The fifth stop of the Arena Pro Swim Series wrapped up in Charlotte last weekend. As the dust settles on one of the fastest and deepest Pro Swim Series meets yet, here are 9 big things we learned:
1. Phelps ready to readjust
Michael Phelps made no effort to hide his disappointment in a weekend that included three trips to B finals. Is Father Time finally catching up to the Baltimore Bullet? More likely, Phelps is finally training enough to have noticeable mid-season fatigue – perhaps for the first time since coming out of retirement last spring. Either way, Phelps made it clear he’s looking to make the appropriate tweaks to his racing and training in the leadup to Rio.
2. SwimMAC’s home-pool advantage comes through
As a team, SwimMAC was just about lights-out all weekend, swimming in front of a home crowd that was vocally behind the SwimMAC-ers the whole way. Katie Meili was probably the most notable example, winning the 100 breast in a lifetime-best. But Ryan Lochte also had a great weekend, as did Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, who absolutely crushed the women’s 50 free.
3. Brazil focused on relays in leadup to Rio Games
Brazil showed up in Charlotte ready to race, despite most of its top swimmers having already tapered for the Maria Lenk Trophy about a month ago. The big focus was relays, where Brazil’s stars came down with a 400 medley relay win and a 400 free relay runner-up spot on the men’s side. With next summer’s Olympics taking place in their home country, it’s looking more and more like Brazil could be primed for some big showings.
4. Welcome to the big time, Reece Whitley
Penn Charter 15-year-old Reece Whitley has been starring on the age group stage for awhile now, but Charlotte was the first time he really proved he could compete with the big dogs. Whitley won the B final of the 100 breast and made the championship heat in the 200, where he finished 4th.
5. Katinka Hosszu is a machine
OK, we didn’t really “learn” this in Charlotte, as swimming fans have known about Hosszu’s grit for a long while now. But her 6-win performance, highlighted by a U.S. Open record in the 200 IM, was still hugely impressive. In fact, Hosszu went unbeaten in finals all weekend – the only event she didn’t outright win was the 400 free, where she won the B final.
6. Leah Smith ready to go short
Virginia’s Leah Smith had her biggest college success in the 500 and 1650 freestyles, with dual NCAA titles. But the 20-year-old looks to be eyeing some shorter distances in long course season, perhaps looking to factor in on potential 800 free relays for Team USA internationally. She won the 400 in Charlotte, and also took 4th in a loaded 200 free.
7. Natalie Coughlin focused on 100 free
Despite a stellar time trial in the 100 back, Natalie Coughlin will make the 100 free her major focus for the next 15 months leading up to Rio, she said in an interview. Evidence of that: Coughlin chose to scratch the individual 100 back after her time trial, instead swimming only the 50 and 100 frees. That decision turned out to be a good one, as she won the 100 over a tough field and finished second only to a red-hot Vanderpool-Wallace in the 50.
8. Arkady Vyatchanin making Russia regret their loss?
Former Russian Olympian Arkady Vyatchanin left Russia in favor of Serbia for his athletic citizenship, and he continues to make that look like a glaring loss for the Russians. Vyatchanin won the 100 and 200 backstrokes in Charlotte. He dominated the Pro Swim Series in the backstrokes last year, partially because he was without a selected nationality and had no national championship meet to taper for. That Vyatchanin is continuing to swim so well despite his representation change is a promising sign for him and for Team Serbia.
9. Melanie Margalis is for real
Georgia Bulldog alum Melanie Margalis put her name into the ranks of elite versatile swimmers with a great weekend in Charlotte. Margalis made A finals in the 100 breast, 200 free, 200 breast, 200 IM and 200 back, and also made the B final of the 100 free, showing off her versatility over a range of strokes. Margalis’s second-place showing in the 200 IM was probably most impressive, coming at the tail-end of a busy three days for the Bulldog.