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.

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