The 2013 U.S. Paralympics CanAm meet doubles as the World Championship Trials for this summer’s IPC World Championships in Montreal. Only, this meet isn’t just qualifying for the Americans; rather the Americans and Canadians have teamed up for a joint World Championship qualifying meet. (This meet is actually open to swimmers of any nation who have met the qualifying standards.
This is actually a brilliant move by both countries. Sometimes, in the small domestic pools of each specific classification, there can be a lack of competition in these races. When combined, though, two of the world’s better para-swimming programs create a fairly strong and fairly deep meet; though the stars still had plenty of room to stand out.
Though the full schedule of events were swum in the morning, those that are not official Paralympic events (the schedule is a bit different than the one we see at the Olympics) will be timed finals swum in the mornings. Whereas prelims are seeded with everyone swum together, by time, in finals swimmers are split out into specific classifications to ensure that swimmers know exactly who they’re racing against.
Selection Procedures (USA)
For the American selection, athletes will be selected on the basis of the “Modified World Ranking.” This is the world ranking from January 1, 2012 through April 1, 2013, with all Americans removed, and all results from this meet (prelims or finals) inserted. With a maximum roster size of 25 athletes (men and women combined), those athletes ranked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in these Modified World Rankings will make the team.
Next in the selection order will be up to two male and two female “discretionary selections” by a selection committee that will account for swimmers who medal’ed last year but perhaps had a poor meet, or those athletes who are showing rapid improvement that leads the committee to believe that a podium is in their future for Montreal.
After those spots are gone through, if there is still room on the roster, the committee will continue working its way down the Modified World Rankings, through to athletes ranked 8th in said rankings (with the requirement that those ranked 4th-8th must be within 2.0% of the world leader to earn a spot.)
After that, those ranked 4th-8th in multiple events will be added, then those ranked 4th-8th in a single event who are within 5.0% of the world leader.
Selection Procedures (Canada)
The Canadian selection procedures are significantly less involved than those of the Americans. Their previous success actually entitles them to a bigger roster, 32 swimmers to be exact. They will use the same concept of a Modified World Ranking, and simply march through 1st-ranked, 2nd-ranked, 3rd-ranked, etc. swimmers until they either hit their roster limit, or run out of swimmers who are under the World Championship qualifying standards.
Day 1 Finals
The 2013 World Championship Selection Trials for both Canada and the United States kicked off on Thursday evening at the University of Minnesota Aquatics Center in Minneapolis.
The big event on day 1 of the meet was the 100 freestyle, where we saw all of the big names get their first taste of finals action.
Last year’s de-facto Rookie of the Year in global Paralympic swimming Victoria Arlen won the S6 100 meter free in 1:13.69. That just misses her own lifetime best (and World Record) from last year, and surpasses her British rival Eleanor Simmonds as the number-one swim in the world this year. Most importantly, it ranks first in the Modified World Rankings and ensures her a spot on the World Championship team: a huge stress relieved on the meet’s first day.
Cortney Jordan won the S7 race in 1:15.45; she was the runner-up at last year’s Paralympics to only Australian great Jacqueline Freney in this race. That swim leaves her a bit more precarious for qualifying (by my count, just 5th in the MWR in her best event), but with the discretionary spots available, she’ll probably make the team as well given the four medals she won in London.
The S5 race went to Alyssa Gialamas, the first ever disability Illinois High School State Champion. She swims for the same club team and high school team that American Record holder Kevin Cordes did.
The S8 race holds the biggest American superstars, and there was a huge shootout in this race. Jessica Long locked up her spot from Montreal with a victory in 1:07.02 (that will put her first in the MWR); she was followed by a 1:12.04 from Canadian Morgan Bird, a 1:13.20 from 16-year old Brickelle Bro, and 4th from defending 50 free Paralympic Champion Mallory Wegermann.
Other standouts included a 1:02.87 from Canadian 16-year old Aurelie Rivard to win the S10 race: one that was noticeably absent was defending Paralympic bronze medalist Summer Mortimer, who isn’t at this meet. That’s a world-leader, though, for Rivard, and placing her 3rd in the Modified World Rankings just about ensures her a spot on the Worlds team.
American Kelley Becherer won the S13 race in 1:01.17.
The men’s event wasn’t nearly as strong as the women’s was, though Brazil’s Daniel Dias, one of the biggest para-swimming stars in the world, won the S5 race in 1:13.93: ranking him number-one in the world this year. Nobody aside from himself (en route to Paralympic gold) has been faster than that time this year or last.
That was the extent of the highly-ranked swims in the men’s race; some of the other big names include NBAC 17-year old Ian Silverman, who won the S10 race in 54.25. Notably, American Brad Snyder is not entered in this meet; he is the former US Navy member blinded in an IED explosion who came from nowhere to win two S11 gold medals in London, including in this 100 free.
Silverman in the morning prelims cut 10 seconds off of his seed time to post a 16:24.63 in the 1500 meter freestyle; that knocks 5 seconds off of the old record held by Canadian Philippe Gagnon from back in 2000.
In the women’s 50 fly (a Paralympic event in some classifications), 16-year old Kayla Wheeler crushed her own S1 World Record in 1:30.57. She’s currently the world’s only competitor in this race for her age, but she’s definitely representing well.
Anna Eames just missed a World Record of her own with a 31.76, followed by French swimmer Joy Fanara in 33.00.
In the S8 class, Morgan Bird won in 34.61; that breaks her own Canadian Record in the race by a full second: the 4th time she’s broken that record in the last two years.
American Elizabeth Smith scared a World Record herself with a 32.11 in the S9 classification; the current record sits at 31.96 held by the great South African Natalie du Toit. That does, however, break the American Record by over a second.
One of the biggest names on the men’s side of this meet, Justin Zook won the S10 male race in 28.41. This is a race that he didn’t focus on much last year (it wasn’t offered in London for his classification), but he is the American Record holder in the event.
Roy Perkins Jr. gave himself a great shot at qualifying for Montreal with a 37.68 in the S5 class; that puts him 3rd in the MWR.
There weren’t any big times in either the men’s or women’s 100 breaststroke, but Noga Nir-Kistler did add a second win of the meet, taking the SB5 in 1:53.84. American Anna Johannes, who was 4th in the SB8 race in London, took that title here in 1:26.51.
Among those still awaiting the start of their meets is Canada’s Benoit Huot, winner of 19 Paralympic medals across three games.