Wow, there’s tons to talk about after one day of competition.
1. What’s the deal with the Americans? – Ryan Lochte showed up to swim, but it’s not clear what happened to the rest of the American contingent. In three individual events, Team USA scored only two finalists, and one medal (a gold from Lochte in the 200 free). What’s more, neither relay was in the top 3. Sure, the Americans don’t always send full squads, but the supposed most powerful team in the world should be able to fill in well enough to get a few more finalists and relay medals than this! Maybe it’s time to give the switch to 25-meter pools more serious consideration.
2. Surprise Entrances – On at least three occasions on day 1, countries had surprise entries on relay teams who seemed as though they weren’t making the meet. The assumption was that because these three swimmers (Russia’s Fesikov, France’s Gilot, and France’s Muffat) weren’t entered in individual events that they were favorites to medal in, that they skipped the meet altogether. Apparently, this was not the case.
3. Peekabo! – The Chinese women decided that they would make time to show up full-strength for this meet, and it showed in a big way. Chang Gao looks unbeatable in the backstroke, and their 200 free relay ran away from the field in a new World Record.
Here’s a recap of finals, with a few notable semi-final swims at the bottom:
Men’s 200 Free
One event down, one gold medal in the books for the USA’s Ryan Lochte at the 2010 Dubai World Championships. Lochte looked very strong in the 200 and was never seriously challenged. He blew away his prelims time to set another meet record in 1:41.08. Russia’s Danil Izotov, who is only 19 years old, also went under Lochte’s old record mark to take the silver in 1:41.7. This is a season (and textile) best time for him, though it is the first time this season that the European long and short course champion has been downed in this race. The bronze went to Tunisia’s Ous Mellouli in 1:42.02 after he closed hard to just overtake Russia’s Nikita Lobintsev (1:42.03) for the bronze. Mellouli is a little better in the longer 400 and 800 meter events, and a good performance in the 200 bodes well for him the rest of the meet.
The big shock was Germany’s Paul Biedermann, the 2009 Long Course champ, slipping all the way to fifth place. Thus far, he has still not made a great adjustment to textile swimming. The top 5, including Biedermann, all went under Lochte’s Championship record performance from prelims.
Women’s 200 Fly
Mireia Belmonte Garcia first burst on to the scene during the 2008 season at the young age of 18. Since then, she has mostly disappeared from major medal stands-until now. The young Spanish sensation won the women’s 200 fly in 2:03.59, which is the second Championship Record-setting performance in as many finals. The runner-up was Great Britain’s Jemma Lowe (2:03.94-also under the old CR) and bronze went to Swede Petra Grandlund (2:04.38). Katinka Hosszu, who is well-known in America for her exploits with the USC Trojans, was fourth, slipping back from the top overall seed in prelims.
China’s Liu Zige, who has been notoriously absent from every meet that mattered since winning the 2008 Olympic gold in this event (and the silver at Rome) finished in 5th. This is a huge disappointment for the current World Record holder who skipped November’s Asian Games because she didn’t feel as though the level of competition was worthy of her presence.
Of note, neither American (former meet record holder Mary Mohler and Kim Vandenberg) finaled in the event.
Women’s 400 IM
Readers, swimming has a new iron-woman, and her name is Mireia Belmonte Garcia. A mere 44 minutes after winning a grueling 200 fly in a meet record, she dove in and set another one in the 400 IM. Her winning time of 4:24.21 was over 2 seconds clear of Kirsty Conventry’s previous standard in the race, but the Spaniard was not unchallenged. She and China’s Shiwen Ye battled the whole race, and in fact it appeared early as though Ye had the race put away. She absolutely slaughtered Belmonte on the backstroke leg (comparative split 1:06.64 for Ye-1:09.24 for Belmonte), but the eventual champion was able to battle back and nip Ye at the end.
Here’s a look at the comparative splits:
- The women’s 50 breaststroke final is going to be a very tight final, with the top 3 qualifiers (including Rebecca Soni) all seeded within .04 seconds of each other.
- The men are even tighter in the 100 breaststroke, and this could be one of the closest World Championship races ever. USA’s Mike Alexandrov took the top seed (57.18) and Cameron van der Burgh (South Africa) and Felipe Silva (Brazil) dead-heated in second at 57.19. It’s going to take a 56 to win this tomorrow night, so look for some real fireworks!
- The Americans got both male 100 backstrokers, Thoman and Plummer, into the final. Thoman is a short course specialist, and will be the better hope for a medal. Stanislav Donets from Russia is godly in short course, and took the top overall seed in 49.62.
- The women’s 100 back looks to be a showdown between the Americans (Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin) and the Chinese (Chang Gao and Jing Zhao) who occupy the top 4 spots. As mentioned, it’s going to be near impossible for anyone to run down Gao, but should be a great race for silver.