This was the day that American swim fans have been looking forward to: USC star Vlad Morozov’s first sprint-freestyle swim and his first crack at earning a spot on a senior International roster. This was not his first race of the meet (he placed 4th in the 100 backstroke on day 1), but he has gained most of his recognition as a sprint freestyler. Especially when he broke both US National High School Records (the 50 and the 100) in 2010.
There is a ton of pressure on the young Morozov from American fans who hope that his inability to gain citizenship prior to London is just a temporary setback in his desires to join Team USA. The Russian faithful don’t appear to have heaped as much immediate expectations on him, though they must surely recognize his potential. In the men’s 50 free final, where Morozov was the youngest swimmer, he tied for 4th in 22.37.
The placing wasn’t as high as some might have hoped for, but the time is still a good one. It left him about a tenth out of a Shanghai qualifying spot, with Andrei Grechin taking the win in 22.13, and Sergei Fesikov taking 2nd in 22.25. Grechin’s time moves him into sole-possession of 8th-place in the World Rankings, and Fesikov is 10th. Third-place finisher Nikita Konovalov and Morozov both rank in the top 20 in the world. Morozov tied with Oleg Tikhobaev, who is the Russian Jr. National Record Holder.
In other sprint-action of the day, Russian women Yuliya Efimova and Anastasia Zueva each put up top-3 times in their respective specialties:
Efimova posted a 30.46 in the women’s 50 breaststroke, placing her 2nd in the world behind a 30.24 from Aussie Leiston Pickett. This means that the top-two ranked swimmers in the world in this event are both teenagers, which must be a rare occurrence. Efimova’s time is a hair faster than she went at Euro’s in 2010, her fastest swim of the season.
Zueva swam a 27.99 in the women’s 50 backstroke, which puts her 3rd in the world (just .01 behind China’s Gao Chang).
Stanislav Donets took a big win in the 200 backstroke, in 1:58.37. This is the 9th best time in the world this year, to go along with his 8th-place ranking in the 100. Arkady Vyatchanin, who won double-bronze in Beijing and is the short course World Record holder in this race, took 2nd in 1:59.47. After eye-surgery in early 2010, he hasn’t quite been able to recapture his 2008 form in long course, though he could be poised for a big comeback, perhaps in Shanghai.
Twenty-year old Veronika Popova took her second Championship of the meet in the women’s 200 IM. She swam a 2:12.87, which puts her 11th in the world this year. Efimova earned her third podium spot of the meet with a 2:13.71, 20th-best in the world, on the back-end of a double (albeit a not very tough one, with the men’s 800 separating the two races).
The men’s 800 free featured a great duel between Nikolai Bulakhov and Evgeny Kulikov. Kulikov took the race out pretty hard, and gave himself a 2.4 second lead at the half-way mark. Bulakhov started to reel him back in on the back-half, however, including a big move on the 9th-50 to lop a full second off of the lead. With about 110 meters to go, Bulakhov overtook his comrade, and despite a furious final-50, Bulakhov ended up with the win in 7:59.77. Kulikov was 2nd in 7:59.81.