Even though six world records were set today, it was actually a relatively slow session!
- Both 200 breasts were completely random! Weird finishes, no world records, the world record-holders (from semis) not winning, etc.
- Some swim from Peirsol! That, with or without the X-Glide, was impressive. Very impressive.
- Russia had a bunch of chances to win the relay tonight but didn't take advantage of any of them! Actually, the only American that had a really good swim was Berens (2nd fastest split in history), with his 1:44.1, while Lochte was ok, considering he was coming off the 200 back, Walters was out waaaaay too fast, while Phelps was too tired. For the Russians, Lobinsev was perfect, while the middle guys kind of faltered (Izotov was slower than his individual bronze swim), and Sukhorukov was ok. Interesting race for sure.
- 50 free's gonna be a dogfight tomorrow. When a meet record is set in a swim-off for eight place, something's up! Anyone of the eight guys could (theoretically) win it. I'd love to see either of the Americans win it; both would be great stories.
Women's 50 free: Look for six girls to battle it out in the women's splash and dash. First is Britta Steffen, who looks to complete a wrap of both sprints at Worlds and the Olympics. Libby Trickett took second to Steffen in the 100 and is the two-time defending champ. Marleen Veldhuis holds the world record, and she had a great swim in the semis of the 50 fly, so she could be ready to pop off a good one. Therese Alshammar, the world record-holder in the 50 fly, will always be a threat in this event, as she took silvers both in Sydney in 2000, as well as in Melbourne two years ago. Don't count out the oldest and youngest swimmers in the field. On one end of the age spectrum is 17 year old Cate Campbell, the Olympic bronze medalist, who appears ready for a nice drop, while 42 year old Dara Torres, who finished just 0.01 behind Steffen in Beijing, tries to rebound from disappointing swims earlier in the 4x100 free relay and the 50 fly.
Women's 50 breast: The breaststrokes have been crapshoot events so far, and expect that to continue. The top three appear to be the Russian duo of Yuliya Efimova and Valentina Artemyeva and Canadian world record-holder Amanda Reason. Ironically, both Russians have swam faster than Reason. Look for the first sub-30 swim from one of these ladies. Also, watch for Americans Rebecca Soni and Kasey Carlson, and Canada's Annamay Pierse, all of whom have had great success in breaststroke events this week, and Aussies Sarah Katsoulis and Tarnee White, both of whom have amazing speed.
Men's 50 back: In the absence of world record-holder Randall Bal, the favorite appears to be the Japanese speedster who greatly benefited from Aaron Peirsol's absence in the 100 back. Junya Koga, always a better 50 swimmer, who is the second fastest swimmer ever, will be tough to beat. One man who can possibly do it, though, is Brit Liam Tancock, the bronze medalist in Melbourne and the third-fastest man in history. Other possibilities include Spain's Aschwin Wildeboer, the bronze medalist in the 100; Germans Thomas Rupprath, who held the world record for five years, and Helge Meeuw, the silver medalist in the 100, as well as Japanese swimmer Ryosuke Irie, who took silver in the 200 back. In addition, don't forget about defending world champ Gerhard Zandberg, even though he has not posted any top time this year. Americans Matt Grevers and Peirsol both have chances, but Peirsol will likely scratch at some point (in Melbourne, after qualifying 10th in prelims) to concentrate on the medley relay coming up.
Women's 4x100 medley relay: The rivalry between the Americans and the Aussies continues in this event. These two countries were the only two to have finalists in all four 100 stroke events, and this race looks to be even closer than last summer, with Leisel Jones, the only Aussie who beat her American counterpart, absent from Rome. The Aussies have medalists in the 100 back (Emily Seebohm, bronze), 100 fly (Jessicah Schipper, silver), and 100 free (Libby Trickett, bronze), while American Rebecca Soni won the 100 breast, and Amanda Weir and Dana Vollmer were fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 100 free and 100 fly. On paper, it shapes up to be a close on, with Australia just slightly ahead. The top two contenders for the bronze both have three great swimmers, but weak breaststrokers. Great Britain is led by Gemma Spofforth, who won gold in the 100 back, and Fran Halsall, the silver medalist in the 100 free, while China has Zhao Jing, the gold medalist in the 50 back, and Jiao Liuyang, the silver medalist in the 100 fly. No other country appears to have the speed to come close to these four.
Australia prelims: Belinda Hocking, Tarnee White, Felicity Galvez, Marieke Guehrer
Australia finals: Emily Seebohm, Sarah Katsoulis, Jessicah Schipper, Libby Trickett
USA prelims: Liz Pelton, Kasey Carlson, Christine Magnuson, Julia Smit*
USA finals: Hayley McGregory, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer, Amanda Weir
*With the coaches likely resting Vollmer, Smit could swim the free leg, or Magnuson could take free with Mary Descenza swimming fly.
Men's 1,500 free: The top swimmers in the men's mile appear to be the ones who took home hardware in the 800 free: Zhang Lin of China, Ous Mellouli of Tunisia, and Ryan Cochrane of Canada. What order they finish in is anyone's guess at this point. Look for them to challenge the once-unbeatable world record of the great Grant Hackett. Zhang knocked six and a half seconds off Hackett's world record in the 800, but Mellouli and Cochrane have better track records in this event, having finished 1-3 around Hackett in this event in Beijing. Other swimmers to keep an eye on include Russia's Yuri Prilukov, the 2007 silver medalist, and Great Britain's David Davies, who took bronze at the last two world champs, as well as Korea's Park Tae Hwan, the Olympic gold medalist in the 400, coming off a very disappointing week; hometown favorite Federico Colbertaldo, who was tenth in Beijing; as well as Zhang's teammate, Sun Yang, eighth in this event in Beijing. Australia has long been a power in this race, but with the retirements of Grant Hackett and Craig Stevens, both swimmers (Robert Hurley and Ryan Napolean) have outside chances to final, at best. On the American side, Larsen Jensen and Erik Vendt have both retired, Peter Vanderkaay has passed on the event, and Chad LaTourette, who could be the next great American distance swimmer, is not in Rome, having swum in the World University Games. The swimmers representing the red, white, and blue, are Texas sophomore Jackson Wilcox and North Baltimore swimmer (and Katie Hoff's boyfriend) Brendan Morris. Both of them have a long way to go to get into the final.