The first day of finals in Rome featured a good bit of history in terms of World Records, all of which may forever be overshadowed by the suits. Most events ended up with very lopsided results. Without furthur ado, some reaction and some predictions:
Okay, I definitely didn't think that Biedermann would break Thorpe's record. He came pretty much out of nowhere to do it; it was a personal best by nearly seven seconds! Now, to the 200, his best event. I'm honestly thinking he may be able to upset Michael Phelps. Phelps, who confessed tonight that "I did not feel good in the water today, especially the last 25 meters," finished off his American record in the 100 free, clearly lacking the back-end conditioning he is known for. Phelps will be ahead of Biedermann through the 150 in the 200. The question will be if he has enough in the tank to hold off the German.
Okay, so Park Tae Hwan didn't have the best start to his championships. I think he was the guy everyone thought would take down Thorpe's time. He will be able to come back in the 200 free tomorrow morning, and I think he will make the final and possibly take a medal - likely bronze, especially if Dave Walters is still sick. He has also had a GREAT 1,500 already this year, so we will see.
In all three semi-final races that the Americans swam in, the American who finished second (or in Kukors' case, third) advanced to the final, while the top swimmer did not. I think Christine Magnuson saved a little bit too much in the tank for the relay, so she missed the final of the event in which she was one of the favorites. Now, the 100 fly looks a good bit different than it did yesterday. The men's 100 breast has Shanteau as one of the favorites, while Gangloff completely died at the end. Hopefully both of these two will have redemption in their 50 events later. Looks like both men's races will be wide open dog fights tomorrow (more on that in my preview tomorrow morning).
The women's 400 free relay featured an American team without enough fire power that made too many mistakes, and three teams that obliterated the world record. In addition to Britta Steffen's lead-off world record of 52.22, Libby Trickett re-set her Australian record on the lead-off, swimming 52.62. According to Priyant of Behind the Blocks, she violated her contract by wearing a rubber suit not made by Speedo. Those two appear to be far ahead of the competition headed into the individual event. Marleen Veldhuis seemed a little bit flat in all of her swims, so we'll see if she can get it together later on. Notably, Fran Halsall led off Great Britain's prelim relay in 53.02, making her the third fastest swimmer in history.
Okay, this relay was really exciting, and some people did well, while others didn't, so here goes. Russia had a perfect race. Can't imagine them doing any better. For the Americans, Phelps seemed a little bit flat, Grevers was just a touch off his prelim swim, and then Lochte and Adrian were perfect. For France, Gilot did his job with a 47.73, beating Phelps, and then Bernard came back with a 46.4, the second fastest split in history (behind Mr. Lezak). Putting Gregory Mallet on the finals relay was a mistake on the part of the French coaches. Both Amaury Leveaux and William Meynard have swum 47.7 flat start, while Mallet only split 48.3. Cost them probably a second there. And Fred Bousquet has been 47.15 flat start, and he is a GREAT relay swimmer. Brett Hawke thinks he panicked when he saw Adrian beside him. I don't know, but he finished at 47.4.
Looking forward to the 100 free, Cielo is in a really good position after his 47.09, as is Bernard. I think those two will be at the top of the field, and I think both can go under 47. Bousquet is now a big wild card. He should be able to get the bronze (on paper), but don't count out Adrian after what he did tonight. I'm not going to bother listing all the people that split 47s, but I will say that I am very happy for Roland Schoeman. He hasn't swam so well for several years, but he swam a 47.5 split tonight, and I think he may be getting back to his game.
Finally, Meagan Nay is dropping out of the Worlds and returning to Australia after her brother was tragically killed in a car wreck yesterday. She will not be swimming the 200 free, 200 back, or the 800 free relay, while she will receive a bronze medal for her leg in the prelims of the 400 free relay. Along with everyone in the swimming community, I wish Meagan and her family condolences in the difficult time.