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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SM
7 years ago

Cant wait to see what happens the Aussie trials with the male sprinters , Its Eamon also coming back from a break, can Roberts find his early 2012 form ,can Cam McEvoy give James a run for his money interesting year for the Aussies with Pan Pacs and Commies

Reply to  SM
7 years ago

McEvoy is a guy to watch.He is improving EVERY year at solid pace.

SM
Reply to  DDias
7 years ago

He didnt swim in this year’s World cup circuit i wonder what he can pull off at the Billiton Aquatic Super Series in Jan

JMAN
7 years ago

my question is whether Kevin Cordes can make the transition from dominance in SCY to LCM?

bobo gigi
Reply to  JMAN
7 years ago

I know someone on swimswam who has an idea about the question. 🙂

C Martin
Reply to  bobo gigi
7 years ago

He only has “some potential” though. 🙂

TheTroubleWithX
Reply to  JMAN
7 years ago

The 2:08.34 Cordes swam in the 200 breast at USA Nationals would have gotten him a silver at Worlds if he’d made into the final heat and repeated that time. It also makes him the second-fastest American of all time, behind Shanteau. He seems a safe bet to win gold at Pan Pacs, continue to improve, and at least medal in 2015 and 2016.

Admin
Reply to  TheTroubleWithX
7 years ago

TheTroubleWithX – though Cordes is certainly a contender to win gold at Pan Pacs, don’t forget that the World Record holder Akihiro Yamaguchi will likely be entered in that meet. Roughly the same age as Cordes, and has been quite a bit faster. He didn’t have a great 2013, but he’s got the potential for a 2:06.

TheTroubleWith
Reply to  Braden Keith
7 years ago

D’oh. Forgot about Yamaguchi. More coffee.

Robert Bernhardt
Reply to  TheTroubleWith
7 years ago

To be fair he’s been somewhat forgettable since his WR. Has he even competed outside or worlds, because I don’t remember him at any world cup events?

Reply to  TheTroubleWith
7 years ago

He’s competing in the NCAA… so he hasn’t been ‘visible’, but he’s swimming well.

aswimfan
Reply to  TheTroubleWith
7 years ago

Akihiro Yamaguchi swims in NCAA??

Reply to  JMAN
7 years ago

Cordes is already a reality in LCM.But many factors will be counted for him to be the TOP one.Van de Burg,Gyurta and Yamaguchi are some of these factors.

SM
Reply to  JMAN
7 years ago

Cordes is certainly the best the US have to offer but i think the Breaststroke events will heavily be European dominated for a few years to come , maybe a few World record falling at the Euros ?

bobo gigi
7 years ago

Manaudou, not Manadou.
Can he win the 100 free at the European championships? 47.75?

Agnel. Which Agnel will we see next summer?

And I want to see Katie Ledecky break the 400 free world record. She was so close in Barcelona. A sub 4 minutes in textile was fantastic. I would be very happy if she could break the Pellegrini’s record.

Robert Bernhardt
Reply to  bobo gigi
7 years ago

Russia is in Europe, and Vlad is in Russia. So I foresee the winning time will be under 47.7, which I think Vlad is more likely to do (he was 47.6 at Universiade).

You mean the world champ, or the Olympic champ? He won the 200 both times. I think most people would be happy seeing either, though with Bowman he has a shot at improving in other events and expanding beyond his bread and butter.

Definitely could happen. The question is if she will continue to improve or reach her peak early. Janet Evans set her landmark WR at her first world wide competition aged 17 and never improved it from there.

bobo gigi
Reply to  Robert Bernhardt
7 years ago

Agnel was enough good to win the 200 free in Barcelona but he has won more with his mental than his body. In 2013, he was far from being at his best. So, I hope we will see again the true Agnel. I hope a 200 free/400 free double at the European championships with times around 1.43.50 and 3.42. It would be fantastic. We’ll see.

C Martin
7 years ago

Will Marcelo Chierighini be able to match Vlad’s splits at NCAA’s–and possibly a sub-40 as well?

Who will take the men’s 100 back title at NCAA’s, and will it translate into long course and a berth onto the team for Pan Pacs?

And can Caeleb Dressel be the first junior ever under the 22-barrier in the 50 free?

ACHILLES
Reply to  C Martin
7 years ago

As I said before, a sub 40 100 Free SCY is entirely possible, and I predict within the next 5 years. Vlad had the right idea when he split 19.1 at NCAA’s but died a little on the second 50. It will be a 19.2 with a standard drop of 1.5 sec for the next 50 at 20.7 that will do it. Chierighini has a chance but don’t think he will quite get there. I predict a 40.6 at NCAA’s for him.

C Martin
Reply to  ACHILLES
7 years ago

Agreed. Chierighini has the right difference in splits and pacing, but definitely needs to take it out faster. I now agree with you that it is an unlikely feat for him, as he needs to drop at least 4 tenths to get there–a large chunk of time to lose in only one year (and also needs to come back in at least a 21.5).

Reply to  ACHILLES
7 years ago

It will be such a thrill to watch a sub 40 swim!I remember watching Cielo 40.92 and everyone “Whaaat!”…and now we are talking about sub 40.

Something to watch out: Next year, Cielo will be a lot of months in America(he doesnt want the WorldCup effect on him).There is a chance he will swim some meetings in yards.I have no doubts if he does a semi-tapered one, his 18.47 50free is gone, and with his new start, will be in another level.

Mead
Reply to  ACHILLES
7 years ago

I don’t see why everyone thinks Chierighini will beat Vlad’s 2013 times and break NCAA records. He’s a great sprinter, but he was 18.99 in the 50, Vlad was out 19.14 to the feet in the 100 and went 40.76. No way a guy who’s been in a program 3 years will drop that much time in one year. I bet he goes 40.90-40.19 with it likely being on the slower end, but I’d love to see a 40.6!

Reply to  Mead
7 years ago

MEAD,
i dont think is impossible to Chieriguini to do a 40.6.He wasnt at his peak in NCAA last year(where he made 41.5 in 100free).He was at his peak in Maria Lenk Trophy, where he made 48.11 and 21.84(LCM) to qualify for World Champs.This year, will be his last one, and i think we will see him at FULL shape in NCAA.

C Martin
7 years ago

Will Max Miranda break Phelps’ 13-14 200 fly LCM record? 🙂

SABRINA
Reply to  C Martin
7 years ago

He’s appearing in the top 5 on USA Swimming’s SCY 2013-2014 IM Xtreme this season for the 13-14 age group.

1 5636 Whitley, Reece 1 1 1 1 M 13 13 MA Penn Charter Aquatic Club
2 5305 Hitchens, Hunter 2 1 1 1 M 13 13 CA Irvine Novaquatics
3 5295 Chan, Will 3 1 1 1 M 13 13 LE Unattached
4 5249 Gomez, Alberto 4 1 1 1 M 13 13 FG Miami Dade County Aquatic Club
5 5243 Miranda, Max 1 1 1 1 M 14 14 NE Bluefish Swim Club

Robert Bernhardt
7 years ago

I don’t think the author is mentioned in this piece, could that be rectified?

Reply to  Robert Bernhardt
7 years ago

Robert,
below the big title, at your left.

Robert Bernhardt
Reply to  DDias
7 years ago

Whups, sorry. I was looking for italics at the top of the main text and skipped the little bar under the title.

iLikePsych
7 years ago

Specifically for NCAA’s:
1. What will it take to A final in the 200 back (men) or 100 back (women). Murphy, Conger, Teduits, Nolan, Pebley, Ress (?) all capable of 1:40 or better. The 100 back is mitigated by the fact that it’s a second day event and thus Cal will spread their swimmers (Franklin and Pelton in the 200 free for example), but they alone could easily have 4 or 5 swimmers under 51 – and there are others like Bartholomew from UVA who could add to that.

2. How much can Cordes improve his SCY records, and how much can others catch up. He’s already ahead of the next 200 breast fastest in history by 2.5 seconds… Read more »

TheTroubleWithX
Reply to  iLikePsych
7 years ago

When I see Seliskar’s name connected with Stanford, the first thing that pops into my head is David Nolan and how it seems like he hasn’t made the transition from historic SCY performances into national team success. I do wonder if University of Virginia might be an option for him, though. He’s from Northern Virginia, his high school is usually ranked as the best public school in the nation, and literally 20-25% of each graduating class ends up at Virginia. Don’t know if that fact would make him more or less likely to go though, but it’s an interesting possibility.

Psych
Reply to  TheTroubleWithX
7 years ago

What about Ledecky? Where will she go? My guess is Cal or Stanford

TheTroubleWithX
Reply to  Psych
7 years ago

I have no earthly clue. I know some people on here have speculated she may go pro and keep swimming at NCAP. She’s only a junior this year, right? Which means she doesn’t graduate until 2015. Below Don posits that Seliskar could postpone first year of college until 2016; I suppose Ledecky could conceivably do the same thing.

don
Reply to  TheTroubleWithX
7 years ago

I’m wondering if he will stay where he is for the year before 2016 OT’s. first year of college training can be tough and it wouldn’t hurt him to postpone college for a year.

duckduckgoose
Reply to  don
7 years ago

Other than college swimming, what’s the upside for Ledecky to remain an amateur? Unlike Missy, Katie doesn’t swim for her high school. In other words, if she were going to go pro she would have done so already. She was terrific at Worlds, but that doesn’t get nearly the coverage as the Olympics does in he USA.

Pan Pacs gets even less coverage. Her window to turn pro is prior to 2015 Worlds or after the 2016 Olympics. She won’t have any ads ready to go post-Olympics, so she either goes pro in 2015 or she swims in college and leaves a ton of cash on the table.

I think she stays put in 2015-2016 so she can… Read more »

Admin
Reply to  duckduckgoose
7 years ago

Point of clarification – Katie does swim for her high school. She’s a National High School Record holder in the 200 (independent) and 500 (overall).

swimmer24
Reply to  TheTroubleWithX
7 years ago

Ledecky was coached by two coaches on her way to Olympic gold. Both are current college coaches. However, one is currently a men’s team assistant coach, but the other coaches on a joint team. USC is the darkhorse in Ledecky’s college search with Jon Urbanchek having a very active role in the coaching staff there.

ACHILLES
Reply to  iLikePsych
7 years ago

My sources tell me and don’t be surprised if Seliskar picks Purdue. His brother swims there now and his parents and other family members are Purdue alums.

Neptune2029
Reply to  ACHILLES
7 years ago

Nice thought, but no chance he ends up at Purdue.

ACHILLES
Reply to  Neptune2029
7 years ago

Why not? Do you have any insider information?

aswimfan
Reply to  iLikePsych
7 years ago

It does not make sense for Ledecky to go Missy’s way.

either she goes pro or NCAA.

If she chooses to go Missy’s way, she’d miss out on the pre-Olympics commercial opportunities.

TheTroubleWithX
7 years ago

On the American men’s side, questions #1 and #14 are going to have a huge influence on everything else. Is Phelps even capable of getting back into tip top shape by summer? My guess is, just looking at his face last summer while he watched at the World Championshps, that if he does comes back it’ll be largely for the relays, which means he’ll need to focus on the 100 free, 200 free, 100 fly. As far as Lochte goes, with world-class talent behind him in the 200 back and 400 IM, does he drop those events and focus on the relays events plus the 200 IM? It’d definitely be interesting to see what those two could do in the… Read more »

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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