Let me first say that Katinka Hosszu is absolutely right. Swimming is not a professional sport. Although she herself has been able to make a profession out of it through pure prize money, and yet others have strung together enough sponsorships to stay afloat, there is nothing resembling what we consider a true professional class in swimming.
She is right to rail against FINA, which is absolutely corrupt to the core and disinterested in creating a professional sport. Likewise, we should not look to the governing bodies, who invest far more heavily in non-swimming personnel than directly funding athletes. She is right to say that "it has always been right in front of us"
Swimming is a sport where sizable amounts of money changes hands, but surprisingly very little of it gets into the pockets of the people who add the most value to the sport. The bureaucracies we have in place are designed to enrich a select few, and leave the rest fighting each other over scraps.
It's not surprising that some swimmers whined and complained for the rule changes to World Cups that hurt someone like Hosszu. They are fighting for the survival of their meager professional careers. Two things are obvious:
A swimmer of Hosszu's stature should not have to compete for prize money to make a living in the first place. She is right to be firing off at the power players in Hungarian Swimming, who have had little to do with her success but nevertheless are enriched for it while she hustles every weekend.
When I coached in Denmark, Lotte Friis, the woman who almost beat Ledecky, was barely able to sustain her swimming career to the 2016 Olympics. I helped to broker a meager sponsorship through a private donor to help her continue to train and prepare. What did we get in exchange? We got our club represented by one of the most selfless, wonderful athletes our sport has ever seen.
Many were critical. "What a waste of money" they said. I couldn't disagree more. We should all, from the ground up, be looking for ways to support the elite athletes of our support to a manageable level. My only regret was that we weren't able to find a way to support Lotte more. Only then will we see more athletes with the security to put on a show the way Hosszu has done for so many years.
Only when we make it inevitable from the very bottom of swimming's bureaucracy do we have a chance of breaking the stranglehold of corruption that holds all of us down. We cannot wait for federations, or USA Swimming, or FINA or (ugh) ASCA.
Athletes may form a union, but that union will be useless unless the rest of us, the rank and file of the swimming world, rally behind them wherever we can. We need to see supporting the top level of swimming as valuable to every level below it, not as some petty waste of resources.