With a snowstorm sweeping through the United Kingdom, a large portion of the British squad was unable to get out for the long course Flanders Speedo Cup in Antwerp, Belgium last weekend, but the group that did (a young team for the Brits, though the meet had both senior and age group racing) performed very well.
Ellie Faulkner kicked off the meet with a victory in the women’s 800 free in 8:45.31. She split this race very well – after a 1:01-high going out, she was 1:05 highs and 1:06 lows throughout the rest of the race – the rest of the field couldn’t come close to matching her speed or consistency, including former European Champion (in the shorter 400) Agnes Mutina from Hungary (8:57.83).
Faulkner would do the same in the 400 free, where she won with a 4:14.75.
Her 19-year old teammate Rebecca Turner would place runner-up in the 50 free to Belgian native Jolien Sysmans (also 19), who was the winner in 25.72. Sysmans, the Belgian record holder, is frequently very good in January, so that time being close to her record is no surprise (three-tenths off). Neither was her win in the 100 free (55.90), again just ahead of Turner (56.01) after the two split nearly dead-even.
17-year old Lauren Quigley, the latest in the nearly decade-long march of star junior backstrokers in the UK, swept the women’s backstroke events. Her times were 28.80, 1:01.05, and 2:13.91, including twice beating the home country’s best swimmer Kimberly Buys. For any 17-year old, perhaps not named Missy Franklin, a 1:01.05 in the 100 back in January is pretty stupendous. That’s actually the 4th-best time of Quigley’s career.
Brazilian superstar sprinter Bruno Fratus made an appearance at this meet, which is now much more locally located for him as he’s training with the Italian-based ADN Project. He won the men’s 50 free in 22.49, where Belgium’s two best swimmers Jasper Aerents(22.64) and Pieter Timmers (22.78) failed to keep pace. Timmers, however, took his revenge in the 100 free, after Frutus had gone home, with a really strong early-season 48.76 – a time that may have won even with the Brazilian present.
The Belgian star would also take 2nd in the 200 free in 1:48.91 that was almost a best time (Belgium had two swimmers go under 1:49 in the race), and finished the meet with a 47.93 for his club Brabo Zwemclub Antwerpen as they took a win in a very good 3:17.54.
Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta has not been put down by losing his 200 breaststroke World Record shortly after he achieved it at the Olympics; the man who has truly been the best 200 breaststroker in the world for at least half-a-decade started off his 2013 season right, winning the 100 breast in 1:00.12 and the 200 in 2:10.50, both of which broke the Meet and Belgian Open Records in the race. He also topped the 50 breaststroke in 27.96, which is about four-tenths from the National Record. That’s the only Hungarian breaststroke record that he doesn’t hold, in fact, but one would expect for him to torch it this summer at Worlds, if he swims the race.
Laszlo Cseh’s best swim came in the 200 fly, where he was a 1:58.00; he also took wins in the 100 fly (53.31) and the 400 IM (4:18.50) – all of which he got a good push from top Belgian swimmers.
And finally, the biggest thrill for the home country was when 19-year old Emmanuel Vanluchene came within a hair of a National Record in the 100 backstroke. His 55.68 missed the record of 55.65 held by Bruno Claeys in 2008, but just barely. This has historically been an area of weakness on their national team, though in short course they’ve compensated with pure speed, but if Vanluchene continues to develop, it makes them viable in long course medleys at the European level.