2018 Pan Pacific Championships: Official SwimSwam Awards

by Robert Gibbs 48

August 15th, 2018 International, News

2018 PAN PACIFIC CHAMPIONSHIPS

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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Jim C
4 years ago

I think a special award should be given to TAYLOR RUCK–the SO MUCH FOR ANYONE WHO THOUGHT THAT LEDECKY AND MANUEL GOING PRO WOULD MAKE STANFORD VULNERABLE NEXT YEAR AWARD.

Jim C
4 years ago

Hindsight is 20-20, but it is important to learn from the past. The US made a mistake putting Schmitt on leadoff. Imagine switching Ledecky and Schmitt. Ledecky would have been a great leadoff swimmer. Then if Schmitt has a second or two lead over Groves as anchor I think the US has a good chance. Don’t put a former superstar on leadoff.

Jeff
Reply to  Jim C
4 years ago

Let’s be fair, it wasn’t all Schmitty, Leah Smith didn’t do favors to the relay as well (1:56.5). Both Katie McLaughlin and Ledecky were great, but Leah handed a larger deficit to them.

Jim C
Reply to  Jeff
4 years ago

Leah Smith was 2.18 s faster than Schmitt, and a relay start is not worth that much. As it turned out, all Schmitt had to do was lose to Titmus by less than 3.10 s. Of course we did not know that at the time, but it should have been clear that staying within 2 s should be enough. But again, who knows? The point here is that if the Aussies put their best as leadoff, it is fine if Ledecky races her–but no one else should, and Schmitt is the one swimmer who might be strongly tempted to do so. On the other hand, if Schmitt is going to go all out to give the US the lead at… Read more »

Miss M
Reply to  Jim C
4 years ago

Aussie tactics were to swim fastest to slowest. It was a risky, risky move that relied on each of them swimming out of their skin, which they did. And it was based on the assumption that the US would swim a traditional 2,3,4,1.

US team had a much more traditional approach – Schmidt had been good earlier in the meet, but had a poor swim. Noone from the US could have anticipated she’d be 2 seconds slower than her individual 200 free. Add in Smith being a little bit off and it opened the door for the Aussies.
Don’t think you can criticise the US for electing to finish the relay with their fastest swimmer – after all,… Read more »

Jim C
Reply to  Miss M
4 years ago

If I remember right, Missy Franklin did something similar, going out too fast at the beginning and paying the price later on. Against a faster swimmer you need someone on leadoff who will swim her own race, and not be tempted to race and then lose it at the end. Quite likely the US wanted to give Ledecky the leadoff to give her the chance of retaking the number one spot in the world rankings, but chose not to do so. The Aussies put someone who skipped the 200 on leadoff, and even the Canadians did not follow the traditional order. I do not think any team can simply follow the traditional order and then claim they cannot be criticized… Read more »

tea rex
4 years ago

Michael Andrew finally arrived as a legitimate four-stroke threat at the international level. He kind of duffed the breaststroke, but won the 50 free, and won the B-final in back and fly. Across the season, MA ranked top-4 among Americans in every stroke – and he is still younger than anyone ranked ahead of him.

SwimmerFan99
4 years ago

Very surprised the women’s breakout performer didn’t go to Taylor Ruck!

Jim C
Reply to  SwimmerFan99
4 years ago

How could Taylor Ruck be considered a breakout performer after her sensational performance at the Commonwealth Games?

NJones
Reply to  SwimmerFan99
4 years ago

SwimmerFan99 and Jim C:
You are both correct imo. Argument could go either way. Regardless phenomenal year by Ruck and the Canadian girls. .. Let’s not forget something like 10 of their 12 relay legs came from ladies 21 and under, and
that combined with Euros had all teams in the top 4 or 5. They are that good now without another 2018 HS grad in Penny who showed a bit of return to form this spring before taking a break for the back half of summer.

Danjohnrob
4 years ago

Where’s the Swimswam award for worst Swimming Commentator of all time?! I nominate John Burgess! And For Worst Commentating during a swimming race, I nominate the Men’s Pan Pac 4×100 Medley Relay; I was just re-watching it now and, wow, what a s%^* show!

He said What?
Reply to  Danjohnrob
4 years ago

Go back and watch the women’s medley as well. It was beyond shameful. He had mixed up the 4×100 free relay with the 4×100 medley – just as he had done with the men’s. Honestly, when he said Blake Pieroni was swimming breastroke, I almost split a gut from laughing so hard at the error.

Danjohnrob
Reply to  He said What?
4 years ago

On the one hand, it was really funny and entertaining; but, since I really cared about the outcome of the race, it was also VERY annoying!

He Said What?
Reply to  Danjohnrob
4 years ago

Amen

AnnoyedCanuck
Reply to  Danjohnrob
4 years ago

I couldn’t stop telling my phone to stfu! Seriously, he even blamed the organizing committee on switching up the teams on him… what a farce!

AWSI DOOGER
4 years ago

Ledecky’s 4 x 200 split was overblown. Like McLaughlin’s surprising split before her it was caused by the huge deficit after Schmidt’s inept opening leg. Ledecky was unaccustomed to that type of relay deficit so she had surreal energy, not unlike Rikako Ikee chasing Dahlia to a very quick butterfly split later in the meet.

Besides, Ledecky cut the deficit to almost nothing after the first 100 of that relay split. I thought it was extremely suspicious that NBC chose not to show that full race on the delayed afternoon coverage, or even the full split from Ledecky. They played only the final 15 meters or so, while bemoaning during after-the-fact voice over that Ledecky was so far behind she… Read more »

NJones
Reply to  AWSI DOOGER
4 years ago

Full credit to the Aussie anchor Groves who did not wilt when Ledecky quickly caught up to her hip by the 100, and really dug in to hold her off the last 50.

straightblackline
Reply to  AWSI DOOGER
4 years ago

This race reminded me of the men’s 4X200 in Athens 2004 when Ian Thorpe made up a pretty big deficit on Klete Keller in the first 100 but could not get past him. It came as a bit of a surprise as Australia had not been beaten in that relay for about seven or eight years.

NJones
Reply to  straightblackline
4 years ago

Michael Gross 84 Los Angeles swims fastest 200 free split of all time but gets out split on the final 50 by the American to hold on for a US win.

Miss M
Reply to  straightblackline
4 years ago

That’s exactly what I was thinking at the time. As an Aussie, it was nice for us to be on the winning side of the ledger.
Ledecky’s split was excellent, but full credit to Maddie Groves who hung on when it counted, even injuring her elbow on the final touch, ruling her out of the 4×100 and 100 fly on the final day.

Holy water
4 years ago

The medley relay commentary takes the cake.

“It certainly looks like Baker is leading off but my information says otherwise.”

Teddy
Reply to  Holy water
4 years ago

Zach Apple the giant is flying, on the butterfly

He said What?
Reply to  Holy water
4 years ago

Let’s not forget that the great breastroker, Margo Geer, followed the “maybe” lead-off of Kathleen Baker. I see GREAT things for Margo as the next great American breastroker. (He says while laughing hysterically.)

Gruberest
4 years ago

With all the talk about Campbell relay split, what gets lost is that Ledecky’s 4×200 relay split was one of the fastest in history and unlike Campbell’s flat start 100 Free and 50 Free (only 3rd fastest in world), no one other than Ledecky has ever put up times faster than those swum by Ledecky in the 400-800-1500 at Pan Pacs. She actually widened the gap internationally in the 800 and 1500 Free this season versus last season, and ended up with three best-in-world event times to go along with her 1500 Free record she broke by 5 secs earlier in season. In some ways, a lose-lose proposition for Ledecky to break WRs at this point–no real incentive at Pan… Read more »

Stubs
Reply to  Gruberest
4 years ago

I get it Ledecky is the greatest female distance swimmer ever. But let’s not pretend that the women’s 800 and 1500 are as competitive and contested as the 50 and 100 freestyle…

Jim C
Reply to  Stubs
4 years ago

Yeah, but isn’t it a bit much to get 4 gold medals just for swimming the 100 free five times including prelims.

Holy water
Reply to  Jim C
4 years ago

“CD wasn’t swimmer of the meet at budapest, he only swam 3 events.”

Jim C
Reply to  Holy water
4 years ago

Caleb Dressel swam the 50 free, the 100 free, the 50 fly and the 100 fly. He won three individual gold medals, and finished fourth in the 50 fly. He was the only man to win as many as three gold medals, and only Sjostrom and Ledecky did the same among the women. Unlike Cate Campbell, CD did not win 4 golds swimming the same thing, but rather 3 swimming 100 fly and 3 swimming 100 free. Officially there were female and male swimmers of the meet chosen using the FINA formula that totally ignored relays, and Dressel did win the male award. By the same formula Cate Campbell would not win the female award at Pan Pacs.

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