2018 Pan Pacific Championships: Official SwimSwam Awards

by Robert Gibbs 50

August 15th, 2018 International, News


The 2018 Pan Pacific Championships – the major international event for several nations this year – is officially in the books.  While Team USA appeared to struggle in some ways, the Americans still easily topped the medal tally, but every nation had some great performances.

Here’s our SwimSwam awards, noting just a few of the many highlights from last week.  Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments.

Women’s Swimmer of the Meet – Cate Campbell

While Campbell has created a bit of a perception that she’s unable to bring the heat at major meets, she was on fire in Tokyo last week.  Her accolades included meet records in both the 50 free and the 100 free, and a trio of relay anchor legs that ranged between 50.93 and 51.36.  That’s five gold medals in one week, and she now has nine medals, all gold, across two Pan Pacific Championships meets.

Honorable Mention:

  • Katie Ledecky – When you’ve racked up the hardware and times that Ledecky has over the past six years, and seemingly broken world records at will, it becomes difficult to exceed expectations.  Thus, it’s hard to avoid feeling a little ho-hum about Ledecky’s week, as she “only” won three individual gold medals and had a wicked-fast split on the 4×200 free relay, but didn’t swim any best times.

Men’s Swimmer of the Meet – Ryan Murphy

The defending Olympic champion in both backstroke events looked to be a little off last summer, but Murphy returned with a vengeance in 2018.  He was one of the few US swimmers who really looked to be just about in peak form all week.   He was dominant in the 100 back, winning by over eight—tenths of a second and dropping over half a second off his time from USA Nationals.  The 200 back was even better for him, as he won by a whopping 1.55 seconds over Japan’s Ryosuke Irie.  His split on the medley relay wasn’t amazing, coming after the 200 back, but it was enough to put the rest of the team in a position to win and give Murphy his third gold medal of the meet.

Honorable Mentions:

Chase Kalisz – also earned two gold medals as he swept the individual medley events.  Sure, we gave Murphy the edge partially because he set meet records – and it’s not Kalisz’s fault that the meet records in his events happen to be held by Ryan Lochte, but Murphy’s gold medal in the medley relay puts him over Kalisz here.

Jordan Wilimovksy–yet another double gold medalist for Team USA, Wilimovsky excelled in the longest two events.  First, he won gold in the 1500m in the pool, then earned a championship in the open water 10k, getting the edge in close finishes in both races.

Women’s Performance of the Meet – Cate Campbell‘s 100 Frees

We’re going to cheat a bit here, but we’ll take solace in the fact that whether individual or relay, it’s essentially the same race.  As we mentioned above, Campbell churned out four 100 frees that were among the fastest ever, including the 2nd-fastest individual and fastest relay splits ever.

Honorable Mentions:

Katie Ledecky, 4×200 free – It feels like this swim got lost in the wake, so to speak, amidst the Aussies upsetting the Americans for the win.  But that loss was no fault of Ledecky, who split 1:53.84 in a futile attempt to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  That’s good for the third-fastest split of all time, and it shows that despite only garnering a bronze in the individual event (again, it came after a 800 free the same night), she’s still certainly capable of 1:54 flat start.

Rikako Ikee, 100 fly – The Japanese teenager set a meet record in the event by swimming 56.08 while becoming the 5th-fastest performer ever.  For good measure, she split 55-mid on both the mixed and women’s medley relays, helping Japan pick up hardware in both of those events as well.

Men’s Performance of the Meet – Ryan Murphy, 100 Back

Murphy’s already the world record holder in this event, and he flirted with breaking his own record before settling for tying Aaron Piersol for the 3rd-best performance of all time. Like we said, he looked a little off last year, but proved he was back in form with a time that was only .09 off his world record mark of 51.85.  It’d be easy to say that Murphy once again looks almost certain to sweep the backstroke events in Tokyo, except that Xu Jiayu has been within 0.01s of Murphy’s time, and he’ll be swimming next week at the Asian Games.

Honorable Mention:

Townley Haas, 4×200 anchor – Haas was one of many USA athletes who won gold medals without quite looking at their best, as his 1:45.5 victory in the 200 free was about half a second off of his lifetime best. But with the US facing a deficit after the first two legs were well off their best times, Haas dove in and delivered the 3rd-best relay split of all-time, going out in 49.4 to the feet, and holding on for a 1:43.78 that secured a gold medal for the USA.

Women’s Race of the Meet – 200 Free

We knew that Katie Ledecky was going to have challengers in this event, especially coming after the 800 free earlier in the session.  So, it wasn’t too surprising when the 18 year-old Canadian, Taylor Ruck, charged out to an early lead.  But fans who were hoping Ledecky still had enough left in the tank to real in Ruck were doubly disappointed, as not only did Ruck maintain her lead, but Rikako Ikee outsplit Ledecky over the final 50 meters to take silver, leaving Ledecky with her first bronze medal in international competition.

Honorable Mention:

Taylor Ruck (photo: Mike Lewis)

100 back – Similar story to the 200 free, as this race featured the current world junior record holder (Regan Smith), the current Olympic record holder (Emily Seebohm), the previous world record holder (Kylie Masse), and the current world record holder (Kathleen Baker), so we knew we were in for a good race.  Baker was first to the 50m mark, but both Masse and Seebohm closed on the second half.  All three touched within 0.22s of each other, but Masse got her hand to the wall first, followed by Seebohm, then Baker.

Men’s Race of the Meet – 200 Breast

It looked like this would be Josh Prenot‘s race to win after he set the meet record in prelims.  But things did not as expected in this race that had multiple lead changes.  Lizhuo Wang led after the first 50, then Matthew Wilson surged to touch first at the halfway mark.  Wilson hung on through the 150m, but Prenot and Ippei Watanabe were right behind him.  Ultimately, Watanabe split 32.8 over the final length to pick up gold, while Zac Stubblety-Cook split 32.14 to steal silver from Wilson, and Prenot faded to 5th.

Honorable Mention:

200 fly – This was similar to the 200 breast, in that the top seed from the morning, in this case Jack Conger, never led the race, and didn’t medal, but we still managed to see some great racing.  Daiya Seto led after the first turn, but Leonardo De Deus took control during the middle 100.  The final lap was a frenetic finish, as Seto ran down De Deus, and Zach Harting moved up from 7th to 3rd to grab a medal.

Women’s Breakout Performer – Ariarne Titmus

Yes, we’ve been hearing her name for a while now, and yes, she already won gold at Commonwealth Games.  But when your event schedule overlaps with a certain Katie Ledecky, and when your times aren’t too far off where hers were at the same age, you’ve got to be wondering how you would fair head to head.  And while Titmus couldn’t overcome Ledecky, she definitely challenged her in the 400, winning a silver medal there and in the 800, and served notice that, in 2020, these should be some good races.

Men’s Breakout Performer – Jack McLoughlin

Like Titmus, McLoughlin had already earned a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games earlier this year, in the 1500m free.  But here he proved that his performance at the Gold Coast was no fluke, as he took gold in the 400m over a field that included Mack Horton and Zane Grothe, and then nabbed a pair of bronze medals in the 800m and 1500m freestyles as well.  He looks poised to be the next big thing in a long line of successful Australian distance freestylers.

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2 years ago

Honourable mentions in the women’s break out star has to be Ruck & Ikee, like Titmus, both has been showing promise for awhile & all 3 should peak in the next 2 years.
For the men, well for an Aussie like me, never seen him swim but read about him relentlessly on Swim Swam about the coming of Michael Andrew, after the Pan Pacs, he has lived up to hype & in next years, could be something very special.

samuel huntington
2 years ago

biggest surprise for me was Australia men outperforming USA men in breaststroke – definitely not expecting that

Jim C
Reply to  samuel huntington
2 years ago

Pan Pacs was not a US Australian dual meet. How do you think the Japanese feel when you do not even seem to notice that Japanese men won both breast stroke events?

O Canada
2 years ago

Masse’s prelims 100 Back swim actually landed her official Swimmer of Meet award, which shows Campbell’s 100 and 50 Free swims by event were not that fast relatively. Ledecky performance at this meet has been somewhat undersold, only swimmer to win three gold individually and obviously she is taken for granted when she goes into a meet already with four world-leading LCM times for the season. To her credit, I think she was just one of two swimmers who even tried to take on a finals double and she scored medals (gold-bronze) in both events. Ruck tried the 200 Back-50 Free double, but only notched a silver and 4th place. Ruck was actually a slight bit of a disappointment at… Read more »

Reply to  O Canada
2 years ago

Campbell’s swim was the second fastest ever 100 free . Pretty good I’d say.
Also bare in mind Australia often has to travel trans-oceanically for meets.

Cheatin Vlad
Reply to  O Canada
2 years ago

I think the trans-oceanic travel is over blown. Competitors have to deal with this at every major event, it’s more of an issue of not having enough time to adjust. They should have been in that time zone immediately following trials and ideally USA Swimming schedule trials at least a few weeks earlier giving them 3-4 solid weeks in between.

Jim C
Reply to  Cheatin Vlad
2 years ago

I agree that competitors have to deal with trans-oceanic travel at every major meet, but I would consider the Olympics and the LCM World Championships as the only major meets. If you want to consider meets like the Pan Pacs, the European Games, and the Asian Games as major meets, then no, it is not something competitors have to deal with at every major meet. The US will be at the same disadvantage for the next 3 years, but those are major meets and the US will deal with the situation differently. Using this years trials and Pan Pacs to select next year’s team will help a lot.

Reply to  O Canada
2 years ago

Ruck disappointing?
-200 free gold Pan Pac and Can record
-100 free bronze BT
-50 free 4th just off BT
-200 back silver just off BT
-4×100 free lead off 52.8, helped Can lead the Aussies and US thru 300m!
-4×200 154.0 split couple tenths behind Ledecky
-4×100 medley 51.7 split…
5 medals in 4 days after 8 medals in 7? days at Commonwealths. …if that’s a ‘slight disappointment’ watch out when she’s ‘on’…!
13 medals combined Commonwealths + PanPacs. Any Aussies or Brits at the Euros come anywhere close to that?

Reply to  NJones
2 years ago

That is a heckuva lot of MINOR medals for Ruck, basically in regional competition.

Reply to  Gable
2 years ago

Then that’s the case for everyone this summer! Not sure any meet with Aussies and Americans can ever be considered ‘regional’. Ruck is #1 in the world 200 free and top 3/5/10 in 1/2 dozen other events. 200 free and 200 back times would have medalled in Rio and last year in Russia.