Day 1 of the 2014 Pan Pac Championships are in the books, and the first thing that jumped out: nobody seems to want to swim the 200 fly. (1) Except the Japanese, that is.
The Japanese men had four of the top 6 finishers in prelims of the 200 fly. They’ve always been good in that event with the legendary Takeshi Matsuda, but as of late, they’ve become arguably one of the strongest 200 butterfly programs in the world. In finals, Daiya Seto got the win in 1:54.92, beating out just one American.
That’s because the United States’ second-fastest prelims swimmer Tom Shields was DQ’ed in the heats, and then Chase Kalisz who got bumped up into the A-Final scratched as well.
There are perils of these Pan Pacs with their two-per-country rules, and while in general we like the format (it forces interest in prelims), in some cases, it seems a bit of a travesty. Here, for example, Kenta Hirai with a 1:56.4 in prelims was left in the B Final, whereas China’s Haobo Wei with a 2:05.10 prelims swim made the A-final. That’s almost a 9-second gap over 200 meters. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
Meanwhile, in the women’s 200 fly, (2) everyone got a second swim. Pan Pacs rules only allow three per country to final, with the exception that if there’s fewer than 16 entries, everyone else can go into the B-final. Maya DiRado very nearly capitalized on that, winning the B-Final in 2:07.42 – just four-tenths behind Katie McLaughlin, who ultimately got the second spot.
In winning gold in that women’s 200 fly, Cammile Adams swam a 2:06.61. (3) That’s basically within a tenth or two, one way or the other, of the time she swam at the Olympic Trials in 2012, at Worlds last year, and at several other meets, where she’s hit a bit of a ceiling.
However, given the overall tone of the first day (not a lot of great swims in finals), that’s actually a more exciting result than the number looks like. If she now settles into a full year of post-grad training (she’s currently at SwimMAC Carolina), maybe she can put the Americans back on the podium in Kazan. The U.S. hasn’t won a 200 fly medal at Worlds since 2007, and hasn’t won a 200 fly medal at the Olympics since Misty Hyman in 2000.
(4) We’re getting our first taste of whether the Australians were fully tapered for the Commonwealth Games and trying to carry it forward, or whether they’d held back for Pan Pacs. Thus far, it seems a bit of a mixed bag, leaning toward being fully tapered for the Commonwealth Games. Emily Seebohm swam well in the 100 back, but others did not fair as well: Madeline Groves was a 2:06 at Australian Nationals, a 2:08 at the Commonwealth Games, but just a 2:10 here. Mack Horton was a 14:48 at the Commonwealth Games in the men’s 1500, but just a 14:52 on Thursday. The Australian men didn’t even have an entry for the 200 fly.
While there’s a number of other factors contributing to the results, anybody looking for breakout swims from Australia at this meet probably isn’t going to find them. That will make the men’s sprints really, really interesting, because it’s not as though the Americans are swimming all that well either.
(5) Japan’s Ryosuke Irie picked up the first Pan Pacs gold medal of his storied career in the men’s 100 back in 53.02. This is the kind of meet that was made for him. He’s a smaller swimmer, so will perform better in the cold by traditional logic, and he’s super-consistent. Even at 24, he’s done so much in his career, but until this point that hasn’t included a Pan Pacs gold. After this win, he might be tiptoeing his way into favorite status in the 200 back later in the meet, although Americans Ryan Lochte and Tyler Clary are both swimming very well too.
(6) The first “B-Final” upset for a spot on the U.S. Worlds team came in the women’s 100 back, where Kathleen Baker swam a 1:00.35 to knock off Liz Pelton, who was a 1:01.37 in the A-Final; and Rachel Bootsma, who was a 1:00.71 at Nationals. Baker is one of three 18 & unders to book their tickets to Worlds out of 8 total so far for the Americans. Not that we didn’t already know how young the American women’s national team is.
(7) Brooklynn Snodgrass was also faster than her A-final compatriots in the women’s 100 back. She swam a 1:00.57 in the B-Final, which would have been 4th-best in the A-Final with a better prelims swim.
(8) And finally, Australian Melanie Schlanger made her point with a 4th-place finish in the women’s 200 free, going 1:57.16 in prelims and 1:57.39 in finals. She was left off of the Australian 800 free relay at the Commonwealth Games, even though she was absolutely on-fire at that meet. While Australia would go on to win gold, Schlanger didn’t get to partake in either prelims or finals. She’s now put the Aussie coaches in a spot – there’s no prelims at Pan Pacs, and so their choice looks like it’s going to come down to whether they should bump star swimmer Alicia Coutts from the finals 800 free relay in favor of Schlanger.