Trials season is in full swing for many countries around the world, and a series of upcoming meets will decide who's going to Rome. Some of these include:
April 14-19 - South African Nationals
April 22-26 - French Nationals
April 24-26 - Speedo Grand Challenge (Irvine)
May 14-17 - Charlotte Ultra-Swim
South African Nationals: THIS WEEK - starts Tuesday! I am really looking forward to this meet. This meet features swimming stars such as Roland Schoeman, who won three medals in Athens, along with his gold medal relay mates Lyndon Ferns and Darian Townsend. Schoeman and Ferns have returned to South Africa to train after many years with Frank Busch and Rick de Mont at the University of Arizona. Townsend, who is still at Arizona, is expected to post strong swims in the 100 and 200 Free, 100 Fly, and 200 IM. In December, he swam lifetime bests of 48.64 and 1:57.88 in the 100 Free and 200 IM, respectively. He also came up just shy of Lyndon Ferns' African record in the 100 Fly with a blistering 52.02. He also has a 47.5 relay split from Beijing to his credit. He will be on fire.* Also watch out for Olympic finalist Jean Basson (100/200/400 Free), Troyden Prinsloo (800/1,500 Free), Neil Versfeld (50/100/200 Breast), and Wendy Trott (400/800/1,500 Free), who all had stellar meets at the NCAA championships, winning one event apiece. Also, South Africa-based Cameron van der Burgh (WR-holder 50/100 Breast short course), who recently spent some time working with Kosuke Kitajima's coach, and Gerhard Zandberg will be present. Four-time Olympian Ryk Neethling and Auburn-based Gideon Louw will not be in Durban, Neethling possibly having retired. (Check out Ryk's new book, Chasing the Dream!)
French Nationals: The stars of the meet will probably be those four guys: Amaury Leveaux, Fabien Gilot, Frederik Bousquet, and Alain Bernard, the men who almost upset the American 400 Free Relay team in Beijing. Bernard, the gold medalist, has been pre-selected for the 100 Free, but may swim it anyway as the other three go for the final spot. Remember, the world record is Eamon Sullivan's 47.05, and Bernard's European and French record is 47.20. In the 50, Leveaux is the one who is pre-selected, based on his silver medal from Beijing. Bernard will take on Bousquet, the current world leader in the event, to try to earn the single spot. I really believe that Bousquet will break the world record of 21.28 (Sullivan) after his swims of 21.59 and 21.44 already this year. On the female side, Olympic finalist and former short course world record holder Coralie Balmy will headline the middle-distance and distance freestyle events.
Charlotte Ultra-Swim: The only thing I have to say: Michael Phelps' first meet since Beijing will be less than 200 miles from where I live, and I won't be there! We are only 33 days away...
Just saying... 2-time World Champion and World Championship record holder Filippo Magnini is ranked 1st in the world in the 100 Free (right now) at 48.11, a tine that means relatively little these days. This matches his best time from the semi-finals of the Olympics. If you put two and two together, you'll understand: a time that would have won all past world championships didn't make the final in Beijing. Scary.
*Regarding Darian Townsend: For four months, Darian has been blogging for floswimming.org. That's where I found the info about his times. Check it out!