Days 1 and 2 of the 2011 Jose Finkel Trophy, Brazil’s Winter National Championship meet, took place today in Belo Horizonte at the home of the Minas Tenis swim club in a 50 meter course. This meet stands as the 5th-leg of the Brazilian Olympic qualifying, though it is the first meet after the CBDA announced their official Olympic qualifying times.
Based on the timing of this meet, midway between the World Championships and the Pan American Games that the Brazilians usually send a full squad to, not a whole lot of ultra-fast times are expected. Still, this meet is worth as much as any other mid-season meet as a gauge of progress. In the Brazilian tradition, finals and semifinals at this meet take place in the morning, while the prelims take place in the evenings, so through two days we’ve seen one session of finals, and two sessions of prelims.
There was plenty of controversy in this meet. Let’s look at results first, and then we’ll hit on some of the issues at the meet.
Winners on day 1 of the competition included two of the biggest names in this meet in the 200 back: Thiago Pereira (2:00.15) and Fabiola Molina (2:14.08). Pereira’s mark is well off of his best, but for Molina that is actually a career-best time. She’s a 50/100 specialist, and could put up very good times in those races after missing World’s.
The 200 breaststroke was fairly lackluster, with Michele Schmidt of Corinthians taking the win in 2:37.34. In the men’s race, Henrique Barbosa, who was one of the swimmers who lost their spot at World’s after their Maria Lenk results were nullified by their positive furosemide tests, took the win in a decent 2:15.12. He is now fighting to regain his spot on the Olympic team, as he no longer has his Olympic cut of 2:11.74 in the event.
The other two finals of the day were the Olympic distance freestyles. Brazil isn’t known for their distance swimmers, but Argentina has a decent history (more specifically in the open water races). On the women’s side, that held to form as Argentinian Cecilia Biagioli took the win in the 800 free in 8:47.14, just ahead of the top Brazilian finisher Joanna Maranhao in 8:49.51.
In the men’s 1500, Minas’ Juan Martin Pereyra, who won easily in 15:25.45, was also an Argentine swimmer, which shows where the power lies in South Ameircan distance swimming.
In the days semifinals, most of the eyes in the pool were focused on the 50 frees, which are the Brazilians bread-and-butter.
In the men’s 50, Nicholas dos Santos, who was the other swimmer who lost his World Championship spot in the doping scandal, in 22.62. That is just ahead of Cesar Cielo, who was 2nd in 22.73, Nicolas Oliveira in 22.85, and the new kid on the block Bruno Fratus in 22.89.
On the women’s side, Dutch mercenary Inge Dekker, who has been brought in to compete as one of the home team (Minas’) alloted foreign athletes, took the top seed in 25.42. She will be challenged in the final by Brazil’s best sprinter Flavia Delaroli Cazziola. Cazziola’s 25.44 was even more impressive considering that she had to do the swim twice after the first heat was reswum (more on that later).
College coaches in the United States take note of the 3rd-seed in that women’s 50 free final. The Brazilian male sprinters are known for doing damange at the NCAA level, but the 3rd seed was 18-year old Alessandra Marchioro in 25.71. She’s the right age for a college swimmer, and beyond that she stands 6’2″ tall. She swims for one of Brazil’s smaller clubs, and could be a potential sprint superstar in the right hands. She went all-out in this race, and had to be helped off of the deck after nearly fainting following her race.
In the men’s 100 breaststroke prelims that took place in the evening of the 2nd day, we saw a spectacular swim from Joao Gomes, who recently had a very good World University Games meet. He took the top seed in 1:00.47, which moves him to 17th in the world rankings, and gives him a Brazilian Olympic qualifying time. He still hasn’t earned a spot on the roster yet, though, as he’s the third man under the qualifying time this year (and he currently sits 3rd behind Felipe Silva in 1:00.01 and Felipe Lima in 1:00.46). If Gomes can shave .02 off of his time in the semi-final or final, he will move into the catbird’s seat for the Olympic qualification with three qualifying meets left to go. Silva and Lima both also qualified for the semis, though neither was under 1:02.
1. Loose start block – In the prelims of the men’s 50 free, Italo Manzine Duarte had to start off of a loose block, which in a race where the start is so crucial is a big hinderance. This is the not the first time the Brazilians have had troubles with the new blocks they purchased as a part of their drive towards the 2016 Olympics. They are generic versions of the track-start blocks used at major competitions like the Olympics. Duarte was allowed a reswim, where he posted a 22.97 that was the third-best time of the prelims. Duarte would go on to qualify for the final, which will be swum tomorrow morning.
2. Ref who cried wolf – Meet referee Jefferson Borges held up the 200 backstroke for a huge amount of time (which was made even worse by the meet being broadcasted on live tv) when he suspected that 5 of the swimmers in the men’s 200 back were wearing illegal suits. The official FINA tags on their Speedo LZR’s said that the suits were approved “09/09,” or September of 09. While this was before the new suit rules took effect, the approvals made in that month were for suits to be effective as of the beginning of 2010. After protest, the swimmers changed into briefs, and then after someone finally talked sense into the referee, they went and changed back into their LZR’s. Even if the suits were illegal, the procedure was not proper. Major meets such as this have a specific pre-race approval room where decisions are to be made on suits, and Borges held up the race by trying to rule the suits illegal behind the blocks.
3. Repeated semifinal – In what is the worst nightmare of any meet organizer, the first heat of the women’s 50 free had to be swum twice after a malfunction with the electronic timing session showed times in the 17’s. That heat included Cazziola, as we alluded to earlier, who came back with a 25.44. That marked twice in the meet that a swimmer had to swim a race twice to get a fair qualifying mark (thank goodness it was only in the 50 and not a longer race). After the year that the CBDA has had, these are the kinds of mistakes that they cannot afford.
Could we finally be seeing the end to president Coarcy Nunes’ reign of 23 years? If these embarassments continue, and continue to be exposed to the international community, then even he might not have the resources to ensure the support to stay in office, especially ahead of the highly-lucrative 2016 Olympics in Rio, where Brazilian sports will be under a microscope.
Thanks to Brazilian correspondent D’artagnan Dias for contributing to this report.