SwimVortex Rio Review: USA Soars, Ledecky & Phelps At Helm; Peaty Tops Performances

Rio 2016 Olympic Games

SwimVortex Review

The Rio 2016 Olympic Games have now joined the pantheon and archive of all that was. We hope you enjoyed our coverage from Brazil. Below is our overview of the event, lists of top performers and performances on points, medals tables and a compilation of links to our comprehensive coverage, the news and views from Craig Lord and John Lohn, the images by Patrick B. Kraemer. As we head into the last weekend of action in Brazil before heading for a break, we take this opportunity to thank Liz Byrnes, Sabrina Knoll and the other journalists who helped us to cover events in Rio and in return received help from SwimVortex. 

We dedicate out home page to the Games, the eight days of racing in the pool and the issues that made Rio 2016 like no other swim meet there has ever been as shoddy governance and tolerance of doping came home to bite.

We start with the obvious: the United States continued to teach a lesson to the wider world of swimming when it comes to stepping up for the biggest event in swimming – some would say, the only event.

The victory, as has long been the case, is one of conversion trials to main event. These – and not medals – would be closer to the mark when the blazers are reaching out for cutting their coat to suit their cloth on funding.

Australia finished second on the overall medals table as the nation that got much closer to the runaway victors than any other nation but there are two key aspects to the Australian result that take the shine off three golds and 13 medals in all: a catastrophic number of of missed chances in which four world champions went home without a solo medal of any colour; and beyond that, a woeful conversion rate in the depths, with less than a third of all swimmers producing a time faster than they had a trials back home four months earlier. The fallout and backwash have begun, inquiry to follow.

That picture is all the more stark when we compare it to what happened to the United States, Great Britain and Japan. The percentages in the chart reflect the balance of numbers of swimmers who raced better in Rio than at trials and those who raced slower in Rio than at trials. In the mix, it is important to note that each nation had different numbers of swimmers in solo events overall (for example 26 USA male solo swims, compared to 10 for Canadians). Also worth noting that the United States had an edge of excellence in some events that translated to a swimmer racing slow than they had at trials still making the medals. That happens on most teams, with Rie Kaneto among the majority of Japanese swimmers who raced down at Rio but was still able to claim gold.

Men Women Overall Up Down Up Down Up Down USA   53.8   46.2   61.5   28.5   57.7    42.3  AUS 27.2 72.8 19.2 80.8 29.7  70.3 JPN 47.8 52.2 28.6 71.4 38.6 61.4 GBR   64.7   35.3   68.7   31.3    66.6    33.4 CAN 60.0 40.0 63.6 36.4 62.5 37.5

In terms of pure conversion rates from trials to main event, Great Britain and Canada have turned themselves around dramatically from previous events, the British tally from a home London 2012 Games more in the region of 30% up, 70% down. The United States has maintained a strong rate of conversion on a plain of excellence that stretches across most solo events.

There was not a single men’s event that did not place an American on the podium, while among women, the USA missed just two podiums, the 200m breaststroke and the 200m butterfly.

The medals are the measure of how all those conversions stack up. A year ago, the United States survived by the skin of a gold medal as No1 swim nation at the helm of world titles, with eight gold atop 23 medals. Australia has 7 gold, atop 16, And China? 5 gold atop 13 medals as Great Britain claimed 5 gold (2 in non-Olympic events) atop 9 medals. In Rio, China sank to six medals and a gold, after 10 medals and five golds four years ago at London 2012, when the hosts took a silver and two bronzes. Britain’s gold and 5 silvers in Rio reflected that vastly improved conversion rate described about.

Michael Phelps was among those saying that swimming has become a global sport and that the challenge is “coming from all over the world”. It may have felt like that and cerytainly there is evidence os a tightening of standards but in terms of pure Olympic outcomes, not much had changed these past 30 years. Fact.

And that is the picture with the best of the rest of the world struggling to compete right now. Take the following: the Hungarian medals presence relies largely on one swimmer; Sweden’s on one swimmer; Italy’s one two men; Denmark’s on a surprise and a women’s relay; Spain’s on one swimmer; Kazakhstan on one swimmer;  Singapore on one swimmer; Russia on one tainted swimmer more booed than any other in Olympic history; France’s one a men’s relay and a sprinter; Belgium’s on one swimmer; Belarus’s on a tainted swimmer.

All fine lines but hardly the stuff of a world stepping up to take the fight to the United States. Run the duel: The United Sates wins the USA Vs Europe Duel with 16 gold atop 33 medals, to the old world’s 8 titles atop 33 medals that include three won by women who have tested positive for doping. Hard to say whether the timing of events delivered by the Olympic colonialism of NBC’s scheduling had a different impact on people from varying time zones but Australia, China and Japan were among nations that performed below expectation and failed to convert from trials to main event.

Consider that overwhelming USA victory and what sits alongside it: 16 gold, 8 silver, 9 bronze and 33 medals in all, with just 18 nations making the medals in the pool. Not much has changed at the point end of the sport in the past 30 years in terms of pure numbers of nations capable of placing swimmers on the Olympic podium, while in Rio the United States produced its best tally since the 1976 Games in Montreal. The total of 33 medals matched Sydney 2000, when the USA gold count was 14. It was 16 this time and much of that came down to the falling over of Australian world champions.

4x100m medley – the last gold of the meet and the last gold in the career of Michael Phelps. L-R: M=Nathan Adrian, Michael Phelps, Ryan Murphy – and a world record set – and Cody Miller – by Patrick B. Kraemer

Number of Nations Making the Olympic Podium

1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 20 16 19 16 19 19 19 18

Historic United States Medals Tables

G S B TOT 2016 16 8 9 33 2012 16 9 6 31 2008 12 9 10 31 2004 12 9 7 28 2000 14 8 11 33 1976 13 14 7 34

4×100 medley (L-R) Simone Manuel, Kathleen Baker, Dana Vollmer, Lilly King celebrate the 1000th medal for the USA in Olympic history across all sports. While Manuel and King claimed gold in their respective 00m solo events, on freestyle and breaststroke, Baker and Vollmer claimed silver in their respective solo events, on backstroke and butterfly. A winning combination was on the cards. Their relay victory handed a gem of a line to Michael Phelps in the next race: with the 1,001st medal for the USA, the most decorated Olympic of all-time send his country on the way to its next 1000 medals.

The Medals – Overall

Nation Gold Silver Bronze TOT USA 16 8 9 33 AUS 3 4 3 10 HUN 3 2 2 7 JPN 2 2 3 7 GBR 1  5 0 6 CHN 1 2 3 6 CAN 1 1 4 6 SWE 1 1 1 3 ITA 1 – 2 3 DEN 1 – 1 2 ESP 1 – 1 2 KAZ 1 – – 1 SIN 1 – – 1 RSA  – 3  – 3 RUS  – 2 – 2 FRA  – 2 – 2 BEL  – 1 – 1 BLR – – 1 1

The United States success (one not marred by but sadly overshadowed by the antics of Ryan Lochte in the company of Jimmy Feigen, Gunnar Bentz and Jack Conger) was one built on balance among men …

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