Rowdy Gaines

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.

Ding, dong, the wicked Boston bid is dead


From the opening words of Mayor Marty Walsh’s hastily called news conference Monday morning, it was apparent that the wicked Boston 2024 bid was dead. He started by talking about how, back in January, when the U.S. Olympic Committee picked Boston, there was a big celebration. This is how you tell a story when the story is over — going back to when it all started. This news conference became a sweet trip down memory lane, with thanks to everyone who had taken part, before abruptly making a segue into political comedy and absolute farce. After avowedly being a supporter of the bid for months, here was the mayor now in a race to beat the USOC to the punch in announcing the candidacy was over — saying he would not sign the host-city contract. This even though he had repeatedly committed in months prior to doing just that.

Thanks for being such a great “partner,” mayor!

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh at Monday's news conference // screenshot

Some three or so hours later, the USOC issued a statement saying it and Boston 2024 had come to a  “joint decision” to withdraw the candidacy.

All in, the timing offered a measure of big-picture irony: it was three years ago, to the day, that the London 2012 Games opened. And here were the USOC and Boston 2024 saying, see ya.

The three-page statement makes no mention of a USOC board vote. You can believe that if there had been one, it would have been so noted. So why no vote? Because the mayor made this super-easy Monday for all involved.

Out. Done. In New England, everyone, it's back to the intrigue surrounding Tom Brady and Deflategate. Or the godawful Red Sox, in last place in the American League East.

The action Monday marks the very first time a U.S. bid has been so pulled — though Colorado voters essentially gave the 1976 Winter Games back to the IOC, which then staged them in Innsbruck, Austria.

This move also marks a third straight fail for the USOC, after bids from Chicago for 2016 and New York for 2012.

This last point is likely to be made repeatedly in the time ahead.

Even so, there is at least now the opportunity for a fresh start, presumably in Los Angeles.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a statement that said, "At this time, my office has not had conversations with the United States Olympic Committee. I continue to believe that Los Angeles is the ideal Olympic city and we have always supported the USOC in their effort to return the Games to the United States. I would be happy to engage in discussions with the USOC about how to present the strongest and most fiscally responsible bid on behalf of our city and nation."

The International Olympic Committee has made it abundantly clear to the USOC that it wants an American bid.

Understand that because of the Boston disaster a U.S. bid for 2024 now faces considerable odds.

Too, the FIFA indictments brought by the U.S. Justice Department hang over any American effort. As well, the developing field in Europe — Paris, Hamburg, Rome, Budapest — is compelling and the Games have never been away from Europe for more than 12 years; London 2012 plus Rio 2016 plus Tokyo 2020 equals? Also, Toronto is now mulling a 2024 bid and it’s in the eastern time zone, gravy for U.S. and Canadian broadcasters.

But, again, the IOC, and in particular key influencers within the movement, are keen on a United States effort for 2024.

Now the issue is whether the USOC board will pick up the signals that have been delivered in every which way to its senior leadership — and go with LA.

Time is keenly of the essence, with an IOC all-members meeting this week in Kuala Lumpur and a Sept. 15 deadline for the formal submission of any 2024 candidacy.

Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s chief executive, said in that statement, “When we made the decision to bid for the 2024 Olympic Games, one of the guiding principles that we adopted was that we would only submit a bid that we believed could win.”

He also said, “The USOC would very much like to see an American city host” in 2024, adding, “We will immediately begin to explore whether we can do so on a basis consistent with our guiding principles, to which we remain firmly committed.”

And: “We understand the reality of the timeline that is before us. We will brief the media on our progress towards a decision later in August …”

With that in mind, there is only one option: LA.

It’s so super-obvious.

As three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines said on Twitter, “RIP Boston … time to come to the rescue Los Angeles #2024”

Los Angeles staged the Games in 1932 and 1984. The stadium is in place and ready for some $600 million in improvements, to be paid for not by taxpayers but by the University of Southern California.

Since 1984, moreover, new venues such as Staples Center have been built that make a 2024 version — with the IOC emphasis on sustainability — all the more attractive. And a new NFL stadium appears increasingly probable.

Some $40 billion in transit improvements, with a focus on light rail, are already underway in and around LA.

Political support for the Olympics, from Garcetti to the city council to the board of supervisors to state legislators to the governor, is rock solid.

Poll numbers are in the high 70s.

Ongoing right now in LA? The Special Olympics World Games. To enthusiastic support from the public and the city, which has committed $12 to $15 million in in-kind services. And from the likes of swimmer Michael Phelps, skater Michelle Kwan and diver Greg Louganis, among others.

And there is more, much more, in the city where an Olympics is just part of the fabric of life. Where 10th Street is Olympic Boulevard, because the X Olympiad was in 1932.

Doubtlessly, there will be questions and calls for review of the USOC process that led it to select Boston over LA in the first instance.

Poll numbers in Boston were always dismal — now in the 30s and 40s, with opposition at 50. The USOC cited lack of public support in making Monday’s move, saying it did “not think that the level of support enjoyed by Boston’s bid would allow it to prevail over great bids from Paris, Rome, Hamburg, Budapest or Toronto.”

Note, incidentally, no mention of Baku, Azerbaijan, also considering a 2024 bid after the first European Games there earlier this summer.

Walsh sought Monday to downplay local push-back to the Games: “The opposition for the most part is about 10 people on Twitter and a couple people out there who are constantly beating the drumbeat. This is about the taxpayers and what I have to do as mayor.”

The Boston bid was presented originally as a walkable, city-centered Games, with an emphasis on the many local universities. Then it morphed into a statewide thing, in an effort to win support for a referendum in November 2016 — a referendum that originally was not envisioned in any way.

As things unraveled, it became clear that Boston 2024 had been — from the start — an exercise in futility.

Bid 2.0 proposed a temporary stadium. For $1.376 billion (at least)? Just to tear it down?

Last Friday, it emerged that the original bid, in December, was short $471 million in proposed organizing committee revenues — but neither that gap nor the fact that additional revenues would be needed were mentioned in a January submission.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was always lukewarm, at best, to the bid. He said in recent days he was waiting on a consultants’ report, due in August, to analyze whether Boston 2024 was financially viable — when he and the USOC knew the USOC needed his out-front support.

And then, ultimately, there was the mayor. Walsh, in Monday’s news conference:

“I cannot commit to putting the taxpayers at risk. If committing to sign a guarantee today is what’s required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”


Last October, the mayor sent Blackmun a letter saying, in part: “… in my capacity as the 54th Mayor of this great city I hereby confirm the ability of the City of Boston to sign the Host City Contract with the USOC, respect the Olympic Charter and re-affirm our previously stated support.”

The October letter signed by Mayor Walsh

The December bid submission to the USOC declared the city of Boston “will agree to the terms, without reservation,” of the host city contract. It also said it would agree to sign the contract “unedited,” adding the bid and the city “recognize the necessity in agreeing to sign the 2024 Host City Contract in the form to be provided by the IOC.”

Affirmations about the host city contract in Boston's December bid submission

In January, and again in February after a brouhaha about a non-disparagement clause, Walsh signed a joinder agreement on behalf of the city with the USOC. In that document, the city agreed — meaning it would be legally bound — to sign the host city contract.

See, in particular, Section 2.01: “The City shall execute and deliver the Host City Contract, the Joint Marketing Program Agreement and any other Candidature Documentation as the IOC shall require.” In legalese, just as in plain English, “shall” offers no wiggle room.

And yet, here, too, was Walsh on Monday before the cameras:

“I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away. This is a commitment that I can’t make without ensuring the city and its residents will be protected.”

The only real wonder Monday is why it took so long to wave bye-bye to all this.

But at long last, it’s done.

And, finally, it’s time to look ahead.

For one night, no Phelps magic


Before Michael Phelps had won even the first of his 22 Olympic medals he was, in 2003, the United States men’s national champion in the 100-meters freestyle. The circle turns. It’s back to the future. Pick your metaphor as the 2014 U.S. nationals got underway in earnest Wednesday in Irvine, California, with Phelps stepping to the blocks for the finals of the 100 free.

To expect Phelps to win everything — at least right now, this soon into his comeback — is perhaps a bit too much. Phelps would naturally expect so. But when Nathan Adrian is in the race, and Adrian is not only the London 2012 Olympic 100 gold medalist but the man who since 2009 has won either or both the 50 and 100 at the national level, something’s got to give.

Michael Phelps after finishing seventh in the men's 100 free at the U.S. nationals // photo Getty Images

And it’s not just Adrian.

Anthony Ervin was in the race as well. Ervin is an Olympic gold medalist sprinter, too, the 50 champ from Sydney 2000. In the morning prelims, both Adrian and Ervin had gone faster than Phelps.

Also in the race: Jimmy Feigen, silver medalist in the 100 at last year’s world championships in Barcelona and an Olympic relay medalist.

Not to mention Matt Grevers (multiple Olympic medalist), Ryan Lochte (multiple Olympic medalist), Conor Dwyer (silver medalist, 200, Barcelona, as well as Olympic relay gold medalist); and Seth Stubblefield.

Stubblefield was the only non-Olympian in the field. How would you like to have been Seth Stubblefield Wednesday evening?

This was big-boy swimming, for sure.

This, too, is all part of the master plan now seemingly fully in motion, aiming toward Rio 2016, two years from now.

Phelps and his longtime coach, Bob Bowman, keep saying they’re just taking it bit by bit, day by day. Maybe so. Then again, the day before the U.S. nationals began, they announced a new deal with Aqua Sphere, and logic says that deal can only be enhanced if Phelps is swimming on the international stage in Brazil, right?

Right now it would seem abundantly obvious that Phelps and Bowman are in the midst of finding out if they can remake Phelps 2.0 as Phelps the way he was, at least in part, the way he was way back when.

In Irvine, he was entered in the 100 free, 100 back, 100 butterfly and 200 individual medley.

Part of this is because Phelps is now 29. It’s exceedingly unlikely he would, at least right now, put up with the wear and tear on his body it would require to, say, swim the 400 IM anymore.

Part of this is because having done everything there is to do in his other races he likely needs to challenge himself in different ways.

“There are always things that I still want to do and want to achieve, and that’s part of the reason why I’m still here,” he told reporters before the meet got going. “You’re not going to get what it is. You guys know me too well.”

Mel Stewart, the 1992 200 fly gold medalist who can now be found at, opined recently that without the 400 IM, “a 46-plus 100m freestyle and 49 plus 100m butterfly could be in the cards by the 2016 Olympic Games," meaning, for instance, 46-plus seconds in the 100. The world record in the 100 is currently 46.91, held by Brazil's Cesar Cielo, set at the Rome 2009 world championships.

Then again, Stewart said, let’s stay in the moment.

Stewart said he expects lifetime bests for Phelps either in Irvine or, later this summer, at the Pan Pacific championships in Australia.

This, then, is the thing about these U.S. nationals, which many are overlooking in the glare of the Phelps comeback. It is, above all, a set-up meet for the Pan Pacs and, beyond, for the 2015 world championships in Russia.

The point is not to peak in Irvine. You saw that when Katie Ledecky flirted with the world record in the women’s 800 Wednesday evening, then let off the gas before winning in 8:18.47.

The competition in Irvine is ferocious. It was evident, for instance, in the men’s 100 free, where no fewer than 32 guys went under 50 seconds in Wednesday morning’s prelims. Last year, in Indianapolis, before the off-year Barcelona worlds, there were only 17.

Even so, while racing is always racing, the deal in Irvine is to make the U.S. team and to keep one’s eye on the longer-range prize.

Before Irvine, Phelps this year had raced in only two 100 free finals — one in Santa Clara, California, in June, the other last month in Athens, Georgia.

The prelims Wednesday morning were strikingly like the Santa Clara race. There, in a time of 48.8, he finished second to Adrian. The first 50 meters Phelps swam 23.73. The second, 25.07. On Wednesday morning, Phelps went 23.98. The second 50, Phelps, as has been his pattern through the years, turned it on to go 24.79, the only guy in the field in the back half to break 25. All in: 48.77.

The only thing is, Adrian had gone 48.24. Adrian had gone out the first 50 meters in a speedy 22.63. As Adrian would say later, “I had to be out really, really fast to make sure Michael couldn’t somehow find a way to be out of my wake, to be really hurting at the very end.”

Even so, he stressed, his race strategy was hardly all Phelps: “It wasn’t just Michael. There are a lot of people who are going fast.”

In another heat, Ervin went 48.71.

In the finals, Ervin drew Lane 5, Adrian 4, Phelps 3. Lochte was all the way out there in 8, Feigen in 2.

Phelps got to the turn four-tenths faster than he did in the morning, at 23.58. But then it all fell apart. He missed the wall, didn’t execute his turn properly and struggled to the finish in 49.17 — good only for seventh.

Adrian won, in 48.31. Lochte took second, in 48.96. Feigen got third, in 48.98.

In all, a slow race, and perhaps a cause for concern going forward for the 4x100 relay, where times need to be in the 47s to be competitive. Adrian said afterward, “We know as a whole that group of eight guys is much faster than what we showed in the pool tonight.”

Phelps’ finals time was four-tenths slower than he had gone in the morning. The prelim swim would have gotten him silver behind Adrian but, you know, that’s not how it works.

“I’m really interested to see what the replay looks like because going into the wall I felt like I had set myself up for a good one just based on where I was in comparison to Nathan,” Phelps said, “and I thought I had the right distance to go into the wall and when I literally took a couple kicks and I barely passed the flags I knew there was very little chance that I was going to run anybody down.

“So it’s kind of frustrating but, you know, I never really know where we are in that race right now. I felt really good after the morning swim besides the first 50 and I felt good in the warmup pool getting ready for tonight. It just kind of stinks that I missed the first wall but it’s a part of racing and there is going to be another chance to swim that race in a couple weeks. I’m just trying to get a spot on the team and go from there.”

Lochte added, “He said he missed the turn. I saw it, because when I flipped, I looked under water and saw him. Things happen. He is going to fix it and make sure it never happens again.” 

What happened Wednesday evening matters, of course, because you can hardly remember the last time Phelps was not on the podium in a national meet. At the same time, Rio is still two years away.

Also, 2003 is a long time back. And, as Rowdy Gaines put it on the Universal Sports telecast, Phelps is “still learning.” Even the greatest Olympic swimmer of all time doesn’t just get back into the water and beat everyone, especially when everyone is so much better than they used to be — thanks in large measure to Phelps, who has inspired a generation.

As Gaines also said, “It’s going to take some time to get back into this.”


Phelps having fun, and it's all good

Thirty years ago, amid the delivery of the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games, which proved a huge success, Peter Ueberroth reminded the world of a classic strategy. It works in business. It works in sports. Really, it’s the best strategy for pretty much everything. You under-promise and then you over-deliver.

This is what Michael Phelps and his longtime coach and mentor, Bob Bowman, are doing now in these very first days of the comeback story likely to dominate every swimming story between now and the Rio Summer 2016 Olympic Games.

Michael Phelps diving in for his first race back -- over Ryan Lochte, who would go on to win the 100 fly final later Thursday night // photo Getty Images

Michael’s goals? Fun, man. Just here to have fun. 2016? Whatever. Not thinking that far ahead. Just taking it one step at a time. We’ll get there when we get there.

It’s completely shrewd, sophisticated and dazzling in its brilliance.

After years of chasing hard goals — eight-for-eight golds in Beijing, the gymnast Larisa Latynina’s record of 18 overall medals in London — there’s nothing left for Phelps to prove to anyone. He is The Man, and has absolutely, unequivocally earned the right to do this on his own terms.

The thing is, it’s also true.


Because, for sure, Phelps has goals. He always has goals.

As he said Wednesday at a news conference, “I always have goals and things that I want to achieve and I have things that I want to achieve now. Bob and I can do anything that we put our minds to.”

Because, for real, Phelps and Bowman assuredly have not through every detail of what the master plan is to get to and through Rio. No way, no how.


Because it’s April 2014 and they don’t have to.

All Phelps — and Bowman— have to do, right now, is enough to keep the train moving.

Which, as Phelps proved Thursday in sun-blinded Mesa, Arizona, is plenty good enough.

In his first race back after 628 days away, since his butterfly leg in the gold medal-winning leg in the 4x100 medley relay at London 2012 Games, Phelps was put in the last of the 14 heats in the 100 fly.

Phelps watched as rival Ryan Lochte, in Heat 13, went 52.94.

Lochte swam in Lane 4. Phelps drew Lane 4, too. The two of them yukked it up about something as Phelps stepped on the blocks — maybe the absurdity of a jillion cameras recording every move Phelps was making while Lochte, still in the water below, got to watch while Phelps dove over him as Heat 14 got underway.

All Phelps did in Heat 14 was throw down a 52.84, the morning’s fastest time.

Yeah. He was back.

“I felt like a kid, you know, being able to race again and be back at a meet,” Phelps told longtime friend Rowdy Gaines, the 1984 Olympic champion in Mesa working television for Universal Sports.

“I literally felt like a 10-year-old kid, just enjoying it,” Phelps said, which is great, except that the next time a 10-year-old kid throws a 52.8 in the 100 fly please call USA Swimming because that kid needs to be in the Olympics immediately.

The only thing that didn’t go according to script: Phelps usually lags behind the field in the first 50 meters, often making the turn in seventh place. On Thursday morning, he was second. He split the first 50 in 25.15 seconds, the second in 27.69.

All you doubters? Haters? Come on. This is Phelps. He is one of the most competitive human beings ever to inhabit Planet Earth. Did you think he was somehow going to forget how to race?

Especially in the 100 fly, the event in which he is the three-time Olympic champion as well as the world and American record-holder.

This is what Phelps does, and better than anyone, and especially in the butterfly — which is what he is likely to concentrate on going forward.

Do you think — just riffing here — that he would want to try going forward to make amends for the 200 fly in London, a race he seemingly had won but then glided at the end when he shouldn’t have, and South Africa’s Chad le Clos stole by five-hundredths of a second?

Wouldn’t that — just being logical — be a “goal and thing … to achieve now”?

The 200 fly is the Phelps family race; older sister, Whitney, came into the 1996 U.S. Trials in Indianapolis with the best time in the country in the event, and younger brother Michael is a two-time Olympic champion, one of those wins, in Beijing, a then-world record 1:52.03, set with his goggles filled with water.

As amazing as the eight-for-eight is, and it is, the 100 fly three-peat —which by comparison bizarrely gets almost no love — is a profound accomplishment, because that race is so short and in it anything — as the 2008 final, won by one-hundredth of a second, proves — can happen.

Now that 200 fly three-peat is still out there.

Of course, no decisions have been made, or at least announced publicly. It’s possible the 200 individual medley might yet appear on the agenda, too. Or the 100 free. Who knows? Again, and for emphasis: it’s very early.

The prelim set Phelps and Lochte up for Thursday night’s 100 fly final.

Lochte had himself a way busier evening than Phelps. He first swam the 100 free, finishing fourth, in 49.68, behind 2012 Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian’s 48.23.

Adrian’s 48.23 will get lost in the swirl but it shouldn’t. It’s the start of the American season and it’s already the third-best time in the world in 2014 — two Australians, James Magnussen, 47.59, and Cameron McEvoy, 47.65, have gone faster, and the Aussies have already had their national championships.

Adrian won by more than a second; South Africa’s Roland Schoeman finished second, in 49.39.

Another race destined to get missed by all but the most hardy swim geeks — about a half-hour after that 100 free, Katie Ledecky swam the women’s 400 free in 4:03.84, which equaled the world’s best time in 2014. Afterward, she wasn’t even breathing hard.

Lochte got done with the 100 free at 5:11 p.m. local time.

The men’s 100 fly started an hour later.

Once again, at the turn, Phelps — in Lane 4 — was second, in 24.76.

This time, Lochte — in Lane 5 — was first, in 24.64.

The Phelps M.O. over the years has been to pour it on in the back half. Lochte knows this.

In Phelps' first competitive final of 2014, it wasn’t there. Lochte held Phelps off, winning in 51.93. Phelps touched second, in 52.13.

Give Lochte credit. That 51.93 was the second-best time in the world in 2014. Only Takuro Fujii, with a 51.84 at the Japanese nationals, has gone faster.

Phelps, meanwhile, with 52.13, is tied for fourth-best in 2014. Already.

“Down there at the turn, I kind of peeked over, I saw him, and I almost started smiling,” Lochte said in a poolside interview with Gaines that was broadcast live over the PA system in Mesa as well.

“Why? Because you were winning? Because you were ahead?” Phelps said, and everyone laughed.

Gaines, turning to Phelps, asked, what now?

“I’m my hardest critic,” Phelps said, “so I know what I can do there. But, like I have been saying this whole time, I am having fun. I really do mean that. There’s nothing like coming here, swimming before a packed stands — they’re cheering us on, helping us get through the race.

“Obviously, being back in the water with Ryan, it’s always fun when we race. Neither one of us wants to lose to each other. But that’s what makes us faster and faster each time.”

The interview actually began with Gaines asking Lochte if he had noticed anything different about swimming Thursday in Mesa — what with, you know, Phelps back.

Lochte laughed. He said, “I mean, especially this morning, seeing all these cameras, right before I’m about to race — I’m like, ‘Thanks, Michael.’ “

Phelps is back. Lochte, too, from that freaky knee injury.

Jeah, dudes.

For U.S. swimming, it’s all good.


Missy's world - we just live in it

BARCELONA -- With the passage of time, and granted it has only been five years, the magnitude of what Michael Phelps accomplished in Beijing in 2008 becomes ever more evident. He set out to win eight gold medals. Inside the howl of noise that was the Water Cube, he won eight gold medals.

Records are of course made to be broken. But one wonders whether that 8-for-8 will ever seriously be tested.

Missy Franklin had come to Barcelona with the idea of perhaps trying for eight golds. It takes nothing -- again, nothing -- away from her brilliance and sheer exuberance to say that she now, after winning the women's 200 freestyle Wednesday here at the Palau Sant Jordi can "only" win seven, assuming everything else here at the 2013 world championships breaks her way.

Missy Franklin on the medals stand after her 200-meter freestyle victory // Getty Images

The choice, after all, was completely hers.

Franklin realized after a demanding double on Tuesday that her best chance at winning the 200 free Wednesday night was to scratch Wednesday out of the 50 backstroke.

Math works like this -- you can't get to seven without getting first to three, and Franklin made it three-for-three Wednesday night in 1:54.81.

More math: It was her first time ever under 1:55.

More still: last year in London, Franklin missed out on a medal in the 200 free by one-hundredth of a second. Absolutely, missing out weighed on her.

"That was really rough, not making the podium -- just for my team. I really wanted to be up there for them. It was a really tough swim. I learned a lot from it and I don't think I would be here now without that swim. And so to be here now, and to go 1:54 -- I'm so happy."

Federica Pellegrini of Italy, the world record-holder in the event, took second in 1:55.14.

Pellegrini, who has consistently had a knack for the peculiar, disclosed after the race that she had trained for these championships solely by swimming backstroke and that her coach had convinced her only at the last moment to do freestyle.

Camille Muffat of France took third, in 1:55.72.

It must be remembered that Franklin just turned 18 in May. She will enroll at Cal-Berkeley after these championships.

Last year in London -- even with the near miss in the 200 free -- she won four golds and a bronze.

The victory Wednesday lifts her career world championship gold total to six. She won three in Shanghai in 2011. Here in Barcelona she took part in the winning 4x100 free relay on Sunday; she won the 100 backstroke on Tuesday.

In an era when so many sports figures can be such downers, Missy Franklin is the complete opposite. She is relentlessly optimistic, hard-working, the ultimate team-player -- pretty much everything you'd want if you were saying, who would I want my middle-school son or daughter to model themselves after?

This is why longtime observers of the swim scene such as Rowdy Gaines, himself a 1984 swim gold medalist, can hardly contain themselves when it comes to Missy Franklin. Now an NBC analyst, Gaines has heard it all, seen it all. Three times after her 200 free victory, he posted exclamation-point laden tributes to her on his Twitter feed. The last: "I can't help myself….Missy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

It is an article of nearly religious faith among elite-level swimmers that swimming hurts. That's because, sincerely, it does. Most come into an interview and proclaim, ohmigosh, that swim hurt so bad. Missy Franklin never says that.

Here she was literally moments after her 200 win, talking about what it's like for her flipping at 100 meters:

"That's the hard part about a 200 -- it's when you really start to feel it. You have another 100 left. So you have to stay mentally tough. That's when you have to focus on your own swim. And as soon as you touch that wall, all that pain goes away because you know you tried your best, regardless of what the time is."

Franklin's strategy Wednesday was elegantly simple. The framework of the race, she said, was to stay even with Muffat in the first 100, then keep ahead in the final 100 of Pellegrini.

Even so, she said, the only sure path to victory was to swim her own race: "A lot of it was mental .. just being able to concentrate on my own race  and not getting caught up in what other swimmers around me were doing."

Having learned from last year's near-miss, she and coach Todd Schmitz had focused on pace work. That, she said, paid off.

And, she said, after a demanding double on Tuesday -- winning the 100 back, then swimming the semis of the 200 free -- it all seemed maybe just a little too much of a push, particularly after Wednesday morning's prelims, in which she finished 13th of the 16 qualifiers in the 50 back, at 28.44, nearly a full second behind the fastest qualifier, China's Fu Yuanhui, 27.55. The semis of the 50 back went down literally just minutes before the final of the 200 free.

Franklin had won a bronze in the 50 back in Shanghai.

If Franklin was perhaps a contender in the 50 back, she is so much more a favorite in the 100 free and the 200 back. The 100 free heats get underway on Thursday; the 200 back heats on Friday. There are two more relays to come as well.

Asked at a news conference Wednesday whether it occurred to her just how "amazing" it was  Phelps had gone 8-for-8, Franklin, as ever, laughed, and said, "Of course. I don't even need to do that [myself] to realize how amazing that was.

"Just swimming seven events, eight events, six events -- I mean, swimming that was incredible, let alone winning every single one of them. Not enough can be said about what Michael did in 2008. It was absolutely incredible and, you know, watching him become the most decorated Olympian of all time in London was also an unbelievable achievement.

"To be there to witness it was wonderful."

To win five medals in London -- that was pretty special, too, especially for a teenager. And three golds already in Barcelona, with more very likely to come -- someone alert Rowdy Gaines, because he is going to need more exclamation points before this week is done.


The ongoing history of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team

William Faulkner once wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past," and perhaps never were more apt words written than as they relate to the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. Five San Diego-area seventh-graders set out this academic year to make a little history of their own, telling the story of that 1980 U.S. team -- forever the team that got left home amid the boycott of the Moscow Games -- in what's called the "Kenneth E. Behring National History Day" contest.

Under the direction of their teacher, 28-year-old Hillary Gaddis, the students from the Day-McKellar Preparatory School in La Mesa, Calif., made it through the local and state rounds and now are en route to the nationals, to be held June 12-16 at the University of Maryland. The contest is a big deal. Here's the website.

Along they way, they managed to get a letter from President Jimmy Carter. The letter brings the past immediately alive.

Indeed, in that letter, the former president undoubtedly will summon in many quarters, yet again, all the emotions that still attend the boycott -- 31 years later.

He writes that to withdraw from the 1980 Summer Games was a "very difficult decision for me…"

He also writes, "Both the Congress and the Olympic Committee voted overwhelmingly not to participate, and I reluctantly agreed with their decision because the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan in violation of all reasonable international laws."

The students, as well as Ms. Gaddis, emphasized repeatedly their respect for Mr. Carter and for the office of the presidency.

Nonetheless, a reading of the historical record would strongly suggest that the former president is perhaps not being entirely forthcoming about his role in orchestrating the boycott.

To be clear: That's not the opinion of the Day-McKellar students or Ms. Gaddis or the school.

That's me. But what would any reasonable person conclude from a review of the historical record?

As early as his State of the Union address in January, 1980, for instance, just weeks after the late 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Carter declared that "neither the American people nor I will support sending an Olympic team to Moscow."

That February, he said it would be "unconscionable" to send athletes to the capital of another nation "under the aegis of the Olympics" when that nation was "actively involved" in the "invasion of and the subjugation of innocent people."

In April, just days before that U.S. Olympic Committee vote on Carter's call for a boycott, amid an extraordinary variety of political and financial pressures, the president announced he would use "legal action" if necessary to prevent U.S. athletes from going to Moscow.

Three decades later, for him to say he "reluctantly agreed" with the decision -- well, as one of the students, Maxwell Major, 13, said when he read the letter, "I was shocked."

It has, indeed, been a lesson in history -- as well as politics and other endeavors -- for these young people.

The irony can not be lost on anyone that of course it is now American troops who are now in Afghanistan.

In their presentation during the contests, Max portrays a wrestler, Gene Mills, who was 21 in 1980, the greatest 114 1/2-pound wrestler of his time. Mills' shoulder didn't hold up and he didn't get a chance at another Games.

Max said, "When I interviewed him, he said [the boycott] was a stupid and ridiculous decision and he said he couldn't believe they would screw all the athletes who had worked their butts off for years to get this opportunity."

Nick Young, 13, said he has learned how not going to the Games has shaped the lives of those who didn't go. Rowdy Gaines -- a swimmer who not only made the 1984 team but won three gold medals and is now an influential NBC commentator at the Summer Games -- has coined the term "ghost Olympians" for those solely on the 1980 team, Nick said.

There's sadness in that, for sure. According to Nick, though, there's another piece to it, too. Another 1980 swimmer, Glenn Mills (no relation to Gene), had put in countless hours in the pool training in honor of an older brother, Kyle, who had died of cancer. When the Day-McKellar young people called, Glenn Mills said, "Everyone remembers 1980. That makes it special. Makes it unique. If it wasn't for the boycott, you guys wouldn't be talking to me today."

The Day-McKellar team has put in hundreds of hours preparing for nationals. They've done 32 primary source interviews. They have talked to the likes of Mike Moran, the U.S. Olympic Committee's spokesman from 1978 to 2003, who said that he enjoyed the conversation "as much as anything I lived through at the USOC over almost a quarter century."

He added," Their intense interest in the 1980 Olympic team's heartbreak and its stories was inspiring to me, because I had felt most people had forgotten this historic group of American athletes and the loss of their dreams. They have managed to re-awaken those memories and their passion for the subject is special."

You know, the Day-McKellar team -- Nick; Max; Mikela Chatfield, 12; Thomas Day, 12; Allie Shelton, 11 -- could win that contest.

If there really is any karma in the world, on behalf of that 1980 U.S. team -- they will.


If you'd like to donate to the Day-McKellar team to help offset the cost of travel to Maryland, call Hillary Gaddis at 858-335-3936 or reach her via email at