MEN’S 50m & 100m FREESTYLES – PREVIEW
- Commonwealth Games 2014. Glasgow, Scotland. July 24-August 2
- 100m Freestyle- Sunday July 27th
- 50m Freestyle – Tuesday July 29th
- Defending Commonwealth 100m freestyle champion- Brent Hayden (Canada) 47.98
- Defending Commonwealth 50m freestyle champion- Brent Hayden (Canada) 22.01
- 100m freestyle Commonwealth Games record- Brent Hayden (Canada) 47.98
- 50m freestyle Commonwealth Games record- Brent Hayden (Canada) 22.01
- Time needed to final in 2010 (100 free)- 49.65
- Time needed to final in 2010 (50 free)- 22.75
There’s been no denying that Australian sprinting is well on the rise and the Australians contain some of the fastest swimmers in the world on their roster. Five swimmers have been under 22 seconds this year in the 50m freestyle according to the TYR world rankings; all but one have been Australian.
Going into the Commonwealth Games it’s no doubt that the world is looking at Australian sprinters to pull off a stunner. James “The Missile” Magnussen is currently the top ranked Commonwealth swimmer in the world at the moment with the 21.65 that he swam at the Australian trials. It’s no doubt that Magnussen has speed and can bring it at almost anytime; although there have been a few warning signs to prove that he’s not unbeatable.
At the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2013 World Championships, Magnussen failed to qualify for the 50m freestyle final although showing us some pretty superb 100’s. Those aren’t the biggest factors however seeing as there were plenty of non-Commonwealth swimmers competing, adding some more depth to the field. The biggest sign of warning bells is his performance at trials this year. Yes, Magnussen was fast. Yes, Magnussen posted swims that were in the top 10 times in the world this year. The issue however was how he got to those finals and how he performed in them.
Take the 50m freestyle final for example. Magnussen was seeded second after posting a 22.29 in prelims, he was seeded second after a 22.07 in semis, yet ended up finishing third in the final with a time of 22.02. Yes it’s the 50m freestyle and obviously prelim times and final times don’t differentiate all that much, but the fact of the matter is that he was passed by another swimmer in the final, one who looks as though he’ll be leading the Australian sprint squad this summer: Cameron McEvoy.
McEvoy, 19, will be the top Australian headed into Commonwealths in this event after Australian national champion Eamon Sullivan opted out of the games to focus on recovering from a shoulder injury. With the 21.97 that McEvoy posted at finals he’s definitely in the mix to win it. Magnussen has been faster this year with the 21.77 that he swam ,which ranks him fourth in the world. McEvoy , however, has just been able to out-perform him in the finals of any sprint freestyle race (including the 100m freestyle which we’ll get to later).
The young sprinter finished fourth at last year’s World Championships in the 100m freestyle with a 47.88 and was just 0.17 seconds shy of Magnussen’s gold medal winning time of 47.71. This is clear evidence that McEvoy’s age will not affect his ability to swim with some of the greatest sprinters in the world. I’d say based on his performance at trials he and Magnussen will be the two to really battle for gold in this event.
Although these two are top notch sprinters, Australia does have another swimmer that could potentially cause some damage as well at the games. Matt Abood qualified fourth in this event and was added to the team following the resignation of Eamon Sullivan. Abood swam a 22.02 in finals tying James Magnussen for third place. The two then swam a swim-off where Magnussen went a 21.77 to beat Abood’s 21.87 by a tenth of a second. Going head-to-head with one of the fastest men in the world and coming that close isn’t an easy feat, so you’ve got to give Abood credit there. The time also was fast, faster than what McEvoy threw down in finals. If Abood is able to perform like he did during the swim-off he might also have a chance to take home some heavy hardware.
There are however a few other swimmers that will definitely challenge the Australian sprinting dynasty. England’s Benjamin Proud’s time of 21.86 currently ranks him second overall amongst 50m freestyle swimmers heading into the games. Proud is currently ranked eighth in the world this year with his 21.86, and should be a quite the threat in the splash-and-dash. Considering how close he is to his home country, he’s for sure going to have some home crowd fans there that will make him even more pumped to go toe-to-toe with some of Australia’s biggest baddest joes.
One man who could take the crown could be Trinidad & Tobago’s George Bovell. People don’t usually think of Trinidad & Tobago when it comes to swimming or even the Commonwealth, however Bovell’s illustrious career has placed it on the map. Bovell was the highest finishing Commonwealth swimmer at last year’s World championships, earning himself a bronze medal with a 21.51. Bovell hasn’t posted any outstanding times this year, but look for him to make a splash at these championships.
One name that might also be overlooked is Roland Schoemann. Schoemann has had an incredible record in this event at past Commonwealth Games, picking up a gold medal in 2002, a gold medal in 2006, and a silver in 2010. Being beaten by Canada’s Brent Hayden last year definitely left a sour taste in his mouth so you can bet he’s going to focus tons of energy on this race. The South African swimming veteran swam a 22.04 at the South African Trials, which puts him right in the mix with the three Australian’s. Schoemann swam the second-best out of all Commonwealth swimmers at the World Championships last year garnishing himself a seventh place finish with a time of 21.85. With a seasoned swimmer like Schoemann you need to expect him to be in the mix especially in an event he’s done so well at for three games now.
Look for Schoemann’s teammate Brad Tandy to possibly join him in the final as he’s had a great year. Tandy qualified for Commonwealths with a 22.22 from trials, but his greatest achievement this year has been his NCAA finish in the men’s 50 yard freestyle. While swimming for Arizona, Tandy swam an 18.95 to tie with Alabama’s Kristian Gkolomeev in a dead heat for gold. The consistency of Tandy makes me believe that he’ll qualify for finals at Commonwealths. Tandy swam an 18.96 at prelims at NCAA’s, just one one-hundredth shy of the winning time.
Englishman Adam Brown is just a little behind Tandy in this year’s world rankings with a 22.27. He looks as though he has a clear shot at finals.
Richard Schafers will have the unique opportunity to represent Scotland this year, as at international competitions he would have to qualify to represent Great Britain as a whole. Schafers swam a 22.47 at Scottish Nationals earlier this year, a time that if he can repeat should get him into finals or at least fairly close to it. Given the home crowd advantage as well as the unique opportunity to swim for Scotland and only Scotland IN Scotland makes me think that he’s going to leave it all in the pool and do whatever he has to to try and compete with some of the world-elite swimmers.
Not a sure shot for finals but undoubtedly in the mix is Canadian Yuri Kisil. Kisil had quite the improvement at Canadian Trials dropping almost three-tenths of a second off his personal best to win the event in 22.53. Kisil has had some drastic improvements as of late so if he can swim around the same as he did at trials or a little bit faster just to be safe, I’d say he’ll squeeze into the final.
The 100m freestyle is going to feature a lot of the same talent in the 50, but the longer sprint definitely throws in a few wild cards and mixes up the order a little.
This race is going to be between James Magnussen and Cameron McEvoy no doubt. They’re the only two swimmers to break the 48 second barrier this year, and only one other swimmer (Tommaso D’Orsogna from Australia) has even been under the 49 second mark.
The top six Commonwealth swimmers in the world this year in this event are all from Australia, showing the true depth of Australian sprinting. Magnussen is currently the world number one in the race for the 47.59 that he posted at the end of January this year. Behind him in the world rankings is McEvoy with the 47.64 that he swam to win the events at the Australian trials.
I’m giving this event to McEvoy despite the fact that Magnussen is a two time 100m freestyle World Champion. McEvoy had a perfect set up at trials. In the prelims he coasted to a 48.88 qualifying for semi-finals second behind Magnussen who swam a 48.36. In semis McEvoy once again qualified behind Magnussen, swimming a 48.14 to Magnussen’s 47.83. In finals, McEvoy stepped up and completely out-swam Magnussen in every way possible. His reaction time of the block was a 0.60, which beat Magnussen’s. He beat Magnussen to the wall the first 50 AND came home faster than him.
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The video footage of the race above shows that McEvoy clearly took it out hard and came home even harder. His stroke rate was fairly even with Magnussen on the first half of the race, but he increased his stroke rate over that last 50 and made some more room for himself. The time was a best time for McEvoy and we know that Magnussen’s personal best lies at a 47.10.
Magnussen can win it, no doubt, but I believe that McEvoy is going to be a huge challenge for him at this competition. Truth be told Magnussen hasn’t been performing as well at finals and has been posting a lot of his fastest times in prelims or semis. He’s got to really step it up in the finals and poise a challenge if he wants to win this one. The other advantage that McEvoy will have going into this is that he knows he’s beaten Magnussen before.
Somewhat overlooked would be the third Australian in this, the man who could very much bring the dream of a 1-2-3 Aussie finish to life. Tomasso D’Orsogna will be the third man representing down under after placing third at trials with a 48.72. D’Orsogna should be able to get his hand on the wall for a medal position, being over half a second faster so far in this year’s world rankings than the next fastest Commonwealth swimmer.
England’s Adam Brown is so far the fastest non-Australian man this year, so he should be able to make the final, but hasn’t shown enough speed to make anyone believe that he can challenge the two Australians. His time of 49.35 is over one-and-a-half seconds slower than Magnussen and McEvoy. Brown should lead the charge for fourth, but does have a few swimmers who have swam similar times to him this year that might try to squeeze in around the middle of the pack. Canadian Yuri Kisil could be one to challenge him after the 49.87 that he posted at trials.
Whether it be the 50 or the 100, look for the Australian men to really bring the heat in the sprint freestyles. The Australian’s have a chance to end a drought in the 50m freestyle as an Australian hasn’t won the event at Commonwealths since Andrew Baildon did in 1990.