Sunday, February 7, 2010

Screw the Super Bowl, Bring on the Missouri Grand Prix!

I'm not the biggest fan of football. I never have been. I think swimming's just a better sport, and that includes for spectators. (Unfortunately, most of America disagrees with me.) Anyway, I've already shown my controversial predictions for Missouri, so I will go over some of the big storylines headed into the meet.

*Lochte vs. Phelps
Lochte makes his post-Rome return to competition in Missouri, and he will race none other than Michael Phelps, his biggest rival, in four races. His short course season undone by an ankle injury, Lochte has an big time uphill battle to catch Phelps in either the 200 free or 100 fly, while the 100 back will be one of the most anticipated races of the meet. Lochte will watch Phelps tackle his first long course 200 IM since Beijing, since then, Lochte has lowered Phelps' world record in the event. Expect one of the greatest duels in swimming when these two meet once again in the event in Irvine this summer for Nationals.

*The University of Southern California International Center for Swimming Excellence
Dave Salo has built up a huge group of international stars to go along with his college team at USC. Salo coaches swimmers from five foreign countries in addition to Americans. Among those competing in Missouri: Markus Rogan of Austria, a double Olympic silver medalist in backstroke taking on some of the best American (and thus, world) backstrokers of 2010; Thiago Pereira of Brazil, fourth in both IMs in Rome, who, in addition to Michael Phelps, gets a re-match in the 200 IM with Eric Shanteau, the man who outtouched him for bronze in Rome by two tenths of a second; Ous Mellouli of Tunisia, who, in addition to his traditional distance races which he should dominate, will take on Phelps and Lochte in the 200 free, and return to the IMs, at one point his focus events; and Kosuke Kitajima of Japan, the greatest breaststroker in history, and coming off missing the Worlds in 2009, Kitajima will battle American Eric Shanteau, one of the big beneficiaries from Kitajima's absence in Rome.

*The Future of Women's Swimming
Liz Pelton. She went 1:51.48 in her 200 yard back in Long Beach, and she has been swimming lights-out since Indianapolis last summer. Swimming in her first long course meet since Rome, expect Pelton to pace the world in her best events and jump to AT LEAST the top three in the world rankings in both backstrokes and the 200 IM. We could see 1:01 (100 back), 2:10 (200 back), and 2:12-high (200 IM), times the world has yet to see in textile 2010. Some swimmers may have trouble getting back down to their best times this year, but Pelton won't. This summer was just a glimpse into what Elizabeth Pelton is capable of.

*The Greatest, the Bridesmaid, the Newcomer, and the Veteran
The men's 100 back is always one of the best races in a meet in America, and in Missouri it will be even better with some foreign talent in the field. First, you've got the 2007 World Champs Silver Medalist in Ryan Lochte. Next is the man who now holds the 100 back short course meters world record, Nick Thoman. The 2004 Olympic silver medalist, Markus Rogan, is once again training in the U.S., and he will be a player here. Oh, and some Phelps guy. Sounds like a race. All of these guys swim pretty similar races and are back-half swimmers, so it will be a close one for sure. I've stated who I think will touch first, but it's really anyone's guess.

*"I Wanna Be a Sprinter"
So Michael Phelps wants to be a sprinter, huh? He wants to be dominant in the 100 free like he is in so many other events. In 2009, he went for the 100 free at the two Grand Prix meets he swam in and got defeat handed to him by the likes of Fred Bousquet and Brent Hayden, both getting pretty excited with their defeats of Phelps. In Missouri, Phelps goes head-to-head with Hayden once again. While it will be a good marker for Phelps in his quest for speed, it will give the swimming world a chance to see how Hayden is progressing in his attempts to return to the top of the sprinting world. He finished fourth in the 100 in Rome this past summer as the fastest competitor wearing a LZR (or similar) suit.

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