As the Canadian Olympic hopefuls stepped outside this morning, they were greeted by sub-freezing temperatures and a blanket of snow. For the top swimmers in the prelims field, this was congruous to the swimming in the morning session that was not great; though still good enough to get the favorites all through to finals.
In prelims of the 200 fly, the top swimmer was actually American-trained Anestis Arampatzis, though he is a Greek swimmer and will be relegated to the B-Final in the evening session. His 1:59.69 is the only time to crack the two-minute barrier, but that still only makes him the 3rd-best Greek swimmer (this is an event where the Greeks are very strong).
The top Canadian was the side-breathing Stefan Hirniak in 2:00.02, though he’ll be much better in finals (his stroke is one that doesn’t lend itself well to fast-times on relaxed swims). But nipping at his heels is another huge time-drop from 400 IM champ Alec Page in 2:00.16, and Mack Darragh in 2:00.35; both of them only barely 18-years old.
Page looks again like he has some time to drop in this final, as his closing 50 meters was slower than it was at last year’s Worlds Trials (where his overall time was 1.5 seconds slower). Whether or not he’ll again be able to knock off a veteran like Hirniak, however, is still in question, and key with neither likely to make the FINA A-time.
For those fans of Mexican swimming, in 5th was Ramiro Ramirez-Juarez in 2:00.49. If you’re keeping score, that’s .06 faster than the best time of Canadian-trained Israel Duran-Mata (2:03.10 in this prelim) during the qualifying period for an Olympic spot.
In the women’s 100 back, the reigning queen of Canadian swimming Julia Wilkinson took the top seed in 1:00.48, which was well ahead of last year’s champion (and National Record breaker) Sinead Russell (1:01.42). Wilkinson is still looking to break the elusive minute barrier in this race, and with that being her fastest morning swim ever (prelims in Beijing were swum in the afternoon) ; Russell on the other hand hasn’t swum all-that-well in her last few outings, which is what makes this sort of a nervous result for her. This final will have a different dynamic than many that we’ve seen so far at this meet, though, in that two swimmers should be under the FINA-A time, so a top-two spot is good enough.
Dominique Bouchard is 3rd in 1:01.56. If the runner-up time hovers around a 1:00-mid, then Bouchard could be in the mix – she had a huge drop between prelims and finals of this race at last year’s Trials (though the 200 is still her better event).
In the men’s edition of the 100 back, the top seed went to Charles Francis out of the Olympic Park Pool (PPO) club in 54.77. He’s got the best chance of sneaking under the Olympic A time in finals, and really should get there.
Matt Hawes has had a down couple of years, but looked better last year than he had since 2007, so there’s a chance that he (2nd seed – 55.92) could challenge Frances. 4th-seeded Pascal Wollach swam a 56.30 – he’s the National Record holder, but has been bad since leaving Auburn a few years ago, and probably won’t muster the speed to get into the hunt for a win in finals.
The prelims of the women’s 400 IM were less-than-spectacular, with the top seed going to Stephanie Horner in 4:46.62. Alexa Komarnycky, the favorite who looked good in the 400 free on Tuesday (despite missing a top-two spot), was 3rd in 4:47.96. But in between were a pair of teenagers who had huge breakout performances. 17-year old Breanne Siwicki out of the Manta Swim Club blasted a 4:46.78 that is a lifetime best by 7 seconds, and in 4th was 16-year old Erika Seltenreich-Hodgson (what a name) in 4:49.60.