Saturday, June 30, 2012

U.S. Olympic Trials: Day Six Prelims

The arrival of the weekend brought the biggest crowd we've seen thus far in the morning. The usual suspects of Phelps, Lochte, Franklin, and Janet Evans brought out some serious excitement for the crowd. Timewise, one swim stood out: Anthony Ervin's 50 free. Ervin beat Nathan Adrian in the last heat of the 50 with a time of 21.83. Only once has Ervin beat that time, when he clocked 21.80 at the 2000 Olympic Trials in route to tying for the gold medal at the Olympics. The deck has exploded with buzz over the swim, most in consensus before the session that Ervin would not swim a 21.8. Adrian remains the favorite after coasting into the wall with the number two time, but Anthony Ervin has returned.

The crowd cheered Janet Evans despite a lackluster swim in the women's 800 before Katie Ledecky, Gillian Ryan, Chloe Sutton, and Kate Ziegler put up strong swims in the circle-seeded heats. Ziegler broke out this morning, with her 8:27.61 almost putting her in the world top ten. Ziegler disappointed in the 400 free earlier in the week, but she looked strong yet controlled in the heats today. Shout-out too to Katie Hoff for swimming the 800 despite a battle with food poisoning earlier on. She showed some heart in stepping up and trying to hang with the big guns.

Everyone knew they'd see Michael Phelps in the 100 fly today, but Ryan Lochte surprised most of us when he did not scratch the event. Lochte ended up putting up his best time in the event, a 52.21 to take second in the heat to Tyler McGill, the consensus choice for the second spot. Tom Shields also looked good in the heat before, dropping his lifetime best down from a 51.62 to 52.18 to take a close second in his heat to Tim Phillips. Shields has clearly improved significantly from last summer, when he trailed Phillips by almost a second in taking the silver at the World University Games.
The crowd liked seeing the man stretching on the lane four block.
Then in the final heat, Phelps showed his colors. Trailing Davis Tarwater at the turn, 24.40 to 24.70, Phelps blew up off the wall and brought the crowd to their feet as he reached for the wall in 51.80 to take the top time over McGill. On the women's side, only Missy Franklin can make the crowd wake up and go crazy, and she did soon after, taking the top seed in the 200 back. Elizabeth Beisel, Elizabeth Pelton, and Missy Franklin all won their heats, trading the top time as the heats went on. All three have already jumped into the world top-15. Franklin holds the American record and title of favorite, but Pelton and Beisel both have big experience and could have a dogfight to the wall. Beisel already won the 400 IM, but Pelton has not yet made this Olympic team.
Elizabeth Pelton all by herself as she cruises to a 200 back heat win.
Before I share my updated predictions for tonight's finals, I wanted to recap some quick points from my blog last night. Micah Lawrence has proved to be a level ahead of the field in the 200 breast so far, but no one will catch Rebecca Soni, who could challenge the world record if she goes out strong and maintains her back half from last night. Still, don't count out Amanda Beard though, as she could become a five-time Olympian tonight.No one doubts Lochte and Tyler Clary as the big favorites in the 200 back, but young gun Ryan Murphy keeps improving like crazy. Conor Dwyer, meanwhile, will try to stake his claim as one of the best in the world in the 200 IM, but Phelps and Lochte stand in his way. World record could be in trouble as the two titans go head-to-head once again. Finally, expect a tight race to the wall in the women's 100 free, and any of the eight could potentially make the relay. That includes Natalie Coughlin, in her last shot to get on a third Olympic team.

Women's 200 Breast
1. Rebecca Soni
2. Micah Lawrence

Men's 200 Back
1. Ryan Lochte
2. Tyler Clary

Women's 100 Free
1. Dana Vollmer
2. Missy Franklin
3. Allison Schmitt
4. Amanda Weir
5. Natalie Coughlin
6. Jessica Hardy

Men's 200 IM
1. Michael Phelps
2. Ryan Lochte

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