Australia: A shake-up was needed in the Australian swimming team after London 2012, five-times medal winner Alicia Coutts tells AAP. Coming out of a camp at which head coach Leigh Nugent reintroduced tougher qualification standards for team selection and imposed more discipline on the green and gold shoal, including a ban on social networking when on team duty, Coutts backed the new way. Bonding and belonging were key, she said. The camp included 120 folk, with 74 staff, the likes of Coutts and James Magnussen alongside 14-year-old newcomers. "I think a shake-up was needed. We haven't done one of these types of camps since 2007," says Coutts. "There have been times when I have been on the team and I haven't known half of them. When it's like that, you don't know their personalities. Sometimes people don't go out of their way to introduce themselves -it does make it quite difficult. But this type of camp makes it a lot easier."
USA: Katie Ledecky, at 15 in London last year an Olympic 800m freestyle champion, feels no pressure, be it at Games level or high school racing, she tells reporter Roman Stubbs at the Washington Post. "Every race that I have, whether it's a high school meet or a race at the Olympics, I never feel the pressure," Ledecky says. Comparing the ultimate event for elite swimmers and the birthing pool environment in which she has developed, Ledecky says: "If I could compare the two, I would say high school swimming is a lot more team oriented. These are some of my best friends, and I know they'll be my best friends in 20, 30, 40 years." In the wake of a fuss over nothing when Missy Franklin, double Olympic backstroke champion, raced for her high school and drew criticism from some who accused her of taking sweets from the mouths of babes, Frank Busch, USA Team Director, tells the Post: "From Katie's standpoint, she's seven years under the average age of our team. Why would we ever deny someone the opportunity to compete at a level in which they're qualified for? So why would we ever want to take the high school experience away from Katie or Missy?" On that score, 14-year-old Kelleigh Haley, a freshman swimmer who just turned 15 this week, struck the right chord when she welcomed the chance to race in a pool graced by the likes of Ledecky and others who have known life in the fastest of lanes. "It was really cool," said Haley. "A new feeling like, 'Wow, I'm so close to the top. This is, like, real'."
Germany: double Olympic sprint Champion of 2008 Britta Steffen and her boyfriend, World short-course Champion Paul Biedermann, are taking a cooking course together at the outset of a new phase of their lives together. The couple have moved into their first home together in Halle, Steffen tells the Berliner Zeitung. Steffen moved away from Berlin and coach Norbert Warnatzsch in the wake of the London 2012 Games. She now trains with Biedermann under the guidance of coach Frank Embacher.
International Swimming Hall of Fame: The International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) today announced the recipients of the inaugural “Esther” Award, which will recognises "outstanding achievements in the film and entertainment industries that promote a positive image of swimming as a key to fun, fitness, good health, a better quality of life and an essential water safety and lifesaving skill." The following is a press release from the Hall of Fame, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida:
“We are extremely proud that Ms. Esther Williams has lent her famous name to this award,” said Bruce Wigo, President of ISHOF. “As one of America’s iconic film stars, she did more through her films to promote swimming than anyone else in history.”
“I am truly honored and humbled to have my name associated with this new award,” said Esther. “I have been swimming my entire life. It’s the most enjoyable activity there is and it is the only sport one can do from their first bath to their last. I believe everyone should learn to swim and this award will be presented to recognize films and individuals in the entertainment industry who help promote this ideal.”
Esther Williams was a national swimming champion in 1939. Unable to compete in the 1940 Olympics because of WWII, she turned professional and swam alongside Olympic Champion and Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller in the Billy Rose Aquacade in San Francisco. The Aquacade brought her to the attention of MGM talent scouts and the rest is history. She starred in 27 major Hollywood films and as a businesswoman organized traveling water shows and still runs a swimwear company that bears her name. Esther was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1966 and received ISHOF’s Gold Medallion Award in 2006.
The inaugural Esther Awards will be presented to two films, from a category intended to revive interest in historically significant films: “Enter the Chinese Water Dragon" and “The Diving Girls”. These two movies were part of the national inspiration for a young nation and of a growing sense of being part of the world Olympic family. Since their premiers in 1959 and in 1964, respectively, these films have inspired countless numbers of Chinese youngsters to dive into the pool, to train hard, to aim high and to compete in international competitions.
Inspired by the true stories of China’s world record setting swimmer Mr. Mu Xiangxiong and their up-and-coming world-class divers, these stories present a remarkably different image than we have in the west about life in China under Chairman Mao. Looking back to the humble beginnings of that journey, retold in these movies, viewers can still find the collective artistic work by the films’ directors, the leading stars in both movies and the film crews, just as fresh and inspiring as millions of movie goers did then. These two movies sowed the seeds for dreams of diving off spring-boards and starting blocks in the hearts of young Chinese, who took to the water. Today, China is competing in all kinds of sports, and her swimmers and divers, synchronized swimmers, water polo and other aquatic event participants are seeing their childhood dreams come true.
The Esther Williams Award, recognizing the work of the production teams and their stars, provides a unique opportunity for new generations throughout the world to revisit those moments that blur the line of reality and fiction; of dreams in the making and dreams that have come true.
ISHOF will present the Esthers for these films during the 2013 ISHOF Honors Weekend, May 9 -12, at the Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale. ISHOF plans to present future Esther Awards at an annual Aquatic Film Festival beginning in 2014, at a date and location yet to be determined.