Friday, January 15, 2016

The Best In The World

TigerBlog begins his Friday with a bit of business.

Ashleigh Johnson is the best women's water polo player in the world. How's that for business?

Who says so? Waterpoloworld does, that's who.

Johnson was named the top female player in the world for 2015. The top male player is named Filip Filipovic, from Serbia.

The further along Johnson goes down the path of her Princeton career, the more TigerBlog is convinced that she is the greatest female athlete ever to compete here. Strong statement?

Yes. Is it true? It's up to you to decide. Before you shrug it off, though, go watch her play.

Of course, you won't be able to do it this coming season. Johnson is taking this year off from school to train with the U.S. national team for the Olympics this summer.

She exploded on the international scene this past summer, when she led the U.S. to the gold medal at the Pan Am Games and the World Championships. She also set records for saves in an NCAA tournament game and full tournament as she led Princeton to a sixth-place finish nationally.

When TigerBlog saw the story, he wondered if Princeton has ever had anyone who was the best in the world at his or her sport at any given time, or even more incredibly, as an undergrad. He's not sure if a case can be made that Caroline Lind is or at any point was the best rower in the world, though as a two-time gold medalist she has to be up there.

In fact, TigerBlog could only come up with one person he thinks actually fits the description. Want to guess?

Hobey Baker. And that was a long time ago.

Is there anyone else? When Bill Bradley was in his prime as a basketball player, Bill Russell was too. And Wilt Chamberlain. And Oscar Robertson.

TigerBlog can't think of a lacrosse player who was ever the world's best at any given moment. In fact he's actually sure that there hasn't been a time when Princeton had the best player in the world, not when Gary Gait was in his prime.

It's an interesting question. Is TB overlooking anyone? 

So that's the business for today. Well, there's some other news.

Thomas Sanner was selected in the MLS draft. Taylor Fedun was recalled by the Vancouver Canucks. Tyler Lussi is in the U.S. U-23 national team camp.

Still, it's an interesting time for Princeton Athletics.

There's very little in the way of business going on around here right now. This is a unique weekend in the world of college athletics in January, one in which a Division I school has absolutely no athletic events.

Princeton Athletics started for this year on Friday, Aug. 28, with a women's soccer game. Since then, there have been events every weekend, except for the weekend of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the next two days and then this weekend, and there will be events next weekend into June.

From late August to early June, there are only two weekends with nothing going on. Christmas, and this weekend, which is the first weekend of exams.

There are several hundred college basketball games for both men and women this weekend. There are dozens of hockey games and every other sport.

Princeton? It's unique academic calendar has brought games to a halt for exams.

TigerBlog has always thought that in the long course of a winter sports season, having this break is a good physical and mental halfway point. He's not sure how many people agree with him, but the exam break comes at a natural stepping off point to recharge.

Of course, any momentum that exists from the first half of the season ends, and there is the part where everyone else is playing while you're watching. But that can be an advantage too, come late February and early March.

The schedules heat up beginning one week from tomorrow. In a major way.

The last Princeton events before exams were the squash matches at Harvard on Jan. 10. Then there is the span of 13 days without any events, of which Princeton currently finds itself basically in the middle.
There will be a track and field meet, men's and women's tennis matches and a men's basketball game next Saturday. And that's just the start.

Next Saturday is Jan. 23. Between then and the end of the month there will be 43 athletic events for Princeton. Yes, forty-three. That's a lot.

Before you know it, the spring overlap will be here. Hey, lacrosse games start four weeks from tomorrow.

So take it easy for now. Go to the movies. Go out to dinner. You can even watch the NFL playoffs if you want.

Don't worry. Princeton will be back soon.

Just not this weekend.


Steven Feldman '68 said...

With the lack of Princeton sports events to write about, you can write about how Princeton finished 24th in the final fall Lear Sports Directors' Cup rankings. Dartmouth was 2nd in the Ivy League finishing 74th.

Anonymous said...

Hate to correct Tigerblog but... the men's basketball game is Jan. 24

TigerBlog said...

Yes. Jan. 24 for men's basketball. What's the correction? What did he say? He's missing it.

Nassau83 said...

Ashleigh gets my vote for best Princeton women's athlete ever while in college. In terms of post-college, Ashleigh may get there but right now I think it's an honor shared by Karen Smyers and Lynn Jennings, both '83. They were both were world champions and the best in the world for several years - Karen as a triathlete and Lynn as a distance runner. Karen won world championships in 1990 and 1995, the World Cup in 1991, the Pan Am games in 1995 and 1999 and the US Pro Nationals every year from 1990-95. She was arguably the best in the world from 1990-96 - especially at the Olympic distance (although it was not an Olympic event until 2000. Lynn won bronze in the 1992 at 10,000M in the Barcelona Olympics and won the World Cross Country Championships three years in a row from 1990-1992, when she was unquestionably the top cross country runner in the world - and that is an event often dominated by the brilliant Kenyan and Ethiopian runners.