The weekend in Austin was very exciting. This was a meet of met-expectations: for the first time in a long time, all of the major swimming pins were firing at full-expectations. There were very few “disappointments” in this meet, save for what those swimmers’ own, personal expectations might have been.
Different groups and swimmers seem to be all over the place in their training at the moment. As different programs’ training methodologies become more-and-more divergent (which seems to be happening, overall, in the swimming world), expect in-season meets to become harder-and-harder to make fair comparisons on.
Michael Phelps looked trim. He was clearly back in shape, physically, and the only thing about him physically that reminded us of when he was in his slump in 2011 was the goatee. He was powerful through the water, and he was durable on doubles and triples. The mid-season times were very good – though it’s hard to make true comparisons back to 2007 and 2006. Bob Bowman tweeted at us the other day that Phelps is doing about 50k per week – which is still a lot, but not the sort of volume that we always heard about when Phelps was younger (though, perhaps we’ve been wrong all along?).
In other words, his training is probably designed at a point that will produce a little bit better results in-season, but it seems to be high-quality work that still is giving him the conditioning for Multiple in-season swims. His post race comments about still only being at a “7 out of 10” in-shape (versus a “2 out of 10” at this time last year) might be as much of an indicator of a small tweak in training approach as it is how close he is to being ready for London.
After this meet, I think that Lochte and Phelps can officially be called “co-best swimmers in the world” again, because that’s what it’s going to be. Both are going to be in top form in London, and it will come down to simply who’s hitting the “on” switch on the right days for the right races when they’re head-to-head.
The only knock on Phelps in this meet, if there is one, is that he ended up in a too few many B-Finals as compared to the speed he showed in the evening sessions. If indeed his training is tweaked, he might have to also put a slight turn on how he approaches the multi-staged events at the Olympics.
Further, fellow NBAC swimmer Allison Schmitt is on her game as well. She is ripping through every race put in front of her right now – she bested her World’s mark in the 200 free, she went a lifetime best in the 800, a pool-record 400 time (breaking an anctient mark by Janet Evans), a lifetime best in the 100, and was very near a lifetime best in the 200 fly. What’s crazier is that many of these lifetime bests were done in double and triple sessions. She’ll surely want to finish her college education regardless, but with how well she’s swimming, it could become very difficult for her to re-adapt to the student athlete lifestyle for her final year of eligibility at Georgia.
If she does, however, rejoin the collegiate Bulldogs, look out NCAA’s: records will be crushed.
The comebackers had mixed results, depending on who you ask. I think that everyone in the building (and probably the world, save for his competition at Trials) were thrilled at the marks of Anthony Ervin at the first long course meet since his comeback. He took 3rd in the 50 free in 22.30 (and 2nd behind Adrian among Americans); and also 4th in the 100 in 49.90 (and 3rd behind Adrian and Berens, plus Phelps in the B-Final, among Americans).
Janet Evans’ 4:17.27 (from prelims, 16th in finals) in the 400 and 8:49.05 in the 800 (11th) were right on, or better than, where I thought she would be at this meet. Most importantly, she’s got her two Olympic Trials cuts, and can now settle in to some big, distance training before Omaha. Post-Austin, she seems to have put some good perspective on her swims, and says that she is “satisfied with her progress”. Not a ringing endorsement, but she’s keeping a positive attitude.
She and her coach, Mark Schubert, made some comments after prelims of the 400 free that were sure to raise some eyebrows where they were “disappointed” in the level of competition that Evans had to swim against in the prelims. She’s overall kept a positive outlook, but has ruffled a few feathers with some of her comments too.
She did also say after that race that her focus was truly going to be the 800 free, rather than the 400, which is an important tidbit.
And then there was Ed Moses, who came to Austin to swim only two races. He failed to make it out of prelims in the 200 breast (2:23.04 – 26th), and scratched the finals of the 100 on Sunday after tying for 12th in prelims (1:03.62). He moved from Trojan to FAST over the summer, likely in search of the comfort of the more-traditional training environment that he was used to. The only silver-lining from him here is that when he was younger, he would often put up some terrible in-season times (a lot of 1:04’s in the 100 breast), but whether or not he can turn it on at 30 will be his challenge.
The two Texas A&M swimmers that are being internationally monitored right now both had great meets – Cammile Adams and Breeja Larson. Adams went a lot of lifetime bests, culminated with a pool record in the 200 fly on the final day of competition in 2:06.76. That would have been the fastest time by an American in 2011.
This caused some level of debate, as A&M is not usually rested right now. True, the American 200 butterfliers as a group have been underachieving the past few years, but for a swimmer to be in typical January-college-training and go a time that good seems unusual.
One of her senior teammates, however, tells us that the Aggies were still in full holiday-training mode in the weeks leading up to this meet (two-a-days every day but Sunday, weights), and characterized it as “one of the hardest Christmas trainings I’ve had here” including roughly 8,000 yards a day for the distance group.
I’m struggling to really interpret what that means for the rest of Adams’ season. Does this mean she’s capable of a 2:04 and an Olympic medal when this summer she was only going 2:10’s? Can she knock off Hosszu? She just gunned down one of the best 200 butterfliers in the world, Jemma Lowe of the UK, in the final 20 meters of a race. That sets of sirens in the “does not compute” center of my brain, so in this case we’ll just have to let the events play out and see what happens.
As for her teammate Breeja Larson, her lifetime-best in the 100 breaststroke seems to have some legs. Her 1:08.29 for 2nd place was a lifetime best, but she still is at a place in her long course development where going a lifetime-best at an in-season meet like this doesn’t hint at some level of rest. By comparison, her 200 time (2:30) was two seconds slower than she was at November’s Tennessee Invitational, where she was rested.
Some members of the Gator Swim Club were at least off of their heaviest training for this meet. The comparison was pretty easy to make when guys like Conor Dwyer and Peter Vanderkaay were 6 seconds better than they were at US Nationals in the 400 free.
Nathan Adrian looked very good in the 50 with a 21.94. When added upon his good, but not as good, 48.97 in the 100, it seems obvious that he can get down to the 21-mid range it’s going to take to hang with Cielo, Bosquet, and Fratus in London despite being well off of that at Worlds.
Missy Franklin’s star shot up the national awareness when the Wall Street Journal did a piece about how much money she was turning down to remain an amateur, but she handled it well. She swept the backstrokes (the 200 in dominating fashion). What everyone always wants to know about are her underwaters, and after watching her in person, I can say that it’s mostly the start where she’s hurt. Her underwaters off of her turns are more average (on an elite scale) than they are off of her start. This probably explains partially why her success level (World Championship, World Record) has been better in the 200 than the 100.
Amanda Weir also had a boot-stompingly good meet, in a sweep of the sprint freestyles. She swam a good 25.23 in the 50 and a great 54.14 in the 100. She probably garners the nod for the biggest surprise of this meet.
The Grand Prix series next rolls on to Columbia, Missouri from February 10th-12th. That meet will become very-much a post-grad event, as many of the country’s top high school and college swimmers will be focusing on conference/State meets.