Swedish Grand Prix 3
On the 3rd leg of this year’s Swedish Grand Prix, Sweden’s supserstar Sarah Sjoestrom finally showed the rising-time effects of heavy training, after swimming some very fast in-season meets this year.
In her primary event, the 100 fly, she swam a 58.08 to take the win. That’s about two-tenths slower than she was at the last Grand Prix meet in early February in Uppsala, though it’s still by no-means a bad swim.
Behind her in that race was impressive 59.26 from Finland’s Emilia Pikkarainen, which is a new Finnish National Record in the event. It better her old record by about a tenth.
In the 200 fly, Sjoestrom was really hurting, however. After a 2:14.29 prelims swim where she said she was “dead after 75 meters,” she went a 2:16.85 in finals for third. That put her behind countrymate Petra Granlund (the best Swedish 200 flyer) and Pikkarainen took the win in 2:10.89. That time demolished her National record in the race by just-shy-of a second, and she appeared to be using this meet as her Olympic qualifying.
Though Sjoestrom had some challenges in the two longer flys, she cruised easily through the 50 in 25.96, which is the third-best time in the world this year.
Sjoestrom did, however, look fantastic at this meet in the 100 free, which is a rising specialty for her. She swam a 53.66 that ranks her third-best in the world this year. That’s the second-best time of her career. She also posted a solid 1:57.46 to win the 200 free.
A lot of the Swedes looked tired in this meet, but Joline Hostman looked outstanding on the breaststrokes. She’s one of a slew that is trying to nail down Olympic spots in these events, and she pushed herself to at the least front-runner position in the 200. There, she won in 2:26.32, which ranks her 7th in the world in 2012. She also tacked on a 1:09.16 in the 100 breast.
There were a lot of great swims at the Danish Open, which served as a reaffirmation of Danish Olympic qualifying for the Denmark squad that has been doing some big things over the last year. For those who had not yet qualified for the squad, they needed to hit the Olympic “A” time in this meet. For those who have already hit those times, they needed to come within 1.5% of the FINA A time to confirm that they are still in training shape, which is a worthwhile cushion.
Defending European junior backstroke champ Mie Nielsen, only 15, had no problem making those requirements. She blasted a 59.69 in the 100 to set a new Denmark Record in the race, and become the first woman in her country’s history under a minute in the race. She also blew away the Danish junior record in the 200, an event in which she’s made huge progress, with a 2:11.97. She’s generally been a sprinter to this point in her career, but that improvement of over 5 seconds shows that as she grows stronger, that 200 should get better as well.
For reference, Nielsen’s 100 back is within .14 of the fastest that American superstar Missy Franklin went at the same age. London may be a hair too soon for Nielsen to break onto the medal stand, but by the 2013 and 2015 World Championships, this could become an awesome international rivalry.
Nielsen also placed 3rd in the 100 free behind another very fast teenager, Pernille Blume in 54.06 and defending World Champion Jeanette Ottesen in 53.90. That’s the best time of the season for all three swimmers, and gives the Denmark women designs on a great 400 free (or medley for that matter) relay.
Ottesen would tag on a win in the 50 free in a solid 24.78, with Blume scond in 25.09.
There was no Rikke Moeller-Pedersen in this meet, which leaves the other stars as the distance freestylers. Defending Olympic bronze-medalist (and last year’s World’s runner-up) Lotte Friis took the women’s 800 title in 8:28.52 to easily assure her spot in London. She was a few seconds faster than this in Antwerp in February, but the time is still good. She was chased in this race by Ireland’s Grainne Murphy, who is already headed to London, in 8:29.55. Friis closed the race very well in the last 200 meters, whereas Murphy only turned on her kick the last 100 or so.
In the non-Olympic 1500, Friis marked a 16:16.74, and Murphy a much-less-impressive 16:30.84. Those are the first-and-sixth-best times in the world this year, though that doesn’t speak volumes in a year where there’s little incentive to race this event seriously.
Frii’s most impressive swim of the day was the 400 free. She touched in 4:06.85. Since 2009, she’s only been faster in that race at last year’s World Championships. That swim, juxtaposed against her 1500 time, shows that ahead of London she’s really shifted her training from the 1500 (where she’s probably the best in the world) to a bit more speed-work to come down for the 400.
In the men’s distance races, Pal Joensen of the Faroe Islands took the top mark in 3:46.84. That’s a best time for him and a new Faroese record, and added a 400 qualification for him. Recall that Joensen will compete at the Olympic for Denmark, as the Faroe Islands don’t have their own Olympic Team, and with Mads Glaesner having already been under the A-Standard, Joensen too had to hit the mark to earn a trip for London in this event.
Glaesner was second in 3:56.93.
Glaesner didn’t qualify in the 1500, as he placed 2nd in 15:20.49, but Joensen confirmed his mark with a so-so 15:04.39. Joensen broke another Faroese record in the 200 with a 1:48.98 to win there, just .07 ahead of Glaesner. With his addition, the Danes now have the best 1-2 distance punch in the world.
The 200 swim wasn’t because Joensen wants to swim the event at the Olympics; rather it was more to assure himself a spot on the 800 free relay, which has an outside shot at finaling (18-year old Daniel Skaaning swam a 1:49.85, and 20-year old Anders Lie swam a 1:49.86). Denmark didn’t qualify a relay at last year’s World Championships (top 12 earned automatic qualifying spots), but they did make themselves the top of the “next 4 best from the previous 15 months” list when they swam a special exhibition 7:15.38 at this meet. That puts them well ahead of their main competitors (Belgium, Brazil, the Netherlands, Venezuela) for a spot.