This is the final day of pool-action from the 2010 Pan-Pacific Championships, and it’s also the day that I am personally looking the most forward to. We will have multiple World Record challenges, a crazy-competitive 800 meters, and the always exciting 50 meter free. All that topped off by the 400 medley, which is my favorite relay. Here we go with today’s…
1) Two Shots at a World Record – Rebecca Soni was disappointedly left out of the A-final in the 50 breaststroke yesterday, but today’s 200 is the event she’s been waiting for. She has the 5 fastest times in the world this year, and I think she has a really good shot at the record of 2:20.12. Her best this season is 2:21.41, without anybody having been close to her.
After watching his first 3 days of competition, I don’t see how Ryan Lochte could NOT set this World Record. His time at Nationals (1:54.84) was less than a second off of his World Record mark (1:51.10). In the 400 IM, he dropped almost two and a half seconds between Nationals and Pan-Pacs, and that was with him pulling up at the end to save some energy.
With this being his last individual race of the meet, Lochte has nothing to save any energy for, and I think he will be gunning for this record. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that he breaks it in prelims, and then again in finals.
2) Cielo Looking for Redemption – Cesar Cielo has had a meet of ups-and-downs. He barely slid into the A-final, thanks to the 2-per-country rule, and then came back to win the bronze medal. Still, the bronze is lower than he expected, as he is the WR holder and defending World Champ in that event. He also is riding high after setting a World Best time in the 50 fly, which is not his specialty per se, but takes very similar talents to the 50 free.
But today, he will swim the 50 freestyle, which is the best of his bests. He’s the second fastest in the world this year (21.55), but Nathan Adrian, who won the 100, will be lurking, along with Cullen Jones, Eamon Sullivan, and Ashley Callus.
3) Men’s 800 Free – Ous Mellouli, who is the 2009 Worlds silver medalist in this event, is done for the meet. But there will still be a huge competition in the men’s 800. Astonishingly, 3 swimmers-Ryan Cochrane of Canada, Lin Zhang of China, and Chad La Tourette of the USA, are ranked in the top 10 in the world in this event…based on their 800m splits in the 1500 on Wednesday. Add in Peter Vanderkaay and Robert Hurley, this has the makings of an incredible race. Expect the world top-mark of 7:48.28 to be taken down by at least 2 or 3 swimmers.
Picks, Predictions, and Previews
Women’s 200 IM
- Ariana Kukors (USA)
- Caitlin Leverenz (USA)
- Emily Seebohm (AUS)
Breakdown: Ariana Kukors did not have a great 400 IM, but don’t let that fool you. The same thing happened at Nationals, where she went a 2:10.34 to win the 200, while failing to place in the top 8 in prelims of the 400. I originally picked Leverenz over Seebohm, but Leverenz has had a great meet, whereas Seebohm has looked just a little off. Seebohm seems to be saving her taper for the Commonwealth Games, which are still 2 months away, otherwise I’d like her chances of a silver or gold better.
Men’s 200 IM
- Ryan Lochte (USA)
- Tyler Clary (USA)
- Thiago Pereira (BRA)
Breakdown: Here it is folks, the first World Record to be broken in the post-polyurethane era. With this race, we will learn that swimming is not over now that the rubber suits are gone, and that we will, again, see World Records. Would it be overkill to say that Lochte is single-handedly saving the mainstream viability of swimming? Probably, but I said it anyways.
Beyond that, Phelps will give 1:54-high a go, if he doesn’t get knocked out by Tyler Clary again. Clary has been swimming incredibly, but I think a 200 is still short enough for Phelps to get the second USA spot. Pereira took bronze in the 400, and is better in the 200.
(Edit: Phelps scratched this race shortly before prelims started, and after the original publishing. Based on that information, I like Clary to win the silver.)
Women’s 50 free
- Yolane Kukla (AUS)
- Kara Lynn Joyce (USA)
- Jessica Hardy (USA)
Breakdown: Other than the 50 fly prelims, Kukla has been the fastest to 50 meters in every single race, prelims and finals, she has swum at this meet. There is no way that she gets denied here. Preemptive congratulations to Kukla on her first international medal, if not her first international gold medal.
Kara Lynn Joyce won Nationals pretty easily. I think she’ll be the silver winner here, ahead of Hardy. Hardy’s best 50 free time this season came all the way back in March. If she can put together a complete prelims-final in this race, she will medal. Then again, that didn’t happen at Nationals, so we shall see.
Men’s 50 free
- Cesar Cielo (BRA)
- Nathan Adrian (USA)
- Roland Schoeman (RSA)
Breakdown: Cesar Cielo finished a disappointing third in the 100 freestyle, but finished an exciting first in the 50 fly. I think on the all-out sprint, Cielo comes back with a win. Adrian looked powerful in the 100 free, but made up most of his win on the second half. In the 50, he won’t have the luxury of building his swim. Schoeman finished third in the 50 fly, which actually has a huge amount of correlation to the 50 free. I expect another bronze for the ultra-sprint specialist from South Africa.
Women’s 200 breaststroke
- Rebecca Soni (USA)
- Leisel Jones (AUS)
- Satomi Suzuki (JAP)
Breakdown: Soni is a total monster in this event. She has the 5 fastest times in the world this year, which will grow to 7 after this race. The only thing that will keep her from a World Record in this event is the lack of anyone to push her. The second and third place swimmers (be it Jones and Suzuki, or anyone else) will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5-3 seconds behind her, which comes to about two body-lengths.
In my mind, Jones and Suzuki are the overwhelming favorites for the other 2 medal spots, but don’t go to sleep on Canada’s Annamay Pierse, who set the WR last year in a polyurethane suit. She is the 4th seed, and the Canadians have been having a great meet, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if she medaled.
Men’s 200 breaststroke
- Kosuke Kitajima (JAP)
- Eric Shanteau (USA)
- Brenton Rickard (AUS)
Breakdown: Australian Brenton Rickard didn’t look great in the 100, or the 50. I had liked him to win this event, but now I think he’s going to do his best just to medal. Shanteau has had a very disappointing last few weeks. In his words, he “tried harder and went slower” in the 100. I think he gets his head right here and medals. Ryo Tateishi the 18 years old is the future of Japanese breaststroking, whereas the legend Kitajima is the past. The question here, and for the next 2 years, is who will be the present of Japanese breaststroking. I think Kitajima still holds his title for the next 2 years through London, before passing the baton to Tateishi, including a gold medal here.
Men’s 800 freestyle
- Ryan Cochrane (CAN)
- Peter Vanderkaay (USA)
- Chad la Tourette (USA)
Breakdown: Even with all of the other ultra-exciting races going on, this is still my race of the night. Cochrane was a beast in the 1500, where he took gold, and was very good in a silver medal 400 free as well. I think he goes even better here in the 800, and takes the win. Between the two Americans, I think Vanderkaay is set to open one up here. La Tourette also looked good in the 1500, but was not great in the 400. He’ll be battling with Australian Robert Hurley for the bronze.
Women’s 1500 freestyle
- Melissa Gorman (AUS)
- Kristel Kobrich (CHILE)
- Kate Ziegler (USA)
Breakdown: In another curious scheduling move, the Pan-Pac organizers put the women’s 1500 as the last individual event of the meet, right before the open water 10k. Open water swimmers and pool swimmers are no longer two segregated groups, as there is now a ton of overlap, especially in the distance freestyle events. As a result, the women’s 1500 has entered a much slimmed down group that has been reduced to no more than 10 participating swimmers. Among those who have dropped out since the initial psych sheets were put out are American open-water specialists Emily Brunneman and Chloe Sutton.
That leaves the door open for Melissa Gorman, the open water bronze medalist, to take an easy gold–if she does actually swim the race. Kristel Kobrich of Chile is the best bet at a silver. Kate Ziegler is the most intriguing swimmer in this race. She is the World Record holder in this event, which at 15:42.54 is one of the few records to have withstood the onslaught of the shiny suits. At the same time, she hasn’t gone close to that time in recent memory, and hasn’t even swum the 1500 yet this summer. She could dominate this race, and take a medal, or she could totally bomb it. We just don’t know. But based on how well she’s swam in the other freestyles this week–winning the 800 and putting up an awesome B-final time in the 400–I’d bet that she’ll shine.’
Women’s 400 medley relay
Breakdown: The Americans should win this relay fairly easily, although it won’t be by a huge margin just for the nature of the race. Coughlin will probably swim backstroke, despite being the freestyle champion, with Soni (breast), Vollmer (fly), and Hardy (free) filling out the relay. The Americans’ biggest advantage here is that they have a ton of flexibility in relay orders, and a huge number of 100 freestylers that can go great times.
The Australians are an easy choice for the silver. The Japanese, who failed to medal in either freestyle relay, should fare much better in the medley relay and take the silver.
Men’s 400 medley relay
Breakdown: This should be a much tighter race than either of the freestyle relays were. On paper, the Americans have the advantage. They will be hurt the most on the breaststroke leg, where the Australians will have a slight advantage and the Japanese will have a full second advantage. The Australians’ biggest deficit will be in the backstroke, and the Japanese won’t have a freestyler within a second of Nathan Adrian, cancelling out Kitajima’s advantage. The real question for the Americans is where to fit Ryan Lochte into this relay. Technically, he wasn’t the national champion in any of the 100’s. With how he’s been swimming this week, however, they absolutely have to find a spot for him on the relay. Backstroke is the only place that makes sense, even if it means pulling out the gold-medalist Aaron Peirsol, who only made the A-final after Lochte scratched. Out of all of the relays, this is the one that I’m least confident in for an American victory.