by Irvin Muchnick
Chase Kalisz, a training partner of Michael Phelps’ at the scandal-laden North Baltimore Aquatic Club back when the Olympic champion was active, last November was named “Breakout Performer of the Year” at the USA Swimming Golden Goggles Awards. Today, as government investigators circle the sport’s many irregularities and safety failures for youth athletes — most notably, widespread and systematic coach sexual abuse — Kalisz is also Exhibit A of Big Swimming’s enmeshed institutional lapses.
Now a sophomore at the University of Georgia — he won the NCAA championship in the 400-yard individual medley last year — Kalisz has been suspended during an investigation of his academic eligibility. So has Georgia’s coach, Jack Bauerle. See http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/uga-sports/2014/jan/06/academic-issue-lands-uga-swim-coach-hot-water/.
I have a number of observations on Kalisz’s troubles. They begin with this one: Can you imagine how bad allegations of manipulation of academic records had to be in order to implicate a head coach at a school in the sports-sappy Southeastern Conference?
But as always seems to be the case, there’s more, much more, behind the enabling of swimming’s bad boys, who along with the good boys (and girls) take their jingoistic feelgood star turns in prime time every leap year summer in NBC’s Olympic coverage.
Chase Kalisz’s mother Cathy is not only a muck-at-muck at North Baltimore, where a brat pack of privileged kids romps out of control in return for high membership fees that line the pocket of Meadowbrook Aquatic Center owner Murray Stephens — the International Swimming Hall of Famer who went underground after my colleague Tim Joyce revealed former swimmers of his alleged that he had molested them. Cathy Kalisz is also on the board of directors of Maryland Swimming.
Last year, at the very moment when USA Swimming was investigating a serious claim of swimmers-on-swimmer misconduct (a matter later referred to the National Board of Review), the organization’s website ran an unctuous profile of Chase Kalisz’s younger brother. When the mother of the alleged victim complained, USA Swimming’s director of safe sport, Susan Woessner, apologized and saw that the Kalisz puff piece was withdrawn. She didn’t say whether she consulted on the decision with her sister Geri Woessner, the group’s business development manager, or with Chuck Wielgus, the $800,000-a-year CEO.
I don’t know if or exactly why Chase Kalisz needs to be spending less time in the water and more inside Georgia’s athletic study center. But I know that Chuck Wielgus and Susan Woessner deserve an F from the swim parents of America.