Day 1 at the 2nd International Meeting of the Mediterranean in Marseilles, France, didn’t have any of the big sprint showdowns that we’re waiting for, when Americasn Anthony Ervin and Nathan Adrian line up against French swimmers like Fred Bousquet and Florent Manaudou; but there were still a lot of huge races to be had.
Among them were a 50 backstroke battle between three of the best in the history of the event. Camille Lacourt was able to overcome Liam Tancock’s unbelievable turnover to take the win in 24.94, while Spain’s Aschwin Wildeboer finished 2nd in 25.46.
No Natalie Coughlin in the same women’s race, but we did learn that British swimmer Fran Halsall is at this meet. She took 2nd in the same 50 backstroke in 28.93, well behind Spain’s Mercedes Minguet, who was a 28.38.
In the women’s 200 free, Spain’s Melanie Costa-Schmid put up a 1:58.70. That’s her second-best time of the year, as she’s cruising through the early part of 2013 as she prepares for a home World Championship meet. She, and the rest of the Spanish team, who actually claimed all 8 spots in the A-Final of this race. That included Mireia Belmonte in 4th in a 2:02.18.
Belmonte took on a big event schedule on this first day of swimming (she was Katinka Hosszu before Katinka Hosszu), and the other two races both resulted in wins. First was the 800 free, where she saw an 8:31.09. Based on history, that’s pretty much where the defending Olympic silver medalist wants to be at this point of the season.
Her other victory came in the 200 fly, where she swam a 2:09.39; that just out-paced countrymate Judit Ignacio-Sorribes (2:10.18). The two made the final turn almost exactly even, but Belmonte’s grit got her home on the last 50.
The Spanish women took a clean sweep, having brought the bulk of their top-squad to the meet; the final victory went to 18-year old Marina Urzainqui in 1:09.33 in the 100 breast – also just off of her own season best.
Back to the men’s side, French veteran Greg Mallet won the 200 free in 1:50.22, with his younger teammate Romain Magula in 1:50.69 – already just a second off of his lifetime best.
Giacomo Perez-Dortona won the 100 breast in 1:01.48, just besting Italian 21-year old Francesco di Lecce, who was a 1:01.94. The former is entering his first full season with the pressure of being the top French breaststroker, and for the latter that’s a lifetime best. Coming into 2012, his career had stalled a little with a best of just 1:03.00 from 2009. In the last 12 months though, he’s dropped that by more than a second.