Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.
Heading into World Championships, the storyline is again centred on James Magnussen. Although last year the Aussie described himself as buying into the myth and overblown bravado of the “Missile,” this year has had a humbled and more modest Magnussen bounce back from the silver medal in London to again post the fastest time in the world.
Compared to London there will be at least one new fresh face on the podium with bronze medalist Brent Hayden (CAN) retiring after the Olympics. Another notable missing face will be Cesar Cielo (BRA), who after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery will be focusing exclusively on the 50m freestyle. And yet another big gun not racing this event will be Yannick Agnel (FRA), who is swimming only relays at World Champs, leaving a bright field of young up-and-coming speed to make their mark on the international stage. Names like Morozov, McEvoy, Feigen, and Chierghini look to challenge the sprinting elite in Barcelona.
First there was the 4x100m free relay. Then there was losing the 100m free – an event in which he was heavily favoured to win – by the absolute slimmest of margins. Then the public post-mortem of what had happened to the powerhouse Aussie freestylers in London. And then, when things were already at their worst, a maelstrom of allegations of improper behaviour and the Stilnox saga.
To say that the past year has been bumpy for James Magnussen (AUS) would be an understatement. He is eager to put the disappointment of London and the drama behind him, and looks on pace to do so with the way he has been swimming this year. He swam a 47.53 (the exact same time he swam in London) at Australian Nationals in April, easily the fastest time of the year, while also swimming the second fastest time of the year (47.67) at the French Open. While another world championship title (he won in 2011) might not make up for the Games in 2012, it will certainly be a positive step forward for Magnussen.
The Russians are looking especially fierce this year, fielding 4 swimmers at 48.51 or faster, including 3 of the top 8 in 2013. Fastest amongst them is Vladimir Morozov, who swam a 47.93 at Russian Nationals, the second fastest time this year. Morozov moved to the United States as 14 year old from Siberia, and has been training with Dave Solo and the USC Trojans. In the lead-up to the 2012 Trials Morozov considered swimming for the United States, but after being told he wouldn’t be able to compete for the Americans until 2016, decided that he couldn’t wait 4 years. Morozov has been lighting it up this year, winning the 50 and 100 in Istanbul at the World Short Course Championships, and also breaking Cesar Cielo’s NCAA record with a 40.76 in winning NCAA’s in the 100 yard freestyle.
Defending Olympic champion Nathan Adrian (USA) won the event in London, upsetting Magnussen. Adrian has been swimming this event very well in-season, clocking a 48.08 at the Santa Clara Grand Prix. He was just off of this time at the Phillips 66 US Nationals and World Trials last month (48.10), which is also the exact time he went at Trials in 2012 in the run-up to the Olympics.
Magnussen’s teammate Cameron McEvoy (AUS) has the fourth fastest time in the world this year (48.07), which set an Australian Age Group Record and also makes him the 5th fastest Australian of all time. The 19 year old swam a couple unrested best times at the Aussie Time Trial in Brisbane last month, swimming a 48.8, and he will be a key part of the 4×100 free relay that is looking to avenge a 4th place finish in London.
With Cesar Cielo electing to focus on just the 50m free, Marcelo Chierghini (BRA) becomes the #1 man for the Brazilians in the 100m. Chierghini is nothing to scoff at – he swam a 48.11 at the Maria Lenk Trophy Meet earlier this year, while this will be the first time he has competed at a major international competition in an individual event (he was in Shanghai for the 2011 Worlds and London last year and swam exclusively on relays). Unsurprisingly, Chierghini is a product of the Auburn University sprint program, and has benefited from the mentorship of Cesar Cielo over the years. With his relatively short time in the sport – he didn’t come to the sport until his late teens – and impressive performance put on so far this year, Chierghini will be contending for a medal in Barcelona.
Nikita Lobintsev (RUS) posted the 6th fastest time in the world this year (48.18), and makes for the second part of what will be a blistering Russian relay squad. Swimming with Dave Salo and Russian teammates Vladimir Morozov and Alexander Sukhorukov at the Trojan Swim Club, he is no stranger to international competition. He earned a bronze medal as a part of the Russian 4×200 free relay in Beijing, and he also posted the fastest leg on the Russian relay in London (47.39).
Florent Manandou (FRA) is known for his 50m dash, having won the shorter freestyle event in London. With one eye towards Rio the Manandou is looking to add the 100 to his schedule. Having already dropped nearly a second off his best time this year (48.41 from his best of 49.27 last year), the Frenchman is working on adding some back-end endurance to compliment his front end speed. He has traditionally struggled in the second 50, and Barcelona will provide a good benchmark for where his back half stacks up against the best in the world. (This is, of course, presuming Manaudou will swim the 100, of which we’ve heard no official word – he’s claimed a long-term goal of swimming the 100 in Rio though).
Jimmy Feigen’s (USA) 48.24 swum at US Nationals was a personal best time, shaving two tenths of the time he swam at Olympic Trials. For the member of Longhorn Aquatics this will be just his 4th international major competition.
Note that Andrey Grechin from Russia could very well be in this conversation, except that he is not swimming the 100 free. He is shut out by Russia’s depth despite splitting a 47.98 leadoff on their 400 free relay at the World University Games. Grechin was only 7th at the Russian Cup championship trials.
The real sleeper pick in this race is Cuba’s Hanser Garcia, who has become something of a “message board legend”. He has bounced around the world training and competing since making the transition from water polo to swimming two years ago, and despite being very new to the technical aspects of high-quality world-class sprinting was already 48.0 at the Olymipcs. His starts and turns, according to rumor, have vastly improved, so don’t be caught off-guard when you see him in the A-Final at Worlds.
Picks, with best times since January 1, 2010:
1. James Magnussen, Australia, 47.10
2. Nathan Adrian, USA, 47.52
3. Vlad Morozov, Russia, 47.93
4. Marcelo Chierighini, Brazil, 48.11
5. Hanser Garcia, Cuba, 48.04
6. Cameron McEvoy, Australia, 48.07
7. Nikita Lobintsev, Russia, 48.17
8. Jimmy Feigen, USA, 48.24