The perceived wisdom is that Delhi was a slow competition, whether by timing, external factors or simply the fact that many athletes were good enough to not have to swim at their best to win, for examples see Leisel Jones, Liam Tancock and Hannah Miley.
Firstly the question is, does that matter? Probably not, in that a gold medal is a gold medal and sometimes it is just about racing, but for many swimmers it was their targeted meet for the year and hence they would have hoped to swim their fastest times in Delhi. For whatever reasons that didn’t happen.
Secondly how did the competition compare with the other major championships this year? The table below compares the winning times from every event in Delhi, the European Championships in Budapest and the Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, showing the winning times from each event at each championship. Since the women’s 1500m and men’s 800m weren’t contested in Delhi these aren’t compared.
|Europeans||Pan Pacs||Commonwealths||Europeans||Pan Pacs||Commonwealths|
|00.00||Pan Pacs or Europeans won by Commonwealth swimmer.|
|00.00||Fastest time of the three championships recorded in Delhi|
What does this tell us? It’s quite clear that Delhi had slower winning times on the whole than the other two meets. The notable exceptions being Alicia Coutts in the 200 IM, Brent Hayden in the 100m freestyle and Cameron Van der Burgh in the 50m breaststroke, all of whom posted world leading times.
What is perhaps more interesting is the fact that Commonwealth women did so much better in their earlier competitions than the men did, winning 10 titles out of possible 32. This is perhaps explained by women generally being able to recover quicker due to proportionally lower muscle mass and hence being able to get in a short but effective taper ahead of the initial competition. What it also shows is that those who won earlier in the summer didn’t swim as fast in Delhi.
But if the winning times weren’t necessarily as fast as in the earlier international meets, were they still world-class swims? That is one of the other criticisms that has been levelled at the Commonwealth Games, but not just in the pool. The table below summarises the winning times from Delhi and highlights those which would rank the swimmer in the top 10 in the world rankings (ignoring where that swimmer already had a faster time in the rankings).
|00.00||Winning time in 2010 world top 10|
|00.00||Winning time number one in 2010 world rankings|
|00.00||Winning time in 2010 top 10; number one time held by Commonwealth swimmer.|
What this shows is that the winning times may not have been as quick as earlier in the summer but on the whole they were up there with the rest of the world’s. Notable exceptions come in the longer events – perhaps the conditions away from the pool were less conducive to preparation for a distance event, or swimmers who had mild stomach upsets were unable or unwilling to push themselves once the win was in the bag. Certainly in the case of the Rebecca Adlington’s 800m, she offered that exact explanation immediately after the event. However, for most events, you certainly had to be amongst the best in the world to win a Commonwealth gold.
So the winners may have been good but what of the standard of the general competition? That is again one of the criticisms often levelled at the Commonwealth Games. The table below shows the 8th paced finisher’s time in each final and shows those times which would make the world top 50, 75 and the world top 100.
|Key||Number of each|
|Top 50 time||2||1|
|Top 75 time||2||4|
|Top 100 time||3||2|
Those numbers make grim reading with the standard of the winners certainly tailing off dramatically through the finalists. Only 3 eighth placed finishers make the world top 50 and only 14 the world top 100. The complaint over depth is certainly upheld here, but is perhaps not surprising. The bulk of the world’s top 100 swims come from European or US swimmers, none of whom would be eligible for a Commonwealth games. Even with the strength of Australia, Britain and Canada, once past the top names in most events the depth is never likely to be as great as a meet which can draw form the countries of an entire continent, or in the case of the Pan –Pacific championships an even wider field than that.
In summary then, you had to be good to win in Delhi, but the door was open for some of the sport’s lesser lights to make finals. To some extent that is the essence of these games.