Spain’s Mireia Belmonte is determined to break the European record in the 200 LCM butterfly in 2018. Belmonte won Olympic gold in the 200 fly in Rio and holds 5 world records in short course meters, but major records in the 50-meter pool have eluded her.
In an interview with ABC de Seville, Belmonte said that breaking the European record in the 200 LCM butterfly would be like reaching the next level of achievement in the 50-meter pool. “I still do not have a European or world record in the 50-meter pool and I think it would be a very nice goal,” Belmonte said.
Lowering her own personal best time of 2:04.78 is a goal Belmonte deems “attainable,” and if accomplished something she would be very happy with. Even so, the European record established by Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu at the 2009 World Championships in Rome stands at 2:04.27, a full half-second ahead of Belmonte’s best.
Hosszu chose to drop the 200 fly from her schedule at the 2016 Rio Olympics but added it back into her program at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest where she placed 3rd in a time of 2:06.09, her best time since 2009. Touching ahead of Hosszu in Budapest was Belmonte in a 2:05.26, followed closely by Germany’s Franziska Hentke in 2:05.39.
Though the 200 fly is Belmonte’s best event, her coach Fred Vergnoux stated that they have not stopped training for the other events she specializes in, such as the 400, 800, and 1500 meter freestyles, and the 400 IM. Those four races and the 200 fly comprise Belmonte’s 5 SCM world records.
Belmonte is full steam ahead for Tokyo 2020 but is not focused solely on the meet to come in Japan. Not yet, anyway, describing Tokyo as a long-term goal that is a nice source of motivation.
Before she can focus on the second half of this Olympic quad, Belmonte has to get through three major competitions in 2018: the European Championships, the Mediterranean Games, and the World Cup circuit. The Mediterranean Games hold a special significance this year since Spain is the host, and Belmonte has not attended since 2009 when they were held in Pescara, Italy. The short course World Championships are also on Belmonte’s radar, but she is not committing to them until the World Cup circuit is complete, saying that, “In December, if I am in good shape, I will do the 25 meter World Championships.”
Belmonte also answered a question about “favors” she asked of the National Sports Council (CSD) and the RFEN, Spain’s governing body for swimming. The “favor” Belmonte asked was that she receive the attention and treatment of a physical therapist throughout the year, as much as needed, so that she can recover and perform at her best.
Citing shoulder problems she encountered in 2015, Belmonte responded, “They are not favors. It is an essential thing for any athlete since we work with our bodies. We have to recover to compete the next day, the next week, the next month. A therapist is the minimum that we athletes need in order to recover and be able to continue training the next day. It’s like with cars, if you do not take them to the mechanic they eventually break. This happened to me in 2015 with my shoulders. Because of this I think it is important that a physical therapist can accompany me all year.”
In a separate interview, coach Fred Vergnoux affirmed that their plan in 2018 is to break the European record, but that the 2019 World Championships and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are also on their minds.
“Mireia has been between 2:04 and 2:05 for several years. The European record is the goal this season, but we’re thinking about more than just that. If we go with the attitude that ‘I am the best in the world, I’ve won the Olympics, the World Championship, everything, and I continue at this level,’ she can win another medal this summer, and probably at Worlds in 2019. But imagine that in Tokyo the winner goes a 2:03.8 and Mireia gets 4th with a 2:04. She’s f***ed. The idea is to go faster, little by little. There are three summers yet until the next Olympics and Mireia must swim faster, thinking about her long-term challenge,” Vergnoux said.
For now, Belmonte and Vergnoux are focused on the European record and a 2:04-low. The world record in the women’s 200 LCM butterfly stands at 2:01.81 done by China’s Liu Zige in October of 2009 with the help of a full-body polyurethane suit.
“Sometimes we think about it (the world record). If Mireia has gone 1:59 in the short pool, with good turns and a great underwater kick, why not think that one day a woman will break the long course record. If Mireia does it, even better. The first step is the European record,” says Vergnoux.
Despite winning the Olympic gold in 2016, Vergnoux considers Belmonte’s 2014 victory at the European Championships to have been her best race to date: “In 2014 she was an animal, she had closing speed. To break the [European] record she should touch [at 100 meters] in a 59.5 like in London, and have the ability to finish the race like in Berlin. If Katinka doesn’t swim [the 200 fly] in Glasgow, we’ll see who challenges. [Franziska Hentke] has done 2:05 various times. It would be good to see her start fast to give Mireia some rhythm, and we’ll see if she can hold on to the end.”