Tuesday, August 7, 2012

London 2012: Day Eleven

After three long days without swimming, only one more remains until our favorite sport returns with the women’s 10k Open Water. 25 swimmers, most of whom did not compete in the pool events last week, and all from different countries, will race for gold on Thursday in the Serpentine. The British failed to win gold in any pool events, so Keri-Anne Payne carries the hopes of her country for swimming gold in the 10k. Payne enters her home Olympics as the two-time defending World Champion and thus the favorite for gold. Still, the entire race comes down to strategy, and whoever best executes their race plan will win gold.

Italy’s Martina Grimaldi finished second at Worlds to Payne last year, and Greece’s Marianna Lymperta took bronze, so both should be in medal contention. Australia’s Melissa Gorman should threaten for a medal, and veterans Poliana Okimoto and Angela Maruer could work their way into the mix. Meanwhile, the U.S. has Haley Anderson in the race after Anderson won the Olympic Qualifier race in Setubal, Portugal in June. Anderson, the NCAA Champion this year in the 500 free, has risen from a virtual unknown in open water to a darkhorse medal candidate after she beat out more prominent names for the one American spot in the race.

1. Keri-Anne Payne
2. Melissa Gorman
3. Poliana Okimoto

Meanwhile, the Olympics have gone on this week, and I’ve still been watching a lot of track and field, gymnastics, and diving, along with some lesser-known sports like track cycling. In diving tonight, China failed to win their sixth gold of these Olympics when Russia’s Ilya Zakharov took down China’s Qin Kai and He Chong in the men’s three-meter synchro. American Troy Dumais, meanwhile, finished fifth after an impressive final round dive. In three previous Olympic appearances, Dumais finished medal-less and sixth in this event all three times; after earlier winning a bronze in the synchro event, Dumais has to leave London happy with his performances.

Like I said, I’ve really been enjoying watching track cycling when NBC decides to air those events. Last night, Great Britain’s Jason Kenny took down France’s Gregory Bauge in two straight races of the men’s sprint. The two competitors raced head-to-head in three laps around the Velodrome, building from an extremely deliberate pace to a thrilling 10 second sprint around the track for gold. The gold medal comes down to ten seconds of utter fury and thrill, with just two competitors going for broke. Talk about a climatic finish to a gold medal chase.

Earlier today, I watched Americans April Ross and Jen Kessy play for the gold medal match in women’s beach volleyball. Already one set down and trailing 10-7 in the second, the pair clawed back to win in a deciding third set. Now, the pair takes on two-time gold medalists Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings in the final, with the Americans already assured of gold and silver. In men’s basketball, meanwhile, the Americans ended up getting by Argentina with little difficulty yesterday, but the Manu Ginobili-led squad had themselves down just one at the half. Now, the Americans prepare for a matchup with Australia tomorrow while keeping an eye on Argentina, who they could end up facing again in the semi-finals on Friday.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, the U.S. Open has kicked off in Indianapolis, where some of the just-missed from Olympic Trials have their sights set on the next four years already. I previewed the meet earlier today on Swimming World, and we’ve already seen some big swims on the first night. Megan Romano put up a fast time in the women’s 100 free in 53.92, which would have won Olympic Trials ahead of Jessica Hardy and ranks her in the world top-15. Only Missy Franklin and Hardy have swum faster among Americans this year.

Stephanie Peacock, meanwhile, put up a blistering swim in the women’s 800 free, an 8:24.36, which ranks her eighth in the world this year and third among Americans. Kelsey Floyd and Jasmine Tosky both put up 2:08s in the women’s 200 fly, while North Carolina’s Thomas Luchsinger won the men’s event in 1:57.51. All could challenge for the American World Championship team next year, but none may get the chance; this meet serves as the qualifier for next year’s World University Games, which may prevent the athletes from competing at Nationals next summer. That means that the outstanding performers here have big decisions to make.

The pool swimming just wrapped up in Beijing, but I’ve already started looking ahead to the next four years and the 2016 Olympics. I joined Jeff Commings on today’s Morning Swim Show to discuss some of the major storylines coming out of London, including who we think will take over as the dominant performers in swimming in the post-Michael Phelps era. Check out that interview below.

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