With the third day of the Pan Pacific Championships now in our rearview mirror, here’s 8 more “Big Things” from the third day:
1. Park arrives just in time to keep streak alive: South Korea’s Park Tae Hwan looked like a no-show for most of the meet, but made a somewhat surprise appearance to rise to the top of the 400 free. There’s a reason he picked that event – Park has now won three straight Pan Pacs titles in the 400 free, going back to his win in Canada in 2006. His 3:43.15 is easily his fastest winning time of the three-year-period.
2. Americans remain undefeated in 200 backstroke: Speaking of streaks, here’s a big one: the American men have never lost the 200 back at Pan Pacs. Never. In 12 Pan Pacs meets and 19 years, the U.S. remains undefeated, and Tyler Clary kept things that way, beating out top seed Ryosuke Irie 1:54.91 to 1:55.14. That was a big finals swim for Clary, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, after Irie put up a very strong preliminary time to make himself the favorite.
3. Franklin’s back still a bother: In the women’s 200 back, though, the defending Olympic gold medalist didn’t have such an easy road. American Missy Franklin missed the medals, winding up 4th in a Australian 1-2. Franklin, who had much-publicized back spasms two days before the meet began, is clearly still affected by that ailment, as she finished two seconds slower than she was at U.S. Nationals. It’s still an impressive feat to finish as high as fourth while fighting through injuries, but the U.S. will clearly be looking for a healthy Franklin again by next summer’s Worlds.
4. Beisel comes through: In that same event, though, the Americans were lucky to get a strong swim from Elizabeth Beisel. The 200 back is one of the deepest events in U.S. women’s swimming, and they needed that depth to pull off a single medal on a day ruled by the Australians. It was an important swim for Beisel in taking bronze too – the Florida Gator slipped off the start at U.S. Nationals and needed that big swim to make the U.S. World Champs roster in the event.
5. Untouchable Aussies: As impressive as that 1-2 in the 200 back was (Belinda Hocking and Emily Seebohm really did it up over a tough, tough American crew), it wasn’t even the highlight for the Australians. It was a great day for the home country, as they won four golds on the day and swept the 4×100 free relays. Despite a solid American effort, the women’s relay proved to be untouchable at this point, just missing their own World Record but breaking the all-comers mark. In the men’s relay, James Magnussen and Cameron McEvoy each put up 47-second splits to power their team past the U.S. for two consecutive gold medals to wrap up the session.
6. Phelps back on top: It’s been a whirlwind comeback for the most decorated Olympian of all-time, but he’s finally returned to the top of the podium at an international meet. Phelps put together a great finals swim, reversing his fast-prelims, slow-finals trend from U.S. Nationals, and took gold in the 100 fly, an event the U.S. thoroughly dominated. Phelps now gets to look forward to next summer’s Worlds, where he’ll likely face some stiffer competition in South Africa’s Chad le Clos.
7. Phillips impresses: We said this was a good event for the Americans, and we meant it. Ryan Lochte was second to Phelps in the A final, but the second-fastest time overall actually came from Tim Phillips in the B. Phillips is a recent college grad who’s starting to break out as a real international-level threat, and his 51.52 goes a long way in supporting his legitimacy. Meanwhile the World Championships spots will go to Phelps and Tom Shields, who was left out of finals entirely by finishing 4th of the Americans (and 4th overall) in the preliminaries.
8. Ledecky not slowing down: It’s been a rapid rise for Katie Ledecky, and the 17-year-old is showing absolutely zero signs of slowing down. After just missing her world record in the 800 free on day 1, Ledecky cracked the 400 free world mark on Friday for the second time in about two weeks. Ledecky appears to be a little more geared for sprints right now, blasting some great 200s and breaking those 400 records – perhaps she’s starting to look forward to her college career and trying to broaden her event lineup to include more relay swims? At any rate, Ledecky just keeps looking more and more like one of the all-time greats, and is already in the conversation for greatest freestyler of all-time.