After a bit of a warning-shot in the 200 free on Friday evening, South Korea’s Tae-Hwan Park lit up the stage at the 2012 Mel Zajac Jr. International in Vancouver in the 400 free – his best event.
Park took home the win in 3:44.22 (likely unrested other than the effect of travelling), which crushed Ryan Cochrane’s 2008 Meet Record in the event by 6 seconds.
That puts Park as the second-fastest in the world this year, ranking only behind a pair of swims from China’s Sun Yang. By the halfway mark, he had already put over two seconds between him and the rest of the field with an opening split of 1:51.50. But that was nothing compared to how well he finished the race – on the final 50, he split a 26.91 to win the race by 10 full seconds ahead of Australia’s Ryan Napoleon (3:54.20). The top finishing Canadian was third-place Keegan Zanatta from nearby Island swimming.
In the women’s version of the same race, it was Australian Olympian-to-be Bronte Barratt who dominated the race in 4:07.47. She came very close to even-splitting the race, going out in a 2:03.3 and coming back in a 2:01.1.
Savannah King, a Canadian Olympic entrant in this event, was 2nd in 4:14.16 in her hometown pool. Like we’ve seen with many of the young Canadians, she doesn’t often swim fast in season; but given the leap she’s made in her top-end speed I would’ve expected a bit faster from her here.
Other big winners on the night include Australian high school’er Yolane Kukla in the women’s 100 fly in 59.02. That just out-touched her Canadian counterpart Noemie Thomas (59.45). That’s actually the second-fastest swim of Thomas’ career, and is a good recovery performance after having an off meet at Canadian Trials at the end of March.
Australia continued to roll along in the session with Stephanie Rice completing a sweep of the IM races, winning the 200 in 2:12.51 out of lane 8 (she’s had some tough prelims swims at this meet). That’s another good time for her, and again she looked a little bit more comfortable on the butterfly leg than she did at Australian Nationals. She’s still not attacking it like she once did, but it’s better. The question is how her body will hold up in London, when she has to swim three rounds and can’t afford to count on 10-and-20 second drops in the finals.
Canada’s Erica Morningstar hung on Rice’s hip for the first 150 meters, but fell far back on the freestyle for a 2:15.43 silver medal.
Kukla had a great showdown of two of the world’s best young sprinters in the 50 free, as she matched up against future Georgia swimmer Chantal van Landeghem in the 50 free on Saturday. The race was extremely tight the whole way, but it was VandLandeghem who got to the wall first in 25.75 to Kukla’s 25.78.
In the men’s version of the race, Canada’s Brent Hayden took the win in 22.76; he’s historically been more of a 100-200 guy, though later in his career he’s definitely improved on this 50. Park, showing off his range, was 2nd in 22.89.