American Swimming Team
American Swimming Differs in Intensity and Team Spirit
American swimming shone brightly in Rio, where it dominated the Olympic Games. I asked a French University swimmer studying in the United States, Quentin Muffat, to give us his opinion about swimming that after two seasons, he observed and practiced a lot. Quentin, who is, of course, the brother of the late Olympic champion, and whom I thank for this testimony, looks at the NCAA, the spirit, the magnitudes and the limits of the best swimming of our time.
Eric LAHMY.- You have been living for two seasons of experience of swimming-studies in an American University. The US has just made a ” hit ” at the Rio Olympics. “Winners” of the games; collectively, they have far exceeded what could be expected of them. The performances were not sensational at the world championships in Kazan the year before, and their selections in Omaha did not suggest such dominance. Can you give us your feelings about the state of us swimming in 2016?
QUENTIN MUFFAT.- Regarding American swimming, and more specifically University Swimming, which I know well now, the system is very different compared to France. First of all, by the state of mind and “belonging” to a university, the pride in representing a certain school, the rivalries, then the encouragement and the “positive attitude” that prevails within the group.
Last year, for example, in every training or series, as soon as it is difficult and it is necessary to outdo each other, the coaches cry out, run to the edge of the pool, gesticulating to push us to go further in the effort, which I have never seen do in France. The same is true among swimmers; songs are sung at every competition, war cries that show our belonging and our pride in representing the University.
Even during the group swimmers encourage each other, even during the series, in the water, at all times. And even more so if you see that someone is in trouble. Similarly, if we’ve had a good training session, it’s common to see the coaches congratulate us and The Teammates congratulate us. In the United States, it’s a true team sport, considering the NCAA championship ranking system, which rewards the university primarily, then the swimmers afterward.
For universities, the NCAA championships are the Grail, the Supreme trophy, which may even sometimes seem more important than an Olympic title. I remember an anecdote about Clement Lefert. He posted a photo on Facebook, showing the pool Board of his University congratulating him for his Olympic and academic titles; yet the academic successes were in the lead, and the Olympic titles came behind as if they were of less value to them! Or perhaps they resented him for having deprived the Americans of the Olympic title in the relay 4 times 100 meters freestyle ?
The relays have a very important place in the United States, they are present at every competition ; they are very exciting races, where the atmosphere is often the craziest.
Regulations allow many foreign swimmers to swim at University Championships in the USA. I think that, in addition to being able to pursue high-level studies and sports, it is also this atmosphere that motivates international swimmers to come to the United States to study.
This system can make great champions, and this was proved at the Rio Games: many swimmers who have won medals and finals study and swim in the United States. These include Ryan Murphy, Joseph Schooling, Caeleb Dressel, and Santo Condorelli. What is exceptional about these four is that they swam for the same High school, which is The Bolles school, in Jacksonville, Florida. The head coach was Sergio Lopez, Olympic medallist in Seoul in 1988. He then went to train Singapore, and since the start of the season, this year as head coach in Auburn, former University of Fred Bousquet, and one of the best in the country, famous for his record in swimming.