Sunday, May 15, 2011

Charlotte UltraSwim: Day Three

Another session of finals in Charlotte has brought yet more massive storylines. Michael Phelps once again embarassed himself with yet another crushing loss in the 200 fly, a race that until last month, he had not lost in nine years. However, if I have learned anything in my years covering the sport, Phelps cannot be judged right now. Phelps himself doesn’t seem exceptionally upset about the loss, meaning that he may just know what he’s doing after all. Often the best just know what it takes. Take for example Cullen Jones, who took several months of a break before getting into the shape needed to beat Josh Schneider in Thursday’s swim-off. He only had swum one meet since Nationals, but he did just what he needed to do to win. As Jones proved, the best know what it takes. For that reason, I reserve judgment on Phelps, and instead I will focus on some of the more exciting storylines of the night.

The most impressive swims came in the last event, the 200 breast. On the ladies’ side, Rebecca Soni (2:23.33) and Amanda Beard (2:26.24) established solid markers for this point in the season, while Eric Shanteau came in at 2:10.95 to win the men’s 200 breast. While he fell short of his 2009 suited meet record of 2:09.71 and even his winning time from last year (2:10.59), he showed once more that his move to the Trojan Swim Club in L.A. is paying off. Tonight, he commented on Twitter about having more speed and being able to take his races out quicker at a lesser expenditure of energy. This over-expenditure was duly noted in his lackluster swims last summer, where he ended up using too much energy to try – and fail – to get out quickly and not have his usual closing speed.

Additionally, this swim puts Shanteau where he needs to be internationally; Shanteau now ranks eighth in the world, but third among non-Japanese swimmers (only two of whom will swim at Worlds). Shanteau did not make the top lists of international swimmers in the 200 breast last year, but tonight’s swim serves as a warning: don’t count out Eric Shanteau. Additionally, look out for another fast swim from Shanteau in tomorrow’s 200 IM, where he faces star power in Ryan Lochte and Markus Rogan. Just as is the case with the 200 breast, Shanteau has international potential in his old signature event, the 200 IM.

Many had anticipated the showdown between Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin in the women’s 100 back. After Franklin’s huge time drop in yesterday’s 200 free, there had been talk of her dropping into the 59-low range. However, it was not to be, as the veteran got a win on the youngster tonight. Coughlin won in 1:00.02 to claim seventh in the world, followed closely by Franklin (1:00.22) and young stars Rachel Bootsma (1:00.33) and Elizabeth Pelton (1:00.40), all well under Pelton’s old meet record of 1:00.64. Coughlin and Franklin swam right next to each other in lanes 2 and 3, and one key difference was obvious in their races; Coughlin came up a bodylength ahead of Franklin off both walls. Still, Franklin made up enough ground to the point where if the race was 103 meters, the win would have easily been hers. The fact that her details such as starts and underwaters need so much work is simply exciting for her future potential in the 100 back.

On the men’s side, national champion David Plummer took down hometown favorite Nick Thoman in the men’s 100 back, 54.04 to 54.15.. Plummer moved into a tie with Greece’s Aristeidis Grigoriadis for ninth in the world, while Thoman is ranked seventh at 53.93 from the Indy Grand Prix. Thus, despite the retirement of Aaron Peirsol, the U.S. still has five of the top thirteen 100 backstrokers in the world, none having swum rested, including Lochte (54.08), Matt Grevers (54.08), and Phelps (54.14). Most interestingly, though, was how the race played out in the water. Plummer went out fast, in 25.80, before fading with a second 50 split of 28.24. Thoman, meanwhile sat back in third at 26.61 before turning on the jets with a 27.54 homecoming split. Clearly, the effects of hard training has forced adjustments in race strategy. Still, all the times are impressive as the two men look forward to the World Champs this summer.

As previously mentioned, Cullen Jones defeated Josh Schneider in a one-on-one swim-off Thursday to secure his spot on the World Champs team. The pair clocked times of 22.24 and 22.28, respectively. After the loss, Schneider claimed to be was “mopey” and failed to respond especially well to his first taste of adversity in swimming, after a constant string of successes. Tonight, however, he got back on track with a victory. Too close to call the whole way between Schneider, Jones, and their SwimMAC teammate Nick Brunelli, Schneider “toasted” Jones by one one-hundredth of a second for the win, 22.51 to 22.52, with Brunelli just behind at 22.56. Of course, both Jones and Schneider had shaved and rested some for their swim-off, so the time is perhaps best for the veteran Brunelli.

Afterwards, Schneider described the huge confidence boost he received from this victory. After the race, he had a huge smile on his face, and he seemed far more alive in the post-race interview than he did following his loss to Jones on Thursday. Even though Schneider will not be going to Worlds, he now feels even more the will and need to be the best, and the results of this weekend will lead to more successes for Josh Schneider down the line. He will be a big go-to man for the U.S. sprint team for a while, and his minor setback this weekend will only lead to bigger and better things at this summer’s World University Games or next year’s Olympic Trials or down the line.

Following the racing tonight, Markus Rogan lit up Twitter. He relayed information through UltraSwim2011, the meet directors, looking forward to his 200 IM tomorrow and complementing coach David Marsh on putting on such an awesome meet. From personal experience, I know that UltraSwim is indeed amazing and a great topic for swim geeking! Later, he claimed on his own account that “age makes me slower but let’s me keep going longer. I just can't peak in a minute anymore.” Essentially, Rogan believes that at his relatively old age, he needs to use a challenging race to put forth a great effort and cannot simply depend on natural talent anymore. Thus, he has been much more successful as of late in the 200 free and 200 IM than the 100 back, in which he finished sixth tonight in 55.87, a swim he described as “terrible.” Wise words of advice from a swimming legend.

Finally tonight, I conclude with an excerpt from The Screaming Viking’s latest edition of “Gutter Talk” over at The Swim Brief. He posted in response to Jones’ swim-off victory on Thursday

"I just lost a lot of money. Man, I suck at picking winners." David R.- Self-Proclaimed 'King of the Swim Geeks'

For the record, I did not actually bet money on the result, but I can see myself losing money on a failed prediction. Such is the nature of swim geeking!


  1. Thank you for getting back to blogging. I enjoy your commentary on this stuff.

  2. Thanks so much, Anonymous! It really means a lot that people like you enjoy what I have to say.