14 Questions for 2014

2014 brings us to the middle of the Olympic cycle and with that comes the only year without a world-wide long course championship meet. Fortunately the schedule is just as interesting with a vast array of regional meets including Europeans, Pan Pacs, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, in addition to short course worlds. Many questions were answered last year. Katie Ledecky is legit, and even better than we expected. Vlad Morozov is a major force in world sprinting. Conor Dwyer is one of the top middle-distance and all-around men on the planet. But many questions still await.

1. What will Ryan Lochte do?

The last time Lochte went to Pan Pacs he won four individual gold medals, all by convincing margins, on the way to one of the all-time great performances at worlds in Shanghai the next year. After taking time off for a reality TV show, Lochte proved himself to be one of the best all-around male swimmers in the world. However, a serious knee injury and Father Time (Lochte will turn 30 next year) seem to be looming for Lochte. Can he repeat as medley and backstroke champion, or will a newcomer, or perhaps an old nemesis (see #14) take the crowns away?

2. European Women’s Breaststroke

Last summer all three breaststroke world records were broken by three different European women, setting up what would seem to be an epic battle royale in Berlin. So far, Yulia Efimova has left with the lion’s share of the medals, striking gold in both sprint and long haul, but losing to Ruta Meilutyte in the 100, which seems to be the Lithuanian’s sweet spot. However, considering Meilutyte’s sprinting prowess in the 50 and 100 and Rikke Moller Pedersen’s 200 WR, it’s totally possible that the breaststroke queen of 2013 could come home with a silver mine.

3. Is Katie Ledecky human?

Ledecky spent the first 50 or so weeks of 2013 making a case for being the greatest distance swimmer ever and proving her doubters wrong. However, Duel in the Pool affirmed two things: Katie Ledecky is physically capable of losing, at least when sick, and Mireia Belmonte-Garcia is really good at distance swimming, and really really good at short course distance swimming. Will Katie Ledecky seize her throne as the best women’s distance swimmer in the world, or will short course worlds prove that Belmonte is Ledecky’s “white whale.”

4. How fast will Sun Yang go?

He’s proven that he can dominate races when his training is on (2012), and that he can win when not in the best shape of his life (2013). However, history has shown us that male distance swimmers tend to reach their peak around age 21. Sun is now 22, and will be 24 at the Rio Olympics. If he wants to break the elusive barriers of 3:40 and 14:30 then this year could be one of his last chances. Of course, that ignores his burgeoning improvement in the 200 freestyle. The London silver medalist made himself the 5th fastest of all time last year and dropped a filthy relay split while not in his best shape. Will this be the year he can challenge Yannick Agnel for the coveted crown of middle-distance champ, or will he once again be relegated to second-best?

5. Raomi v. Cate

Cate Campbell had possibly the most impressive season in the women’s 100 freestyle since Dawn Fraser. However, before we call her the best sprinter ever, she must conquer Ranomi Kromowidjojo, the double Dutch Olympic champ. Kromo ceded her title as 100 free champ and the textile WR to Campell, but retained the 50 freestyle crown by tying her textile WR, set the undisputed record in the s/c 50 free, and had the number 1 performance in the 100 free to boot. While the pair won’t face each other in a major long course meet next year, they will certainly set the stage for Kazan and Rio.

6. The Returns

2013, being the year after an Olympic Games, featured a number of people taking time off. Rebecca Soni took her break while a trio of other women reinvented the breaststroke world records in both short course and long course. Now with her records gone, the 3-time Olympic champion has her work cut out if she wants to retain her status as the greatest female 200 breaststroke swimmer in the world.

Park Tae-Hwan also faces a tough welcome back to competition. The 6-time individual Asian Champion will face Sun Yang in the 200, 400 and 1500, and will have a hard time retaining his titles in the 200 and 400 now that Sun is the Asian record holder. Can he make strides and pull off an upset in the 400 and defend his 100 and 200 crowns, or will Sun maintain command of their rivalry?

7. How close can Chad le Clos come to Michael Phelps?

The soon-to-be 21-year-old le Clos comes off of a great season in short course, both in the 200 fly and in versatility. Can he approach Phelps’ last standing textile WR in the 200 fly, or maybe even the global standard of 1:51.51? Le Clos’ versatility should not be underestimated either, as strong performances on the world cup tour highlight his breadth. Golds in the 100 fly seem to be there for the taking, and if Lochte is not on his game, a 200 IM title would not be out of the question at Pan Pacs and Commonwealths, and let’s not rule out the 400 IM.

8. Will the rising American men continue to make leaps and bounds?

Last summer, five American men won individual medals for the first time. Feigen, Dwyer, McBroom, Jaeger and Kalisz all won their first individual medals and look to be the core of American men’s swimming for years to come. Can they continue and dominate at Pan Pacs, ushering in a new era of American male dominance? Will their silvers and bronzes transform into gold medals and world number ones?

9. Men’s Sprints

Manaudou v. Morozov at Euros. Adrian v. Cielo v. Magnussen v. Ervin at Pan Pacs. Some have described the time as a “golden age” in sprinting, which may very well be true. Cielo may have have finished on top last year, but that’s no guarantee given the field at Pan Pacs. Manaudou and Morozov will also get a chance to have the battle that never materialized a few weeks ago. Will Cielo, Vlad and Magnussen stay on top of their rivals, or will the tides turn and someone else come out victorious?

10. The Most Decorated Man

With a number of regional meets coming up, many men have a shot at taking home four or more individual medals at one meet or another. Will Chad le Clos capitalize on his short course season and continued ascension since defeating Phelps in London? Can Conor Dwyer prove his Duel in the Pool results weren’t a fluke and come home with a fistful of medals? Will middle distance medley swimmer Laszlo Cseh come home the most versatile, or will a sprinter like Morozov or Florent Manaudou take home the most prizes from Europeans? Or will Ryan Lochte prove once again he’s the king by returning to the States with multiple golds? Whatever the case, Kosuke Hagino must definitely have a bad taste in his mouth after last summer’s 400 IM and has more than a few shots at the Asian Games to redeem himself.

11. The Most Gilded Woman

Short course super racers Katinka Hosszu and Mireia Belmonte-Garcia could end up having a field day at short course worlds. Last time around, Katinka took five individual medals, and Belmonte’s last trip garnered four medals, three golds and one swimmer of the meet award. Short course worlds could feature them taking home a combined 10 individual medals. Of course, as they say, in order to be the best you have to beat the best, and Missy Franklin will be alive and kicking fresh off her first year of college. After 6 golds last year, she is the woman to beat at Pan Pacs, where seven medals is by no means out of the question.

12. NCAA Championships

As a high schooler, Missy Franklin proved herself again and again on the world stage, but can she continue her dominance at NCAA’s? Will she set college records and storm through Pan Pacs, or will her starts and turns leave the door open for an upset? On the men’s side, all eyes will be on age group record-holders Jack Conger and Ryan Murphy. After impressive times last summer at US Nationals, can they throw down some monster times as freshmen before qualifying for Pan Pacs? And can Kevin Cordes keep setting American records after last year’s ground-breaking season?

13. Which Allison Schmitt will we see?

In the space of a few days, Schmitt literally went from being on the doors entering the IU Natatorium for Nationals to not making the wall of names on the National team. Will the dominant three-time Olympic gold medalist of 2012 return, or will the less-than-stellar ’13 Schmitt show up again?

14. Will Michael Phelps come back?

Trials for Pan Pacs and 2015 worlds are looming. If Phelps wants to make a comeback then his window of opportunity is quickly approaching. Can Phelps win a third consecutive title in the 200 fly and defend his 100 fly crown? Will he attempt to break his Pan Pacs record in the 100 free? Will he make the team? Will he even compete? There’s no shortage of speculation and intrigue surrounding the greatest swimmer of our generation.

Bonus Question: Does USRPT really work? – So far, Dr. Brent Rushall’s USRPT is ‘fad’ training that is easily marginalized by the fact that it’s greatest success story, Michael Andrew, is a physical juggernaut. But Rushall and the Andrew family are putting on clinics to spread their good word, and it won’t be long before we get more data points. 2014 will be the year where we find out whether the USRPT is a sweeping success or only a viable option for a select few gifted swimmers.

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10 years ago

It’ll be interesting if Dressel can match McEvoy at 18.

10 years ago

I believe there will be a few “new names” that will knock out the old guard. Somewhere out there, there is a hungry young swimmer who is going to do the right things and will make a major breakthrough during the summer of 2014.

10 years ago

I have high hopes for florent Manaudou : 45.04 in SC 100 free? When I saw that number I had forgotten what that means, and is probably close to the same scale of performance as Magnussen’s 47.1. While Manaudou is probably a better SC swimmer, we could be looking at a sub 47.5 swim, which, let’s face it, given his genes, isn’t impossible.

His 21.37 in 50free semis in barce was supposedly “shutdown”, and I expect he has a 21.1 in him next year either way.

Also, what people have forgotten is that Agnel was a 3:43.8 swimmer when he was a 1:45.5 in the 200frew, Agnel is now nearly 2.5 seconds faster in the 200free, and if you… Read more »

10 years ago

Is Michael Phelps in the drug testing pool? I can’t remember.

If he isn’t, he cannot swim in this year’s trials, no?

In any case, I am confident he will be there in 2016 US Olympics trials.

Reply to  aswimfan
10 years ago

Phelps is in testing pool since July:

Reply to  aswimfan
10 years ago

He did re-enter the drug testing pool. He is eligible to swim, it is just not clear whether he is going to train for trials this year or not.

10 years ago

Pysch and Bobo, those predictions make sense, and pretty close to what I was thinking.

I’m wondering what the selection criteria will look like for PanPacs and the World Championships. In 2010, the US took the top four from the 100/200 free, and then cycled through the rest of the olympic events. If they go with that method again, that means, for instance, someone like Dressel might not quite make the top four in the 100, but Murphy or Conger could sneak in as the #3 or #4 finisher in the 200 back, even if Lochte and Clary both swim it.

Also, will there be stroke 50s at Nationals to determine who swims that for 2015, or will Team USA… Read more »

10 years ago

Bobo here are my early predictions. Pretty similar to yours.

50 free. Nathan Adrian/Anthony Ervin
100 free. Nathan Adrian/Jimmy Feigen
200 free. Conor Dwyer/Matt McLean.
400 free. Connor Jaeger/Michael McBroom
800 free. Connor Jaeger/Michael McBroom
1500 free. Connor Jaeger/Andrew Gemmell
100 breast. Kevin Cordes/Kevin Steel
200 breast. Kevin Cordes/Scott Weltz
100 fly. Ryan Lochte/Tom Shields
200 fly. Andrew Seliskar/Tyler Clary
100 back. Nick Thoman/Matt Grevers
200 back. Jack Conger/Ryan Murphy
200 IM. Ryan Lochte/Connor Dwyer
400 IM. Ryan Lochte/Chase Kalisz
4X100 free relay. Nathan Adrian/Jimmy Feigen/Anthony Ervin/Caeleb Dressel/Ryan Lochte
4X200 free relay. Conor Dwyer/Matt McLean/Ryan Lochte/Charlie Houchin/Michael Klueh/Conor Jaeger

50 free. Simone… Read more »

Reply to  Psych
10 years ago

If 50% of predictions come true that’s a good call.

Reply to  Psych
10 years ago

“100 free. Simone Manuel/Megan Romano”

Much as I appreciate the boldness of your prediction and Simone’s potential or Megan’s relay prowess, don’t think either of them will displace Missy, currently the fastest female American 100 freestyler in the long course (and by a not insignificant margin)…

At least not in 2014, in Simone’s case!

bobo gigi
10 years ago

Happy New Year to swimswam, to the swimswam team and to the swimswam readers!
Long live swimswam!

bobo gigi
10 years ago

Ok. Next summer, the American swimmers will have to qualify for Kazan 2015. One year sooner! Like in 2006 or 2010. Too bad for the youngsters. they will have to wait for 2016 to shine at the international level. It’s also not the summer to be injured or sick. So, I’m trying my usual crazy soon predictions about which swimmers will represent USA in 2015 after the US nationals and the Pan Pacs.

MEN. Predictions made with a Ryan Lochte fit and a Michael Phelps not in the water. If MP is back, I predict he will qualify for the 100 fly and for the 4X100 free relay.

50 free. Nathan Adrian/Anthony Ervin
100 free. Nathan Adrian/Jimmy Feigen
… Read more »

Reply to  bobo gigi
10 years ago

That’s pretty good, and assuming no unforeseen changes, I think very accurate. I only disagree on a few points.
I think Murphy will make a showing in both backstrokes. I can’t decide who behind in the 100, but behind Clary in the 200. Lochte is getting old, I think his last good showing will be 2015 Kazan.
However, I do think he will qualify in the 200 free and swim it, although I agree that he will most likely not be able to beat Agnel.
I don’t think Weltz will make the 200 breaststroke, I believe it will be either Bentz or Seliskar.
Also, I think Shields and Lochte will be switched in the 100 fly.… Read more »

Reply to  Flyin'
10 years ago

Cierra Runge in the 400? Her best is 4:10 and she has multiple girls with bests ahead of her. I also see her more in the 100/200 niche with her 55.1 and 2:00. There’s Chloe Sutton 4:06, Allison Schmitt 4:01, Gillian Ryan 4:07, Lindsey Vrooman 4:08, and Sarah Henry at 4:08. I think she’s a great swimmer and definitely has potential to make teams further down the road.

Reply to  Flyin'
10 years ago

I’d guess Bentz before Seliskar on the 200 breast. This is probably Bentz’s best chance to make the team, unless both Lochte and Clary drop the 400 IM.

And I really have a hard time seeing Murphy finishing ahead of Grevers or Thoman in the 100 back.

Reply to  bobo gigi
10 years ago

Do you think Eugene Godsoe could possibly make the 100 fly or 100/200 backstroke after how he has been swimmnig in sc? I also think that Coughlin should probably make the 100 free instead of Manuel.

Reply to  jnow
10 years ago

He presumably has a chance in the 100 fly. I think the backstrokes are just too jammed, though.

About Robert Bernhardt

Robert, a Canadian-born native of Champaign Illinois, is a high school junior at King Henry VIII School in Coventry, England. Robert has enjoyed significant success in his swimming at the local level since the age of seven, but nothing good enough to warrant being on this site. Outside of swimming …

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