Thursday, August 9, 2012

London 2012: Day Thirteen

Olympic swimming has returned. Four days after Nathan Adrian brought the pool swimming events to a close with a bang, the women returned for the 10k Open Water race. While Britain’s Keri-Anne Payne entered as the favorite, anything can happen in Open Water, depending on who executes their race strategy to the best of their ability. Speaking of strategy, Payne, Eva Risztov, and Melissa Gorman took the race out quickly, while American Haley Anderson surprised people when she hung right with the favorites from the start.

In only her second major international 10k, Anderson took the lead over the big names after the second of six laps of the Serpentine and held in the lead group the rest of the way. Risztov took the lead at the halfway point and held that lead the rest of the way. A lead pack consisting of Risztov, Anderson, Payne, Angela Maurer, and Martina Grimaldi pulled away with one lap to go before Risztov established a huge lead. Anderson, though, had none of that, making a furious charge at Risztov in the final meters before falling just four tenths of a second short. Grimaldi, meanwhile, out-touched Payne for the bronze.

All three earned the first Olympic medals ever for their country in Open Water and their first personal Olympic medals. Risztov had come close before, finishing fourth in the 400 IM eight years ago in Athens. For Anderson, meanwhile, that’s a fantastic performance after so little experience in international Open Water swimming and a breakthrough for the U.S. The sport still has a long way to grow in this country, but an Olympic medal should do wonders for its popularity and long-term American depth in the discipline.

Meanwhile, the men have their 10k tomorrow, and that promises another fantastic battle. The race features four past World Champions: Vladimir Dyatchin, Thomas Lurz, Valerio Cleri, and Spyridon Gianniotis. Ous Mellouli, the Beijing gold medalist in the 1500, will take a shot at the 10k, as will American Alex Meyer, Bulgaria’s Petar Stoychev, and Britain’s Daniel Fogg. I really don’t know who enters as the nominal favorite, but Lurz has done everything in Open Water besides winning Olympic gold. The bronze medalist four years ago, I pick Lurz to finish two better in London.

1. Thomas Lurz
2. Valerio Cleri
3. Alex Meyer

Meanwhile, back in the pool at the U.S. Open, Megan Romano has caught fire. After a series of extremely disappointing performances at Olympic Trials, she has already won two events in Indianapolis. She posted a 53.92 to win the 100 free, faster than Jessica Hardy’s winning time at Olympic Trials, and she came back a day later to post a 2:09.08 in the 200 back. Both performances have put her into the world top-20, and both would have given her a spot in the finals at Olympic Trials; she made neither final.

Don’t look now, but Kevin Cordes could break 1:00 in the 100 breast this week. Cordes led the entire way in the final of the 200 breast last night before BJ Johnson touched him out, 2:10.87 to 2:10.92. Cordes, who finished third in the 100 breast at Olympic Trials in 1:00.58, failed to swim faster than a 2:12.72 at Trials, so he’s showing some big improvements in just six weeks since Omaha. Before the age of 20, Cordes has already established himself as a key to the future in American men’s breaststroke.

More to come later on some of the drama in swimming this week and some of the ongoing events at the Olympics.

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