Most of the action on day 5 at the 2012 Russian Olympic Trials in Moscow was in the form of big semi-finals to set up the last day of the meet on Sunday.
There were a few finals. The only automatic Olympic spot was handed out to Nikolay Skvortsov in the men’s 200 fly, where he swam a 1:56.48 for the win. Unlike the 100, that was an extremely tight race, Skvortsov dominated this 200 by three seconds. This doubles up his events (he was already qualified in the 100 fly) and gives him a shot at redemption in London. Remember that in 2008, Skvortsov was in medal position after the semi-finals (swimming next to Phelps in lane 3), but added big in the final to place last.
In the women’s 100 fly, Irina Bespalova swam a 59.00 to take the title, but that missed the FINA Automatic Qualifying Time. She was a tenth faster in the semis, and will end up with just about the same time that she had last year in this event. She is probably headed to London anyways to swim the 400 medley relay; hopefully she’ll get to swim this race individually as well. She was a semi-finalist at last year’s World Championships in the 100.
Similarly in the women’s 200 free, the Russians got two good swims, but none quite good enough to earn Automatic Olympic berths. Elena Sokolova won in 1:58.81, which is the first time she’s broken two minutes in textile in her life. Maria Ugolkova took a full four seconds off of her best time, period, in this final to finish just behind in 1:58.99.
The semi-finals were way more important on this day, however. In the men’s 100 free, Andrei Grechin took the top seed in 48.29. He was the winner of the 50 as well, but at least in the shorter race he didn’t drop any time from the 2nd-to-3rd races. He was out faster than he came back, and he’s got a group hot on his heels, so there are some signs that he could be caught in tomorrow’s final. Nikita Lobintsov (48.37), Danila Izotov (48.44), and Vlad Morozov (48.56) are all close behind, as the Russians demonstrate why they had so much hype behind them before last year’s World Championships when they choked, hard.
In the women’s 100 back semi, Anastasia Zueva already is making a huge splash. She swam a 59.21 for the top seed, which is the second-best time in the world in 2012 already. Maria Gromova, who was 2nd in this race in 1:01.32, is the only other swimmer with a real chance at getting under the Olympic Qualifying Time of 1:00.8.
In the women’s 200 breast semi’s, Julia Efimova took the top seed in 2:25.38. She’ll need to be a 2:24 to be satisfied in the final – she hasn’t been outstanding (certainly not to the level of Zueva) in this meet so far. Anastasia Chaun is the 2nd seed in 2:26.10. Irina Novikova swam only a 2:28.54 in this semi, but she will be faster in the final.
The men’s 100 breaststroke semi was similarly slowly paced. The favorite Roman Sludinov took only the 3rd seed in 1:01.38. He should dip under 1:01 in the final, but he’ll have company. The top seed will belong to Vyacheslav Sinkevich with a lifetime best of 1:01.28. 19-year old Kirill Strelnikov dropped over two seconds off of his previous best to swim a 1:01.36.
Coming into this race it seemed like it would be a two-man battle between Sludinov and Anton Lobanov, but they are only the 3rd-and-5th seeds respectively.