- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Mike Barrowman, normally the most unflappable of men, was staring hard at the scoreboard in the King County Aquatics Center, just south of Seattle, last Friday night. He gaped, tore off his goggles and gaped again. What Barrowman beheld was strange: 2:11.53. Barrowman's own world record for the event, the 200-meter breaststroke, had been 2:12.89, more than a second slower than the time showing on the scoreboard. "It took me a second to grasp it," Barrowman said later.
Barrowman, a Michigan senior, needed a world record just to win, for hard on his heels came a flotilla. Tying for second in 2:12.24, also under the world mark, were Kirk Stackle, a recent Texas grad, and Spain's Sergio Lopez, who trains with Barrowman at the Curl-Burke Swim Club in a suburb of Washington, D.C. It's fair to say the trio's magnificent swim brought the 1990 Goodwill Games to life.
For U.S. swimmers, the Goodwill competition was a critical test before the world championships in Australia in January, and some of them—for example, Melvin Stewart and Summer Sanders—reached startling new heights. Stewart, a junior at Tennessee, swam the 200-meter fly in 1:57.05, chopping .70 from Pablo Morales's six-year-old American record. And Sanders, an incoming Stanford freshman whose name evokes balmy beaches rather than competitive ferocity, handed the seemingly indomitable Janet Evans a stunning defeat, her first loss in the 400-meter IM since 1986.
Overall, the performances in Seattle hinted at a global shifting of power in the sport—particularly among the women. The East Germans, who won 13 of 16 gold medals at the 1986 world championships and 10 of 15 golds at the Seoul Olympics, were a shadow of their usual mighty selves. They did not claim a single individual gold in the meet's first three days. "They're down a little at this meet," said U.S. women's coach Richard Quick. "But they will be a force to be reckoned with at the world championships."
So, too, it seems, will Barrowman. Since May 1, when he went home to Potomac, Md., and resumed training at the Curl-Burke, he and Lopez have pared life down to its barest essentials. "We swim six or seven hours, go to a movie, then sleep," Barrowman said. "The only people I see are Sergio and the coaches."
Foremost among those coaches is Jozsef Nagy, the demanding Hungarian who has coached Barrowman since the swimmer was 17 years old. Using Nagy's "wave-action" technique, which employs a forward lunge at the top of each stroke, Barrowman finished a disappointing fourth in the 200 breaststroke in Seoul, but then he lowered the world record twice last summer. "Our workouts are intense," said Barrowman. "[Lopez and I] didn't do as much as we've done before, but everything we did was faster."
At the start of the race, Barrowman shot into the water. But even faster was Stackle, two lanes to Barrowman's right, who reached the halfway point in 1:03.97. Inches behind, Barrowman was unperturbed. "Every race I've ever swum, I've been behind the first 100," he said.
Barrowman drove off the wall and covered the third 50 in 33.28, faster than anyone else in the race. "I had to," he said. "I had to get way ahead." No one got close. Barrowman touched home well in front of his nearest pursuers. Lopez came on mightily to catch Stackle at the wall.
Experts struggled to put Barrowman's swim into perspective. "That's 10 feet ahead of where he was a year ago," said Jeff Dimond, the longtime spokesman for U.S. Swimming. Nagy, who seems loath to waste the little English he's worked so hard to learn by offering idle compliments, said simply, "Not so bad—2:11."
Barrowman now has the luxury of comparing his growing stash of record times. "Technically, this wasn't all that great a swim," he said. "The last 30 meters I couldn't get the stroke to be perfect."