Brazil’s National Championship meets receive amongst the most fanfare of any in the world, and with that we head into Brazil’s Winter National Championships that will begin Monday in Belo Horizonte in a long course format. This meet, officially termed the Jose Finkel Trophy, will feature many of Brazil’s biggest names, including World Champions Cesar Cielo and Felipe Franca de Silva. As is typical for these very team-focused Brazilian meets, there are also several foreign stars who are being brought in, though each program is limited to two foreign swimmers.
This time, the list of foreign swimmers isn’t quite at the level that we saw for the Maria Lenk Trophy a few months ago, but there are still some intriguing names in the field.
Foreign Entries in Jose Finkel
Minas Tenis: Kim Vandenberg (USA), Inge Dekker (The Netherlands)
Flamengo: Mireia Belmonte (Spain)
Unisata: Georgia Bardach (Argentina), Virginia Bardach (Argentina)
Corinthians: Cecilia Biagioli (Argentina), Daniele Tirabassi (Venezuela)
Botafogo: Randall Bal (USA)
The big highlights here will be on the women’s side. Dutch sprinter Inge Dekker is coming off of a World Championship meet in Shanghai where she nabbed two golds: one individual in the 50 fly, and as a member of the famed Dutch 400 free relay. Spain’s Mireia Belmonte had a rough meet in Shanghai, but she’s still a huge star on the basis of her three individual golds from the 2010 Short Course World Championships. She will be competing for Minas Tenis, similarly to the Maria Lank Trophy in Brazil’s fall (the spring of the Northern Hemisphere).
The two Americans in this field are very interesting. Randall Bal is a speed-burner who has made most of his living off of the 50 meter backstroke (which is very lightly regarded stateside), and in short course races (also not very highly thought of domestically). As a former World Record holder in both the long course and short course 50’s, and the 2007 FINA World Cup champion, he often receives better recognition internationally than in the states. Still, he’s a three-time long course World Champion who has performed well in his maturation (he’s 30). He has been lying low this year, but at his lone meet in South Africa in January, he swam a 24.83 in the 50 back that still stands 6th in the world, and as the fastest American time. He was also an A-finalist in the 100 at US Nationals last year.
The other American in this field is Kim Vandenberg. She also doesn’t get much exposure on American soil, because she currently trains in Marseille, France, but she was a part of the USA’s 2008 bronze-medal winning 800 free relay, and has placed 4th in the 200 fly at two-straight USA Long Course National Championship meets.
The big name of this meet, as always, will be Cesar Cielo, who is swimming the 50 and 100 freestyles along with the 50 and 100 flys. This meet will be a decent test of how well he’s progressing on the quick turnaround between Worlds and Pan Am Games. Some have speculated that the distractions at Worlds kept him from hitting his true top-shape, and that he might actually perform better at Pan Ams. One would have to imagine that he will be at least 22.0/48.5 (or close to it) here for that to happen.
It will also see Brazil’s Fabiola Molina, who missed the World Championships after testing positive for methylhexaneamine and receiving a brief two-month ban. As a result, she likely hasn’t hit her taper meet yet, and will be chomping at the bit here. The 36-year old backstroker has made it public knowledge that she’s ready to start a family with husband, and former Olympic IM’er Diogo Yabe, after the 2012 Olympics, so she’s going to be even more motivated for this meet and Pan Ams as momentum-builders.
Pro 16 Expanded
Cesar Cielo’s PRO 16 project was on rocky footing soon after it began, with clubs balking at their salaried athletes training somewhere else, that resulted in a few swimmers backing out. But things are now going as strong as ever with the addition of two of Brazil’s best to the group. One is Thiago Pereiera, who will still spend most of his time training at USC with Dave Salo, but has committed to working with Pro 16 whenever he is in Brazil. His official representation domestically is with the club Corinthians.
The other is Henrique Barbosa, who was one of the infamous four who tested positive for furosemide at last year’s Maria Lenk. He lost his spot on the World Championship team by way of voided results, but is now immediately eligible for competition again. He officially represents Flamengo, the same club as Cielo, in national competitions.
This brings the project up to 9 total swimmers.
This meet will also serve as the 5th-leg of Brazilian Olympic qualifying. Unlike in the United States, Brazil allows for Olympic qualifying at multiple meets. This helps mitigate the fact that Brazil has amongst the toughest Olympic qualifying standards in the world (much faster than the FINA-determined “A” times).
Brazil recently announced their Olympic standards, which are even tougher than their World Championships qualifying marks, which were the center of much attention for how fast they were. Every time is at least as good, and in many cases better, than those Worlds marks. The marks are a combination of the better of those 2011 World Championship marks that the CBDA set and the Olympic A qualifying standards. FINA sets the Olympic standards much faster, typically, than the World Championships standards.
So far, 9 swimmers have reached these new standards. After Jose Finkel, the only other meets from which qualifying times will be accepted will be Pan Ams in October, the Open Tournament in December in Rio; the South American Championships from March 16-25 in Belem, Brazil; and next year’s Maria Lenk Trophy. The swimmers who have already achieved qualifying marks are:
Kaio Almeida – 100/200 fly
Cesar Cielo – 50 free/100 free
Leonardo de Deus – 200 backstroke/200 fly
Bruno Fratus – 50 free/100 free
Felipe Lima – 100 breaststroke
Thiago Pereira – 200 breaststroke/200 back/200 IM/400 IM
Henrique Rodrigues – 200 IM
Felipe Silva – 100 breaststroke
Daynara de Paula – 100 fly
Full Olympic Trials cuts are below. Click here to see the FINA Olympic Qualifying Standards. Those times marked in red are faster than the FINA times.
Minas Tenis is hosting this meet for the first time ever, and they’ve put themselves in good position to win in their home pool. They took a runaway victory at Maria Lenk in the spring, and are in a great position to win their 6th Jose Finkel Trophy. That would end a streak of 8-straight victories for Pinheiros, who counts amongst their ranks stars like Felipe Silva, the world 50m breaststroke champion, and the country’s top two female sprinters Flavia Delaroli-Czziolato and Michelle Lenhardt. Minas’ leaders are Daynara de Paula, Fabiola Molina, and Nicolas Oliveira.