jennings says that all is not rosy in Europe

Remember Brandon Jennings? He’s the #1 basketball recruit of the class of 2008 that decided to forgo college (due to trouble with the admissions tests) to sign with a professional team in Rome.

We brought you some excerpts from his blog just after Christmas that stirred up some controversy but weren’t all that controversial. Now he’s on record (via email to the New York Times), and it seems like his frustration level is rising.

“I’ve gotten paid on time once this year,” Jennings said in an e-mail message. “They treat me like I’m a little kid. They don’t see me as a man. If you get on a good team, you might not play a lot. Some nights you’ll play a lot; some nights you won’t play at all. That’s just how it is.”

“I don’t see too many kids doing it,” his e-mail message said. “It’s tough man, I’ll tell you that. It can break you.”

“My role is to play D and take open shots — that’s it,” he said. “And I’ve accepted that role.”

I can’t imagine that these quotes will endear him to the coaching staff in Rome. My guess is that he’ll be running a few extra sprints after practice. And this is one of the advantages (or disadvantages, depending on how you look at it) of the internet, blogs and email. These athletes are so accessible now, even ones that are living in Italy, that journalists can get a quote without flying around the world or having to track them down via telephone. Maybe the Times caught him at a bad time or maybe this is just how it is playing for Lottomatica Virtus Roma.

But even though his minutes are inconsistent and he’s only averaging eight points a game, it doesn’t look like Jennings’ time in Rome will hurt his draft stock, at least according to one anonymous NBA assistant coach.

An N.B.A. assistant coach who has been to Europe and has watched Jennings play said his potential draft standing had not been harmed. The coach requested anonymity because he was discussing a player currently ineligible for the draft.

“I think it is good for him,” he said. “He was getting a defensive component that he needed. If I was a scout and I needed a point guard, I would be extremely impressed with what he has done over there.”

Sonny Vaccaro, who in many ways brokered the deal for Jennings to go to Europe, also commented.

But Vaccaro said there had been a change from last summer, when he worked on the deals for Jennings. Economic conditions in Europe are just as difficult as they are in the United States, and he said he underestimated the emotional strength a player needed to compete overseas.

“A less-driven kid would have come home,” Vaccaro said. “They practice twice a day, and the Europeans play everybody. It is not like one of these silly college games where the same seven guys play every minute of every game. When it’s over, the fact he was able to handle it is going to be more landmark than him just going over there.”

What is Vaccaro smoking?

“It’s not like one of these silly college games where the same seven guys play every minute of every game.”

I’ve played and watched a lot of basketball in my life and the best teams have a regular rotation of guys. Some coaches use a six- or seven-player rotation, and some can find eight or nine guys that they trust. Rarely do teams regularly play a full 12-player roster. With that many guys going in and out of the game, it is impossible for most of the bench players to find any kind of rhythm. I’m not sure why Vaccaro felt the need to use the term “silly” as it just makes him sound foolish.

At the end of the day, I don’t think Europe will be a viable option for most high school seniors. As long as the NBA age-limit stays at 19, most players will prefer to play at the college level due to its comfort and familiarity. But for players like Jennings, who have difficulty getting into college, Europe will remain an option. It just may not be as attractive of an option as it was a year ago.

Related content: Brandon Jennings

Highlights from Brandon Jennings blog

As you may or may not remember, Brandon Jennings shocked the basketball world when he elected to play for a team in Rome instead of going to the University of Arizona. He had trouble getting his test scores up, but he made his final decision prior to the release of his final scores, so while eligibility may have been the driving factor it wasn’t likely the deciding factor.

Anyway, he has been writing a blog (sponsored by Under Armour) over the past couple of months. Here are a few of the highlights…

From his 11/7 entry, “O Yea!“:

I bet y’all wanna know what I’ve been up to these last 2 weeks. First things first, I’m sure you’ve been lookin at my stats and saying he’s not doin much. But you guys have to understand that it’s not about just one player, it’s about the team over here. And they’re all about winning, so if I’m putting up 30pts a night and losing, it doesn’t mean anything over here. But that’s why I’m loving it…because I’m all about winning too.

From his 11/13 entry, “The Latest“:

My coach is pretty cool, but he has a crazy side. He always stresses DEFENSE to us, so you know I’m playing a lot of defense this year. He’s real tough on me, but I don’t trip…it’s just getting me ready for the NBA next year. So I thank him for everything he puts me through.

From his 11/24 entry, “Staying Positive“:

What’s up, everybody? We just finished a long week of practice and it wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you that. Monday we had a day off, which was cool. Tuesday-Friday it was straight running, we felt like we were trying out for the Olympic Cross Country Team or something. I think the coach was upset about our loss last week, because he made us run on the football field (soccer field) for a good 45mins. Then the next day we ran 80 sprints in practice for an hour and a half…which was rough. It felt like we were back in pre-season training camp. Then the next day we worked on defense the entire practice. This was all leading up to our game on Sunday…

So we had the game on Sunday against Scavolini Spar Pesaro…and we lost 106-93. It was pretty ugly. At one point I think we were down by 30pts. But my teammates never gave up. Allen Ray and Andre Hutson played really hard trying to keep us in the game. Hutson had 18pts, A Ray had 20pts. I only played 8mins in the game…5pts, 1asst. Not bad for 8mins, I guess…but I’d be lying if I said I’m not hungry for more PT.

No matter how much time I get on the floor in games, nothing is going to stop me from working hard every day, like staying after practice to shoot, getting to practice 30mins before to hit the weights, etc. I want to be the best I can be on the floor for my team, and I want to show my team I care so I will always be prepared. I’m never going to stop working, this has always been a big part of who I am. I take a lot of pride in knowing that I work as hard as I do.

From the 12/12 entry, “Barcelona, Spain Trip & Euro League Game“:

Now to what everyone wants to hear about, the game and the matchup with Ricky [Rubio]. Unfortunately Ricky only played about 8mins cause he’s still kind of hurt from a wrist injury he suffered in the Gold Medal game vs. Team USA, but in just 8mins he showed me a lot. I have a ton of respect for the dude. He’s real mature out there on the court, he has a great feel for the game. He passes the ball like crazy, reminds me of Steve Nash a little bit. Put it like this if he were in the class of 09 in high school basketball he would be the #1 player hands down. No question about it. I can only hope that when Ricky and I one day get to the NBA we can be like Chris Paul and Deron Williams, as our careers take off together like CP3 & D Will’s did. Despite what the critics say that he can’t shoot Ricky is going to be going a Great NBA player someday…he brings a complete game to the table.

From the 12/17 entry, “Blogging & Music

Wassup Everybody?!? Just wanted to write to y’all to clear up a few things. I’ve been seeing some negative talk about some of the things I’ve written on my blog. My blog is not to put anyone on blast or anything like that. The things I say are to show kids who are thinking about coming over here how real it is, and I’m just going to keep it 100% real. Because I don’t want anyone coming over here thinking it’s easy. The whole reason I’m doing the blog is because I made a decision that is basically unprecedented. I’m not trying to make myself sound better than anyone else…I’m just trying to tell people what it’s like. So that’s why I talk about the ups and the downs. It’s not a game once you become a Pro, it’s real life. To be great, you gotta put in the time and be responsible off the court.

It’s funny, because I read this last entry first, and was expecting much more controversial entries as I dug into the previous posts. What are people upset about — that he said that the gym was cold or mentioned that his GM ripped into his team? As far as I can tell, he’s handled this blog with as much maturity as anyone could expect from a teenager. As he mentions in his latest post, it’s a nice service for other players that are thinking about playing their one post-graduate year overseas instead of in college. Playing for a year in Rome may sound like a good idea in theory, but it takes maturity to handle yourself like a professional while living and working in a foreign country.

Related Posts