Day 5 (finals session 4) at the Julio DelMare Aquatics Complex in Rio de Janiero saw a few finals, but a lot of big semi-finals (which should set up for a good finals session on Saturday). The swimmers finally got a little bit of a break in the weather, which poked into the 80’s for the first time this week.
The big final on the day was the 200m butterfly, where the men would feature Fluminense’s Kaio Almeida, who is the South American Record holder in this race but has only two Olympic/World Championship finals to his name (in long course). After a great swim in the 100 fly, Almeida was set up for an even better one here, an end to which he did not disappoint. His winning time was a 1:55.22, which sits 3rd-best in the world ahead of Michael Phelps and behind only two Japanese swimmers: Takeshi Matsuda and Ryusuke Sakata. This time is about 4-tenths faster than he went last year, and in the post-suit era is the best time by a swimmer from the Western Hemisphere aside from the great Mr. Phelps.
On the women’s side, the equally impressive Mireia Belmonte continued to show her 100k+ per week training schedule with an off-her-best time of 2:09.95 for Flamengo. Her top season mark, 3 seconds faster, from Spanish Nationals sits 5th in the world this year, and she is the defending short course World Champion.
The only other individual final on the day was the 50m back, which included National Women’s Swimming hero Fabiola Molina in her best event. She took a big win in 28.33, which ties her for the 11th-best time in the World this year. This leaves her without a qualifying time in the 50 back, but based on her previous qualification in the 100, my assumption is that CBDA President Julio Maglione will be a mench and allow an entry in the 50 as well.
With all of their sprint freestylers, its always surprising to me that the Brazilians aren’t better at the short backstroke races, but they didn’t earn a single Brazilian Qualifying Time in the 50m backstroke, and are unlikely to do so in Sunday’s 100 final either. At the least, it was an excellent race, with Daniel Orzechowski from Pinheiros taking the win in 25.65, followed by his teammate Guilherme Guido in 25.81 and ECP’s Henrique Martins in 25.87.
In the 800 free relay, Minas picked up their second relay victory on the women’s side with a winning mark of 8:11.37 with a quartet of Joanna Maranhão, Manuella Lyrio, Kirsty Conventry, and Jessica Cavalheiro.
The group of Thiago Pereira, Fernando Ernesto, Ricky Berens, Oussama Mellouli won the men’s race handily in 7:20.69 to give Corinthians another Championship Record. The win was no surprise, given that they had the three best 200 freestylers in the building on their relay, including a 1:49.0 flat-start from Pereira, and this becomes the 3rd-best “club” relay time in the world this year. Berens split a 1:50-low, which is a huge improvement off of his individual performance from Day 4.
Jessica Hardy sets up for another double tomorrow, where she will swim the 100 free final about 40 minutes before the 50 breast final (do you get the feeling that the Brazilian Federation is under the impression that swimmers who specialize in breaststroke and freestyle at a high level just don’t exist?) She took the #2 seed in both with a 55.77 free and a 31.29 in the 50 breaststroke. Neither of those marks are her best this season, and with how she’s been swimming I’d assume that she’s got some special drops left in her for tomorrow. The only challenge is that her 2nd-seed might be a bigger issue than it seems on the surface – the block on lane 5 (where Hardy will swim both races from) has been causing problems all week as it has wobbled on multiple occasions. In sprint events like these, where a start is so crucial, that can really hurt a swimmer.
In the latter of those events, the 50 breaststroke, she will again face off with Rebecca Soni, who has the top seed in 30.99. That time is her best of the season and puts her 4th in the world so far this year.
In the women’s 100 freestyle, Tatiana Barbosa will be the top seed ahead of Hardy, with a 55.66 semi-finals mark. In the men’s 100 free, just like the 50, Bruno Fratus will take the top seed (49.00) ahead of Cesar Cielo (49.25). Vinicius Walked matched Cielo’s semi-final time. Ricky Berens swam a 49.50, which is better than his best mark from 2010. That’s an encouraging sign in a meet where he’s struggled thus far.
Minas’ depth has allowed them to nearly lap the field, with almost twice as many points as their next-closes competitor: Pinheiros. There is a great battle for 2nd-place though, with teams 2-4 being separated by only 131 points.
1. Minas 1828
2. Pinheiros 1044
3. Corinthians 1011
4. Flamengo 903