The 2012 FINA Short Course World Championships kick off Wednesday in Istanbul, Turkey. The meet’s sessions begin at 10AM for prelims and 7PM for semi-finals and finals each day; in other parts of the world, that rings as:
New York City: 3AM/Noon
Los Angeles/Vancouver: Midnight/9AM
Sydney: 7PM/4AM (next day)
China: 4PM/1AM (next day)
We love women’s swimming at SwimSwam, but this meet is thicker with stories on the men’s side of the pool. There seems to be a greater depth of talent from the gentlemen than from their female counterparts for this one. Here’s 6 of the best stories to watch.
1. Men’s 50 Fly – 50’s don’t usually lead the lists of races to watch unless they’re freestyle, but at this meet, where some events are a hair thin, the 50 fly has probably the deepest field (and let’s be real, there’s no more fun race to swim than a short course 50 fly). This race includes a number of the meet’s top butterfliers and freestylers, jammed into one bout of pure athleticism. It starts with Brazil’s Nicholas dos Santos, long course World Record holder Rafael Munoz, and Fred Bousquet. But then it moves forward to Ukrainian flyer Andrei Govorov, Chad le Clos, Jason Dunford, Tom Shields, Wu Peng, Kaio Almeida, Barry Murphy, Belgian Francois Heersbrandt, and Joeri Verlinden. The big sleeper is American Ryan Lochte, who is outside of the fast heats in the morning so will have to be careful not to get clipped by a lazy prelim. Anybody who is concerned about the starpower at this meet need look no further than this race. The 100 fly, which will include Kenneth To, will be equally as exciting.
2. Ryan Lochte Repeats; Etc – Ryan Lochte is the two-time defending champion at Short Course Worlds in both the 100 and 200 IM’s, and already has a three-peat in the 200 IM dating all the way back to 2006. We could see World Records in each of these two races at this year’s meet after he broke the 200 in Dubai and came painfully close to the 100 at the end of the same meet. This year, he seems to be much fresher and more sprint-focused than he was in 2010, where he’d already started building for his Olympic 400 IM. For now, that 400 IM is off of his schedule, which should leave him a bit more refreshed (he’s swimming some super-sprints like the 50 fly that shouldn’t take too much out of him either).
3. To and Bovell Stand in Lochte’s Way – For those who didn’t closely follow this fall’s FINA World Cup Series, you missed one of the great back-and-forth FINA battles in the men’s 100 IM’s. Australian Kenneth To and Trinidad & Tobagonian George Bovell put up 8 of the 25 best swims in history in the race, combined. Add in the current World Record holder Peter Mankoc, though he’s a bit past his prime, and this is going to be a tight final – maybe 6 or 7 swimmers jammed between 50.0 and 51.0.
4. Women’s 100 Backstroke – None of the top three American backstrokers, Franklin, Coughlin, and Bootsma, are entered in the meet. There’s still a great crew of internationals, though, including Daryna Zevina and Rachael Goh, who dominated the World Cup Series. Olivia Smoliga is swimming extremely well (in 25 yard pools) this fall after breaking Bootsma’s National High School Record; and Megan Romano has been waiting for her shot at the world after disappointingly missing the Olympic team last summer. Britain’s Lizzie Simmonds broke the 200 backstroke World Record in short course last year, and will be the 2nd seed in this race; the big darkhorse is Mexican swimmer Maria Fernandez.
5. Shiwen Ye Ready for Short Course? – As soon as the start lists came out, I got an email from a good swimming friend titled simply “how many seconds with Shiwen break Smit’s World Records by?” I think after what she did at the Olympics, this is a thought running through a lot of peoples’ heads. She was within a second of each in 2010 when she was only 14; she came within three seconds of each at the Beijing World Cup stop despite clearly being unrested (her closing freestyle splits in short course were slower than she did in long course over the summer). These. Records. Are. Toast. Book it.
6. Yevgeniy Lazuka, Resurgent Under ADN? – Anybody who’s been following the sport at a deep, international level since 2009 should have at least been heard of the Azeri swimmer. In 2009, while representing Belarus, he swam a 52.9 in the 100 fly in long course, and split a 51.7 on the Belarusian medley relay. Those times were in a suit, but still impressive for a swimmer of only 19 years old. Since then, his times have been going the wrong direction. Now he’s swimming with Europe’s famed ADN project, though, under a new deal with the Azeri federation. The potential he had was unreal as a teenager, here’s to hoping that he’s found that spark again. Not a high-profile story, but still an interesting one.