Pan Pacs 2010: Day 1 Picks, Predictions, Previews

And we’re off! Not too long ago, the Pan-Pacific Championships were viewed as a second-class international meet that existed as a poor corollary to the European Championships. But after a few years of incredible swimming, some races, and a huge jump in the level of swimming in the participating nations beyond the US and Australia, they are now a major international meet.

As an indicator of the level which the meet has attained, prior to her shoulder injury, triple-gold medalist Stephanie Rice was planning on throwing her full taper at Pan-Pacs, and then “hanging on” for the vaunted Commonwealth Games competition. Of course, her impending surgery has derailed this plan, but it still gives you an idea of how seriously the swimming world takes this meet now.

On day 1, the meet gets off to a rocking start, including swims by superstars Aaron Peirsol, Michael Phelps, Cesar Cielo, Natalie Coughlin, and Emily Seebhom.

The biggest storylines to follow on Day 1 are:

1) First Glimpse of Phelps- Michael Phelps didn’t sound happy with most of his performance at Nationals, most notably the 200 fly (which, by the way, he won handily). Sometimes, when you’re Michael Phelps, an unhappy performance can win gold medals. Australia’s Nick D’Arcy, among others, will be gunning to dethrone the king in his signature event.

2) Yolane Kukla Bursting onto the Scene- 14 year-old Yolane Kukla caught everyone off-guard at March’s Australian Championships by busting through the 26 second barrier in the 50 fly, among a myriad of impressive performances. Now, she will be introduced to the world in the very first event of the night, the women’s 50 fly. This is a chance to witness history, as Kukla has a great opportunity to win her first major international medal of what will surely be dozens more over her career.

3) Men’s 100 backstroke- The competition has been ramped up even more in this event, which was one of the marquees at Nationals. Last time around, David Plummer shocked the field to pull off the National Title. Aaron Peirsol has owned the Pan-Pacs, however, and was likely not fully tapered 2 weeks ago. Plummer will be trying to prove that his win was not a fluke, this time against an impressive international field that includes Ashley Delaney, Ryosuke Irie, and George du Rand, in addition to American stars Nick Thoman, Peirsol, and Ryan Lochte.

Day 1 Picks

Women’s 50 butterfly

  1. Yolane Kukla (AUS)
  2. Christine Magnuson (USA)
  3. Marieke Guehrer (AUS)

Breakdown: By the end of this meet, you’re going to be sick of hearing me rave about Kukla, but I am full-bore on the bandwagon. I expect Kukla to win this race and go in the mid 25-second range, challenging Therese Alshammar for the world’s best time. Magnuson’s first-50 split in the 100 fly at Nationals (which is her seed time here of 26.82) was still good enough for top 30 in the world, giving her high hopes when she doesn’t have to worry about saving anything for the finish. Guehrer has the second best time this season out of the field, and has long been strong in this event.

Men’s 50 butterfly

  1. Roland Schoeman (RSA)
  2. Geoff Huegill (AUS)
  3. Cesar Cielo (BRA)

Breakdown: Over 50 yards, fly and free are mostly about the same things: power and turnover. For this reason, I like this event to be dominated as much by the pure sprinters as the pure butterfliers. Schoeman had an outstanding short-course season (buoyed by the super-suits), and like most of his South African teammates has had a relatively quiet long course season. Geoff Huegill, at 31 years old, has been able to extend his career like Jason Lezak and Dara Torres have done: by narrowing down to a very limited schedule of specific sprint events. Huegill is enetered only in the 50 and 100 flys at this meet, and that is about all  Coming out of Brazil, home of the sprinters, I like the freestyle superstar Cesar Cielo for the bronze.

Women’s 200 free

  1. Dana Vollmer (USA)
  2. Blair Evans (AUS)
  3. Allison Schmitt (USA)

Breakdown: Even though Schmitt was the top seed at nationals, it was still a minor upset when Vollmer didn’t win this race. After seeing Vollmer smoke the 100 free, I think she has a lot left to give, and expect her to pour a lot of that into her first race. Evans is the 8th fastest in the world this year, just ahead of teammate Bronte Barratt. This is going to be a crazy-tight finish between the top 7 swimmers, who could all finish within half a second of each other.

As an aside, I’ve been told, unsolicited, from 2 independent sources over the last few weeks that Allison Schmitt is pretty much the funniest thing in water. I’m starting a push for her to get a twitter account and share with the world, if you’re in favor, post in the comments.

Men’s 200 free

  1. Ryan Lochte (USA)
  2. Peter Vanderkaay (USA)
  3. Tae Hwan Park (SKOR)

Breakdown: This race will be notably lacking the dash of Phelps that many had hoped for, but Ryan Lochte (ranked 3rd in the world) will still be here to answer the 1:45.47 that Paul Biedermann put up at Euro’s. Vanderkaay went under 1:47 at Nationals, despite clearly not being at a taper or shaved. He’ll definitely get into the 1:45 range, and he himself could even challenge Biedermann’s mark. Park was the Beijing silver medalist, and is a superstar in South Korea.

Women’s 100 back

  1. Emily Seebhom (AUS)
  2. Aya Terakawa (JAP)
  3. Liz Pelton (USA)

Breakdown: Seebhom has been easily the best in the world in this event since the end of the super-suit era. She holds the best 2 times in the world this year, and I don’t think anybody can touch her here. Veteran Aya Terakawa from Japan went a 59.60 at the Japan Open in June, which means she still probably has some room to drop. Liz Pelton didn’t go her season best at Nationals, but has also broken a minute this season. It’s killing me to leave Coughlin out of  my top 3, as she always just seems to find a way to medal, but I think there’s too much talent here.

Men’s 100 back

  1. Aaron Peirsol (USA)
  2. Nick Thoman (USA)
  3. Ryosuke Irie (JAP)

Breakdown: Ok, so Aaron Peirsol didn’t win the 100 back at Nationals. Did everyone get that out of their systems? Don’t expect it to happen again at Pan-Pacs. David Plummer had a fabulous performance, but he put his full efforts into Nationals. I don’t suspect Peirsol or Thoman did. Irie is the fourth-ranked 100 backstroker in the world this year. Either him or teammate Junya Koga will be on the medal stand. If Grevers had qualified and was in this field, I still would pick him to win (like I did at Nationals).

Women’s 200 fly

  1. Kathleen Hersey (USA)
  2. Natsumi Hoshi (JAP)
  3. Jessica Schipper (AUS)

Breakdown: The easy pick for a medal here is World Record holder Zige Liu of China. She blew the world away at the World Championships, and last year in short course competition. But she appears to have been totally absent this long course season, and we still haven’t seen her do much without a rubber suit. Hersey has stormed back this summer since a disappointing NCAA performance. Hoshi and Schipper also posted top 10 performances at their National meets, which were held in the spring. Having time for a full cycle before having to taper again will be a big advantage for those two.

Men’s 200 fly

  1. Nick D’Arcy (AUS)
  2. Michael Phelps (USA)
  3. Takeshi Matsuda

Breakdown: Phelps got away with being out of shape at Nationals. Against D’Arcy and Matsuda, he won’t get away with it at Pan Pacs over a grueling 200m worth of butterfly. Don’t be surprised if both Matusda and D’Arcy beat Phelps, although I think he’ll definitely medal.

Women’s 800 free

  1. Katie Goldman (AUS)
  2. Chloe Sutton (USA)
  3. Kate Ziegler (USA)

Breakdown: This race is going to be a showdown between the Australians and the Americans. Goldman is the second fastest in the world this year. Sutton keeps getting better and better in the pool (versus her specialty, open water swimming), and after dropping the mile, she will be able to focus even more on this race. Kate Ziegler missed the 2009 Nationals (and therefore the World Championships) while battling swine flu, and I think a lot of people forgot about her. But she is still swimming, and still very good.

Men’s 1500 free

  1. Chad La Tourette (USA)
  2. Ryan Cochrane (CAN)
  3. Peter Vanderkaay (USA)

Breakdown: I was definitely surprised by how fast La Tourette went at Nationals. His 14:55.39 was (at that point) the fastest time in the world, and is still only .22 off of Sebastian Rouault’s winning time at Euro’s. Heck, he only went a 14:53 high in polyurethane. If he can hold onto what he did at Nationals, he will win this race. In fact, between him and Cochrane, I expect the two to be both under 1:54, and both at least 10 yards ahead of the rest of the field. Vanderkaay might be able to win this on a good day, but I don’t think it’s the race that he’ll be focused on, since he only recently decided to add it back to his lineup.

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David Rieder

Braden, you need to remember the context of Phelps’ Nationals swim. It was an hour after he swam the 200 free (and he did the post-race interview, which he rarely does when he has a double), and his starts and turns were absolutely awful. Clean that up and he goes at least a second faster, and then he will be much fresher. Also, he is focusing his taper here; he has more rest to come than we saw at Nationals. It could be an almost 2-second victory (but we’ll see).

Shelley

I would love it if Allison Schmitt got Twitter! I follow many right now–and always love the funny ones!

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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