Tonight's finals session was among the more "Where did that come from!" sessions of an already out there meet. Some sentences about tonight:
- Good night for China! Two golds and a silver... I can't believe that Swimnetwork.com predicted that China would medal in the relay, and I didn't, and then China wins! I think the main reasons that happened were: 1) the U.S. leading off with Vollmer (a much better relay swimmer) instead of Schmitt (who had a poor exchange), and 2) Nymeyer going slower than in prelims. Whatever. Women have another chance to win a relay (for a change).
- Who would have thought Christian Sprenger would be the one to break Kitajima's record? Talk about out of nowhere! Remember, the guy went 2:12 in the Aussie Trials in March (in a blueseventy, no less)! Eric Shanteau's in a perfect spot, and I really like Daniel Gyurta as well. It should be a good race in the finals.
- Lochte may have a tough time battling Peirsol and Irie in the 200 back when he's in lane 2. I really hope that it won't be a problem for him. Can't see the medals going to anyone but those three.
- Sad for Mary Descenza missing the podium in the 200 fly, but she has made the breakthrough to the world stage, and hopefully she can keep that momentum going. Not to mention she broke Misty Hyman's legendary American record by more than a second and a half!
- Adam Klein was DQ'ed in the 200 breast in the prelims. Anyone know why and what he would have gone without the DQ?
Tomorrow's prelims - busy day with SIX events:
Men's 50 free: After taking gold in the 100 free today, Brazil's Cesar Cielo, the Olympic champ, looks to be the clear favorite for gold in the shorter distance. His main competition will be his training partner, France's Fred Bousquet, who currently holds the world record. Both men look capable of eclipsing the world record of 20.94 set by Bousquet in March. There will be a big race for the bronze behind the two Auburn men. One of the favorites is American Cullen Jones, who set an American record at Nationals. There is also Bousquet's French teammate Amaury Leveaux, who took silver behind Cielo in Beijing, but Leveaux has not swum well this week. A man who has had a mixed week is American Nathan Adrian, after a relay gold but missing the 100 final. Also watch out for the men who took silver and bronze in 2004, Duje Draganja of Croatia and Roland Schoeman of South Africa.
Women's 50 fly: Three or four women will battle for the title in the sprint fly. Marleen Veldhuis holds the world record, but she has not swam her best this meet, but after several days of rest, look for her to be near her best, 25.33. Therese Alshammar was world champ in Melbourne in 2007 and has had a very good year thus far. Both of these girls are in their 30s, but they are babies compared to the top American, Dara Torres. Torres set an American record of 25.50 at Nationals and is the third fastest woman in history. This may be her best shot at a medal in Rome. Also watch out for Aussies Marieke Guehrer and Libby Trickett, both medal contenders, and American Christine Magnuson, trying to come back from a disappointing swim in the 100 fly, where she missed the final.
Men's 100 fly: This will be a re-match between the men who finished within one one-hundredth of a second of each other in Beijing. Michael Phelps, the world record-holder, who already took gold in the 200 fly, versus Milorad Cavic, who took the 50 fly crown. Both men look capable of breaking the vaunted 50-second barrier, and this race will be just as tight as it was in Beijing. Another swimmer who could challenge for a medal and possibly the 50-second barrier is Spain's Rafael Munoz. Munoz, however, did not have a very good finals swim in the 50 fly, an event in which he holds the world record. His best is 50.46, so he cannot be counted out. Other possibilities include Australia's Andrew Lauterstein, the Beijing bronze medalist, who has a best time 50.93, and World University Games champ, Jason Dunford of Kenya, who has also swam under 51.
Women's 200 back: Coming into the week, this was all Kirsty Coventry. The Olympic champ and world record-holder was expected to run away with this title. However, coming into her best event, she has yet to win a medal. She could still win, but she will be pushed by Great Britain's Gemma Spofforth, who stormed home in the back-half of the 100 back to claim gold. She has a great chance to take double gold. There is also 16-year old American Elizabeth Beisel, who was fifth in Beijing, and she is another medal contender, as one of two women in the field (the other being Coventry) to ever swim sub-2:07. Also watch out for Russia's Anastasia Zueva, who took fourth in Beijing and silver earlier in the 100, Spofforth's teammate Elizabeth Simmons, a finalist in the 100 who is better in the longer distance, American rookie Eilzabeth Pelton, Aussie Belinda Hocking, and France's Alexianne Castel. Italy's Alessia Fillipi will probably pass on the 200 back to concentrate on the 800 free.
Men's 800 free relay: The U.S. men are the favorites in this relay for sure, although they do not look invincible as they had coming into the meet. Four Russian men, Danila Izotov, the 200 free bronze medalist, Nikita Lobinsev, Alexander Sukhorukov, and Evgeni Lagunov, the same four who took silver in Beijing, look to spoil the party. Dave Walters, Peter Vanderkaay, Michael Phelps, Ricky Berens, Ryan Lochte, and Davis Tarwater are the Americans who will try defend the 2 consecutive world and 2 consecutive Olympic crowns the Americans have won in this relay. This race shapes up to be much closer than it was once expected to be, especially after Izotov's bronze in the 200 and Russia's superb performance in the 400 free relay. However, the Americans still look like they have the firepower to get it done. The favorite for bronze now looks to be Australia. With Kenrick Monk, who finalled in the 200 free; Patrick Murphy, who led off the Beijing relay in 1:45.9; Nick Ffrost, who anchored in 1:46-flat; and Tommasso D'Orsongna, who split 47.7 on the 400 free relay, they are in strong position. Italy is missing national record-holder Marco Belotti, but they still have Filippo Magnini, who has the fastest relay split in history. Canada will have Brent Hayden, fourth tonight in the 100 free, and Great Britain also has a solid team.
Women's 800 free: Five women will battle for the crown as the top women's distance swimmer in the world. The favorite is Great Britain's Rebecca Adlington, the Olympic gold medalist and world record-holder, who earlier claimed bronze in the 400 free. She has the potential to crush her mark of 8:14.10. She will be pushed by her teammate, Joanne Jackson, who was second in the 400 free and fourth in the 200 free already. Then there are the three medalists in the 1,500 free, Italy's Alessia Filippi, Denmark's Lotte Friis, and Romania's Camelia Potec. All three can dip well under the once-vaunted 8:20 barrier and give the Brits a run for their money. No one else is expected to challenge, though keep an eye on American Chloe Sutton, who looks to rebound from a disappointing eighth in the 1,500.