Friday, August 3, 2012

London 2012: Day Seven Prelims

After seven days and 32 events, prelims have concluded. Four more events kicked off on day seven, including the two meet-ending 400 medley relays. Before that, though, the women’s sprinters got their chance to kick off the 50 free, and an interesting prelims left most of the top contenders spread throughout the top-16. No one doubts who should win gold in the men’s 1500, where most expect Sun Yang to break his own world record and back up his world title with Olympic gold. Meanwhile, the Americans remain the favorite in both medley relays, but the Australian women may have something to say about that.

Ranomi Kromowidjojo has her sights set on becoming the world’s top sprinter after her win in the 100 free, and she led the way in the 50 in 24.51. She will have some familiar company at the top, though, as Dutch teammate Marleen Veldhuis qualified second ahead of Britain’s Fran Halsall and defending champion Britta Steffen. World Champion Therese Alshammar got into the semi-finals after withdrawing from the first week of action with a pinched nerve, while Auburn star Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace tied for seventh in 24.85.

Reigning Olympic bronze medalist Cate Campbell got into the semi-final in 10th, just behind sister Bronte, after she withdrew from the 100 free with illness. American Jessica Hardy qualified 12th in 24.99, but Hardy can go a lot faster, and she will need to; however, her Olympic Trials time of 24.50 should get her into the final. Kara Lynn Joyce, meanwhile, won’t get into her third straight Olympic final after she got into a three-way tie for 16th in 25.28. Joyce couldn’t overcome Brit Amy Smith in the swim-off, as the British crowd pushed Smith to a 24.82.

Sun Yang absolutely dominated the men’s 1500 at the World Championships last year, and he already has control of the event after prelims. Sun put up a 14:43.25, faster than the winning time in all but the last Olympic final. Speaking of that last Olympic final, only the defending champion hung within three seconds of Sun. Swimming in his first race of the week, Ous Mellouli put up a 14:46.23 for second overall, his fastest time since 2009. Another Olympic medalist from four years got into the final as Ryan Cochrane put up a 14:49.31 for third.

Park Tae Hwan got into his first major final of the mile with a 14:56.89, but he has already put up a 14:47.38 this year, and he could threaten as a darkhorse medal contender. Meanwhile, American 1575 free star Connor Jaeger touched out Poland’s Mateusz Sawrymowicz for the seventh seed, both in the 14:57-range, leaving Andrew Gemmell on the outside looking in. Gemmell’s 14:59.05 fell well short of the 14:52.19 he threw down for the win at Olympic Trials. As for Sawrymowicz, he won the World title in the event back in 2007, and he has made a resurgence over the last couple of years.

The U.S. women have to enter the 400 medley relay as the favorites, but Australia won’t give up their title without a fight. Swimming most of their A-team in the prelims, Emily Seebohm, Leisel Jones, Alicia Coutts, and Brittany Elmslie cruised to the top qualifying time of 3:55.42. Melanie Schlanger should come into this team in the finals, and her 52.65 split from the 400 free relay would provide some improvement over Elmslie’s 53.44. Coutts, too, has room for improvement over her 57.45 split, having broken 57 in the 100 fly final.

The Americans, meanwhile, should keep Jessica Hardy on the freestyle leg, but they have Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, and Dana Vollmer coming into the team. Remember, two of those three won Olympic gold in their 100 stroke event, while Soni came up just short before breaking 2:20 in the 200 breast last night; the Americans thus remain the big favorites headed into the final. Japan should get off to a fast start with Aya Terakawa and Satomi Suzuki, but they don’t have the firepower on the back end. Also watch out for China, which has World Champ Zhao Jing joining the team, and the Dutch should bring Kromowidjojo in for the final.

The American men swam Nick Thoman, Eric Shanteau, Tyler McGill, and Cullen Jones on the prelims medley relay, none of whom will swim in the final. The American men already have two Olympic champions, Matt Grevers and Nathan Adrian, and 100 breast bronze medalist Brendan Hansen. Oh, and the greatest butterflyer ever will handle the fly leg after Michael Phelps swims his 100 fly final tonight. I can’t imagine this American foursome not winning the gold medal. Much to the thrill of the crowd, the British qualified second, while the always-dangerous Japanese took third, led by Ryosuke Irie and Kosuke Kitajima.

Australia qualified fourth, and they could have three new swimmers coming in for finals. Hayden Stoeckel will swim the backstroke, while silver medalists Christian Sprenger will handle the breaststroke leg and James Magnussen the freestyle. Meanwhile, Matt Targett put up an impressive 51.30 fly split this morning, so the coaches will have to pick between Targett and Chris Wright in the final. Still, neither can match with the likes of Phelps; Hansen should step up on his breaststroke leg, as he always does on relays, and I think the Americans pull away on the following butterfly leg.

For the second-to-last time, I have my finals predictions ready to go.

Women’s 200 Back
1. Missy Franklin
2. Elizabeth Beisel
3. Meagan Nay

Men’s 100 Fly
1. Michael Phelps
2. Chad Le Clos
3. Milorad Cavic

Women’s 800 Free
1. Rebecca Adlington
2. Lotte Friis
3. Katie Ledecky

Men’s 50 Free
1. Cesar Cielo
2. Anthony Ervin
3. Cullen Jones

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