Thursday, August 5, 2010

U.S. Nationals: What? David Plummer, 100 Back Champion

Very few expected David Plummer to win the 100 back last night. Of the 11 predictors in the contest, no one even predicted Plummer to make the top three. On a recent podcast of The Swim Brief, Garrett McCaffrey mentioned Plummer's name as a possible darkhorse, but he refuses to take full credit for the prediction in a recap of last night's finals. The fact that Aaron Peirsol did not touch first did not shock me. Nick Thoman has looked very strong all year long, and Matt Grevers seemed to have a big swim coming. Plummer's win, though, is a sign of the supreme depth of the United States in this event.

In 2008, many saw three favorites to make the Olympic team in the 100 back: Peirsol, Ryan Lochte, and Randall Bal, the three men who had combined to sweep the top two spots in the event at every major meet since the previous Olympics. Everyone else would be battling for fourth. Many other swimmers put up fast times throughout the season, such as David Cromwell, Grevers, and Ben Hesen. When the Trials final came around, Grevers found himself in lane three, with Bal, Peirsol, and Lochte in the next lanes. He soon found himself on the wall two tenths before Lochte and headed to Beijing, where he won silver.

By the Charlotte UltraSwim this year, both Grevers and Thoman had established themselves as consistent players ready to swim fast all season. Peirsol loomed as a man who had become the first under 52 the previous summer. Superstar Michael Phelps even through his hat in the mix for the 100 back. That's why it was suprising to see Plummer atop the prelim results with the only sub-55 time, 54.93. Plummer said that more than the time his biggest surprise came from beating Aaron Peirsol by more than a second in their heat. In the final, Thoman won, Phelps came in second, and Plummer and Grevers tied for third.

Previously, I knew Plummer as one of the many 53 second backstrokers who made the Olympic Trials final, but I didn't know how he could fit into the dynasty of backstrokers in the event. Thoman, Grevers, and Peirsol looked like they had equal shots of making the team in the event, with Bal looming as a darkhorse, and the possibility of Phelps and/or Lochte swimming the race. Additionally, a group of less-experienced swimmers had performed well during the season, including David Russell, Eugene Godsoe, and Plummer. Plummer faced the daunting task of taking his 100 back to the next level, but he got on a roll in Charlotte and kept going. At the Santa Clara Grand Prix a month later, he out-touched Grevers, Lochte, and Russell in the 100 back final. His confidence continued to grow heading into the grand finale last night where he took down Peirsol.

Of course, the battle for Plummer is not over. He has to back-up his swim with another fast one at Pan Pacs; he has to have one of the top two times in the country from the combination of Nationals and Pan Pacs to make next year's World Championships team. Peirsol and Thoman should both make the Pan Pacs team as well, with their second and third-place finishes. Grevers could also get on the team in either the 100 free or 200 back. All three will be pushing much faster times, but Plummer has momentum, and he could keep it going and grab a spot for Shanghai.

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