Some, such as Rowdy Gaines, continue to believe that no global standard will fall in 2010. Others believe that the women's 200 breast world record is vunerable, with Rebecca Soni swimming lights-out. Many felt that Michael Phelps could challenge his 200 fly world record set in a LZR last year, but talk of that has died down due to Phelps' recent lack of stellar form. Still others thought the men's and women's mile records could go down, since those were the only two long course marks to survive "the suits." Recently, Ryan Lochte has shown he might be capable to track down his 200 IM world record from last year.
No one would have guessed the men's 100 back. In 2009, Aaron Peirsol set the world record of 51.94 at the U.S. Nationals, after losing the record for just a week to Spain's Aschwin Wildeboer. At Worlds, Peirsol made a tactical error in the semi-final, finishing 9th, but he made up for it with a dominant win in the 200 back and a strong medley relay lead-off split. Junya Koga won the race in 52.26, with Peirsol supplying the fastest time of the meet from the medley relay (52.19).
France has not traditionally been a 100 back powerhouse. In 2008, their best backstroker couldn't break 55, which kept France from having a medal-contending (or even finalist) medley relay. Things began to look up in 2009, when four men broke 54 (most with the Jaked suit) in the 100 back final. Jeremy Stravius won the race, and he ended up making the semi-final in Rome and swimming the backstroke leg on France's medley relay, which finished fifth. Still, the backstroke leg proved a weak point.
Camille Lacourt did not swim the 100 back final in Rome. In fact, he didn't make the French team in the event, finishing third at their Nationals, although he did swim and make the final of the 50 back in Rome. At the 2010 French Nationals, Lacourt did get on the team in the 100 back, posting a personal-best time of 53.29, well ahead of his 53.57 from one year prior and just off of Stravius' suit-aided French record of 53.19 from 2009 Nationals. He continued his string of successful races throughout the year. At the Mare Nostrum stop in Monaco, he crushed Peirsol in the 100 back by more than a second. He busted a 53.73 100 back unrested to win at Paris Open.
Come European Championships, many saw two favorites for the 100 back. Liam Tancock had swum a 52.85 at British Nationals, the fastest time in a textile suit. Since Tancock did not plan to fully taper for the meet, in preparation for the Commonwealth Games in October, the race shaped up to be tight between those two. Everything changed in the semi-final, when Lacourt blasted a 52.58 in the 100 back. He beat second-place Stravius by nearly a second. Tancock finished ninth, out of the final, although he would have some luck when Markus Rogan withdrew to concentrate on the 200 IM. Despite being the fastest time ever in a textile suit and just off Peirsol's Olympic winning time of 52.54. Still, the swim could not be considered too surprising after his strong swims at other meets. The finals swim, though, broke through expectations.
Lacourt won the final in 52.11, just 0.17 off of Peirsol's stunning techsuit-aided world record. Stravius finished second in 53.44, 1.33 behind, while Tancock ended up third in 53.86, more than a second and a half behind. Suddenly, Lacourt has gone from not on the French team in the event, to world beater. For all but a week over the last six years, Aaron Peirsol has held the world record in the 100 back, but Lacourt finds himself less than two tenths away, and more than a second and a half ahead of Peirsol's best this year (53.63).
Now, Lacourt has as good a chance as anyone to get past a global standard. In the 50 back today, he swam a 24.30 in the 50 back semi-final, crushing his personal best time of 24.46 from last year's World Champs final, as well as Tancock's textile best time of 24.52. He has a shot at another world record in the final, Tancock's 24.04 from Rome, while he will once again take a run at Peirsol's 51.94 when he leads off France's favored 400 medley relay on Sunday. The world of swimming, including Peirsol and Tancock, could only be happy to see a swimmer getting by one of the magical, untouchable marks set last year. But for now, this is the best swim of 2010.