The Swimmers Circle
Alexander Dale Oen
In a thrilling outcome, Alexander Dale Oen has captured the men's 100 breaststroke title for his native country Norway in a time of great tumult for him. With thoughts of his fellow citizens back home, who are grieving after an apparent act of domestic terrorism that left 93 people dead. The Norweigian consulate lies about a block from me, and every time I’ve driven past over the last few days with the flag flying at half-staff, I thought about how great it would be if the very-patriotic Dale Oen could pull out a win for his country. It’s not clear how much of a solace or uplift this will be for his country, or if they will even notice, but just as with the Japanese women's soccer team, I think that we were all Dale Oen fans on this day.
Not only did Dale Oen do just that, but he did it in a powerful way; he took the race in 58.71. That is the fastest-ever swim in textile, the first textile-swim under 59-seconds, and is the 4th-fastest swim in any suit, ever. It only missed Brenton Rickard's World Record, set in 2009, by .13 seconds. Who would have thought that the biggest World Record scare in the first two days of the meet would come in this breaststroke?
Italy's Fabio Scozzoli got off to a great start, as a 50-meter specialist would expect to, and though he faded at the end of the race (well, compared to a blistering Dale Oen anyways)， he still held on for silver in 59.42. That swim is his highest-ever finish in a major long course event in this 100 breaststroke. He’s going to be very tough to beat in the 50 later on. The bronze went to South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh in 59.49.
What do all three medalists have in common? They all have Arena as their suit sponsors, which marks a huge boon for the international suit manufacturer as they make inroads into the ever-lucrative American market that is badly in need of a breaststroker at the moment.
Almost as shocking as Dale Oen's fast time was how slow this final was overall. Kosuke Kitajima, who was the top seed in every level of this race, failed to even break a minute going 1:00.03. It was really surprising, given how fast some of the earlier rounds of this race were, that only three swimmers broke a minute, and neither of them were from the feared Japanes breaststroking group.
The USA's Mark Gangloff finished 8th in this race in 1:00.52, though he appears to have done more than enough to confirm his spot in the medley relay final.