The Vortex – November 2023: Unfair Play Wins Public Vote Among William Hill Sports Book Of Year Shortlisted
The Vortex is SOS’ digest and soak of swimming news, views and links to big events, with new snippets added most days and collated in one monthly file. In November, coverage will be restricted while Craig Lord completes a book-writing sabbatical
Thursday Vortex, November 30
Unfair Play, the book co-authored by British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies and SOS editor Craig Lord, was voted top of the pile in a public vote of titles shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year.
The work charts more than 100 years of discrimination against women in sport and tackles the misogyny at the heart of allowing males identifying with the opposite of their biological sex into female competition.
It’s a very rare moment when a book that tells a story of swimming and swimmers through the lens of a swimmer (and a co-author who was a swimmer) in the context of much bigger themes that have affected women in general and female athletes in a wide range of sports, the Olympic realm in particular.
The chair of the SBOTY judging panel, Alyson Rudd, today praised the six books shortlisted as “probably the best shortlist in the history of the prize” dating back more than three decades.
As The Times noted: “A book about running has won the 2023 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award but such was the exceptional quality of this year’s shortlist, Good for a Girl by Lauren Fleshman could never have been a standard read about the highs and lows of being an athlete.”
“Fleshman manages to deliver a sporting manifesto … she lets us into a childhood dominated by the ‘wild tide’ that was her father, who loved the fact she was, aged eight, faster than the boys in her school. As soon as the boys hit puberty, running became more complicated and so begins an exploration into how coaching and equipment fail girls and women who come under pressure to maintain the body shape that nature does not want them to have.”Alyson Rudd, Chair, SPBOTY
Which is what Unfair Play is all about on a much bigger scale. “Thrillingly fearless” is how the book was described by The Times reviewer, while the chair of SPBOTY noted: “Sharron Davies does not pull any punches in detailing the threat to women’s sport posed by men who transition. Unfair Play is a brave book indeed and the fearlessness inherent in all the shortlisted works impressed the judging panel.”
Four of the works were stories by women about women but for all of us who care about fair play, safety and issues of discrimination and overt sex-based inequality. SOS will be looking at that theme in more depth as part of our review of 2023 and preview of 2024.
Sally H Jacobs looks at the story of Althea Gibson, a trailblazing athlete who was left close to destitute at the end of her life. Althea was the first black player to win a grand-slam title. An untold story now told brilliantly. Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan was the only sports novel to make the shortlist: the author recorded interviews with Sonia, an Iowa horse trainer, and turned the transcripts into what Rudd describes as “a sparse but gorgeous narrative”.
The other shortlisted books were snooker ace Ronnie O’Sullivan‘s Unbreakable, with writer Tom Fordyce; and an important read by investigative journalist Sam Peters called Concussed.
Peters, like so many other journalists and campaigners for fair play, justice and good governance, was made to feel like a pariah by blazers who would rather he hadn’t asked the right questions for over a decade.
I know what that feels like: it’s been similar in some key ways for more than three decades for me in swimming. Peters pressed regulators for answers as evidence grew linking sports-related concussions to premature deaths and dementia. The matter remains ‘live’.
NB: Craig Lord is in the process of completing work on a second book in 2023 and will disappear from this place for the coming month as a result. See you in December 🙂 .
Friday Vortex, November 10
Busselton Braced For Australian Open Water Championships
Swimming Australia has announced its first big swimming event of 2024, the Australian Open Water Championships and OceanSwim Festival.
The story from Swimming Australia:
It’s one of the most recognisable jetties in Australia and the iconic Busselton Jetty will again be a feature of the 2024 Australian Open Water Championships and OceanSwim Festival.
Busselton, some 220km southwest of Perth, was today announced as host of the first major Australian-based swimming event of the year from January 24-27.
The event, proudly supported by the Western Australian Government through Tourism WA’s Regional Events Program, funded by Royalties for Regions, and the City of Busselton, will attract hundreds of swimmers and friends of the swimming community.
Proud West Australian and Dolphin #828 Kyle Lee said Busselton was one of the most picturesque places in the world to both compete in ocean swimming and watch.
Lee, who anchored the 4x1500m mixed relay team that won bronze at the World Championships in Fukuoka, said: “It’s a special place to swim and for me, it’s home and it’s just so stunning.”
“The water is crystal clear and flat, usually a good temperature for racing, spectators can watch the whole race from the jetty which is pretty great.
“The whole four days has a great atmosphere and while the racing is always competitive there’s also a lot of camaraderie. There are events for everyone to swim, music and food trucks … it’s a lot of fun.”
For the second year running, the event blends high-performance racing with the community focused OceanSwim races on January 26, attracting elite athletes and hundreds of amateur swimming enthusiasts.
A variety of distances are on offer for the community swim, including 500m, 1.25km, 2.5km, 5km, 7.5km and 10km options, with registrations to be taken right up to race time.
Spectators attending the Ocean Swim Festival will also be treated to a number of onshore activities across the four days, including music and entertainment for kids, a night market and other activities.
WA Deputy Premier and Minister for Tourism Rita Saffioti said: “We’re very excited to be supporting the Ocean Swim Festival once again as it returns to Western Australia for another year of exciting races and events in beautiful Busselton.”
“Busselton’s pristine beachfront with its sparkling blue water and iconic jetty provide the perfect place to stage this event, which will bring visitors from all over the nation, supporting local accommodation providers, hospitality businesses, and jobs.
“With flights from Melbourne flying into Busselton three times a week, on what is proving to be a popular route, it’s never been easier for visitors from Australia’s east coast to travel to WA’s South West.”
Regional Development Minister Don Punch said: “The Ocean Swim Festival is a fantastic event that will drive economic growth in South West WA, and we’re proud to be supporting it through our Regional Events Program.”
“Events like this allow us to showcase our beautiful State as a world-class sporting destination, while diversifying the economy and creating local jobs in the regions.”
South West MLC Jackie Jarvis said: “We can’t wait to welcome visitors back to Busselton next year to explore the South West’s beautiful forests, pristine beaches, countless attractions and experiences, and world-class culinary and wine offerings.”
“These types of events always create a fantastic atmosphere in the community, so I encourage locals to head down and check it out as well.”
Swimming Australia interim CEO Steve Newman said: “This event in WA has quickly become one of the highlights of the swimming calendar and is the perfect way to welcome in 2024.”
“To have all levels of the swimming community – from elites through to amateurs all competing in such a pristine and wonderful environment – is really, really special.
“And the West Australian Government, Tourism Western Australia, and the people of Busselton do a wonderful job on making everyone feel welcome.”
CEO of Swimming WA Sophie Row added: “Swimming WA is excited to welcome back this unique event to Busselton.”
“Open water swimming holds a special place in Western Australia’s swimming DNA, thanks to our state’s pristine waters and beautiful climate.
“As the host of Australia’s largest open water swim series, Swimming WA is well-positioned to assist Swimming Australia in presenting another outstanding event for both our elite athletes and the wider swimming community.
“We’re eagerly anticipating the opportunity to once again partner with Swimming Australia, Tourism WA and the City of Busselton to bring this fantastic event to life.”
City of Busselton Mayor Phill Cronin said: “The City is delighted to again host Australia’s leading Open Water Swim. If the clean white beaches and calm turquoise waters are not enough, the Busselton jetty makes for an amazing spectators platform.”
Wednesday Vortex, November 8
This article, originally filed in the Vortex for expediency was moved into a separate piece and can be found here:
Tuesday Vortex, November 7
Savard Leads Canadian 26 To Doha World Titles
Canada will send a team of 26 swimmers to the Doha 2024 World Aquatics Championships from Feb. 2-18. The team is largely one of development swimmers and experienced veterans led by Katerine Savard.
The Doha championships are part of a run of four World long-course titles in four consecutive years, a consequence of catching up on contracts signed with hosts before the Covid pandemic shunted the entire sports calendar. Not only will there be a World Championships every years between 2022 and 2025 for the first time in history but the Doha even will mark the only global showcase in history to fall in Olympic year.
Most nations are not fielding their best squads in Doha because the event is too close to Olympic trials season and simply does not fit into the preparation and race cycles of those aiming to be in peak form for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in July.
The Swimming Canada Statement in Full
OTTAWA – A squad of 26 Canadian swimmers is set to compete at the Doha 2024 World Aquatics Championships from Feb. 2-18, writes Swimming Canada. This will be the first international competition of the new year, with athletes setting their sights on the Olympic Games later in the season.
“We are delighted to announce our team for the World Championships in Doha, Qatar,” said Swimming Canada High Performance Director and National Coach John Atkinson. “The championships will provide a great opportunity for our selected athletes to race against some of the best athletes in the world early in the new year, and this will be very positive.”
Leading the team is three-time Olympian Katerine Savard of Montreal’s CAMO club, who will be competing at her 13th world championships (long course and short course combined). The versatile butterfly and freestyle swimmer made her long-course worlds debut in 2011, is one of 16 returnees from this summer’s worlds in Fukuoka, Japan.
“I’m super happy to represent Canada for another world championships,” said Savard. “Every competition is a new opportunity to test what I’m working on going towards Olympic trials. It will be my seventh [long course] world champs. I’ve been close to getting back into the Top 8 from last summer, and I’m hoping I can prove to myself that I can still be one of the best butterfly swimmers in the world.”
Sienna Angove, Ashley McMillan (HPC Ontario/Greater Ottawa), Laila Oravsky (Barrie Trojans), Sarah Fournier (CNQ), Antoine Sauvé (CAMO), Blake Tierney (HPC-Vancouver/UBC Thunderbirds) will be making their world championships debuts. Raben Dommann (HPC Vancouver/UBC Thunderbirds), who swam open water at worlds in 2019, and Tessa Cieplucha, who has an the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and two short-course worlds under her belt, will also make their debuts in the world long-course pool.
Coming off a successful Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, where he won five medals (four bronze and one silver), Tierney hopes to build on his performances.
“I’m super excited and happy to be given the opportunity to represent Canada at my first world championships,” said Tierney. “I had a great time and learned a lot at Pan Ams and can’t wait to race for Canada again.”
Doha hosted the short-course world championships in 2014, and has been a stop during the World Cup tour.
More information about the championships and schedule can be found here.
The Swimming Canada Squad
|NAME – NOM
|CLUB – CLUB
|PERSONAL COACH – ENTRAINEUR PERSONNEL
|HPC Ontario / Ajax Swimming
|HPC Vancouver / UBC Thunderbirds
|Pointe- Claire Swim Club
|Simon Fraser Aquatics
|Etobicoke Swim Club
|UVIC Pacific Coast Swimming
|HPC Vancouver / UBC Thunderbirds
|Markham Aquatic Club
|Edmonton Keyano Swim Club
|HPC Ontario / Greater Ottawa
|HPC Vancouver/UBC Thunderbirds
|Barrie Trojans Swim Club
|Toronto Swim Club
|Cascade Swim Club
|Cascade Swim Club
Sunday Vortex, November 5
The Wiffen Twins & Mates Go To Flagstaff
The adventure continues for the Irish Wiffen Twins, Daniel and Nathan, and their mates at Loughborough, including open water aces Hector Pardoe and Alice Dearing. In their latest two vlogs we get to follow them to Flagstaff for high-altitude training: feelings, food, routine, specific sets, guest appearances from the likes of Duncan Scott‘s coach Steve Tigg, a trip to an observatory with Alice Dearing and other teamsters and to the local diner with a menu of 100 shakes, as well as burgers, fries (that’s chips for the Irish and the Brits) … all very acceptable as a treat in the midst of a 17km training day, at altitude. There are some fun competitive moments too, in which we hear Felix Aubock, of Austria, say that he and Belgian international Lucas Henveaux had done the same set as the girls, though the girls had done much more ‘fly; even so, says Felix with a big smile, “… we smashed them them; we smashed the girls!” Later, H confirms the truth: the girls had a different version of events: “They said we weren’t mentally tough enough to do the ‘fly.” Who to believe? …
Flagstaff Vlog 1
Flagstaff Vlog 2:
Friday Vortex, November 3
Dean, Richards, Guy & Scott Lead GB 35 Into Popovici Den For Euro S/C Champs
All four finalists from Britain’s Olympic- and World-Champion 4x200m freestyle quartet, Tom Dean, Matt Richards, James Guy and Duncan Scott, will end their competitive 2023 in the Lion’s Den of David Popovici racing the Romanian World No1 on the clock over 100 and 200m freestyle at his home European short-course Championships in Bucharest.
The relay crew, including reigning 200m solo Olympic champion Dean and reigning World 200m champion Richards, will lead a Britain squad of 35 to the continental winter showcase from December 5-10.
The team also includes three members of the Olympic 4x100m Mixed medley champion quartet, Kathleen Dawson, who makes her international return after a long period of recovery from injury, Guy and Anna Hopkin. Adam Peaty, the fourth member of that quartet, will bypass the European event, having tested himself on World Cup tour recently before entering an intensive period of autumn and winter preparation.
The Britain squad also includes Ben Proud, the 2022 World, Commonwealth and European 50m freestyle champion, and Luke Greenbank, a member of the Britain 4x100m men’s medley silver-medallist quartet at the Tokyo 2020ne Olympics and 200m backstroke bronze medallist at the same Games.
Speaking through British Swimming, Britain Head Coach Bill Furniss said: “The European Short Course Championships are a great opportunity for us to assess where the athletes are at come the end of the first training block of Olympic year.”
“The short-course aspect of the competition will allow us to collect valuable insight into our athletes’ performances and help them focus on developing their starts, turns, and finishing skills. The unique relay opportunities presented to us will also be crucial as we look to build on our ability in this area. It will also be a great opportunity to continue building team morale as we build towards the Olympic Games, with the team list combining our more experienced swimmers with some new faces to the senior team.”Bill Furniss – photo courtesy of the BOA
The related story below this in the Vortex: Olympic Champions Lead The Charge As British Swimming Names 54 For ’23-’24 Season World-Class Programme
The British Swimming Statement On The Bucharest Selection
With Olympic year on the horizon, 35 swimmers have been named to round off 2023 at the European Short Course Swimming Championships in Bucharest, Romania next month – including every medallist from this year’s World Aquatics Championships.
The majority of the team for the Bucharest event – which will take place from 5th-10th December – were part of the group that took eight medals at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka back in July, with almost all of the remainder having competed at August’s European Under-23 Championships in Dublin.
The last major international short course outing for Great Britain’s athletes came at the 2022 World Short Course Championships, with the athletes there securing four medals out in Melbourne – while the most recent European Short Course Championships to have British involvement was on home soil in 2019 in Glasgow.
Tom Dean is the only athlete to have taken medals across all three of those competitions in Fukuoka, Melbourne and Glasgow, and the 23-year-old is once again set to feature this time around, alongside all three of his Olympic and Worlds Men’s 4x200m Freestyle final-winning teammates James Guy, Duncan Scott and Matt Richards.
Richards will be looking to add to the maiden world title he secured over the summer in what will be his first appearance at a European Short Course Championships, while all other medallists from Fukuoka – Anna Hopkin, Freya Anderson, Lucy Hope, Lauren Cox, Joe Litchfield, Ben Proud and Jacob Whittle – are also set to feature.
Athletes were selected based on their performances at international swim meets between 1st May 2023 and 30th August 2023, with a number of those competing eyeing valuable competition time as they build towards the push for Paris in 2024.
The Bucharest-Bound British Swimming Team:
- Jonathon Adam, Bath Performance Centre
- Freya Anderson, Bath Performance Centre
- Cameron Brooker, Bath Performance Centre
- Lewis Burras, Loughborough University
- Gregory Butler, Loughborough Performance Centre
- Imogen Clark, Derby Excel
- Alexander Cohoon, Loughborough University
- Freya Colbert, Loughborough Performance Centre
- Lauren Cox, Loughborough University
- Kathleen Dawson, University of Stirling
- Tom Dean, Bath Performance Centre
- Archie Goodburn, Edinburgh University
- Luke Greenbank, Loughborough Performance Centre
- James Guy, Millfield
- Kara Hanlon, Edinburgh University
- Medi Harris, Loughborough Performance Centre
- Lucy Hope, University of Stirling
- Anna Hopkin, Loughborough Performance Centre
- Evan Jones, University of Stirling
- Emily Large, Millfield
- Joe Litchfield, Loughborough Performance Centre
- Keanna MacInnes, University of Stirling
- Jack McMillan, University of Stirling
- Edward Mildred, Bath Performance Centre
- Oliver Morgan, University of Birmingham
- Jacob Peters, Bath Performance Centre
- Ben Proud, University of Bath
- Matthew Richards, Millfield
- Leah Schlosshan, City of Leeds
- Duncan Scott, University of Stirling
- Katie Shanahan, University of Stirling
- Laura Stephens, Loughborough Performance Centre
- Jacob Whittle, Bath Performance Centre
- Brodie Williams, Bath Performance Centre
- Abbie Wood, Loughborough Performance Centre
Thursday Vortex, November 2
Olympic Champions Lead The Charge As British Swimming Names 54 For ’23-’24 Season World-Class Programme
A total of 54 swimmers have been invited on to British Swimming’s World Class Programme (WCP) for the 2023-2024 season, with just over nine months to go until the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
The new list follows a spectacular summer in the pool, which saw eight medals – including two world titles – secured at the World Aquatics Championships, as well as a plethora of podium placings at the European Under-23 and Junior Championships, European Youth Olympic Festival and Commonwealth Youth Games.
The athletes on the WCP – from multiple Olympic champions and world-record holders to potential Olympians of the future – are named off the back of a thorough selection process, including an in-depth assessment of their capability to be successful at future Olympics and World Championships.
Matt Richards, Tom Dean, James Guy and Duncan Scott are among the gold medallists from this year’s World Championships on the Podium list, which also features triple Olympic champion Adam Peaty and fellow Tokyo champions Kathleen Dawson, Freya Anderson and Anna Hopkin.
World, Commonwealth and European championing one season, Ben Proud is also among the seasoned internationals heading for action in Paris.
There are also a range of athletes on the Podium Potential programme who make the list for the first time, including European Junior champion Amelie Blocksidge – the youngest member on the programme – European Junior medallist Phoebe Cooper and Alexander Cohoon, who reached the podium at August’s inaugural European Under-23 Championships in Dublin.
Swimmers across the World Class Programme are part of either Podium or Podium Potential tiers. They will receive programme opportunities and targeted support from British Swimming and UK Sport.
Key competition opportunities and training camp experiences throughout the season are among the benefits for WCP athletes, while there is access to comprehensive support from the world-leading British Swimming performance and sports science and medicine support staff, plus access to a network of national Institute of Sport programmes across the UK.
British Swimming’s Performance Director Chris Spice is full of optimism ahead of the coming Olympic season, which will also feature European and world-level competitions and a host of other competitive opportunities – and he knows the potential across this 54-strong list of athletes.
“With a set of impressive performances under their belts from the previous season, the challenge for our swimmers now is to move on from that and make the improvements required as we move into an Olympic year”, said Spice.
“We’ve had tremendous success in the years following the last Olympics in Tokyo, and we’re in a great position to build on that heading towards Paris next summer, with the commitment and technical abilities of our athletes supported by world-class coaches and staff at all levels.
“With the 2023-2024 season presenting the added hurdle of a World Championships to contend with, the focus is still very much on managing our swimmers’ loads and ensuring that we get the very best out of those that will step on the blocks at the Olympic Games.”
Swimmers invited onto the 2023-2024 British Swimming World Class Programme (WCP)
- Freya Anderson, Bath Performance Centre (England)
- Lewis Burras, Loughborough University (England)
- Freya Colbert, Loughborough Performance Centre (England)
- Kathleen Dawson, University of Stirling (Scotland)
- Thomas Dean, Bath Performance Centre (England)
- Luke Greenbank, Loughborough Performance Centre (England)
- James Guy, Millfield School (England)
- Medi Harris, Loughborough Performance Centre (Wales)
- Lucy Hope, University of Stirling (Scotland)
- Anna Hopkin, Loughborough Performance Centre (England)
- Daniel Jervis, Swim Wales High Performance Centre (Wales)
- Joe Litchfield, Loughborough Performance Centre (England)
- Oliver Morgan, University of Birmingham (England)
- Adam Peaty, Loughborough Performance Centre (England)
- Jacob Peters, Bath Performance Centre (England)
- Benjamin Proud, University of Bath (England)
- Matthew Richards, Millfield School (Wales)
- Duncan Scott, University of Stirling (Scotland)
- Katie Shanahan, University of Stirling (Scotland)
- Laura Stephens, Loughborough Performance Centre (England)
- Jacob Whittle, Bath Performance Centre (England)
- James Wilby, Loughborough Performance Centre (England)
- Brodie Williams, Bath Performance Centre (England)
- Abbie Wood, Loughborough Performance Centre (England)
- Jonathon Adam, Bath Performance Centre (England)
- Amelie Blocksidge, City of Salford SC (England)
- Cameron Brooker, Bath Performance Centre (England)
- Charlie Brown, Loughborough Performance Centre (England)
- Skye Carter, Basildon & Phoenix SC (England)
- Alexander Cohoon, Loughborough University (England)
- Phoebe Cooper, City of Sheffield (England)
- Lauren Cox, Loughborough University (England)
- Evelyn Davis, University of Stirling (Scotland)
- Evie Dilley, Millfield School (England)
- Lucy Grieve, University of Stirling (Scotland)
- Kara Hanlon, Edinburgh University (Scotland)
- Robbie Hemmings, Bath Performance Centre (England)
- Charlie Hutchison, Loughborough Performance Centre (Scotland)
- Evan Jones, University of Stirling (Scotland)
- Blythe Kinsman, Mount Kelly (England)
- Emily Large, Millfield School (England)
- Keanna MacInnes, University of Stirling (Scotland)
- Jack McMillan, University of Stirling (Northern Ireland)
- Tyler Melbourne-Smith, Loughborough University (Wales)
- Edward Mildred, Bath Performance Centre (England)
- Eva Okaro, Repton (England)
- Alexander Painter, Millfield School (England)
- Hector Pardoe, Loughborough University (Wales)
- Sienna Robinson, Loughborough University (England)
- Reuben Rowbotham-Keating, Loughborough University (England)
- Leah Schlosshan, City of Leeds SC (England)
- George Smith, University of Stirling (England)
- Matthew Ward, Bath Performance Centre (Scotland)
- Elliot Woodburn, Millfield School (England)
The Vortex On Sports Politics
Insidethegames Sale To Russians Close To Putin: Caveat Emptor?
The Inquisitor today reveals details of the people behind a change of guard at Insidethegames, the media outlet focussed on sports politics with two decades of close connections to regulators and organisers of Olympic sport behind it.
In an article by Jens Weinreich, senior partner in a venture this author works for, we read:
The woman in the photo up top, Zhanna Abdulian, will hardly be known by any of you, of the many insiders who read this newsletter.
It’s May 2019 and she’s dressed in a folkloric Russian military uniform at the Victory Day presentation. At the time, she was still working for the Russian Boxing Federation.
Now, at a time when any athlete with similar connections is banned from sport because of Russia’s war on Ukraine, she is director of the leading international sports politics media outlet Insidethegames.
In 2019, Zhanna Abdulian was informally a personal assistant to Umar Kremlev; she also served as the head of the Russian federation’s international relations department. Kremlev became, as you all know, president of the International Boxing Association (IBA), with much more than a little help of the Kremlin and Gazprom. Kremlev is a loyal servant of Vladimir Putin.
The article goes on to explain how the sale of shares on 31 October 2023 by journalist Duncan Mackay, founder of Insidethegames, in Dunsar Media Company Limited, which he held together with his partner Sarah Bowron, leaves the big Olympic platform in the hands of a pro-Kremlin president of the IOC-suspended International Boxing Association and one-time boss of Zhanna Abdulian.
What does it all mean? Support and subscribe to The Inquisitor as it follows the read threads of a twist in the insidethegames tale.