In recent years, the British National Team has made a pretty obvious rise within the swimming community, and is probably at the highest point it’s been since at least the 1920’s. What’s less obvious is how much of that rise has been the result of the northern-third of the main island, more formally known as “Scotland”. In fact, given it’s small population of just 5-million people, Scotland had more Commonwealth Games swimming medals per capita than even the mighty England squad.
It also serves as, quite literally, the world’s last major Championship meet prior to the World Championships (unless you count Luxembourg Nationals), so much of Western Europe – specifically huge portions of the British and Spanish elite teams – are using the competition as a final tuneup for World’s.
Rebecca Adlington won the women’ 200 free in an “easy” 1:59.34. That’s a few-tenths off of her season best, but she didn’t look too stressed out during her swim. The Scottish Title went to Hannah Miley in 2nd in 2:00.82, with Spain’s Mireia Belmonte taking 4th in 2:02.13.
Miley and Belmonte would race again later in the session in what could have shaped up to be the best battle of the night. Unfortunately, the world leader Belmonte fell way off of Miley’s pace after the butterfly leg, and the Scottish swimmer ran away with the win, and another Scottish title, in 4:37.24. Miley looked to have put the brakes on a little in the freestyle with a sizable lead, but still went on to a huge, morale-boosting win over Belmonte’s 4:43.36.
The story all year on Belmonte has been that she’s been training huge meterages (>100,000 a week) throughout even her big meets, like Maria Lenk and Spanish Nationals, but with only three-and-a-half weeks to go, it’s amazing that she still hasn’t begun any sort of a rest cycle (based on her times yesterday, anyways). On the other hand, the kind of determination and work-effort it takes to maintain such a high-level of training for so long is the same kind of effort that it takes to tackle Belmonte’s World Championship schedule, which is probably the most difficult there is in the world.
The Spanish really dominated the sprint action on day 1, as Rafael Munoz and Mercedes Peris took wins in the sprint events.
For Munoz, the defending European Champion, the win came in his specialty the 50 fly in 23.94 (half-a-second off of his season-best). Though there’s a lot of speculation that whatever “emotional condition” that kept him from making his steroid testing last year has taken a toll on his times, but a more careful inspection bears-out something entirely different. In fact, this season Munoz is well ahead of his pace from 2010. This could mean one of two things: he’s either tapering prematurely, or he’s going to post a pretty spectacular time this summer.
What remains to be seen is what Munoz’s goal meet will be. Spain, like many other nations, require their swimmers to make their World Championship cuts at their National Championship meet, and that’s a strategy that doesn’t fit well into Munoz’s typical training cycle (he missed by a slim .04). He’s likely aiming to place well at the 2011 Short Course European Championships in Poland, maybe a few World Cup meets, and then to try and line up his training strategy better for a 100 fly bid for the 2012 Olympics.
Peris just missed her season-best time in the women’s 50 backstroke with a solid 28.31 victory. She’ll be looking to be one of a handful of women with sub-28 potential in Shanghai, and I think she’s a great candidate to make a final in this event.
There weren’t any other swims with much direct international significance. A semi-large name was Michael Jamieson, a British and Scottish National who will be competing in Shanghai. He won the 200 breaststroke in a 2:13.04 in a swim that appeared to happen simply to represent well at his home National Championships.
A much better swim for a home-town boy came from Robby Renwick in the men’s 100 freestyle. It’s not an event he’ll include in his major-program, but it’s an important race for him in terms of a benchmark for speed progression. His runner-up time of 50.71 is the 4th-best textile time of his career, and continues to point towards a breakout summer for the young middle-distance swimmer. Munoz also swam that race, and finished 4th in 51.00.