Day 7 of the meet has just two individual races, the women’s 50 free prelims and the men’s 1500, the latter of which will go along with both medley relays as prelims that won’t be swum until tomorrow night’s finals session. China’s Sun Yang probably won’t be going for any records in the heats, but this could set up for more World Record breaking performances in the longest event on the pool-swimming schedule.
Women’s 50 Free – Prelims
The Dutch women have finally gotten on form, with Ranomi Kromowidjojo (24.51) and Marleen Veldhuis (24.57) taking the top two seeds coming out of the prelims of the women’s 50 free. The whole of the difference between the two can be credited to the blocks, where Kromowidjojo, already with a 100 free gold medal in her bag, was .06 seconds quicker in reacting.
Close behind was the home country’s Fran Halsall in 24.61. She will be leading a group of women in this race who have been disappointing in their results, but looking for redemption in the form of a medal in the all-out, pure-speed 50 freestyle. That includes Germany’s World Record holder Britta Steffen as the 4th seed (24.70).
Sweden’s Therese Alshammar in her first action of the meet after a pinched nerve scratched her from the rest of her races looked well in the 6th seed in 24.70. Cate Campbell looked great after having to scratch the 100 free with a 24.94 for 10th, tied with Sarah Sjostrom who seems to have missed her taper. Cate’s sister Bronte will be one spot ahead in 24.87.
American Jessica Hardy is the 12th seed in 24.99, with the biggest surprise coming from 19-year old French teenager Anna Santamans to grab the 15th seed in 25.23. Despite being 25.2 or better at three different meets this year, she’s really flown under the radar.
Perhaps the best race of the 50 free prelims, though, will be a three-way swim-off for a single spot between Iceland’s Sarah Bateman, American Kara Lynn Joyce, and Britain’s Amy Smith. Those are three big-name swimmers who, after the session, will be gunning for another individual swim this evening. The trick is that Bateman (an American citizen trained at the University of Florida) and Smith are both signed up for prelims spots on their respective medley relays. That should give Joyce a decided advantage, as she’ll be quite a bit more rested and prepared for this swimoff.
Update: Britain’s Amy Smith, despite coming straight off of a medley relay, improved her time with a 24.82 to win the swimoff. It’s hard to beat a swimmer in a swim-off in front of her home crowd at the Olympics. Joyce was 2nd in 25.12, and Bateman 3rd in 26.03.
Men’s 1500 Free – Prelims
China’s Sun Yang was a fairly big favorite coming into this men’s 1500 free, and after the prelim looks to be even moreso. He swam a 14:43.25 without breaking a sweat. He actually put a big negative-split into this race, going out in 7:22.4, coming home in 7:20.8. This mark was about 5 seconds faster than he was in prelims at Worlds to take the top seed, and as he got faster his stroke rate seemed to slow. Count on a World Record in this final.
Leading the battle for silver will be Tunisia’s Ous Mellouli in 14:46.23. I think he may have pushed a bit harder than he would have liked, swimming next to Yang, but he easily negative-split the race as well. If there were a swimmer who could pull off the huge upset, it would be Mellouli. He’s swum spectacularly the last two months or so, and is dangerous.
Canadian Ryan Cochrane is the 3rd seed in 14:49.31, followed by Gregorio Paltrinieri in 14:50.31. Paltrinieri leads an underrated Italian distance group that a bit disappointingly will have only one finalist in this event.
Britain’s Daniel Fogg qualified 5th in 14:56.12, followed by Park Tae-Hwan (14:56.89), Connor Jaeger (14:57.56), and Mateusz Sawrymowicz (14:57.69). American Andrew Gemmell didn’t turn his speed on soon enough, and was 9th in 14:59.05.
There were a few big names out of this final, there always is in a distance race, but Hungary’s Gergo Kis in only a 15:21 was the biggest shock. This may have also been the end of the career for Britain’s David Davies, one of their biggest swimming legends of the last 20 years with two Olympic medals to his name.
Women’s 400 Medley Relay – Prelims
The Australian women have been known to put up a near-top relay in prelims, though rarely have they done it with this much success. The quartet of Emily Seebohm, Leisel Jones, Alicia Coutts, and Brittany Elmslie swam a 3:55.42 to take the top seed in a time better than they were at Worlds last year. The first three legs should be the same in finals, with just a swap of freestylers at the end.
1. Seebohm 58.57
2. Jones 1:05.96
3. Coutts 57.45
4. Elmslie 53.44
As good as that Aussie relay was, it’s hard to envision them getting a whole lot better in finals. That would seem to leave them still behind the Americans, though the Americans weren’t great in prelims with a 3:58.88 for 4th. They’ll make wholesale changes before finals, with the freestyle leg the only one left up in the air. Most importantly, this was a huge experience opportunity for a group of 4 first-time Olympians who could all play even more vital relay roles in 2016.
1. Rachel Bootsma 59.70
2. Breeja Larson 1:06.66
3, Claire Donahue 58.05
4. Jessica Hardy 54.43
In between those two squads, clearly the favorites, were Japan in 3:57.87 and Denmark in 3:58.35. Neither team will have big lineup changes for finals, but the Japanese will have big opportunities to make up some ground with better swims. Jeanette Ottesen from Denmark swam a 56.6 to lead that squad.
The rest of the final will be made up of the Netherlands, Great Britain, China, and Russia.
Men’s 400 Medley Relay - Prelims
The American men looked solid in this 400 medley preliminary round, though they will make a four-swimmer swap. The group of Nick Thoman, Eric Shanteau, Tyler McGill, and Culen Jones will be in lane 4 in the final with a 3:32.65. When looking at the potential finals relay, the Americans will go with the gold medalist in the backstroke (Grevers), the bronze medalist in the breaststroke (Hansen), likely the gold medalist in the butterfly (Phelps), and the gold medalist in the freestyle (Adrian). There would have to be something more than just a “bad swim” for that relay to get beat.
1. Thoman 53.31
2. Shanteau 59.69
3. McGill 51.53
4. Jones 48.12
The British men stunned by winning the first heat in 3:33.44 for the 2nd overall seed. Their breaststrokers have stepped up throughout this meet, and that was their advantage again in this prelim with Craig Benson swimming a 59.68 to pull them into the lead. Based on what we saw last year, they’ll need to drop another second in finals to find the podium, with that difference having to come from bookends Liam Tancock (53.98) and Adam Brown (48.22).
The 3rd seed is Japan in 3:33.64, who as expected used Takeshi Matsuda on the fly leg and Takuro Fujii on the freestyle. Fujii anchored in just 49.00 and should be better in the final. Close behind them was Australia in 3:33.73, anchored by Tommaso D’Orsogna in 47.59, his second great relay swim of this meet. They have a few changes to make before finals. The Dutch (3:33.78), Worlds bronze medalists Germany (3:34.28), Hungary (3:34.44), and Canada (3:34.46).
Three teams (New Zealand, France, and China) missed by less than two-tenths, but the most disappointing will be the French. That’s the second straight year that they’ve missed this final, and this year they’ve done it even with an A-relay in prelims. With Camille Lacourt leading off in only 53.63 and Yannick Agnel anchoring in 48.77, the French didn’t take this prelims swim seriously at all and it cost them. What’s worse is that they wasted a 1:00.03 from Giacomo Perez-Dortona, which is about as good as they could’ve hoped for from him. Russia also missed the final, meaning their only finals relay swim at this meet was a bronze in the 400 free relay.