Sunday, June 27, 2010

Paris Open Part Deux

The Paris Open finished up today with two swimmers recording the best time of the year in their respective events. Cesar Cielo jumped ahead of the pack in the 50 free, taking down a decade-old benchmark in the process, while Yannick Agnel improved upon his own world-leading standard in the 200 free, taking down American superstar Michael Phelps in the process. In addition to Phelps, who took gold in the 200 IM, three other Americans scored victories on the second night of the meet, all in impressive form. Meanwhile, the top swimmer of day one, Camille Muffat, could not add to her winning total on the second evening, ending up second to French teammate Coralie Balmy in the 400 free.

The swim of the night came from Cielo, who posted a 21.55 to win the men's splash-and-dash. In the process, he became the first man without a non-textile suit to swim faster than Alexander Popov's 21.64 from 2000. After sweeping the sprints at the 2009 World Championships, the Brazilian continues to lead the sprinting world into a new era. Frenchmen Fabien Gilot (21.83) and Fred Bousquet (21.95) both impressed with sub-22 swims, while Nathan Adrian of the USA also improved on his 22.38 from the Santa Clara Grand Prix last week, clocking 22.01, as Adrian continues to make his case as America's next sprint star.

Agnel, meanwhile, crushed 2008 Olympic champion Michael Phelps in the 200 free. The Frenchman produced a front-half split of 52.07, to Phelps' 52.90, and he extended his advantage down the stretch. Coming in at 1:46.30, Agnel cut time from his previous world best of 1:46.35, while Phelps faded to third at 1:47.54, which tied for the seventh-best time in the world. The Netherland's Sebastien Verschuren overtook Phelps on the back-half and claimed second at 1:46.97. Both Agnel and Verschuren are sure to be tough competition for Germany's Paul Biedermann and Russia's Danila Izotov at this summer's European championships.

Phelps' time is an improvement over the Charlotte UltraSwim, where he clocked 1:47.73, but it still leaves him well short of times clocked by many of his biggest rivals. Notably, Biedermann, who beat Phelps at the World Championships, has swum 1:46.82, while Beijing silver medalist Park Tae-Hwan has put up a 1:46.98, which could lead to challenging Phelps at this summer's Pan Pacific championships.

Less than an hour after the 200 free, Phelps returned for the 200 IM, which he took with ease. His time of 1:58.95 is slower than the 1:58.35 he posted in Charlotte, but it is very respectable under the circumstances. Phelps' training partner Todd Patrick came in second at 2:00.81, the 16th best performance in the world, as Patrick positions himself to be a contender in multiple events at Nationals this summer. He is currently the third-ranked American, behind Phelps and Eric Shanteau (1:59.75). Patrick also clocked a swift 4:19.44 on Saturday in the 400 IM, leaving him just outside the world top-25.

France's Coralie Balmy touched-out countrywoman Camille Muffat in the 400 free, 4:05.40 to 4:05.49. Both move ahead of Rebecca Adlington and Bronte Barratt as the second and third-best times in the world, trailing only Federica Pellegrini. While Balmy made a move in positioning herself as a medal threat at the European championships with the race today, Muffat's swim is more impressive. With her versatility and world top-five times in the 200 free, 400 free, and 200 IM, Muffat is one of the most underrated swimmers in the world. A rising force on the international stage, she has positioned herself for an impressive summer. Of note, USA's Allison Schmitt finished third in the race today, clocking 4:08.30, another mass improvement over any previous time she had posted this year.

Another poised for a break-out in due time is American teenager Liz Pelton. In Saturday's 200 back, Pelton faced off against Great Britain's Lizzie Simmonds. Many expected a close race, as the two swimmers have been the most impressive in the event so far this year. Simmonds got the better of Pelton, 2:08.29 to 2:08.57, despite Pelton's even-split race in which she nearly caught Simmonds at the end. Pelton dropped a tenth from her previous season best from April (2:08.67), moving to seventh in the world, but she saved the big fireworks for her 100 back today.

In the race, Pelton threw down a personal-best time of 59.99, cutting more than a half-second from her season-best of 1:00.64 that she posted at the Charlotte UltraSwim, as well as nearly that amount from her personal-best time of 1:00.47 from the World Championships last year. Moreover, she beat Simmonds convincingly, as the British swimmer checked in at 1:00.65. The time tied her at sixth in the world this year, and she became just the tenth swimmer to break 1:00 without the use of a non-textile suit. Her potential in both backstroke events for this summer is nearly unlimited. American records in either race would not be shocking.

The two other American victories during the final session in Paris came from Mark Gangloff in the men's 100 breast and Kim Vandenberg in the women's 200 fly. Both swam season-best times and became the fastest American for 2010. Vandenberg's time of 2:08.53 clipped Elaine Breeden's 2:08.73 posted a month ago, and the two swimmers stand ninth and tenth in the world. Like Breeden, Vandenberg failed to make the World Champs team last summer, withdrawing from the Trials after a disappointing 200 free. Now training in Marseilles in France, she has a strong chance to make a return to the U.S. team after claiming the silver in the 200 fly at the 2007 World Championships and a gold in the 4x200 free relay at the Beijing Olympics.

Gangloff, meanwhile, won the men's 100 breast in 1:00.73, the eighth-fastest time in the world. Gangloff dropped more than a second from his previous season-best of 1:01.84 from the Austin Grand Prix in March, while leap-frogging Marcus Titus, Eric Shanteau, and Mike Alexandrov to become the top American this year. At a time when, according to his wife Ashley's blog, Gangloff "has actually been getting his butt kicked by his coaches lately," the swim is extremely impressive and puts him back into the mix as one of the top breaststrokers in the world. Based on lackluster swims so far this year, I began to believe Gangloff was starting to slip from the best of the world's breaststrokers, but the swim changes a lot. In the race, he beat out Olympic silver medalist Alexander Dale Oen (1:00.84), Italy's Fabio Scozolli (1:00.95), and World Champs silver medalist Hugues Duboscq (1:01.34). Gangloff has potential to challenge the likes of Kosuke Kitajima and Brenton Rickard at this summer's Pan Pacific championships. Since consistency has been a problem for Gangloff over the years (such as at the Worlds in Rome), he must use this time as a starting base in order to get to the level of the best of the best.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Paris Open

After the first of two days of the fourth annual Paris Open, the meet already has an undisputed star, Camille Muffat. A rising star from the host nation, Muffat posted two impressive victories. On the men's side, Muffat's namesake posted another French victory of the day, as Camille Lacourt took the 100 back. The big story of the Open is Michael Phelps' visit to France to compete in four events, including the 100 free. In a strong field including both the world champion Cesar Cielo and Olympic champion Alain Bernard of France, a lesser-known Frenchman emerged with the win over the rising talent of the sprinting world.

Muffat started off her evening with a win in the 200 free, where she posted a 1:56.92, leaving her second in the world to Federica Pellegrini. The Netherlands and U.S. rounded out the places, with Femke Heemskerk moving up to third in the world with a 1:57.27, while Allison Schmitt swam an impressive 1:58.01. Schmitt did not swim well at either of her other two long course meets this season, and this is her first time under 2:00 since last summer's world championships, where she claimed silver in 1:54.96.

Muffat took to the water again for the 200 IM barely an hour later. An event she is more known for, having finalled at the world championships, clocking 2:11.18, not far off her 2:10.48 from French Nationals. She currently stands fourth in the world, behind only Australia's Stephanie Rice, China's Ye Siwen, and USA's Ariana Kukors.

Camille Lacourt, meanwhile, dominated the 100 back in an impressive time of 53.73. While off of his season-best of 53.29, it improves on his times of 53.97 and 54.00 from the Mare Nostrum tour. For perspective, the time is just off of Nick Thoman's 53.70 from the Charlotte UltraSwim and well ahead of David Plummer's winning time of 55.25 from Santa Clara last week. Another American, David Russell, finished third in the race in 54.65; Russell has made big improvements in the past year in both backstroke, which has traditionally been his strongpoint and his focus, as well as butterfly, where he has an outside shot to make the U.S. team in the 100 distance.

Roland Schoeman posted a swift 23.61 to take the 50 fly over Fred Bousquet (23.83). Also in the event was Australia's Matt Targett, the World silver medalist. Targett, who recently missed making the Australian team for Pan Pacs and Commonwealth Games, is swimming in his first meet since March, when he admitted to not being in the best form of his life. He finished ninth in the 50 fly, in a time of 24.83. He later posted a 51.12 in the 100 free. Certainly, these times are not impressive on a global stage, but they stand as solid benchmarks as he makes a return to the top level.

Another multi-eventer not advancing past prelims was American Tom Shields. Coming off winning the 100 fly NCAA title as a freshman, Shields is aiming to break out onto the national and international stage this summer. In Paris, he swam the 50 fly (tenth, 24.86), 200 fly (14th, 2:04.41), and 100 free (26th, 51.23). None of the three swims are shabby, especially with the close turnarounds. Moreover, they are solid steps in his progression from an amazing short course season to a long course display this summer. His best chances for a major team are the 100 fly and 200 free (for the relay), both events he will swim on Sunday in Paris.

Superstar Michael Phelps obliterated his competition in his signature event, the 200 fly. In fact, Phelps is so dominant in the event, his prelim time of 1:57.88 would have beaten everyone else by more than a second. Cruising in at 1:55.70, Phelps clearly is showing improvement over the 1:57.91 he clocked two weeks ago, even if it doesn't approach last year's speed at this time (1:54.37). He continues to keep his closest competition in the rearview mirror, as Laszlo Cseh has posted the second-best in-season swim this year, 1:56.88 at the Canet stop of the Mare Nostrum two weeks ago.

Phelps also swam the 100 free on the first day in Paris. In a field loaded with talent and experience, it was not surprising to see a big name on the outside looking in. Olympic champion and hometown favorite Alain Bernard finished a surprising 17th in prelims, at 50.44. Additionally, two-time world champion Filippo Magnini and French relay silver medalists Amaury Leveaux and Fred Bousquet all missed the cut. Phelps and world champion Cesar Cielo did make the final, starting from lanes one and two, respectively, as the most experienced of the event.

In the final, however, both fell to relative newcomers. Cielo ended up fifth in 49.23, before expressing major disappointment with the swim. Cielo said afterwards, "I did what? 49.23? Olalala is bad, it's bad! I am disappointed; I had a lot to prove today, me and others. Fifth in 49.23, it is not at all what I expected. But I must move on. Tomorrow? I must go faster (in the 50 free)..."

Back in the water less than an hour after the 200 fly, Phelps had a poor start and could never get into contention, finishing last in 49.70, off even his prelim swim of 49.44. According to reports from Paris, Phelps, after the race, looked "disappointed, almost annoyed." Phelps will aim to rebound in two races on Sunday, the 200 free and 200 IM.

France's Fabien Gilot ended up the victor, in a time of 48.65 (48.59 in prelims). Gilot clearly held underdog status in the field, but he beat out the best in sprinting over the last several years. Rising sprint stars Nathan Adrian and Yannick Agnel dead-heated for second in 48.83, the exact same time Adrian clocked last week in Santa Clara. Another relatively new name to emerge on the world stage, Dutchman Sebastiaan Verschuren, finished fourth in 49.01.

Times in the sprint world have fallen all over the map this year. Americans trail in the world rankings thus far, with only four men under 50 seconds: Adrian (48.83), Garrett Weber-Gale (49.31), Phelps (49.44), Matt Grevers (49.45), and Jason Lezak (49.90). Although the Americans will not meet the mighty French 4x100 free relay this year, there is clearly a Gaul advantage right now, with four swimmers under 49 seconds: Bernard (48.32), Gilot (48.52), William Meynard (48.79), and Agnel (48.83). The picture will become much clearer after U.S. Nationals in August, but much work needs to be done in hopes of continuing the American winning streak in the relay at next summer's World Championships and the London Olympics in 2012.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Swimming World Poll of the Week: Will Nick Thoman Win the 100 Back at Nationals?

This week's Swimming World Poll of the Week deals with Nick Thoman, who graces the cover of the July issue of the magazine. The question is simply, will he win his signature 100 back at Nationals this summer?

For years, this event has been one of the most deep and competitive on the National scene. Medal contenders, even gold medal contenders, have been forced to sit out the race. Since 1996, Americans have won all four Olympic golds in the event, as well as claiming gold at four of the last eight world championships. At world championships in 2005 and 2007, the U.S. went 1-2, as well as at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. In Beijing, 200 back gold medalist Ryan Lochte wasn't even a part of the sweep, as he ended up third at U.S. trials. Needless to say, the event will be very competitive in Irvine this summer once again.

Irvine could be the meet for Nick Thoman to break-out and make it to the top of the National scene for the first time. After swimming for two years at the University of Arizona, Thoman moved to Austin, Texas, where he trained with esteemed coach Randy Reese. At the 2008 Olympic trials, Thoman made finals in both the 100 and 200 back but finished well out of contention. However, at the U.S. Open a month later, Thoman swam the second and third-fastest times in history (at the time) in the 100 back, missing countryman Aaron Peirsol's world record by merely two one-hundredths, clocking 52.91. The time would have taken silver in Beijing, to Peirsol's new world record of 52.54, but ahead of U.S. silver medalist Matt Grevers.

In early 2009, Thoman split from Reese and moved to Baltimore to train in the elite squad under Bob Bowman. Soon enough, however, Thoman left Baltimore and did not have a permanent training home when he arrived at Nationals in Indianapolis in July, 2009. In the 100 back final, Peirsol won with another world record, 51.94, while Thoman came in at 53.12, just one one-hundredth of a second behind Grevers. Once again, at the U.S. Open, Thoman improved his time, clocking 52.51, which made him the sixth-fastest performer in history, and the second-fastest American behind Peirsol.

After the meet, Thoman moved to Charlotte and SwimMAC Carolina to train with David Marsh. Immediately, he started seeing improved consistency and performance. He took gold in the 100 back at short course Nationals, and he backed it up two weeks later with a world record in the short course meters 100 back at Duel in the Pool. As the 2010 long course season progressed, Thoman improved each of the four times he swam the 100 back: 54.40 in February at the Missouri Grand Prix, 54.34 in March at the Austin Grand Prix, 53.95 in April at the Ohio State Grand Prix, and 53.70 in May at the Charlotte UltraSwim. At the UltraSwim, he beat out Phelps, Grevers, and Peirsol for the top spot. Interestingly, Thoman told me two weeks prior at a clinic that he wanted to swim 53.7 in the 100 back. He put together an awesome swim and got it done (to the delight of the hometown crowd).

Thoman is riding a wave of confidence from his win in Charlotte. This year's race at Nationals could shape-up very differently than in previous years due to one usually-stalwart swimmer: Peirsol. Undefeated in this event from 2002 up until the World Championships last year, where he missed the final due to a miscalculation in the semis, Peirsol has not been on top of his game this year. Going into Nationals, he could be vulnerable in the event. The event is wide open at Nationals, with challengers coming from all directions, such as Grevers, David Plummer, Randall Bal, and others, but I think Nick Thoman WILL win the 100 back at Nationals.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Splash-and-Dash in America

At the Charlotte UltraSwim, I was fortunate enough to meet University of Cincinnati swim coach Monty Hopkins. In the same year that Cincinnati's athletic department cut funding for the swim program, Hopkins' swimmer Josh Schneider pulled off a dramatic underdog win in the 50 freestyle at NCAA's. Schneider followed up his NCAA success with a win over Cullen Jones in the 50 free in Charlotte, and a runner-up finish to Australia's Eamon Sullivan at the Setti Colli trophy meet in Pescara, Italy. Schneider's Charlotte time was 22.38, and in Pescara, he improved to 22.11, which ranked him 12th in the world, and he finished just behind the former world record-holder's 22.09.

Shortly after the 50 free in Charlotte, I told Coach Hopkins that the 50 is a relatively weak event for the U.S., and Josh could have an opening to get to the top level with continued improvement. The U.S. won a medal in the first five Olympics the 50 free was contested in. With the likes of Matt Biondi, Tom Jager, Bill Pilczuk, Anthony Ervin, and Gary Hall, Jr., the Americans dominated the event for years. Despite a 1-2 finish at the 2007 worlds with Ben Wildman-Tobriner and Cullen Jones, 2008 saw the Americans left behind in the 50, with stunning improvements from Australians, French swimmers, and the Brazilian who won the Olympic gold medal, Cesar Cielo. In 2009, both Jones and Nathan Adrian made the World Championships final, but both fell well in the wake of the top sprinters. Americans have not been able to step up to that top level.

Hopkins disagreed, citing America's depth in the 50 and the unpredictability of the event, So far in 2010, Schneider has the leading American time in the 50. However, according to Hopkins, "Anyone who thinks that Josh is the leading USA sprinter because he won NCAA's and won in Charlotte is really missing the plot." Veteran swimmers that have been there and done that will always be on the scene. Hopkins uses 2008 Olympians Ben Wildman-Tobriner and Jason Lezak as examples. Neither appeared to be on the top level at the beginning of 2008, but both delivered superb performances to make the team and perform better than expected in Beijing.

Hopkins further backs up his point from the other side of the equation. So often, swimmers emerge from the woodwork to become national contenders and champions. Schneider is a perfect example, going from a B-finalist at both NCAA's and long course Nationals in 2009 to NCAA champion in 2010. Hopkins used Cal's Josh Daniels as another example, not a big-name sprinter, but one who clocked 19.2 at NCAA's (in a jammer), and one who proved a suitable substitute for Nathan Adrian on Cal's winning 200 medley relay. Daniels is another swimmer who could emerge to challenge for the National title come August, as could the consistently-improving young Texas swimmer Jimmy Feigen and many others.

In a sense, we are both correct. America might not have the star power in the event, but Hopkins is certainly correct that Schneider doesn't have a free pass to success in the event due to the depth. Hopkins commented that "Josh has a lot of room for improvement and time enough to get there as long as he is willing to work harder in Quad year 3 than he has ever worked before... If he wants to stand on the podium in London, or any other big meet, he has to continue improving."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Santa Clara International Grand Prix

The 43rd annual Santa Clara International meet takes place today, Thursday, June 17, through Sunday, June 20. An annual stop on the Grand Prix circuit, this meet attracts high quality competition from all around the U.S., specifically the West Coast, as well as foreigners, most notably Canadians and Aussies. Natalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer are back from Mare Nostrum, Stanford's dynamic duo of Julia Smit and Elaine Breeden will make the short drive from Palo Alto, and 200 IM world champion Ryan Lochte makes his return to the event for the first time since Rome. Lochte suffered a knee injury in October, and he has yet been able to swim even a 50 of breaststroke in a race. However, he has been strong already in his other main events, the 200 free and 200 back, so look forward to an interesting race. Sprint star Nathan Adrian will compete in Santa Clara, along with Texas graduates Dave Walters and Ricky Berens and University of Arizona-trained Matt Grevers and Christine Magnuson. Recent high school grads Dagny Knutson and Elizabeth Beisel also make the trek to Santa Clara after posting strong swims at the Charlotte UltraSwim. Additionally, Canadian Olympic medalist Ryan Cochrane will be in Santa Clara, as will top Aussies Robert Hurley, Marieke Guehrer, Yolane Kukla, and more. Note that Island and UCB Dolphins are both Canadian teams. Check out both the psych sheet and live results. Meanwhile, take a look at my predictions.

Thursday, June 17:
Women's 1,500 Free
1 - Charetzeni Escobar Torres, Mexico
2 - Samantha Vanden Berge, UCLA
3 - Tanya Nanfria, Crow Canyon

Men's 800 Free
1 - Ryan Cochrane, Island
2 - Robert Hurley, Australia
3 - Thomas Fraser-Holmes, Australia

Friday, June 18:
Women's 100 Free
1 - Dana Vollmer, Cal
2 - Natalie Coughlin, Cal
3 - Julia Smit, Stanford

Men's 100 Breast
1 - Mike Alexandrov, Tucson Ford
2 - Marcus Titus, Tucson Ford
3 - Damir Dugonjic, Cal

Women's 200 Breast
1 - Keri Hehn, Trojan
2 - Megan Jendrick, KING
3 - Laura Sogar, Bluefish

Men's 200 Free
1 - Ricky Berens, Longhorn
2 - Ryan Lochte, Daytona Beach
3 - Dave Walters, Longhorn

Women's 400 Free
1 - Dagny Knutson, A.S.K.
2 - Meagan Nay, Australia
3 - Kelsey Ditto, Stanford

Men's 400 IM
1 - Thomas Fraser-Holmes, Australia
2 - Brian Johns, UCB Dolphins
3 - Clark Burckle, Tucson Ford

Women's 100 Fly
1 - Dana Vollmer, Cal
2 - Christine Magnuson, Tucson Ford
3 - Elaine Breeden, Stanford

Men's 200 Fly
1 - Kaio Almeida, Brazil
2 - Mark Dylla, Athens Bulldogs
3 - David Mosko, Cincinnati Marlins

Saturday, June 19:
Women's 400 IM
1 - Elizabeth Beisel, Bluefish
2 - Julia Smit, Bluefish
3 - Dagny Knuston, A.S.K.

Men's 100 Fly
1 - Masayuki Kishida, Tucson Ford
2 - Kaio Almeida, Brazil
3 - David Russell, Cal

Women's 100 Breast
1 - Kasey Carlson, Walnut Creek
2 - Katy Freeman, Santa Barbara
3 - Keri Hehn, Trojan

Men's 400 Free
1 - Robert Hurley, Australia
2 - Ryan Cochrane, Canada
3 - Thomas Fraser-Holmes, Australia

Women's 200 Free
1 - Dagny Knutson, A.S.K.
2 - Julia Smit, Stanford
3 - Sara Isokovic, Cal

Men's 200 Back
1 - Ryan Lochte, Daytona Beach
2 - David Russell, Cal
3 - Matt Grevers, Tucson Ford

Women's 100 Back
1 - Julia Wilkinson, Island
2 - Elizabeth Beisel, Bluefish
3 - Meagan Nay, Australia

Men's 50 Free
1 - Nathan Adrian, Cal
2 - Jimmy Feigen, Longhorn
3 - Adam Brown, Auburn

Sunday, June 20:
Women's 200 Fly
1 - Kathleen Hersey, Longhorn
2 - Jasmine Tosky, Palo Alto
3 - Dagny Knutson, A.S.K.

Men's 200 Breast
1 - Sean Mahoney, Cal
2 - Mike Alexandrov, Tucson Ford
3 - Adam Klein, Auburn

Women's 50 Free
1 - Yolane Kukla, Australia
2 - Marieke Guehrer, Australia
3 - Lara Jackson, Tucson Ford

Men's 100 Free
1 - Nathan Adrian, Cal
2 - Ryan Lochte, Daytona Beach
3 - Dave Walters, Longhorn

Women's 200 IM
1 - Julia Smit, Stanford
2 - Dagny Knutson, A.S.K.
3 - Julia Wilkinson, Island

Men's 200 IM
1 - Ryan Lochte, Daytona Beach
2 - Thomas Fraser-Holmes, Australia
3 - Brian Johns, UCB Dolphins

Women's 200 Back
1 - Meagan Nay, Australia
2 - Elizabeth Beisel, Bluefish
3 - Madison White, Crow Canyon

Men's 100 Back
1 - Matt Grevers, Tucson Ford
2 - David Russell, Cal
3 - Ryan Lochte, Daytona Beach

Women's 800 Free
1 - Kelsey Ditto, Stanford
2 - Savannah King, UCB Dolphins
3 - Alexa Komarnycky, Island

Men's 1,500 Free
1 - Robert Hurley, Australia
2 - David Mosko, Cincinnati Marlins
3 - Ryan Hinshaw, Santa Clara

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Meets This Weekend

A lot of top-level athletes are in action this weekend at four meets across the world: the Mare Nostrum meet in Canet, the Southwest Classic, the TYR Meet of Champions, and the North Baltimore Long Course Championships.

One of two days is in the books in Canet. Americans Rebecca Soni and Dana Vollmer both claimed wins on day one, with Soni claiming the 100 breast over Russia's Yuliya Efimova and Vollmer leading a U.S. 1-2-3 with Kim Vandenberg and Natalie Coughlin in the 100 fly. A full recap is available at Tomorrow's finals start around 12 noon Eastern time (9am Pacific). Results for all races can be found here, and you can follow races live during finals.

The Southwest Classic in Tucson features most of the professionals who train at the University of Arizona, along with a squad from Australia, which includes 50 fly world champion Marieke Guehrer, 14 year old rising star Yolane Kukla, and mid-distance swimmers Kenrick Monk, Patrick Murphy, Robert Hurley, and Thomas Fraser-Holmes. On day one, Olympic 100 back silver medalist Matt Grevers faced off against his teammate Cory Chitwood, who won the 200 back NCAA championship in March. In a rare occurrence, Grevers and Chitwood tied for the win at 2:03.69. Full results from day one are available, as is a full recap of the meet's action. Results from the finals this evening and tomorrow evening will be available at the conclusion of action at FordAquatics.Net.

The annual TYR Meet of Champions has the best coverage of any meet this weekend. In addition to live results, Swimming World is showing live and on-demand video of finals races and interviews of winners, as well as on-demand videos of every preliminary heat. Garrett McCaffrey and Jeff Commings are in Mission Viejo at the meet providing commentary on the videos and interviews. Check out SwimmingWorld.TV for all of this coverage starting at 5pm Pacific (8pm Eastern) both tonight and tomorrow.

The weekend's final notable meet is taking place at the Meadowbrook Aquatic Center in Baltimore. Members of the elite training squad at North Baltimore are all competing, including Michael Phelps, Allison Schmitt, Liz Pelton, Felicia Lee, and Scott Spann. Full finals sessions take place tonight through Monday night, and full results will be available at North Baltimore's website following each session. In the first full session of prelims, Phelps qualified first in both the 100 fly and 100 breast, more than a second ahead of Spann in the latter. The 14-time Olympic champ will swim both the 200 breast and 200 fly on Sunday, before he goes for the 100 free and 200 back on Monday. Schmitt, meanwhile, finished first in the 200 free prelims, while both Lee and Pelton swam in off events this morning. Top swims from North Baltimore's elite will be posted on each night.

Swim Blogs United Emerges To Support College Swimming

Over the past year, collegiate institutions have cut or suspended over 300 programs due to Athletic Departments’ inability to financially and/or administratively support their swim teams. These cuts represent the significant loss of opportunity for thousands of student-athletes who consistently achieve the highest levels of academia and athletics throughout their school as well as the entire United States. However, over the past several months a few organizations have emerged to support the well-being of college swimming, and one of the newest efforts originates from Swim Blogs United.

Andy Scherer (Founder of and Braden Keith (Co-Owner of have collaborated with several of the most well-known swimming blogs and have formed Swim Blogs United (SBU). Aimed to be one of the biggest alliances of swimming websites, SBU will focus on supporting collegiate level swimming from a journalistic and blogging front.

Along with the ongoing editorial support from all partner sites, Swim Blogs United is also dedicated to support and work hand-in-hand with the financial efforts of Go For 5!. Through the SBU logos found on partner sites, visitors are able to make tax-deductable donations to Go For 5! Donations will help Go For 5! raise awareness, fund facilities, endow scholarships, and do whatever it takes to save college swimming programs.

“It is TSC’s (TheSwimmersCircle’s) goal as well as the goal of Swim Blogs United to consistently and uniformly raise awareness with regard to the cutting or suspending of collegiate swimming programs” Scherer commented. He went on to say, “Thanks to the efforts of the sites involved with SBU, we (the swim blogging community) will also be able to make a significant financial difference in the efforts of Go For 5!.”

Currently, Swim Blogs United consists of sites: (Andy Scherer & Braden Keith) (Bob Button) (Joel McKenna) (Shawn Klosterman) (Tracy Barbutes) (David Rieder)
To find out more information on how you can support the efforts of Swim Blogs United and make a true difference in the world of collegiate swimming, please visit or contact Andy Scherer at


As an update, SBU has added another two blogs to the mix with North Carolina Aquatic Club’s Ryan Woodruff joining on the efforts.


The above posts are a press release and a later add-on, respectively, both written by Scherer regarding the formation of Swim Blogs United, of which I am proud to be a part of. As an age group swimmer in South Carolina, I know at least one swimmer whose college swimming career will be cut short by Clemson's decision to eliminate the program. Swim Blogs United will be a necessary force to support college programs on the verge of a cut over the next few years. I don't think there are ten men's programs or ten women's programs in the nation safe from being cut. The members of Swim Blogs United hope that no more will be cut, especially those in Clemson's situation, where they are unable to provide sufficient reasons for the cut. To help in the cause, please make a tax-deductible donation to Go for 5! to support struggling collegiate programs.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Breakout Star Paul Biedermann

Didn't Paul Biedermann break-out in 2009? One could argue that he did so, jumping to the forefront of the world stage with world titles and world records in the 200 and 400 free. However, the suit controversy clouded his victories, like so many in Rome. Still, ten months later, I'm not convinced he would have won either race had the playing field been equal. In the 200 free, he took down the great Michael Phelps, and many attributed that victory to his Arena X-Glide, considered faster than Phelps' Speedo LZR. In the 400 free, bronze medalist Zhang Lin, who finished less than a second and a half back, wore a LZR (probably due to a ripped Jaked, which he wore for all other finals, including his 800 free world record), leaving the possibility of an even greater 400 from the Chinese star. Additionally, Biedermann fits the profile of an athlete that onlookers assumed the suits would help the most: he is a big, muscular swimmer. Needless to say, he had something to prove in 2010, despite his world records.

The German took a step in the right direction towards proving that he deserved his world titles at this weekend's stop of the Mare Nostrum tour in Monaco. His times did only part of the talking this weekend; 3:48.77 and 1:46.82 are superb times in a jammer, especially for right now. His 200 time ranks nearly a second ahead of what Phelps clocked at the Charlotte UltraSwim last month (1:47.73). However, he made his biggest statement beating Zhang Lin and Ous Mellouli in the 400 free. Winning the race by nearly a second, he proved that he has created a gap on the best in the world that no suit can discredit. Indeed, Zhang is ranked first in the world with his time of 3:44.91 from the Chinese Nationals in April, while swimming with some rest.

Biedermann needs taper. He flourishes with taper. His times will drop tremendously at the end of the season, even moreso now with the jammer. He won't be close to either of his world records this summer (1:42.00 and 3:40.07), but he could very well end up ranked first in the world in both. In the 400, a 3:42-high showing would not be shocking at the European Championships, where he is heavily favored to win the title. In the 200 free, Biedermann will "race" Michael Phelps once again, trying to beat whatever time Phelps (and others, such as Park Tae Hwan) post at meets in Irvine. Anything under 1:44 would be awesome for Biedermann. Posting a time better than Phelps would be even better.

For much of the swimming community, Biedermann and others who broke-out during the suit era have much to prove. (American Ariana Kukors would be another example.) In an even playing field, he may not have beaten Phelps last year; no one knows or will ever know. This year, he can prove that he is flat-out better than Phelps, and no one can argue. He is on the right track.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Swimming in Monaco

The first of two days at the Mare Nostrum meet in Monaco is in the books. Some of the top swimmers from Australia, Brazil, the United States, France, and many other nations are swimming a conventional format for all events from 100 to 400 as well as "Monaco 50s," a five-round knockout format. Some of these swimmers posted swift times on day 1, but racing was the best we've seen all year. All results are available in three languages, while you can watch live video of the races as well.

The Monaco 50s have a huge effect on the results at this stop of the Mare Nostrum tour. After focusing on the prelims of the 50 free, both France's Alain Bernard and Australia's Eamon Sullivan missed the finals of the 100 free. Bernard finished 13th in prelims, giving him the opportunity to swim in the B-final, where he won in 49.84, which would only have tied him for fourth in the final. Sullivan, meanwhile, did not get the same opportunity, finishing 17th in prelims. Some swimmers, such as Russia's Anastasia Zueva and USA's Jessica Hardy, decided to skip their longer events to focus on just the 50s in Monaco. Most likely, they will swim other events at other Mare Nostrum meets in the next week.

Undoubtedly, the most impressive performances today came in the women's breaststroke events. Russia's Yuliya Efimova improved on her top-ranked time in the world in the first of five rounds in the 50 breast. Additionally, she came in second in the 100 breast, clocking a swift 1:07.24, especially impressive for her fourth swim of the day. Also in her fourth swim of the day, American Rebecca Soni clocked 1:06.53, well off her second-ranked time in the world of 1:05.90 from the Charlotte Grand Prix. Soni has been a model of speedy consistency all year, and she now has four of the top six times this year in the 100 distance and four of the top five in the 200 breast. Later in the circuit, Soni will face Australia's Leisel Jones, the only swimmer who has posted times that rival her this year.

Notably absent from the 100 breast today was Soni's training partner Jessica Hardy, the world record-holder. Hardy decided to focus on 50s in Monaco, swimming freestyle, butterfly, and breaststroke. She holds the world record in the latter race. Ideally, if Hardy had advanced to the finals in all three, she would have swum 15 50s in 48 hours. However, she ended up dead-last in the quarter-finals of both fly and free, so she will just have the breaststroke tomorrow. In the semi-finals, the three fastest swimmers in history, Hardy, Efimova, and Soni will race along with Germany's Kerstin Vogel for the two spots in the final.

For the second time this year, Japan's Kosuke Kitajima and American Eric Shanteau faced off in the 200 breaststroke. Just like at the Missouri Grand Prix in February, Shanteau overtook his Japanese rival on the final lap to emerge with the victory, 2:11.51 to 2:12.17. The racers both swam times slower than expected; Shanteau has three times swum faster this year, including a 2:10.59 at the Charlotte UltraSwim, whilc Kitajima posted a 2:10.97 just last week in Irvine. The two will face off again at the Pan Pacs in August, while Australia's Brenton Rickard and Japan's Ryo Tateishi will also challenge. Expect it to be one of the best races of the year. Missing from the Pan Pacs will be Hungary's Daniel Gyurta, the man who out-touched Shanteau by just one one-hundredth for gold at the World Champs last year. Gyurta also closed on Kitajima in the last 50 in Monaco, finishing with a 2:12.23, just six one-hundredths out of second. These three could well end up the fastest swimmers in the world for 2010.

USA's Dana Vollmer pulled off a successful quadruple in the evening on day one. She posted a top-ranked 26.50 in round two of the 50 fly, cruised a 2:01 in the 200 free which placed her sixth, rebounded for a winning 58.91 in the 100 fly 15 minutes later, and finished second in round three of the 50 fly, where she clocked 26.82. Vollmer has set herself up to be one of the stars of USA Swimming this summer at Nationals and Pan Pacs. That 58.91 might be one of the most impressive swims of the day, considering the circumstances, and she can have a much better 200 free than she showed today. Perhaps later this week in Barcelona.

Vollmer qualified for the 50 fly finals along with world record-holder Therese Alshammar of Sweden, Hinkelien Schreuder of the Netherlands, and her training partner Natalie Coughlin. Coughlin and Vollmer will both race the 100 free tomorrow as well, along with Dutch swimmer Ranomi Kromowidjojo, the top-ranked swimmer in the world, as she posted a 53.44 in April. Like the Cal teammates, Kromowidjojo will swim in the semi-finals of the 50 free, so the three swimmers will each be swimming their second race of the night in the 100 free final. Despite this, all three swimmers could break 55 in an outstanding race.

In the men's 50 fly, Australia's Geoff Huegill led the way through quarter-finals with a swift 23.89, not far from his year best of 23.46 from March, a swim just two one-hundredths away from his lifetime best, a then-world record of 23.44 from 2001. His comeback from obesity is one that the swimming world and Australian general media has followed with great interest. As the 31 year-old goes into Commonwealth Games this summer as one of the favorites for gold, he breaks down his opponents race after race. He defeated Aussies Matt Targett and Andrew Lauterstein at their Trials in March, and he pushed Roland Schoeman, a co-favorite for Commonwealth Games gold, out of the quarter-finals today. Germany's Steffen Diebler remains in the field as Huegill's toughest competition. The short course world record-holder, Diebler twice swam 23.98 today, and he goes into the semi-finals ranked second. Defeating Diebler in a one-on-one final would be a major step in Huegill's progression.

Huegill has made it to Commonwealth Games but not in an Olympic event. He is slated to swim the 50 fly by virtue of his win in that event at Australian Nationals. However, he still has a chance to swim the 100 fly at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The top two finishers from the Trials, Andrew Lauterstein and Chris Wright, have already earned Delhi berths, but Huegill will battle Mitchell Patterson, Nick D'arcy, and fellow 2000 and 2004 Olympian Adam Pine for the third and final spot. As Huegill gets even further into his comeback, his 100 fly will improve. If Huegill can get to Commonwealth Games in the 100 fly and succeed in that event, he will have a chance for 2012. At the age of 33, he has seen the highs of competitive sport, followed by the lows of a lazy lifestyle. A return to the Olympics would be a return to the high.

Aaron Peirsol has not seen his typical successes this year. Following five years where no American beat him in a backstroke race, he gradually became vulnerable in the 200 back when his teammate Ryan Lochte closed in and stole all of his records and titles. In 2009, he reclaimed the top spot in the 200 back but suffered a shocking miss in the 100 back, losing his hold. However, since that amazing 200 back in Rome, he has not won an individual backstroke race. On the American circuit, four Americans have beaten him in a 100 back this year: Nick Thoman, Matt Grevers, David Plummer, and Michael Phelps. In his only 200 back since Rome, he finished nearly three seconds behind Lochte at the Charlotte UltraSwim, as well as Sebastiano Ranfagni, Grevers, Thoman, and Matt Hawes. As he returned to international waters today, France's Camille Lacourt beat him by more than a second, 53.97 to 55.21. (Shout-out to my British counterpart at the Speed Endurance blog for predicting that.) Both had just swam round two of the knockout 50 back. Peirsol may advance to the semi-finals of the 50 back (he tied for fourth in the quarter-finals), and he also will face Austria's Markus Rogan in the 200 back. Rogan, who finished second to Peirsol in both backstrokes in Athens, has the opportunity to take down Peirsol for the first time in his career. A loss to Rogan on the Mare Nostrum tour would not be significant; what would be, however, is losing his previously all-but-guaranteed spot on the U.S. roster in both backstroke distances. Does this disappointing season mean that Peirsol is losing his touch, or will he step it up, like he so often does, when push comes to shove?

Predictions for Day Two Finals:
50 Free - Fred Bousquet, France
200 Free - Paul Biedermann, Germany
50 Back - Camille Lacourt, France
200 Back - Markus Rogan, Austria
50 Breast - Kosuke Kitajima, Japan
100 Breast - Kosuke Kitajima, Japan
50 Fly - Geoff Huegill, Australia
100 Fly - Andrew Lauterstein, Australia
400 IM - Thiago Pereira, Brazil

50 Free - Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Netherlands
100 Free - Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Netherlands
400 Free - Coralie Balmy, France
50 Back - Anastasia Zueva, Russia
100 Back - Zhao Jing, China
50 Breast - Jessica Hardy, USA
200 Breast - Rebecca Soni, USA
50 Fly - Therese Alshammar, Sweden
200 Fly - Samantha Hamill, Australia
200 IM - Camille Muffat, France

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Open Water 10K Nationals

Open Water Nationals takes place this weekend in Long Beach. The USA Swimming press release does a much better job with details than I can.

The top open water swimmers in the U.S. will compete at the 2010 USA Swimming Open Water National Championships, June 4 and 6 in Long Beach, Calif. The competition includes both a 5K and 10K race, and will serve as the selection meet for the 2010 FINA Open Water World Championships and the 2010 Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championships.

A talented field of swimmers will compete in the 10K event on Saturday, June 4, including 2008 Olympian Chloe Sutton (Mission Viejo, Calif.), Open Water World Championship silver medalist Andrew Gemmell (Wilmington, Del.), and 2007 Pan American gold medalist and 2009 World Championship bronze medalist Fran Crippen (Conshohocken, Pa.).

The field in Long Beach will also include Open Water National Team members Emily Brunemann (Crescent Springs, Ky.), Joe Kinderwarter (Lancaster, Pa.), Eva Fabian (Keene, N.H.), Christine Jennings (Longmont, Colo.), Deni Cullom (Dana Point, Calif.), Alex Meyer (Ithaca, N.Y.), and Sean Ryan (Hixon, Tenn.). 2005 Open Water World Championship gold medalist Chip Peterson (Pine Knoll Shores, N.C.) and 2009 World Championship Team member Haley Anderson (Granite Bay, Calif.) will also compete in the event.

The weekend of open water swimming at the Long Beach Marine Stadium will include a variety of unique features such as spectator boats for coaches, parents and fans as well as five pre-race clinics for swimmers of any age and ability. In addition, world-class swimmers from Canada, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Egypt and South Africa will also compete in the open water swim.

The 10K race will take place on June 4, while the 5K competition will be on June 6. Only the 10K swim will serve as the qualifying race to earn a spot on the 2010 U.S. World Championship Team and the 2010 U.S. Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championships Team.

The top two U.S. finishers in the 10K will automatically earn a spot to compete in the event at the FINA World Championships in Roberval, Québec, Canada, July 17-22, and will also have a choice to compete in the 5K and 25K, or both. The remaining spots on the U.S. Open Water World Championship Team will be filled with the remaining top finishers in the 10K race, however, swimmers must finish in the top six U.S. swimmers and they cannot finish more than 20 minutes after the first place finisher. Additional details outlining the selection procedures can be found online.

The top four U.S. finishers in the 10K in Long Beach will also have the opportunity to earn a spot to compete in the 10K at the Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championships in Irvine, Calif., on August 22. Selection procedures from the meet can be found online.


The 10K race tomorrow is the only shot for athletes to qualify for Open Water Worlds and Pan Pacs later this summer. On the women's side, the biggest name in the field is Chloe Sutton. She's dominated the Grand Prix meets in the pool all year long. That is why I don't think she is the favorite. Her focus, up until recently, has been on sub-2:00 200 frees and other pool races, and that focus on relative sprints doesn't translate well to open water. Her competitors have been more focused on going the distance as of late. Take Emily Brunemann, for example. Brunemann, who pushed Sutton into third place in last year's 10K, out-raced Sutton in the 1,500 at the Charlotte UltraSwim, coming from behind to take the win. In a race of over six times the distance, does Chloe have the staying power anymore?

A downside to both Sutton and Brunemann is their lack of Open Water experience recently. In the midst of the NCAA season at Michigan, Brunemann has not competed in Open Water since last summer, while Sutton's only appearance since then was a World Cup meet in Argentina in late January. This is how she described the experience (via Twitter): "Thank you to all those who support me. I did my very best. I thought I was stronger and I would be able to lead the pack. NEXT TIME!"

In comparison, Eva Fabian has international Open Water experience over the last year, and she does not focus on the pool at all. That experience could buoy her ahead of Sutton and Brunemann. Fabian was second to Brunemann in Ft. Lauderdale last year, ahead of Sutton, and she swam the 10K and 25K at the World Championships. She is a tough competitor, especially at the end of races.

2008 World Championships team member in the 10K Micha Shaw (née Burden) now trains with Jon Urbanchek at FAST, and she could be in the mix, as could pool World Champs team member Haley Anderson, who finished fourth in the 1,650 at NCAA's.


The United States had a big breakthrough in Open Water swimming at last summer's Worlds. U.S. Swimmers Andrew Gemmell and Fran Crippen, who was my "Sentimental Favorite" for the meet, challenged overwhelming favorite Thomas Lurz in the 10K, and Gemmell ended up with the silver in his first international race, while the veteran Crippen claimed third. If he had not swum off course in the final 100 meters, Crippen may have challenged Lurz for gold. Crippen and Gemmell are the odds-on favorites once again in Long Beach tomorrow. I'd give the slight edge to Fran Crippen, who, like Eva Fabian, has been totally focused on Open Water, while Gemmell recently swam his freshman season at the University of Georgia.

It would be surprising to see anyone upstage these two, but one man that could is Chip Peterson. Peterson was an Open Water pioneer for the U.S., claiming the World title in the 10K in Montreal in 2005. He made the 2008 World Champs, and he had a shot at Beijing, but he finished outside the top ten, and his teammate Mark Warkentin (now retired) made the trip. Peterson swam at North Carolina, but he is now training with Jon Urbanchek at FAST, and he could be ready for a return to the international stage in Open Water.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

2010 Mare Nostrum Monaco

The Mare Nostrum series kicks off this Satuday, June 5 in Monaco. Each of the three series meets will run for two days, including Monaco (June 5-6), Barcelona (June 9-10), and Canet (June 12-13). Tom over at Speed Endurance put has links to the start lists for all three meets and also a nice list of top performers, which I would highly recommend. He also posted some awesome predictions for the ladies' competition in Monaco, which I commented on, and we are having some discussions. Some thoughts:

- It's really eerie how close Natalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer will be in both the 100 free and 100 fly. Vollmer's swims from this weekend at the Mel Zajac meet in Canada were both about a tenth off Coughlin's times from Charlotte. Expect those battles to continue throughout Mare Nostrum.

- While Rebecca Soni has posted blistering times all season long in the U.S., she will get face off against most of her biggest rivals over in Europe: Leisel Jones, Jessica Hardy, Annamay Pierse, and Yuliya Efimova. This will be the first occasion to see how these swimmers really stack up against each other headed into the next two years.

Now, some predictions for the men's competition:

50 Free
1 - Fred Bousquet, France
2 - Ashley Callus, Australia
3 - Alain Bernard, France

100 Free
1 - Alain Bernard, France
2 - Eamon Sullivan, Australia
3 - Brent Hayden, Canada

200 Free
1 - Paul Biedermann, Germany
2 - Brent Hayden, Canada
3 - Alexander Sukhorukov, Russia

400 Free
1 - Zhang Lin, China
2 - Ous Mellouli, Tunisia
3 - Paul Biedermann, Germany

50 Back
1 - Camille Lacourt, France
2 - Daniel Arnamnart, Australia
3 - Stanislav Donets, Russia

100 Back
1 - Aaron Peirsol, USA
2 - Markus Rogan, Austria
3 - Stanislav Donets, Russia

200 Back
1 - Markus Rogan, Austria
2 - Aaron Peirsol, USA
3 - Stanislav Donets, Russia

50 Breast
1 - Kosuke Kitajima, Japan
2 - Darren Mew, Great Britain
3 - Stanislav Lakhtyukhov, Russia

100 Breast
1 - Kosuke Kitajima, Japan
2 - Eric Shanteau, USA
3 - Daniel Gyurta, Hungary

200 Breast
1 - Eric Shanteau, USA
2 - Daniel Gyurta, Hungary
3 - Kosuke Kitajima, Japan

50 Fly
1 - Geoff Huegill, Australia
2 - Roland Schoeman, South Africa
3 - Fred Bousquet, France

100 Fly
1 - Albert Subirats, Venezuela
2 - Andrew Lauterstein, Australia
3 - Geoff Huegill, Australia

200 Fly
1 - Christophe Lebon, France
2 - Maxim Ganikhin, Russia
3 - Joeri Verlinden, Netherlands

200 IM
1 - Thiago Pereira, Brazil
2 - Eric Shanteau, USA
3 - Markus Rogan, Austria

400 IM
1 - Thiago Pereira, Brazil
2 - Ous Mellouli, Tunisia
3 - Alexander Tikhonov, Russia