Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Poll: Records and Recognition

The 2009 championships season has come and gone, and the sport of swimming is in the middle of a transition away from performance-enhancing suits while swimmers around the world are trying to get last cracks at some of the few world records that remain on the books from before the tech suit revolution.

As we transition into 2010, the question is: how many world records will fall? Assuming high-tech suits are allowed in the World Cup and European Short Course championships, the bullrun of bullsuit world records is not over. Also, how many will be set in 2010 when these suits go away?

Picking standout swims and swimmers this year is harder than it has been in the past. For example, after the Beijing Games, it was clear that Michael Phelps and Stephanie Rice would be named World Swimmers of the Year. This year, though, there are three or four swimmers who could win the men's award and two or three the women's award. Who do you think will take home top honors?

Click here to take survey.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Swim Pics

Thought I'd share some of the best swim pics I've found over the last few years... Enjoy!

The French relay a year before... Fabien Gilot, Julien Sicot, Fred Bousquet, and Alain Bernard just happy to have won a medal, after taking bronze at the Worlds in Melbourne in 2007.

A mixture of relief and excitement for Aussie distance great Grant Hackett, after coming back from a mediocre Olympics up to that point in 2000 to take down his countryman Kieren Perkins to win his first of two 1,500 gold medals.

Michael Phelps working to catch up to the rest of the world after his six month hiatus post-Beijing. His red, white, and blue NBAC cap says "London 2012" on one side.

Ryan Lochte at a low-key meet at the University of Michigan, just months after taking down Aaron Peirsol in the 200 back at the 2007 Worlds in Melbourne, picking up his first individual gold on an international long course stage.

Lochte, looking very serious as he accepts the High Point award at the 2009 Nationals.

Famed sprinter and showman Gary Hall Jr., flexing the biceps before his gold in the 50 free in Sydney.

Frenchman Fred Bousquet at the 2008 Ohio State Grand Prix, following a mild upset of his training partner Cesar Cielo in the the 50 free.

One year later, as Bousuquet celebrates becoming the first man under 21 in the 50 free, his time nearly a second faster than that from Ohio State.

Another piece of history for Michael Phelps, as he becomes the first swimmer to claim the Sports Illustrated Athlete of the Year award.

A standoff? Rafael Munoz and Milorad Cavic on the blocks before their final in the 50 fly in Rome.

Why else would FINA have allowed the full-polyurethane suits into the World champs?

Don't forget to check out my new article on Swimming World about the road "From Rome to London." Click here to read it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

U.S. Open

The U.S. Open starts tomorrow in Federal Way, Washington and continues through Saturday. Swimmers to look out for include Jessica Hardy, coming back off a year-long doping suspension; Nick Thoman, who finished 3rd by 0.01 at Nationals in the 100 back; Elaine Breeden, a 2008 Olympian who took third in both butterflys at Nationals; Kate Ziegler, a four-time distance World champ; World University champ Chad LaTourette; rising sprint star Jimmy Feigen; veterans Michael Klueh and Nick Brunelli; Pan Pac champion Whitney Myers; NCAA champion Lara Jackson; 2-time Olympian Margaret Hoelzer; and world 100 breast bronze medalist Kasey Carlson. Also, IMer-turned-sprinter George Bovell is tentatively scheduled to swim the 50 free on Saturday, coming off a seventh-place finish at Worlds, where he became the third-fastest man in history, by virtue of his swim-off time of 21.20.

Predictions for the meet:

(Example: gold/silver/bronze)

W 200 fly: E. Breeden (2:06.92)

M 200 fly: B. Bollier/H. Sano

W 200 breast: M. Taneda (JPN)/K. Freeman/E. Tinnon

M 200 breast: J. Criste/M. Lowe/R. Lovelace

W 800 free: K. Ziegler 8:27.69

M 1,500 free: C. LaTourette 14:55.39

W 400 IM: J. Mueller

M 400 IM: J. Brown/R. Margalis/B. Bollier

W 100 free: J. Hardy 54.66

M 100 free: J. Feigen 48.33/N. Brunelli/M. Klueh

W 200 back: M. Hoelzer 2:08.97/M. Meyer

M 200 back: N. Thoman 1:55.10/P. Roger (FRA)/P. Schirk

W 400 free: K. Ziegler 4:07.27

M 400 free: M. Klueh 3:46.57/C. LaTourette 3:46.99

W 100 fly: Elaine Breeden 57.58/W. Myers

M 100 fly: K. Kawamoto (JPN) 51.20 (NR*)

W 200 free: P. Castro (ESP)/K. Ziegler/W. Myers

M 200 free: M. Klueh 1:46.93/B. Bollier/R. Margalis

W 100 breast: K. Carlson 1:06.47/J. Hardy 1:07.10/K. Freeman

M 100 breast: M. Titus/M. Lowe/M. Alexandrov

W 100 back: M. Hoelzer 1:00.58

M 100 back: N. Thoman 52.66/B. Hesen/P. Roger (FRA)

W 1,500 free: K. Ziegler

W 200 IM: W. Myers/J. Mueller

M 200 IM: J. Brown/N. D'Innocenzo/R. Margalis

W 50 free: L. Jackson 24.47/J. Hardy 24.83

M 50 free: G. Bovell 21.51/J. Feigen 21.58/N. Brunelli

M 800 free: C. LaTourette 7:47.19/S. Rouault (FRA)

*I think Kawamoto's time will beat Takuro Fujii's Japanese record of 51.28.

Prelims begin at 9am, and finals start at 6pm. I will post the link to live results when available.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Roma 09: The Grand Finale

Couple things about prelims, then straight into my last predix:

- Men's 400 IM looks like a three-way race between Clary, Lochte, and Cseh. I like the way the Americans are set up for this one...

- Women's 400 IM should be a good one. Rice, Beisel, and Hosszu are all set up very well, but Kirsty Coventry is very dangerous from lane 1. That's the lane where she won Olympic silver from. I think three of these four women will comprise the medalists.

- Men's medley relay: There has been all this talk about France and Brazil and maybe Australia challenging the Americans in the medley relay, but the team that I'm most worried about is Germany. They had finalists in 2 out of 4 100 stroke events, a semi-finalist in another, and the gold medalists in the 200 and 400 free! Tell me they're not looming! An advantage for the Americans is that in all seven of the other teams, only two swimmers will be replaced (Cielo over Olivera for Brazil, Rickard over Sprenger for Australia), while the Americans have four fresh swimmers waiting to take the reigns.

Predix for the last SEVEN finals:

Men's 50 back:
Gold: Liam Tancock 25.12
Silver: Junya Koga 25.19
Bronze: Aschwin Wildeboer 25.30
*Bronze is wide open.

Women's 50 breast:
Gold: Yuliya Efimova 29.97 WR
Silver: Amanda Reason 30.19
Bronze: Sarah Katsoulis 30.22
*Also watch Americans Kasey Carlson and Rebecca Soni, and Canadian Annamay Pierse.

Men's 400 IM:
Gold: Laszlo Cseh 4:04.97
Silver: Ryan Lochte 4:05.18
Bronze: Tyler Clary 4:06.12

Women's 50 free:
Gold: Britta Steffen 23.89 WR
Silver: Cate Campbell 23.94
Bronze: Marleen Veldhuis 23.98
*Keep an eye on 2-time defending champion Libby Trickett.

Men's 1,500 free:
Gold: Ous Mellouli 14:35.89
Silver: Zhang Lin 14:36.33
Bronze: Ryan Cochrane 14:39.27
*There is a possibility that Grant Hackett's world record of 14:34.56 will fall. It is the oldest record on the books - in fact the only men's record remaining from pre-2008.

Women's 400 IM:
Gold: Kirsty Coventry 4:28.07 WR
Silver: Stephanie Rice 4:28.46
Bronze: Katinka Hosszu 4:30.07
*Coventry showed her back-end fitness in the 200 back, and look for that to pay off for her here. Hosszu has had the meet of her life, and expect that to continue. Watch for American Elizabeth Beisel.

Men's 400 medley relay:
Gold: United States (Peirsol, Shanteau, Phelps, Walters) 3:27.27 WR
Silver: Germany (Meeuw, Feldwehr, Starke, Biedermann) 3:28.57
Bronze: France (Stravius, Duboscq, Lefert, Bernard) 3:28.83
*Also watch for Brazil, featuring sprint king Cesar Cielo, and Australia, featuring 100 breast gold medalist Brenton Rickard.


This will be my last blog for a few days. I will be back soon enough to recap the whole meet and beginnning of the build-up from Rome to London.

Don't forget about the U.S. Open in Federal Way, Washington, Tuesday, August 4-Saturday, August 8, which will feature Jessica Hardy, returning from a year-long doping ban due to contaminated supplements; butterflyer Elaine Breeden, who took two third-place finishes at Nationals in Indianapolis; and backstroke star Nick Thoman, coming off missing the Worlds team by 0.01 in the 100 back. Also, George Bovell, ranked third all-time in the 50 free, is tentatively scheduled to swim.

The Australian National team returns Down Under for their short course nationals, which begin Saturday, August 8. They will be joined by Nick D'arcy, returning from being kicked off his country's team for Rome. Also keep an eye on British short course nationals, which will feature not only its own national team, but also that of Canada.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Roma 09: Day 7 Finals

Couple things about a great session of finals before I preview the last session of prelims.

- That 100 fly was classic. Both Phelps and Cavic were actually out faster than I expected and came back slower, but it was definitely the best race of the meet.

- The swims by Coventry and Beisel in the 200 back show that they are both medal threats in the 400 IM tomorrow... (more below)

- Dara Torres on twitter: "That is by far the happiest 8th place finish I've ever had...haha!! Never thought I'd say that being how competitive I am!" She just slipped into the eighth spot in the 50 free. Considering her ailing knee and inconsistent training from this year, she clearly does not expect the same from herself as she did last year. On the bright side, this may not be it for her quite yet...

Tomorrow's prelims:

Men's 400 IM: This race should be between the men who took silver and bronze in Beijing, Ryan Lochte of the U.S. and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary. They are also the second and third fastest performers in history. However, both are more than two seconds away from Michael Phelps' world record, so expect that to live past Roma, although Phelps' meet record from 2007 should fall. Both men are strong at all four strokes, but the race will really come down to who swims it the best. One main reason Cseh beat Lochte into third in Beijing was Lochte's misguided race strategy (as well as his illness). He took the butterfly and first 50 of backstroke out a little bit too fast, not leaving him with enough energy to use the breaststroke and freestyle as he has in the past. Another medal favorite is Tyler Clary, who has been 4:06.99. Expect Clary to be out in the first half of the race, considering fly and back are his best strokes, most likely under world record-pace. He will come back to the field on the breaststroke, his weakest stroke, but he has a very solid freestyle. Also there is Brazil's Thiago Pereira, who finished fourth in the 200 IM in Beijing and also here. In Beijing, he was fourth for most of this race, but faded to eighth on the last 50, proving that freestyle is by far his weakest stroke. Also watch two solid Italian IMers, Luca Marin, who won bronze behind Phelps and Lochte in Melbourne, and Alessio Boggiatto, who has taken fourth in this event for three straight Olympics, and also the 2001 world champ.

Women's 400 IM: Two women battled head-to-head for gold in Beijing, becoming the first two ever under 4:30, but the rest of the world has closed the gap. Stephanie Rice holds the world record and is coming off a silver in the 200 IM to American Ariana Kukors (who is not in the longer medley). However, the rest of her meet has been very mediocre, including bombing out of the 200 free. She could very well be back on top for one of her signature events. Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, the Olympic silver medalist, did not swim well at the beginning of the meet, finishing fourth in the 200 IM and eighth in the 100 back, but she back-halfed her way to a world record in the 200 back. She will probably be under her best time tomorrow. Also watch for Hungary's Katinka Hosszu, who has had a brilliant meet so far. Going into this, her best event, the Southern California standout has already taken two bronzes, in the 200 fly and 200 IM. She definitely has the potential to get under 4:30 and medal. Great Britain's Hannah Miley is ranked fourth all-time, and she has had a great year, so expect her to challenge for a medal. Coming off a great swim in the 200 back, look for Elizabeth Beisel to be an outside medal threat. Italy's Alessia Filippi has already won a pair of medals in distance free, and the finalist in Beijing may have a chance for a medal here as well. American Julia Smit has not swum as well in Rome as she did at Nationals in Indianapolis, but she is a threat to final and has an outside podium shot.

Men's 400 medley relay: With the way the events of the meet have unfolded, it appears the only thing that could keep the Americans off the top of the podium is missing finals, like they did today in the women's relay. However, it shouldn't be a problem for the men, and with Aaron Peirsol*, Eric Shanteau, Michael Phelps, and Dave Walters, gold should be pretty certain. (If indeed they swim their B-team in prelims, it would consist of Matt Grevers*, Mark Gangloff, Tyler McGill, and Nathan Adrian.) A team with a real chance to get up on the podium and possibly challenge the Americans is Germany. They will have Helge Meeuw, the silver medalist in the 100 back; Hendrik Feldwehr, who made the 100 breast final; Benjamin Starke, a 100 fly semi-finalist; and then Paul Biedermann, their national record-holder (48.39 in an old suit) who has had an excellent week. (Their chance for a medal decreases if they do not swim Biedermann.) France should be good as well, with a superior breaststroker (Hugues Duboscq) and freestyler (Alain Bernard), as well as solid swimmers in the other strokes. Brazil has a surprisingly good relay, consisting of finalists in the 100 breast (Henrique Barbosa) and 100 fly (Gabriel Mangabeira) and the 100 free champion Cesar Cielo. Australia has a superb breaststroke leg with world champ Brenton Rickard, but the other swimmers don't have the firepower to match up with the favorites. Japan has 100 back world champion Junya Koga, but they will really fade towards the end. Other teams with chances to make the final eight include Russia, Great Britain, South Africa, and possibly New Zealand and Italy.

*Even though Grevers finished higher than Peirsol in the 100 back, Peirsol has the world record and swam unbelieveably in the 200 back, leading most to believe he will swim finals.

Roma 09: Day 7 Prelims

Okay, so not the best morning for the U.S. The fact that we didn't make the medley relay finals just shows how fast this meet is - the time swam this morning would have placed the Americans second in Beijing qualifying! The one advantage to not having a finals relay is seeing how far Rebecca Soni can take the 50 breast. She has shown much more speed this week than ever in the past, so I think she should be able to make the final, at the very least. 1,500 prelims were pretty slow, but a very famed world record may be in its last full day of existence. Really hope Dara can get into the 50 free finals. It's amazing how the meet's not over yet, and she's already saying she's coming back!

Not much else to say about this morning. I think world records in both the men's 50 back and women's 50 breast are gone after semis.

Predix for finals:

Women's 50 Fly:
Gold: Therese Alshammar 25.12
Silver: Marleen Veldhuis 25.22
Bronze: Marieke Guehrer 25.44

Men's 50 Free:
Gold: Cesar Cielo 20.86 WR
Silver: Fred Bousquet 20.89
Bronze: Amaury Leveaux 21.21
*Bronze is completely wide open among six guys!

Women's 200 Back:
Gold: Kirsty Coventry 2:04.69 WR
Silver: Gemma Spofforth 2:05.99
Bronze: Elizabeth Beisel 2:06.72
*Also watch Russia's Anastasia Zueva and Great Britain's Elizabeth Simmonds.

Men's 100 Fly:
Gold and Silver: Michael(s) ... (I will post the order on twitter right before the race) 49.78 (WR), 49.83
Bronze: Andrew Lauterstein 50.48

Women's 800 Free:
Gold: Rebecca Adlington 8:12.89 WR
Silver: Joanne Jackson 8:15.85
Bronze: Alessia Filippi 8:16.51
*Also watch Demark's Lotte Friis and Romania's Camelia Potec.

Women's 400 Medley Relay:
Gold: Australia (Emily Seebohm, Sarah Katsoulis, Jessicah Schipper, Libby Trickett) 3:52.17 WR
Silver: China (Zhao, Chen, Jiao, Li) 3:54.93
Bronze: Great Britain (Spofforth, Tynan, Gandy, Halsall) 3:55.67
*Also watch out for Germany's team of Samulski, Poewe, Melhorn, and Steffen, as well as the Netherlands.