What a difference a week makes. After telling the media that he was in the same heavy training this week as he was last week, reigning 100 free World Champion James Magnussen failed to match his time in the first finals session of the New South Wales State Championships on Friday evening.
Last week, the bold 20-year old marked a 48.0. This week, however, he managed only a 49.02, though that was still good enough to take a sizable win over runner-up Cameron McEvoy (49.44).
The pair, who are both better on the close than the open, went out in nearly-identical 23.7’s. Magnussen, however, used his great finishing kick to pull away for the win. As a comparison, Magnussen’s splits this week (23.7-25.2) had about the same spacing as did his splits in South Australia (23.3-24.7), but were just a touch slower on both halves.
There were plenty of other notable results in this race. Korea’s Tae-Hwan Park took 4th in 49.65. Comebacker Michael Klim had his worst outing since his return to take 8th in 50.29. Kenrick Monk, on the other hand, swam pretty well, given his time out of the water after
being hit by a car falling off of a skateboard and breaking his elbow in September. He took 9th in 50.97.
In the B-Final, 16-year old Alexander Graham, who might have an outside shot at giving the Aussie 800 free relay an injection of youth in London, took 12th in 50.81, which is very-nearly his best time. Te Haumi Maxwell, who dominates the Aussie Age Group sprint record-books, failed to final with a 51.55. National Record holder Eamon Sullivan was a “DQ” in the prelims.
In the women’s 100 free, after posting a strong 54.8 in prelims, Libby Trickett failed to be as quick in the finals. She took 7th in 55.54. Melanie Schlanger, however, was faster than her morning swim; much faster. She took the win in 53.74. That moves her to the head of the World Rankings this year and is, in fact, a lifetime best. She’s really been hanging back since the 2008 Olympics, but now seems to be peaking again just in time to earn at least a relay spot in London (though, at this clip, individual sprint swims are well within reach as well).
Also in this final were 34-year old Swede Therese Alshammar in 55.45, Emily Seebohm in 55.87 (though healthy, she seems to be swimming very tired lately), and teen sensation Yolane Kukla in 55.92. The latter two were each faster in prelims. After a bit of a stumble in prelims, 17-year old Emma McKeon had a great finals swim top top the B-heat in 54.99. That’s within a hair of her lifetime best.
Alshammar strangely sat out the 50 fly, where she’s the World Record holder, as she looks to focus on Olympic events in the pre-London year.
In the women’s 100 breaststroke, the early returns on Leisel Jones’ new training at St. Peter’s is not good. She took only 7th in 1:09.00. The race was led by a great battle between 20-year old Leiston Pickett (1:07.36) and 27-year old Sarah Katsoulis (1:07.80), who now rank 2nd-and-4th in the world this year, respectively. The pair are both very good sprinters, and both seem to be hitting their strides just in time to give Jones trouble at the upcoming Olympic Trials.
Nick D’Arcy, swimming his first meet of 2012, won the men’s 200 fly in a world-leading 1:56.90. Note that Mr. Phelps didn’t race the event at his first meet of the season in Austin, but D’Arcy now takes the poll position for the battle for 2nd in London (if he’s allowed to go, that is). If there were ever one to challenge Phelps’ dominance before his retirement, it’s always seemed like D’Arcy was that one. Christopher Wright also had a good swim for 2nd in 1:57.34.
Korean National, but Australian trained, Tae Hwan Park posted a bit of a response to the blazing 400 free marks posted by Sun Yang and his Chinese teammates in the Gold Coast a few weeks ago. Park topped the men’s 400 in 3:45.57, which is the 3rd-best time in the world this year. Park is still in great position headed towards the Olympics, though he’s three-seconds slower than Sun thus far, because Park has a better taper history in this race. For example, last year, Sun’s two-best swims were both at non-World-Championship meets. Park, on the other hand, sliced off three seconds in Shanghai to take gold.
Samantha Hamill had her best 400 IM swim since earning silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. She won the race in 4:40.21. Stephanie Rice, in what was possibly her only swim of this meet after some shoulder soreness earlier in the week, wasn’t bad in 4:42.29. She seemed to be a bit timid taking the race out, but felt well enough by the freestyle leg to close in a 30.8 50 freestyle.
With Rice riding the roller-coaster that her shoulder pain has become; Blair Evans (not at this meet) stunning last week in South Australia; and Hamill seeming to be bouncing back after a rough 2011 season, this 400 IM suddenly become wide-open in 6 weeks at Aussie Trials.
Belinda Hocking and Meagan Nay had an awesome race in the women’s 200 backstroke, and were stroke-for-stroke nearly the entire race. At the touch, Hocking was able to hold of Nay by times of 2:09.04-2:09.14.
The relays at this meet aren’t always noteworthy, but the men’s medley had a strong relay put together from the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Club (SOPAC). That included a great first-swim from Geoff Huegill on the butterfly leg in 53.27, and a 49.08 anchor from Magnussen.