The Speedo Grand Challenge is a unique sort of meet. It features four-swimmer A-finals (which has caught on more quickly in other countries), and those lead to a lot of excitement and buzz surrounding the races. There’s a ton of high-profile swimmers, and though, top-to-bottom, most are not tapered and are unlikely to go best times, the emphasis of this meet is on good-old-fashioned racing.
As I say this, the meet’s first two women’s events were won in exceptions to this rule. In the 200 IM, Katinka Hosszu, who had an overall disappointing meet in Charlotte, is starting to round into form with a winning time of 2:11.67. She came home on the final lap to overcome Stanford’s Julia Smit, who was 2nd in 2:11.79. This puts them 8th and 9th in the world, respectively, this season.
Russian swimmer Yuliya Efimova followed suit on her return to California to race, following an earlier stint with Trojan Aquatics, to win in the women’s 100 breaststroke. On the back of a B-final win in the 200 IM (the B-and-C-finals were a full 8 swimmers) with a time of 2:13.42, Efimova won the 100 breaststroke a mere 20 minutes later with a time of 1:06.77. The former time moves her into the top 40 in the world, and the latter is a season-best, in her best event, by 7-tenths of a second. That breaststroke time moves her up to 4th in the world this year, and shows that she still has some gas to give at the World Championships.
The runner-up in the 100 breaststroke was Jessica Hardy in a 1:07.72. Her speed was still as good as ever, but she faded by over a second to Efimova on the back-half. This is likely an indicator of some tough training.
Hardy would carry on to win the next event, the women’s 50 free, on a double of her own. Her winning time was 25.18, which is a few-tenths off of her time from Maria Lenk. Smit took 2nd in 25.49, followed by a 25.82 from an interesting name: Estonian swimmer Jane Trepp. Trepp really came into her own as a senior at LSU, and it’s good to see her carrying over that success to a more elite level of competition.
Stanford sophomore Andie Taylor finished the women’s session up with a win in the 400 free in 4:14.79. That means that every single event, aside from the first of the meet, was won on the back-half of a double. That shows how willing competitors are at meets like this to simply show up and race, without much concern for event schedules, which is a big part of their meet’s appeal for the fans.
On the men’s side, the 200 free was a Trojan Aquatics international intra-squad affair in the A-final, and the tightness of the race was a great display of the competitiveness these guys must feel every day in practice. Swiss swimmer Dominik Meichtry took the top spot in 1:49.42, which (combined with other results) shows how hard Dave Salo is pushing his charges down in Los Angeles. His teammate, French swimmer Clement Lefert, was barely in 2nd in 1:49.47, followed by Trojan/Danish swimmer Mads Glaesner (1:49.56), and Trojan/Dutch swimmer Stefan de Die in 1:50.75.
Tom Shields won the B-final in 1:50.57, which is a great time considering how he typically swims at this meet. After a rough prelims swim, Dave Walters fought back to drop 4 seconds and win the C-final in 1:51.92.
In the men’s 100 breaststroke, the top 8 finishers represented the country’s (world’s?) two best breaststroke programs: USC and Cal. Trojan swimmer Eric Shanteau was even with sprint-specialists Damir Dugonjic and Mike Alexandrov through the 50-meter mark, and if you can’t put Shanteau away on the front-half of a 100, you certainly can’t do it on the back-half. Shanteau’s winning time was 1:01.66, and Dugonjic placed 2nd in 1:02.25. Former Irish Record holder Andrew Bree (who’s better at the 200) took 3rd in 1:02.54, with Alexandrov 4th in 1:02.87.
Markus Rogan capped off a 6th-consecutive event win for Trojan-affiliated swimmers when he won the 200 IM in 2:01.12 (Taylor’s win in the women’s 400 was the only thing that prevented a clean sweep).