Monday, July 5, 2010

Weekend Highlights: Elizabeth Beisel and Paul Biedermann

Despite the Fourth of July celebrations in America, international racing went forward over the weekend. The top two meets were the Canada Cup in Montreal and the German Nationals in Berlin. The two swimmers that stand out with the most notable swims from the weekend are USA's Elizabeth Beisel (Canada Cup) and Germany's Paul Biedermann.

*Beisel the Diesel
As is her custom, Beisel swam seven different events in Montreal. She won the 200 free, 100 back, 200 IM (all Friday), 200 back, and 400 IM. She also took second in the 200 fly and 50 back (Saturday) and fourth in the 50 back (Sunday). Additionally, she continued dropping her times from her earlier meets this season. She started out with a bang, posting a 2:00.19 in the 200 free. At the Charlotte UltraSwim, she swam what she considered a phenomenal 2:01.96, meaning her time in Canada is a drop of nearly two seconds from her best this season. Above that, her best time ever had been 2:01.04, so she chopped nearly a second from her best ever. Any time a swimmer can come so close to breaking 2:00 in-season always has a chance to get on the competitive 4x200 free relay for the U.S. team. Beisel, an Olympian and world championships team member in the 400 IM and 200 back, continues to expand her versatility.

A problem with her expansion into the 200 free is the event's ill-placing at Nationals, shortly after the women's 100 back. To make the decision of which or both events to swim even tougher, Beisel posted a 1:02.28 in the 100 back less than an hour after the 200 free, an improvement on Charlotte's 1:02.43, although she swam a slightly-faster 1:02.21 at the Santa Clara Grand Prix, where she had far more recovery time from her previous race. She also cut big time from Charlotte in the 200 IM (her third race on the opening night), where she clocked 2:13.56, compared to 2:15.59 in Charlotte, as well as the 200 fly, improving from 2:14.28 to 2:11.88. In the 200 back, she nearly broke 2:10, with a season-best of 2:10.05.

Possibly her most impressive swim of the weekend came in the one event in which she did not improve from Charlotte, the 400 IM. Beisel has swum under 4:40 three times this year, something only she and Great Britain's Hannah Miley can claim. In Montreal, she came in at 4:40.29, in her final race of the meet. After finishing a close second in the 200 fly and fourth in the 50 back earlier in the night, Beisel still could post such a fast time in what one could claim as her best event. Clearly, Beisel is headed for a big summer with many chances to get on the Pan Pacs and World Championships teams. In deep and competitive fields in Irvine, she will need to summon all of her toughness, evident from the sick times she posted with little recovery, to get it done.

*Paul Biedermann: Domination in Germany
At this weekend's German Nationals, Paul Biedermann swept the 100-200-400 freestyles. He posted excellent times of 48.80 and 1:45.84 in the shorter two distances, moving him to the helm of the world rankings in the latter. In the 400 free, however, he didn't display the domination over his countrymen that one might have expected. Biedermann trailed Clemens Rapp until the final 50 meters, and he ended up storming by Rapp to just get under the qualifying time for the European championships, clocking 3:49.02 to Rapp's 3:49.72. However, he didn't even swim his season-best, off of a 3:48.77 at the Monaco stop of the Mare Nostrum when racing Ous Mellouli and Zhang Lin.

At the upcoming European Championships, Biedermann should not be pushed for the victory in the 400 free. At last summer's Worlds, Biedermann won gold in a world record time of 3:40.07, while his closest European competition was Denmark's Mads Glaesner, who finished fifth in 3:44.40. Under the current suit rules, Biedermann certainly has the potential for a 3:44-low swim, but considering that no one else in Europe can likely get under 3:47, will Biedermann struggle to go much faster than that? If Biedermann ends up racing swimmers like Glaesner, Russia's Nikita Lobinsev, and France's Sebastian Rouault in Budapest before storming past them on the final 50, will he be able to post a time that stacks up with the top swimmers at the Pan Pacific Championships on the other side of the world in Irvine. With Zhang, Mellouli, Korea's Park Tae-Hwan, and USA's Peter Vanderkaay, arguably four of the top five 400 freestylers in the world, as well as others such as Australia's Robert Hurley and Japan's Takeshi Matsuda, the race will be tight and fast. Two or more swimmers dipping into the 3:43 range is certainly a possibility. Swimmers from the Pan Pacific nations will have an edge in the world rankings.

In the 200 however, Biedermann is still stalwart and a strong contender to be the top swimmer in the world this year. He has the potential to come close to Ian Thorpe's best time ever of 1:44.06, while wearing just a jammer. Again, if Biedermann gets into a race with competitors such as France's Yannick Agnel and Russia's Danila Izotov, the times might not stack up as well against Pan Pac competitors Park and the Americans, led by Michael Phelps. Admittedly, his competition in the 200 compares much more strongly to the rest of the world than his competitors in the 400 in Budapest.

The debate continues over what to expect from Biedermann and his rivals (including Phelps) this summer over at the Speed Endurance blog. Already 13 very interesting comments. Chris DeSantis has suggested that as Biedermann ages, his 400 abilities will wane but his 200 will remain top-level. Strongly recommend checking it out.


  1. Beisel and some of the other young American shooting stars Pelton, Knutson, Franklin (I guess you can add Jasmine Tosky and Rachel Bootsma here too) have been racing an obscene amount of races in virtually every meet so far this year. Do you think this is to get them 'racing tough' in-season before dropping the amount of events at nationals or do you see any of the above going for 7 or 8 events at US Nationals?

  2. Part of it is for racing toughness, but mostly it's because they're IMers (except Bootsma). Beisel was saying in Charlotte she swam the 200 fly over the 200 breast because her fly was a weak point in the 400 IM, but the breast was excellent. No way she actually swims either in Irvine. In 2009, she did 200 IM, 100 back, 400 IM, 200 back (one per day, in that order). Only change she might make this time is 200 free over 100 back, since she has a much better chance for a relay spot then a 100 back individual spot.

    Probably most of them won't swim more than one event per day. The extra events in-season serve the purpose of strengthening individual strokes and picking events for the big one (though you're point is usually part of it).