In semi-final action today, Dana Vollmer remains a favorite in the women’s 100 fly, but Aussie Alicia Coutts has closed the gap. Her Olympic record-setting 56.25 from prelims this morning stands more than a half second ahead of what anyone else has swum; Coutts swam very well in the semi-finals with a 56.85, a lifetime best. Vollmer swam a slower time in the final of the 100 fly at Worlds last year, and Coutts almost touched her out. Look for a good race in the final tomorrow, but Vollmer remains the favorite, and she could take a shot at Sarah Sjostrom’s world record of 56.06.
Sjostrom, meanwhile, qualified third, winning her semi-final with a 57.27. She could have a say in the final standings in tomorrow’s final as well. World champ bronze medalist Lu Ying got into the final, as did the second American, Claire Donahue. Donahue didn’t exactly come into the Olympic Trials as a huge underdog, but she beat some big names in Natalie Coughlin and 2008 silver medalist Christine Magnuson in earning a spot on the team. Nice to see her moving onto the final.
Despite a surprising total of 12 swimmers breaking 1:00 in the prelims of the men’s 100 breast today, no one really established themselves as a gold medal favorite. Well, Cameron van der Burgh did just that tonight. He swam an Olympic record-setting 58.83, more than six tenths of a second clear of second-qualifier Fabio Scozolli. Van der Burgh moved to fourth on the all-time list in the event, but one must wonder how he would stack up against the late Alexander Dale Oen, last year’s World Champion. Tomorrow’s final will provide an opportunity to remember the young man who took silver in Beijing four years ago.
Van der Burgh must watch out for Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima. Aiming to become the first to win three golds in the same event in three straight Olympics, Kitajima still holds the second-fastest ime in the world at 58.90, so don’t count him out for the final. Interestingly, Kitajima will swim in lane seven, next to longtime rival Brendan Hansen in lane eight. The American has one final shot to go for an Olympic medal in tomorrow’s final.
Five more prelims take to the pool tomorrow. World champ Ryan Lochte hopes to hold off Frenchman Yannick Agnel and 400 free stars Sun Yang and Park Tae Hwan in the men’s 200 free. Missy Franklin starts her individual event program in the women’s 100 back, where Russia’s Anastasia Zueva, China’s Zhao Jing, and Australia’s Emily Seebohm could provide some big competition. Franklin has the opportunity to make it three-straight golds for the Americans in the event after Natalie Coughlin won gold in both 2004 and 2008.
Two big men go head-to-head in the men’s 100 back, when 6’8” Matt Grevers faces off with 6’6” Camille Lacourt. Grevers leads the world this year with his 52.08 from Olympic Trials last month, while Lacourt won the World title last summer. The pair, though, could have Japan’s Ryosuke Irie and Grevers’ countryman Nick Thoman on their heels as well. Rebecca Soni enters the women’s 100 breast as the undisputed favorite, but Breeja Larson shocked Soni at Olympic Trials to make her first Olympic team. Soni will also have to face off with the defending Olympic gold medalist, Leisel Jones, as well as Russian Yuliya Efimova. Soni should be very familiar with Efimova, her training partner in Los Angeles.
Relay action continues tomorrow with the men’s 400 free relay. The Americans won gold in Beijing, when Jason Lezak came back on eventual 100 free winner Alain Bernard to edge the French at the finish. The Americans, though, enter as heavy underdogs to Australia tomorrow; the Aussies have the top two 100 freestylers in the world this year, James Magnussen and James Roberts, along with Matt Targett and former world record-holder Eamon Sullivan. France returns with the likes of Agnel and Fabien Gilot, while Russia could also present a formidable challenge.
For the Americans, expect Michael Phelps to swim the lead-off, and Olympic Trials winner Nathan Adrian should swim the anchor leg. Cullen Jones also has a spot in the individual 100 free, and Grevers could also swim on the finals team. As for Ryan Lochte, he has shown some 100 free capabilities in the past, swimming a key leg on the American’s winning 400 free relay at the 2009 Worlds, but he has not technically qualified for the team. Lezak will swim on the prelims relay alongside Jimmy Feigen and Ricky Berens to determine who will earn spots on the finals relay and the chance to go for gold.