On day 2 from the sandy shores of Dubai, we really get into the meat of the meet with 7 individual titles being handed out, as well as a relay crown. Here’s what I’m keeping an eye on for day 2:
1. The Americans Need to Rebound – The Americans, outside of Ryan Lochte and a great relay split form Garrett Weber-Gale, need a huge rebound on day 2. The good news is that a lot of the team’s big guns have yet to swim finals yet. Mike Alexandrov in the men’s 100 breaststroke and Natalie Coughlin/Missy Franklin for the podium in the 100 backstroke would be huge to lift the team’s spirits.
2. Nathan Adrian Needs to Rebound more – Though on day 1 his competition was limited to a prelims and finals relay, Adrian didn’t look nearly as good there as he did over the summer in long course, when some were ready to crown him the best sprinter in the world. He’s going to be fighting an uphill battle against the French, the Russians, and Brazilian Cesar Cielo to even earn a medal here. It’s an extremely difficult juggle for Adrian to balance his international schedule with wanting to perform well in March at his final NCAA Championships, and it looks like something in his training may have gotten off prior to this meet.
3. Women’s 50 Breaststroke – The 50 breaststroke is one of the oddest races to watch in short course, because the pullout becomes so important and there’s never enough room to get into a real rhythm. Rebecca Soni, Jin Zhao, and Leiston Pickett should duke it out all the way to the fingertips on the wall.
Picks & Predictions
Men’s 400 IM
1. Ryan Lochte (USA)
2. Laszlo Cseh (Hungary)
3. Tyler Clary (USA)
Little Brother on the Prowl: David Verraszto (Hungary)
Rationale: Ryan Lochte looked good on Day 1. Scratch that, he looked incredible on day 1, and that was just in the 200 free. He cleared up all questions about his training since Nationals, and should run away with this victory. Cseh, the top overall seed, goes stretches where no one hears about him, then pops up somewhere and blows everyone away. He swept both medleys at Euro’s (long course) and is the only swimmer I see giving Lochte a fright. Tough Clary loses a little moving to short course (he’s better above the water), he’s second-best in this event in long course, which should get him a medal here. David Verraszto, whose older sister Evelyn is already a star, is ready to burst out and make some noise of his own. He’s got both the genetic and national pedigree working in his favor, as the Hungarians are always very good in this event.
Women’s 50 breaststroke
1. Rebecca Soni (USA)
2. Jin Zhao (China)
3. Leiston Pickett (Australia)
In Her Zone: Alia Atkinson (Jamaica)
This appears to be a three woman race that, in all reality, will come down to which swimmer hits the wall on good timing. It’s almost like flipping a three-sided coin to pick this one, and I think Soni’s short, quick stroke gives her the best chance at touching first. She’s also had consistent times in the first two rounds, so she may be loading up for a big finals. Alia Atkinson, a former NCAA Champion from Texas A&M was made for this race. She excels on walls, and has some chops in sprint freestyle events as well. That lines up well to give her a punchers chance in this race.
Men’s 100 backstroke
1. Stanislav Donets (Russia)
2. Camille LaCourt (France)
3. Nick Thoman (USA)
Don’t Sleep On: Aschwin Wildeboer (Spain)
Rationale: I think this one will go perfectly to chalk. I don’t have the cojones to pick against Donets in this race in short course. LaCourt almost took out a long course world record in the 100 over the summer, and Thoman is another short course specialist. Aschwin Wildeboer from Spain still has a lot of time to drop from his 50.90 in semifinals, and could take out Thoman for the bronze.
Women’s 100 backstroke
1. Chang Gao (China)
2. Natalie Coughlin (USA)
3. Missy Franklin (USA)
Rationale: Does Missy Franklin break through early and win her first career World Championship at only 15? Not likely. Chang Gao is so far ahead of the world in short course right now, nobody beats her. All Natalie Coughlin does is win medals, and with her walls in a short course pool in her pet event, no way she’s denied a podium spot. Franklin doesn’t have the experience to win, but she also doesn’t have the experience to be intimidated by much more veteran swimmers than her, and grabs the bronze.
Men’s 100 breaststroke
1. Mike Alexandrov (USA)
2. Felipe Silva (Brazil)
3. Cameron van der Burgh (South Africa)
Second Life: Brenton Rickard (Australia)
Rationale: The top three were all within .01 seconds of each other in the semi-finals, and I think that’s going to light a serious competitive fire under these guys to push them to the podium. Alexandrov has just had the mojo this year so far, and I think he wins. Second and third I was torn between. Van der Burgh is a stud in short course (he’s the World Record holder in this event), but Silva has shown more lately and through semi-finals is still the top ranked swimmer in this event in the world. I’m taking SILVA for SILVA! (I stole that from David Rieder). Australia’s Brenton Rickard hasn’t had a great year, and had to win a swim-off just to final. Don’t be surprised if Rickard shows some outside smoke in finals–he may not win, but he’s going to beat some people.
Men’s 100 fly
1. Kaio Almeida (Brazil)
2. Konrad Czerniak (Poland)
3. Peter Mankoc (Slovenia)
Suits or No Suits? Evgeny Korotyshkin (Russia)
Rationale: This might be the tightest final, 1-8, of the entire meet, so it’s a good one to keep an eye on. While there’s no Americans or Australians in the final, there’s a lot of great swimmers from non-traditional powers like Slovenia, Poland, Venezuela, and Kenya who could all medal. I like Almeida to win it based on past performance. Czerniak is the best butterflier you’ve never heard of. Mankoc is a monster in short course who has never quite put things together in an Olympic year. Evgeny Korotyshkin might be another victim of the suits being taken away. Last short course season, he had the World’s 4 best times in this event, and nobody could touch him. He hasn’t recaptured that magic yet, but if there’s a time to do it, it’s now. Is he a Paul Biedermann or a Ryan Lochte? We’ll find out tomorrow.
Women’s 800 free
1. Lotte Friis (Denmark)
2. Katie Goldman (Australia)
3. Kate Ziegler (USA)
Rationale: This is Friis’ best event, and she’s been very tough to beat in it since taking the silver in Beijing. Katie Goldman is largely inexperienced at this level, but she’s a rising star and everyone has to breakout some time. The Kate Ziegler comeback tour continues with a bronze in what is also her best event.
Men’s 800 free relay
Wings of an Agnel: France
Rationale: Russia is too deep in the f reestyle events for any partial-strength relays to beat them. Anchored by Isotov, I think they cruise to a win here. The Americans are looking to redeem themselves after a disappointing 400 free relay performance, and in general nations at this meet are not as deep in the 200 as they are in the 100. I think that this gives the Americans, led by the 1-2 punch of Vanderkaay and Lochte, an advantage over everyone else behind Russia. The Germans don’t have anyone who will blow their leg away, but led by Paul Biedermann are very solid 1-4. Yannick Agnel showed a lot of guts in anchoring France’s sprint relay, and if he can have another big performance here, the French might make the podium.