Monday, July 30, 2012

London 2012: Day Three Prelims

What’s that? You didn’t wake up at 5am Eastern after staying up until 11pm waiting for NBC to air the men’s 400 free relay finals? Oh. Well, you didn’t miss that much. Just three events kicked off on this third day of prelims, half as many as each of the last two days. In the meantime, no big surprises came out of the day’s events. All of the main contenders cruised into the semi-finals, starting with the women’s 200 free, where defending champion Federica Pellegrini leading the way in 1:57.16.

What happened to Pellegrini? Just last night she lagged behind in the 400 free final, finishing fifth. That performance indicates that she has much more in the tank for the shorter 200 than she did the 400. Expect her to be in the medal chase, though Allison Schmitt and Camille Muffat still have a leg up on the competition. Missy Franklin qualified third for the semi-final tonight, setting up a huge double with her 100 back final. She will have about 15 minutes between her two races tonight, an extremely tough double without a doubt. She will need an exceptional performance to both make the final in the 200 free and win a medal in the 100 back.

Michael Phelps cruised into the fifth seed in the men’s 200 fly. Phelps grabbed third in his heat, allowing top qualifier Dinko Jukic to pass him on the final lap. Phelps knew what he had to do to get into the semis comfortably in a 1:55.53, far superior to the 1:56.71 he swam in prelims at Worlds last summer. Phelps remains comfortable in this event. Meanwhile, World Champs medalists Wu Peng and Takeshi Matsuda both cruised into the semi-finals, along with Aussie bad boy Nick D’Arcy, while American Tyler Clary debuted in the Olympics in style with a 1:54.96, improving on his Trials time of 1:55.15.

The women’s 200 IM kicked off next, and the race has become Yi Shiwen’s to lose. When she won the World title last year, Yi hung with the pack before blazing home on the free. Now, though, Yi came swim the race however she wants. Today, she took the race out fast before cruising home on free – to the identical time in which she won the World title, 2:08.90. No one swam anywhere close to Yi, and I don’t think anyone will. Her time stands a full second and a half faster than anyone else.

The second-fastest qualifier swam in Yi’s heat, and no one came within two bodylengths of Yi in that heat. Kirsty Coventry was that second qualifier, Coventry coming back into the fray after not contending in the 100 back yesterday. She came in at 2:10.53, just ahead of Caitlin Leverenz, Katinka Hosszu, and Alicia Coutts. Let’s see who else can jump into the medal mix in tonight’s semi-finals; don’t forget about world record-holder Ariana Kukors, who looms in seventh, and ninth-ranked defending champ Stephanie Rice. Rice, though, has a long way to go if she wants to contend for a medal.

Well that was quick. So let’s widen the lens a little bit; the Olympics consist of more than 32 events in the pool, after all. Essentially, the last two days have followed the same pattern for me: wake up at 5am, watch prelims, write a blog, watch other events, watch swimming finals at 2:30 online, write another blog, and watch NBC’s primetime coverage – a busy schedule, I’m sure you can tell. I’m the swim geek, of course, but I love watching other sports as a casual American fan.

Always to see American medalists in other aquatic sports, especially in diving. After twelve medal-less years, Abby Johnston and Kelci Bryant got on the podium in three-meter synchro yesterday, and the pairing of David Boudia and Nick McCrory have the chance to do the same today. I have to appreciate a sport like rowing, a low-glamor sport that requires some serious toughness. As gymnastics and track pick up over the next few days, I’m sure those sports will capture my attention on the prime time broadcast. And how can one not enjoy watching Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant on one team?

As more light swimming days pop up, I’ll keep writing some on the blog about the other sports, with some thoughts headed into the later finals events – though don’t expect me to be quite as analytical there. Despite my laser-attention on the pool, I love the Olympics as much as any fan, and I’m certainly finding time to watch the vast array of sports. Swimming may come to an end on Saturday, but we still will have a long way to go – including the open water events. The Olympics, as you know, have just begun.

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