Pat Forde

  • Newcomers sweeping aside U.S. swimming's famous Olympians at trials

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 16 hrs ago

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    OMAHA, Neb. – On a night at the Olympic Trials when the old guard of American swimming was fully under siege, Zach Harting applied the final flourish of insouciance.

    The 18-year-old Louisville sophomore came strutting out for his semifinal heat of the 200-meter butterfly wearing a Batman mask. Keep in mind, the kid was about ready to race Michael Phelps His Ownself, in front of 14,132 fans. And here he was pointing into the CenturyLink Center stands, egging on the crowd, turning this pressurized moment into a Halloween gag.

    "I just thought, 'I'm going to do what Batman does – I'm going to kick some butt,' " said Harting, who is, shall we say, a quirky young man. "It kind of loosened me up. I'm sure [Phelps] thought, 'What's that kid doing?' "

    That's probably what a lot of longtime stars of the sport thought while they were being swept aside in something of a hostile takeover of the American Olympic lineup. Four finals were contested Tuesday night, and all four were won by first-time Olympians.

    Now it's happening.

    We will see whether it produces a good team.

  • Olympics 2016: When keeping sight of Katie Ledecky is considered a victory

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 1 day ago

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    OMAHA, Neb. – This is what the Ledecky Effect looks like in action:

    It looks like Leah Smith swimming out of her skin, smashing through her own perceived limits at the U.S. Olympic swim trials, earning a spot on the American team and recording a time that will make the rest of the world take notice.

    And Leah Smith lost by nearly two full seconds.

    But it’s who the Virginia senior-to-be lost to that made this swim remarkable. She lost to the most dominant athlete on the planet, Katie Ledecky, who dropped the third-fastest 400-meter freestyle time in history (3 minutes, 58.98 seconds), and whose winning streak in this event stretches back four years, to when she finished third in this very meet.

    Everyone loses to Ledecky; it’s just a matter of margin of defeat. And this race was notably close.

    “I’ve never been able to see her feet before,” Smith said. “That was exciting.”

    That is the new measure of competing with Katie. If you can see her feet one lane over, you’re hauling.

    “I wanted to go 4:02 or 4:01 in this meet,” Smith said.

    Instead, chasing Ledecky pushed her beyond her own goals.

  • Ryan Lochte's 400 IM miss and injury could derail Olympic prospects

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago

    OMAHA, Neb. – Ryan Lochte moved with aching slowness down the steps from the pool deck in CenturyLink Center, each step obviously painful.

    The old warrior of American swimming, willing to swim the brutal 400-meter individual medley in his 30s, was all but carried out of the arena on his shield. Dealing with a groin pull from the morning preliminary session, Lochte faltered in the final 200 meters and finished third – and third place is death at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

    Only the top two advance to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Those two were a pair of Georgia Bulldogs: Chase Kalisz, heir to the 400 IM throne from his lifelong mentor and idol, Michael Phelps; and hard-closing Jay Litherland, a triplet who is only distinguishable from swimming brothers Kevin and Mick by his prowess in the water.

    Lochte was left behind. And left to wonder how great a toll the 400 IM has taken on his hopes of making a fourth American Olympic team.

    Lochte was unlikely to swim all those events at peak health. Now the question is how compromised he could be by the groin pull, and which events could be jeopardized.

    Now he is. And for the time being, Ryan Lochte is not.

  • A father's pride: From neighborhood swim meets to the Olympic Trials

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 3 days ago

    We went to the neighborhood swim meet Monday. There were the usual comic catastrophes.

    The boy who was trying to swim butterfly with his goggles rolled down under his nose. The girl with her cap on sideways. The 8-and-under who dove in and swam the wrong stroke. The crying 6-year-olds.

    Years ago, those kids were my kids – crying over cold water and bursting with pride when they won a heat ribbon. Watching that and remembering those days, it’s hard to grasp the reality of where they are now.

    Specifically, they are in Omaha for the Olympic Swim Trials – the Super Bowl of American swimming. Representing the Lakeside Seahawks of Louisville, Ky., my 17-year-old daughter, Brooke, and 19-year-old son, Clayton, will compete in the 400-meter individual medley Sunday in front of as many as 14,000 people. Brooke also will compete later in the week in the 200 IM, 200 butterfly and 200 breaststroke. Oldest son Mitchell, a swimmer at the University of Missouri, narrowly missed qualifying and will be working for USA Swimming during the Trials in a journalistic role.

    And I really don’t know how to act.

    But this? This is the biggest sporting event of my life. By far.


  • U.S. swimmers 'not' confident Rio will be clean of doping

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    OMAHA, Neb. — The first day of interviews at the U.S. Olympic Trials for swimming very quickly became a discussion on doping.

    Two-time American Olympian Elizabeth Beisel was asked whether she was confident the Rio de Janeiro Games would be clean. Her response: "No, I'm not. I'm definitely not."

    David Marsh, who will coach the U.S. women's team in Rio, said, "We've a long way to go. We are not at a point where we can say that there are no drugs in our sport, there's no cheaters in our sport, and I think until we do it's inherent that we all keep calling for it, and we all keep looking for ways to create a level, fair playing field of real human being performance."

    And that was before everyone heard the news Friday afternoon that the World Antidoping Association had suspended the Rio laboratory that was set to handle drug testing at the Olympics come August.

    So there is pronounced concern about how fair the competition will be in Rio. But nobody was announcing any concerns about the cleanliness of the Trials, which begin Sunday.

  • How tulips led to Matt Grevers' American Olympic story

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 5 days ago

    For two decades, America has dominated the world in men’s backstroke. The United States has won every 100-meter back gold medal in the last five Olympics.

    The most recent continuation of this hegemony has its roots in an unlikely place: tulips.

    Yes, the flower.

    If it weren’t for the tulip acumen developed as a third-generation Dutch flower farmer, Ed Grevers would not have earned an internship in a floricultural research exchange program at Michigan State University in 1970-71. “Typical Dutch knowledge – wooden shoes, dikes, tulip bulbs,” Ed joked.

    If he hadn’t beaten out competition from hundreds of other applicants from The Netherlands for that internship, he would not have left the small town of Wasenaar for the U.S. If he hadn’t come to the U.S., he would not have applied for a job after that internship as a flower-bulb grower in Chicago – he was the only person who answered the ad. If he hadn’t gotten that job, he wouldn’t have been able to stay in America.

    Grevers bloomed where he was planted. On American soil.

    Matt Grevers did not inherit his father’s green thumb.

    But Matt did immerse himself in the family’s other primary interest: swimming.

    Grevers said he never thought about it.

  • The controversial Michael Andrew Experiment: Is insular upbringing hurting swimmer?

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 7 days ago

    The Michael Andrew Experiment reaches a critical stage next week.

    The kid who was the youngest American swimmer ever to turn pro will compete in his first Olympic Trials in Omaha. He reportedly will swim five events and is unlikely to make the U.S. team, but figures to have a puncher’s chance in the 100-meter breaststroke. Beyond that, this meet will serve as something of a referendum on how one of the most controversial parent-child relationships in American youth sports is going.

    Andrew is 17 now, but he was 14 when he signed his first endorsement contract with a nutrition supplement manufacturer. There has been a lot of age-group records broken, a lot of media attention (by swimming standards) and a lot of arched eyebrows within the sport ever since.

    Andrew is a very good swimmer with the potential for greatness. But is he getting great guidance and coaching within the bubble his parents have constructed around him?

    No teammates. No classmates. Turned pro two years younger than Michael Phelps – who was much more accomplished when he first got paid than Andrew was then or is today.

  • Meet Maya DiRado, the 'late-blooming' phenom who could star for U.S. in Rio

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 8 days ago

    Maya DiRado has lived her life on an accelerated timetable.

    She skipped second grade because it wasn’t challenging enough. She was 13 when she went to high school, 15 when she got a perfect SAT math score and 17 when she entered Stanford. She got married at 22. Now 23, she has a high-powered job as a business analyst with McKinsey & Company in Atlanta waiting for her in September.

    But this poster child for precocity is paradoxically behind the phenom curve when it comes to the one thing that could make her an American darling this summer: swimming.

    The sport has long been a breeding ground for female teen stars. Katie Ledecky and Missy Franklin were household names and gold medalists four years ago as high schoolers. Elizabeth Beisel, age 23 like DiRado, has made the past two American Olympic teams. Allison Schmitt was 18 when she swam in the Beijing Games.

    DiRado? Not quite. Her swimming timetable was always a tick too slow.

    “In age-group swimming there’s always some kid who is extremely fast, and everyone would go, ‘Ooooh, she’s really fast,’ “ said Maya’s father, Ruben. “She was never that kid. She was the kid who would lose to that kid.”

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  • Baylor faction's post-Art Briles turmoil shows ugly side of college fandom

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 14 days ago


    Nobody knows exactly what percentage of Baylor fans and alums oppose the sweeping administrative changes the school undertook in late May to correct abject failures of leadership and conscience in the wake of multiple violent acts by football players in recent years.

    But we do know that those people exist. And they are not going away. Specifically, we know that a faction of the school’s backers appear to be tangibly more upset by the loss of their winning football coach than the physical and psychological damage done to several women by Bears players.

    Regardless what did or did not transpire on that call, some powerful and connected Baylor people want their winning coach back.

    Then there is the Twitter account that sprang to life earlier this month, @BayloRevolution. It links to a blog of the same name. In a post dated June 2, it lists the following reason for its existence:

    “Baylor Revolution is a blog about one thing: change. It's time for change. It's time to fight for Baylor.

    “The spirits of old Baylor will not stand for it any longer. It's time for the Baylor Revolution.”

    Oh, yeah. Them.

    Noble. And notably tardy.

  • One last time, Muhammad Ali came to the people

    Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports 19 days ago

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – One last time, Muhammad Ali came to the people. And the people came to him.

    They began coming to Grand Avenue, site of Ali’s boyhood home, shortly after sunrise Friday. Mostly media and cops and T-shirt vendors at first, but then the pilgrims began to arrive.

    B.J. Poole and her family unfolded their camping chairs and sat down next to the curb on Grand at 7:45 a.m. They drove six hours from Decatur, Ga., Thursday to be here in time for this, Ali’s funeral procession, a marathon route through his hometown.

    “I’m doing this for my daddy,” said Poole, a hair stylist. “My father loved this man. When he fought, you had to watch, and when he spoke, you had to listen. He was an outspoken person. He was bold. He was fierce.”

    Before too long a German television crew happened upon Poole and her family.

    “You tell everybody in Germany we said hello,” she said, waving to the camera. “We are saying goodbye to The Champ.”

    Driving in from Georgia to sit in the sun on a hot day and watch a hearse and several limousines roll past for a minute or two – that speaks to the depth of feeling for Muhammad Ali.

    But then you meet Dipo Akabashorun, and you really appreciate what this all means.