Wednesday, June 27, 2012

U.S. Olympic Trials: Day Three Prelims

After witnessing the most uneventful session of the meet this morning, we now gear up for the first full slate of four finals in just a few short hours. The Olympic team could double in size tonight as 12 new spots are handed out in the CenturyLink Center. And what better way to kick off the finals than with the men's 200 free. Nothing has changed since my last blog; this race still belongs to two men named Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps, in some order. 400 free runner-up Conor Dwyer and relay staple Ricky Berens have the edge on the third spot to head to London on the 800 free relay, but anyone in that final heat could head to London. Peter Vanderkaay missing out on the final does tweak my picks just a bit, but we'll see a nail bitter the whole way for the top six spots.

I'm standing pat with my predictions in the men's 100 back and women's 100 breast, but the stellar swims we saw yesterday from teenagers Missy Franklin and Rachel Bootsma gives them the edge, I think, in the women's 100 back final. Combined with the lackluster performances we've seen thus far from two-time defending gold medalist Natalie Coughlin, I think Franklin and Bootsma have done enough to go to London in the 100 back. Coughlin will swim much faster than she swam in the semi-final last night, but I don't think she can take a spot in the top two. Despite a double with the 200 free semi-final tonight, I think Franklin will win this race, and I think she'll break Coughlin's American record of 58.94.

Updated Predictions:
Men's 200 Free:
1. Ryan Lochte
2. Michael Phelps
3. Ricky Berens
4. Conor Dwyer
5. Matt McLean
6. Davis Tarwater

Women's 100 Back
1. Missy Franklin
2. Rachel Bootsma

Men's 100 Back
1. Matt Grevers
2. Nick Thoman

Women's 100 Breast
1. Rebecca Soni
2. Jessica Hardy

The American women took the gold last year in the women's 800 free relay at Worlds, but two of the four who swam on that team will not go for spots in London. Katie Hoff, battling illness for the past several days, missed the semi-finals, and Dagny Knutson did not even come to Omaha. I still think this team is the best in the world, led by Franklin, Allison Schmitt, and Dana Vollmer, but the U.S. needs some step-up performances tonight and tomorrow. I look at Georgia swimmers Morgan Scroggy and Megan Romano as those most capable of giving the team a boost in the 200 free.

Aside from the headliners of Phelps, Bollier, and Clary, I saw some familiar names make it into the semi-finals of the men's 200 fly. The University of South Carolina's Michael Flach became the first swimmer representing my home state to advance with a seventh-seeded 1:58.56. I have had the pleasure of running into Michael a couple of times during the past year, in which he has been redshirting from NCAA competition, and I look forward to watching him swim tonight.

15 swimmers broke 2:00 in the 200 fly this morning, and Dominick Glavich came about as close as you can get at 2:00.03. The University of North Carolina standout completed the semi-finalists, and I wish him good luck tonight as well. I watched Glavich race at the TYR Capital Classic in 2010 when I covered the meet for Swimming World, and I also raced with him at a meet last summer in Savannah, Georgia. We swam together in a 200 back heat in which I swam 75 meters after an aborted start until a teammate jumped into the pool to stop me.

Tom Shields went under 2:00 this morning to put himself into the semi-finals, as did Will Hamilton, Shields' Cal teammate who, as a freshman, stole the NCAA title in this event from right under Shields' nose. I expect a bigger swim out of Shields in the 100 fly, where he could serve as a spoiler for the top contenders to finish second behind Michael Phelps.

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