Swimming

Ryan Lochte, Madisyn Cox -- now, what will Lilly King say?

Ryan Lochte, Madisyn Cox -- now, what will Lilly King say?

Suddenly we have two — two — top athletes out of this week's U.S. swimming national championships. For doping-related reasons.

What will Lilly King say?

Ryan Lochte got himself suspended Monday, again, this time for 14 months, and every time one thinks the Ryan Lochte story has taken a weird-enough twist it just gets weirder.

And then there is Madisyn Cox, who is out for two years and whose case bears remarkable similarities to that of the Russian Yulia Efimova. That's right. The same Efimova who King decided to make the villain in a Cold War-style doping drama that far too many people lapped up as if it was Rocky and Ivan Drago.

Imagine the glee this week elsewhere, and particularly in Russian media. Two Americans! This is where, again, it's useful to remember that as an American athlete on the world stage a healthy dose of humility goes a long way.

Reminder: you don't see Katie Ledecky, ever, calling anyone out.

No one, ever again, should have to go through this

No one, ever again, should have to go through this

When our youngest daughter was just 18 months old, we were at a friend’s house here in Los Angeles. In the back was an unfenced pool. In a flash, she had toddled out to the pool and jumped in. Alertly, my wife ran across the house and jumped in — fully clothed — after her.

Another story. When I worked at the LA Times, we were at a party down in Orange County with some newspaper friends. We were all much younger parents then, and there were all kinds of little children around. I happened to be on duty at the hot tub when one of the kids, who was just 2, just that fast, sank to the bottom. I fished her out. 

Our daughter went on to do years and years at the LA County junior lifeguard program and a couple days ago finished her freshman year at Northwestern. That 2-year-old just graduated from Michigan.

These stories have happy endings. 

Way, way, way too many don’t.  

Please: let’s come together in the aftermath of the sorrowful drowning death of 19-month-old Emeline Miller, daughter of Olympic ski star Bode and his wife, Morgan, the professional volleyball player.

Let Emmy’s death be a call to action.

Alfred E. Neuman as swim spokesdude: What, Team USA worry?

Alfred E. Neuman as swim spokesdude: What, Team USA worry?

BUDAPEST — In the land before time, when there were no cellphones, those of us of a certain generation were sent out of the house by exasperated mothers who didn’t know the first thing about bicycle helmets and, truth be told, didn’t much care. They just wanted us out until it was dark.

So off we went, baseball cards in our spokes. It was a very exciting day when the new edition of certain magazines would show up in the racks at the Ben Franklin five-and-dime store. It was super-exciting when Mad magazine would show up, with stupid Alfred E. Neuman on the cover, grinning, “What, me worry?”

Now that these 2017 FINA world championships are in the history books, can we finally acknowledge Alfred E. Neuman as Team USA’s unofficial spokesdude?

No Michael Phelps, no Ryan Lochte, no Missy Franklin. No worries.

Caeleb Dressel: the present and future of swimming

Caeleb Dressel: the present and future of swimming

BUDAPEST — Swim geeks have known for years about Caeleb Dressel.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, near and far, no matter where you are, what we have here is our next big, big star: with three years until Tokyo and the 2020 Summer Games, let the red, white and blue hype commence.

Dressel, just 20 years old, on Saturday won two gold medals at these 2017 FINA championships in 33 minutes, three in just under 100. In sequence, he won the 50-meter freestyle, the 100-meter butterfly and then helped the U.S. win the mixed 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

He is the first — the first — to win three gold medals at a FINA world championships in the same finals session. Michael Phelps never did that. Ryan Lochte won four individual titles at the 2011 championships in Shanghai. But not three in one day.

Phelps and the shark or, like, a great swim meet?

Phelps and the shark or, like, a great swim meet?

BUDAPEST — Did you know, my 18-year-old daughter said to me over FaceTime, she in California, me here in Budapest at the FINA world swim championships, that Michael Phelps raced a shark?

Did you also know, she went on, that it wasn’t really a real shark? And Michael had a monofin? And Michael went 38.1 seconds and the shark 36.1 seconds? He was close!

So, I said to the darling daughter, now that you have told me everything about Michael and, as it were, the ultimate example of jumping the shark, what can you tell me about what’s going on here? Because, I said, this is a great meet.

To switch animal gears, or something, here was her response: crickets.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the existential dilemma of Olympic sport in 2017.

Katie Ledecky is (gasp) not perfect and -- it's (more than) OK

Katie Ledecky is (gasp) not perfect and -- it's (more than) OK

BUDAPEST — If you listen closely, very closely, to Katie Ledecky this week at the 2017 FINA world championships, you can hear — appropriately — a college sophomore-to-be.

Someone who sees that there is a big world out there beyond swimming, that swimming is just a piece of a long and meaningful life as part of a loving and supportive family. Who also sees that many of the big stars on the American team who have come before her in recent years have wrestled with some big issues and maybe — probably — could have benefitted from some quality time between Olympic Games.

If you were Katie Ledecky and you had done pretty much everything there is to do at the highest levels, and now, after Wednesday, in the women’s 200-meter freestyle, you were proven human after all, which in its way is the lifting of an incredible burden, might you be inclined to maybe think of 2018, or at least some portion of it after the college swim season, as, well, me time?

As a constructive and positive stroke all around?

Midwestern values, Olympic values -- what kind of values here?

Midwestern values, Olympic values -- what kind of values here?

BUDAPEST — Lilly King grew up in Evansville, Indiana. I grew up near Dayton, Ohio. They’re about four hours apart via a combination of interstate highways. In the summertime, you can see a lot of green and a lot of fields along those roads. We are talking serious midwest.

Maybe Lilly King and I learned a different set of midwestern values.

Where I grew up, I was taught to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. To think long and hard about circumstances and perspective when someone makes a mistake. To consider the notion of a second chance.

To know that the most profound of all virtues and values, indeed the greatest American story of all time, is redemption, because we are all flawed and imperfect, and our world is fragile and broken, and the greatest gift we as Americans can give the world is to pass along that humility in service to try, just try, to make things better, little by little, day by day.

Day One, two golds, Ledecky is ... 'incredible'

Day One, two golds, Ledecky is ... 'incredible'

BUDAPEST — It’s only Day One of the swim action of these 2017 FINA world championships, and here is the dilemma.

How many different ways are there to say Katie Ledecky is great?

In the first final in a meet she is expected to — strike that, absent something freaky, will — dominate, Ledecky set a new championship record in the women’s 400 freestyle, winning by more than three seconds.

FINA elections: a power-play clinic

FINA elections: a power-play clinic

BUDAPEST — Here is the short version of a contentious campaign that dragged on for months inside FINA, the aquatics federation, and that culminated in Saturday’s election:

A rival sought to execute an Olympic power play. In the end, though, it was like Milorad Cavic and Michael Phelps. A lot of drama, maybe. But you knew who was going to win.

Because when it comes to executing a show of authority in Olympic circles, you have to go a long way to get past the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, especially when what’s at issue is the power of the IOC president and his key allies.

A tribute to Chuck Wielgus

A tribute to Chuck Wielgus

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — In the service of journalism, we are taught early and often that the thing to do is put our emotions far, far away.

Too often, though, this does everyone a grave disservice. Life is about the relationships we build. With those relationships comes all the good stuff and, when someone dies, all the hurt that goes with it, too.

Chuck Wielgus passed away April 23, two Sundays ago. He was 67.