After an exciting first day of competition when several meet records were broken, the swimmers may have even outdone their historical selves (yesterday’s version) on the second day of swimming at the Barcelona stop of the 2011 Mare Nostrum.
There was $14,000 in prize money up for grabs on the second day of competition, in addition to record bonuses and points towards the overall series standings (where another $21,000 are on the line).
Alicia Coutts continued her gold rush, following a win in the 100 fly on day 1. In the women’s 100 free, her first event on the 2nd day of competition, she won handily in 54.27, which was not her best time of the season. While that win was a solid one, it in no way indicated the storm that was about to hit the Club Natació Sant Andreu in the women’s 200 IM. There, Coutts rocked off a 2:09.68 to take a huge win. That time knocks her best swim of 2010 off (by .02) of the mantle of second-fastest textile swim ever–behind only China’s Shiwen Ye, and makes her the first swimmer this year under 2:10.
While nobody really doubted that she has even 2:08-type potential, I don’t think many saw her putting out that sort of effort on her 4th swim in two days at this point of the season. So dominant was Coutts’ swim that Mireia Belmonte, who is ranked third in the world right now, was nearly 3 seconds back in 2:12.55 in front of a home crowd (though, all indications are that Belmonte puts in as much yardage as just about anybody in-season).
The 4th-place finisher in the 200 IM is a young Israeli swimmer who I’m really high on right now, Amit Ivry, in a career-best time of 2:15.69. Ivry is one of the best swimmers ever in a nation that has never had an Olympic medalist in swimming (or any sport that didn’t involve martial arts or a boat, for that matter), and she could be one of the highlights of the Israeli team at the 2012 Olympics.
Coutts wasn’t the only swimmer tearing up the IM races this weekend. Hungarian Laszlo Cseh won the men’s 400 IM on Sunday in 4:11.22, which broke his own Meet Record (and marks his second meet record and $440 bonus check). This vaults Cseh to the top of the world rankings, though the two American medal favorites – Tyler Clary and Ryan Lochte – haven’t shown their cards yet.
The last time Cseh looked this good at this point of his season was 2005, where he’d go on to win a silver and gold in the 200 and 400 IM’s, respectively. History would indicate that these times are not the result of a premature taper, and are rather foreshadowing good things to come for him at the Shanghai World Championships.
For the second time of the meet, Ryosuke Irie took a meet record from Ashley Delaney; with this one coming in the men’s 100 backstroke in 53.48. That is not his best time of the season, but does give him 3 of the world’s 7 best marks this year. His consistency will make him a strong contender to upset even the powerful Camille Lacourt at the World Championships this summer.
His Japanese teammate Natsumi Hoshi has the potential to be one of the bigger breakout names at this summer’s World Championships. She broke the women’s 200 fly meet record in 2:07.76, which is a new meet record for the 20-year old. Hoshi has seen a consistent climb in the world rankings since first breaking into the world’s top 40 at only 16 years old, but seems to have made a serious breakthrough this season with both a very fast top-end time (2:06.05 from Nationals), but also very good in-season times, like this one that ties as the 9th-best swim in 2011.
Whereas Hungary took down a ton of titles on day 1, Japan was really the big winners on day 2. Takuro Fujii took the men’s 100 fly in 52.49, after he was able to pull away on the back-half from Brazilian Kaio Almeida (53.20), who usually gets better the longer these races go.
The Japanese women also swept the day’s sprint events, thanks to the top-ranked Aya Terakawa winning the 50 back in 28.21 [just outtouching Anastasia Zueva (28.28) and Mercedes Peris (28.31)] and Yuka Kato winning over a relatively weak field in the 50 fly in 26.14.
The Japanese, despite fighting a ton of adversity this year, have pulled themselves up near the top of the swimming world. Their ability to perform at Championship meets is always a dicey proposition, but they appear to be on track to blow away their four medal performance from the 2009 World Championships.
Not to be outdone, however, the Hungarians pushed back in the wins column when Boglarka Kapas, a double gold medalist from the Youth Olympics last year, outlasted former World Record holder Joanne Jackson in the 400 free. Kapas finished in 4:08.22, which is a career-best for her by two seconds and pushes her to 19th in the world, and Jackson was 2nd in 4:08.76.
Jackson still hasn’t been able to return to form following a year of bizarre illnesses and injuries. That’s going to be significant as the British women continue to try and build off of their success at the 2008 Olympics.
Kapas’ Hungarian countrymate Daniel Gyurta won the men’s 200 breaststroke in 2:12.48, which is a personal-best time in the this year for the European Record holder. Some, including David Rieder in our early Olympic preview, have seen the stars align for in terms of Olympic gold in this race in 2012. This swim still only sits him 26th in the world this year, however, so he’s got a ways to go before he can think about those type of honors.
Australian Belinda Hocking took down a meet record in the 200 backstroke in 2:07.91. Speaking to how the latest technique developments have revolutionized women’s backstroking, the top 6 finishers were all born in the 1990’s or later, with the oldest of them being 4th-place finisher Anastasia Zueva, who just turned 21. The youngest of the group was Canadian Sinead Russell, who at 17-years old finished 6th.
As the parade of records continued (and the sponsors continued to shell out bonus checks), Cameron van der Burgh broke the meet record in the men’s 50 breaststroke witha awinning mark of 27.56. While that’s not his best time of the season, it is the best “in-season” time he’s ever gone. For a swimmer who’s the current World Record holder in the event, that’s a scary proposition.
The rest of the winners on the day were:
Russian Danila Izotov in the men’s 200 free in 1:47.90
Swede Jennie Johansson in the women’s 100 breaststroke in 1:08.45
Russian Evgeny Lagunov in the men’s 50 free in 22.51.
All-in-all, the Japanese were the big scorers of the first stop of the Mare Nostrum, which continues later this week in France and Monaco. They earned a total of 19 medals (9 gold), with Australian having the second-biggest haul (12 and 7 gold). Hungary, carried largely by their men, earned 6 golds and 11 total medals.