With all due respect to Katie Ledecky’s earth-shattering world records, this week’s HardCore Swim takes a look at another USA Swimming star who put together an outstanding weekend, and whose swims might be lost in the frenzy of Ledecky’s world marks.
Elizabeth Beisel is in the midst of her second big transition of her already-storied swimming career. After her first Olympic bid in 2008, Beisel left her home Bluefish club to join the SEC’s Florida Gators for four collegiate seasons. That adjutment didn’t seem to faze the bubbly IMer a bit, as she racked up 18 All-America awards and two national championships, retaining her spot on the Olympic squad in 2012.
Now Beisel is beginning life as a professional swimmer, with a new Speedo contract in hand as of early last week, continuing to train at the University of Florida while representing her old Bluefish stomping grounds in the official heat sheets.
At the Santa Clara Grand Prix, Beisel’s first performance since signing on with Speedo, the 21-year-old couldn’t have repped her new brand any better.
Saturday night’s finals were the high point for Beisel. Heading into the meet, we teased an NCAA rematch between graduated seniors Beisel and Maya DiRado, who touched out Beisel for the national title back in March. That showdown never materialized, as DiRado fell ill early in the weekend and scratched out of her races.
But for Beisel, that wasn’t a license to take it easy. The Gator chomped her way through a field that still boasted some stiff competition (US Olympian Caitlin Leverenz, Open Water national champ Becca Mann and German Olympian Teresa Michalak among others), crushing the heat for a 6-second victory and blazing her way to #4 on the World Ranks for 2014.
Her time of 4:33.52 is just two seconds off the American record, set at the 2008 super-suit Olympic Trials by Katie Hoff. Consider that Beisel is still smack in the middle of Florida’s grueling mid-season training, and the excitement for her end-of-season swim only builds.
Not getting a close race in that event, Beisel came back just two events later to get some racing in. Going up against the dreaded California Backstroking Juggernaut of World Record-holder Missy Franklin and short course American record-holder Liz Pelton, Beisel proved she can run with the best of them. Trailing by a tenth at the 100, Beisel kicked her legs into gear (legs coming off of an all-out 400 IM, mind you) to pass the Golden Bears and take the gold for herself in 2:09.11.
If it seems like Beisel has been around in the international stage forever, it’s because she kind of has – she was 14 when she made her first world championships team, and has been competing for the U.S. for a better part of a decade. But it’s worth remembering that Beisel is still just 21 years old with a tremendous amount of her physical prime still ahead of her.
Is it possible Elizabeth Beisel is only just now hitting her stride? The results of Santa Clara might suggest so. And if that’s the case, then whatever comes next from the versatile Gator might reach a whole new level of HardCore.
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