Day 5 is now in the books at the 2011 Jose Finkel Trophy in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The morning’s action featured two big wins by two of the country’s biggest stars, though both were just shy of times they would have hoped for.
Corinthians’ Thiago Pereira, who trains with USC as well as, recently announced that the Brazilian PRO16 group, took a comfortable win in the 200 IM in 2:00.76. He looked very strong through the middle chunk of the race with his usual strength in the backstroke and breaststroke legs. As usual he struggled with the last leg of the race and closed very slowly in a freestyle split of only 29.5. Pereira, despite the win, would say after the race that while he was glad to bring home 35 big points for his club, he was hoping to break two minutes headed into the Pan Am Games.
The other star to take a win was freestyler Cesar Cielo in the 100 free. While no huge fireworks were expected from Cielo here, I was surprised that he wasn’t better than his 49.07 winning time. Cielo is the World Record holder in this 100 free, but more-and-more his training seems to be pulling him towards just being a 50 meter specialist. In today’s morning session, Cielo would also earn a top seed for tomorrow’s 50 fly final with a 23.90 in the semis.
In 2nd in that 100 free was Joao de Lucca in 49.74 to establish himself as a contender for the Brazilian Olympic squad. The 21-year old carried the top seed into finals (though everyone knew that Cielo was waiting to take off), and though he wasn’t able to hold that position he did post a career-best time. When you look at him along with the likes of Bruno Fratus (who missed this race due to an injury) and Marcelo Chierighini (who skipped this meet to attend the opening football game of the defending NCAA Champion Auburn Tigers), Brazilian sprinting is lining up right on sight for the 2016 home Olympics. Still 5 years out, if Cielo continues to train for that long, this is really shaping up as a potential medal relay in the next Olympiad. Nicolas Oliveira took bronze in 49.79 after running out of gas on his last few strokes.
Even beyond those two, the stars really shone brightly on day 5. The men’s 50 breaststroke became a hot-ticket after Joao Gomes put up a top-10 time in the semifinals. He was almost as good as that swim in finals in 27.62, but it was the World Champion Felipe Silva who was just a hair better in 27.49 to take the victory. Felipe Lima, who’s also a breaststroke star, took 3rd for the home club Minas in 28.25 to mark the only swimmer not representing Pinheiros in the top 4.
In total, Pinheiros took five out of the six awarded 50 breaststroke medals, including a sweep of the women’s podium led by Ana Carvalho in 32.37. The Pinheiros club is becoming sort of the USC of Brazilian breaststroking with the way they dominate the stroke.
The men weren’t the only big names to light up the stage. Spain’s Mireia Belmonte took the women’s 200 IM in 2:15.89. Though that time isn’t anything earth-moving, it’s probably her best swim of the meet. The fact that she’s been so much better in her shorter events indicates that she’s at a lull in her reportedly-brutal training schedule and hasn’t moved back into her huge-yardage endurance training yet.
In the other individual final of the day, the Brazilians defended home turf against the Netherlands’ Inge Dekker, who was one of the big international stars that was brought in for this meet. Larissa Oliveira took the victory in 56.35, which is a great time for an 18-year old. As a comparison, that puts her in the same realm as similarly-aged future-stars of USA Swimming like Julia Anderson, Emily Lloyd, and Catherine Breed. She’s working with one of the great veterans of Brazilian swimming, 34-year old Tatiana Barbosa, who took 2nd in 56.81. NCAA schools have been raiding the Brazilian programs for male sprinters for quite some time, and now it looks as though the level of talent on the womens side is getting to the point where they should be getting serious looks as well.
In the women’s 400 free relay, Oliveira and Barbosa teamed up with Michelle Lenhardt and Ana Carolina Santos to give Pinheiros a victory in 3:47.09, including a slew of 56-splits. The Dekker-led Minas relay took 2nd in 3:47.51.
In the men’s relay, the boys from Flamengo took a win in dominant fashion with a time of 3:19.46. That includes a 48.7 split from Cielo. Pinheiros, who was much faster and was just barely out touched at Maria Lenk in March, took 2nd in 3:21.33. An interesting split in this race came from the 3rd-place Corinthians relay, who were anchored by Thiago Pereira in a 49.9. While that’s not a world-class time, that’s a pretty decent mark for a guy who specializes in races 200 meters or longer. It’s odd that he has pretty decent speed in a 100 freestyle, and yet he can’t finish his 200 IM any faster than he does.
Despite the defending-champions Pinheiros just about dominating the action on day 5, they were unable to make a dent in the huge, 800-point lead of the home team Minas. Minas (though they certainly do have some stars in their own right) is winning this meet based on incredible depth with seemingly 3 or 4 swimmers in every final in this meet.
Cielo’s Flamengo team and Pereira’s Corinthians squad, which are amongst the two most popular soccer clubs in the country, are still in the hunt for the runner-up spot, though with the way Pinheiros has been performing that’s going to be tough to do.
1. Minas 2012.5
2. Pinheiros 1455
3. Flamengo 1239
4. Corinthians 1140
5. UNISANTA 644.5