Friday kicks off the 2012 edition of the Austin Grand Prix meet, and the Olympic hopefuls are out in force for the beginning of the Olympic year. This includes a large portion of the Canadian Olympic team that has made a habit of coming down for Grand Prix meets.
First, here’s a link to psych sheets, which were updated on Monday.
There’s been a ton of discussion on this meet already in the comments, so we’ll split up our preview list of things to watch into two groups of five: first will be our 5 favorite topics that have been discussed extensively in the comments, and the second 5 will be ones that have flown under the radar (either a brief mention by our readers, or none at all).
5 Top Topics (from major comment discussions)
1. Michael Phelps in the 400 IM – Michael Phelps swore off the 400 IM sometime around the 2010 Pan Pac Championships, presumed by most as a sign that he felt he had accomplished all there was to accomplish in the race, and he was ready to look at new and different challenges. But in the last 6 months or so (since Shanghai), this will be the 3rd meet in which he’s swum it – and the first long course. Is this his way of telling us all something? No Lochte in this race, by Clary will be there to give him a strong push, as will up-and-comer Tyler Harris of Trojan.
2. 200 Backstroke Future – There are three young, potential superstars in the men’s 200 backstroke in the United States, and all three of them will be at this meet – Jacob Pebley, Ryan Murphy, and Jack Conger. They’ll be lined up against the last generation – Ryan Lochte, Matt Grevers, and Nick Thoman (the latter of whom are better in the 200 than they get credit for); along with Russia’s smooth-stroking Arkady Vyatchanin and all-world swimmer Tyler Clary. Every meet is an opportunity for a young swimmer to learn, but this is a great time. Especially given the ridiculous level that some of those guys put in this time of year – the big lesson here is how to step up and handle these high-level, high-visibility races while in huge training.
3. Janet Evans and Anthony Ervin Against Major Competition – Both Janet Evans and Anthony Ervin are making their returns against the top of American swimming at this meet – and both will be swimming their primary events: Ervin the 50/100 frees, and Evans the 400-800 frees. Both will have similar problems in one regard – because of their seedings (Evans at 51st in the 400 free, and Ervin with SCM seeds in both races) they will have to swim in the “B” flights in the afternoon. That means not much recovery time between sessions. There’s pros and cons of this- lack of recovery time for Ervin is counterbalanced by being able to sleep in. Evans will be hurting without that recovery time. Of course, if they don’t expect to final, it doesn’t make much of a difference, but if finaling is their goal, then knowing exactly what they need to go in the morning is beneficial.
I’d say a reasonable target for Ervin is better than 22.7 in the 50 and under 50-seconds in the 100 free (I expect him to hit both of those marks). Where Evans is at is a total mystery, but pushing for around a 4:17 in the 400 free and better than about an 8:53 in the 800 would be solid.
4. Natalie Coughlin in the 200 IM – The moment you’ve all been waiting for (and that many expected at Nationals in December) – the great Natlie Coughlin is entered into the 200 IM, a race that she’s swum only one time since taking bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In that swim at last year’s Namesnik Grand Prix, she was a 2:15, and only swam it in the morning. The event comes two after the 100 back in the schedule, so it will be disappointing if we don’t get to see her really go after it in finals.
5. Clock is Ticking on Moses – Ed Moses seemst to be working hard in his comeback attempt (after watching his documentary, he’s definitely enjoying the ride), but the game has changed a bit since he first announced his return. For one, Brendan Hansen is back and is probably the favorite in the 100 breaststroke at Trials, and looks like he’s in great position to grab a spot in the 200 as well. Moses has been back in the pool for long enough, if he’s not making an A-final at this meet (he’s seeded 15th in both against stout, multinational fields) he’s in trouble.
5 Stories That Are More Under the Radar
1. The Florida Men in the 200 Free – We know Gregg Troy works his swimmers hard. We know that Ryan Lochte kills himself in practice. But look at the training group he’s got around him – including 5 of the top 7 seeds in the 200 free, Lochte, Vanderkaay, the Brothers Fraser, and Dwyer, among others. That’s a monster of a practice group.
2. Swimmers Returning from Injury – Both Roland Schoeman (tear in his forearm) and Tyler Clary (rotator cuff pain at the Duel in the Pool) are both entered in this meet after recent injuries that were expected to cost them training. Whether or not either one will swim (or how much they will swim) remains to be seen, but watching for both to finish a full meet schedule is going to be important.
3. No Texas, A&M, SMU, TCU Men – There are plenty of women’s college programs in attendance at the meet – including the state’s three best programs Texas, Texas A&M, and SMU. But strangely none of the college men are swimming at this meet. It’s surprising that the college teams, especially the home-town Longhorns, aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity to race against the best. Can’t think of a good reason for why there are so many women’s college programs swimming, and so few men’s.
4. Katie Hoff is Definitely an IM’er – This meet will pretty much seal-the-deal. Katie Hoff is once again an IM’er. Of her 8 entries, her only two freestyle events are the 100 and 200. She adds to that a pair of IM’s, a pair of breaststrokes, the 100 fly, and the 200 back. There’s no conceivable way that these events fit into the schedule of someone training for anything aside from the 200/400 IM.
5. Fabiola Molina Not Suspended – Brazilian star Fabiola Molina was supposed to learn the results of her CAS hearing (where FINA appealed the 2-month doping suspension she received from the Brazilian Federation) in December. Neither FINA nor the CAS have commented on the result of that decision, but she’s entered in this meet (swimming for Charlie Houchin’s new IX3 program)