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SWIMMER Editorials

Inspiration (July-August 2011)

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In the May-June issue of SWIMMER I thanked the team of writers, editors and our new publishing partner for joining me in striving to bring you a top quality publication. You may have noticed that one name was conspicuously absent from that list, primarily because it would take an entire year of editorials to properly recognize him. I’ll do my best with one.

I first met Phil Whitten when a good friend and lanemate framed the cover of the September-October 2009 issue as a gift for me, celebrating my first issue with SWIMMER. A profile of Whitten had been long scheduled for that issue and after reading over all the features, I felt strongly that he should be on the cover. Having the noted author and former editor-in-chief of Swimming World, Swimming Technique and SWIM, the precursor of SWIMMER, shaking his finger at me with a sly smile was a little intimidating, so of course I hung it right over my desk.

My first face-to-face meeting with Whitten was later that month at the 2009 USMS convention in Chicago. My nervousness at meeting him soon disappeared as we chatted through lunch about future articles for SWIMMER. The warmly polite and unassuming man I dined with couldn’t possibly be the same lauded journalist and “voice for the sport” that turned the swimming world on end in 1994 in a multipronged assault on the Chinese national swim team after they showed up for World Championships bulked up on steroids. Using his media savvy and any platform he could scale, Whitten cried foul, initially a lone voice in a sea of apathy and nonbelief. Eventually, his allegations were proven and one of the benefits of his tenacity was the formation of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Whitten is also a hero in the college swimming world. During a time when men’s college swim teams were being cut down with scythes sharpened with a misinterpretation of Title IX, he wrote a manual titled, “How to Save Your College Swim Team,” and helped many teams avoid the knife. P.H. Mullen, the author of “Gold in the Water,” wrote extensively about Whitten’s accomplishments in a 2005 article for Swimming World, which is available at swimmingworldmagazine.com/interactive/PhilWhitten.pdf.

Editorial accomplishments and superhero status aside, Whitten writes a mean article. His knowledge, skill and dry humor make his pieces must-reads. In the past two years, he has contributed articles on a variety of subjects. In 2010, we were excited to publish new research from Dr. Stephen Blair on the mortality rate of swimmers compared to runners, walkers and sedentary males. Whitten was there to make sense of the research and present it succinctly.

Never one to shy away from controversial topics, he has written about aerobic and hypoxic training in Masters swimming, the Aquatic Ape Theory and legal doping. He is currently working on another doping article, still timely for anyone interested in sports, as we see athletes disgraced on a regular basis.

I am eager to see what he comes up with next.

Whitten’s wagging finger still hovers over my desk as a daily reminder that integrity, ethical journalism and compelling content are expected and should be delivered to the reader with each and every issue.

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Updated July 1st, 2014 at 11:52 AM by Editor

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