The two-day Barcelona Mare Nostrum stop is the first of a 3-meet series that, later this month will include stops in Canet-en-Roussillon, France, and Monaco.
Though this meet won’t see many season-best times, it still draws swimmers from all corners of the globe as a result of its huge prize pool. The winner of each race receives a prize of 330 Euro’s (USD $481), with 2nd place taking 180 Euro’s ($262), and 3rd taking 90 Euro’s ($131). Over 32 events, that means a total prize pool of about $28,000 just for race wins, plus bonuses for meet records and a $21,000 overall series prize. While nobody is blowing their World Championship chances with tapers for this meet, that amount of money on the table means that the level of competitiveness and racing will be at a huge level.
Things got off to a hot early start with the men’s 50 backstroke. Gerhard Zandberg, Liam Tancock, and Junya Koga are currently ranked 3rd, 4th, and 5th in the world, respectively, but in this particular meet they finished in the reverse order, with Koga taking the title in 25.19. Tancock took 2nd in 25.35, and Zandberg 3rd in 25.50.
Later on in the session, in the longer 200 backstroke, another Japanese swimmer took a big win, when world-leader Ryosuke Irie finished in 1:54.62. That stands as a new meet record: bumping two-and-a-half seconds off of Ashley Delaney‘s mark from 2008. Incidentally, Delaney finished all the way back in 10th in this race, just behind the defending short course World Champions Stanislav Donets of Russia.
Nineteen-year old Peter Bernek from Hungary placed 2nd in 1:58.66, which is his best time of the year (and just .04 off of his career-best).
Another meet-record (and $440 bonus check) was taken down by Aussie Alicia Coutts in 57.36. That swim gives her two of the three fastest times in the world this year, separated only by Sarah Sjostrom (who was 3rd in this race in 58.86). Brit Ellen Gandy took 2nd in 58.82 in an incredibly tight race, where the 2nd-through-5th place competitors were separated by less than two tenths.
In the women’s 100 back, two swimmers cleared the old meet record set in 2008. Belinda Hocking backed off of the front-half of this race, compared to her prelims swim, but screamed home in a negative-split race to best Aya Terakawa 59.81-59.84. The former Meet Record holder Anastasia Zueva was 3rd in 1:00.06.
The other meet record of the day was set in the men’s 200 IM by Laszlo Cseh in 1:58.94. That time pushes him to 6th in the world this year, and clears Markus Rogan’s record from 2010 by a couple of tenths. He was the only swimmer in the field to break the two-minute barrier.
In the men’s 200 fly, a race that featured four out of the world’s top six swimmers, number two Ryusuke Sakata (1:56.40) was able to outrace number six Bence Bizco (1:56.60) and number one Takeshi Matsuda (1:56.75). In the race-within-the-race, Bizco’s time bested by half-a-second the performance of fellow teenager Chad le Clos (1:57.17). Le Clos gets a lot more publicity, partially as a result of his short course World Championship win in Dubai, but Bizco is the defending Youth Olympic Champion, which he won over his South African counterpart, and seems to still have a big upper-hand in long course.
Continuing some top notch swimming by the Hungarians was Gergo Kis in 3:48.85, which moves him to 11th in the world this year.
Fran Halsall swam a season-best in the women’s 50 free in 25.01. After accounting for German Nationals, that ties her with Sarah Sjostrom for 13th in the world this year. Sjostrom finished 3rd in 25.53.
In another loaded field, Christian Sprenger of Australia won in an outstanding in-season 1:00.73, which was a great recovery from a rough prelims swim. Ryo Tateishi, who is representing the vaunted Japanese breaststroke crew, took 2nd in 1:01..01, and Norwegian flag-bearer Alexander Dale Oen was 3rd in 1:01.06.
Other winners on day 1 were:
Sarah Sjostrom won the women’s 50 breaststroke in 31.25 ahead of Japan’s Satomi Suzuki (31.83).
Suzuki came back to win the 200 in 2:25.64.
Australia’s Angie Bainbridge won the women’s 200 free in 1:57.84 to out-touch Joanne Jackson (1:58.85). For Jackson, that’s her second-best time since the 2009 World Championships (after her Commonwealth Games swim from last season).
Evgeny Lagunov won the men’s 100 free in 49.28. Fellow Russian Andrey Grechin was 3rd in 49.57.
Erika Villaecija Garcia won the women’s 800 free in 8:31.09.