Stephanie Rice is impressing beyond belief, as she fought through the pain of her shoulder injury for a second Olympic qualification on Sunday.
Women’s 200 IM -Final
With three entered in this race, there was an Australian superstar (and medal contender) who was going to be left home in this women’s 200 IM. But defending Olympic champion Stephanie Rice wasn’t going to let that be her. She won this race in 2:09.38, with Alicia Coutts taking 2nd in 2:09.32. Both Coutts and Rice tore away from Emily Seebohm on the breaststroke leg (Seebohm was 3rd in 2:12.37). Though Seebohm could be a great IM’er at some point in her career, this year I think this is the best-case qualification scenario for the Australians, assuming Rice’s shoulder holds up. Coutts and Rice swam the two-best times in the world this year in this race.
And though Rice was faster in this race than she was at last year’s World Championships (2:09.6), that doesn’t mean that it isn’t affecting her. She now takes the race out much slower in her specialty the butterfly, and then plays catch-up in the backstroke and breaststroke. We saw it both here and in the 400 IM. With how well that strategy is working for her thus far, perhaps the injury has at least a bit of a silver lining to it.
After the top two, the rest of this A-Final was entirely made up of teenagers, including 16-year old Taylor McKeown in 4th in 2:14.17 (no relation to Emma McKeon, without the ‘w’). She was a World Junior Championships bronze medalist on a relay last year in Peru, but now she’s coming into her own as an individual swimmer. She’s a big breaststroker, and as she gets a little older and develops a little more strength, she’ll be an IM force.
Men’s 100 Free – Semi’s
Australia’s James Magnussen isn’t messing around in the 100 freestyle. He’s determined to assure himself of a chance to defend his World Championship with Olympic gold, and went a 47.93 in just the semi-finals to take the top seed. He didn’t enter the 200 free, similarly so as not to take a risk with this 100, and at only 20 years old and in his first event of the meet, he can surely afford to go hard in these early rounds without gassing himself out. That swim is already faster than anybody else in the world (aside from Cielo) has been in the last two-plus years since the rubber suits went away.
While Ian Thorpe falling out in the prelims of the 100 free, the other comebacker Michael Klim, who was more of a sprinter anyways in his first life, made it through to the semi’s. He would go no further though – he swam a 50.23 in this race (slower than his 49.7 from prelims) and finished 15th. He has left himself one more opportunity in the 100 fly beginning Tuesday, but that will be a tough go as well.
Matt Targett, James Roberts, and Tommy D’Osorgna were all tightly grouped at 48.5-48.6 for the 2-4 seeds. Tommaso D’Orsogna continues to have a great sprint bounceback meet by qualifying 5th in 48.7 (he hadn’t been better than 49.3 since 2009). With Eamon Sullivan, Camerom McEvoy, and Matthew Abood rounding out the field, I think that the right 8 made this top 8 for the chances of the Australian relay.
The misses included Kenneth To in 9th (49.40), Matthew Abood in 12th, and Andrew Lauterstein in 13th, but this is a tough field.
Men’s 200 Fly Finals
Nick D’Arcy will finally (knock on wood) get his chance to challenge Michael Phelps at a global championship thanks to his 1:54:.71 win in this 200 fly. That leapfrogs him to the top of the World Rankings in 2012.
There were two other swimmers in this race under the Olympic qualifying standard, but Christopher Wright closed very hard and was able to nip Grant Irvine for 2nd by score of 1:56.40 to 1:46.67.
Women’s 200 Free Finals
With the new levels that the 200 free has come to this season, the top Australian finishers in this trial haven’t yet put much fear into the Olympic medal podium, but as a relay they’ve certainly done plenty. There were 7 finishers in this race who were 1:57 or better, which is something no other country in the world, including the Americans, can come close to matching.
The top mark was by Bronte Barratt in 1:55.99. That’s a touch slower than was her 2nd-place performance at this same qualification meet last year, but I think that’s a good thing. Kylie Palmer, last year’s champion, was 2nd in 1:56.04, meaning the Australians will have the same two representations in this race as they did last year.
Melanie Schlanger is having a big bounceback year, and earned her second-straight Olympic appearance in this 800 free relay with a 3rd-place swim of 1:56.73, and one of the bright young lights of Australian Swimming Brittany Elmslie also earned an automatic relay spot in 4th in 1:57.24. Both of them will be contenders for individual spots in the 100 free, though I’d call both good bets for at least relay swims based upon how well they’ve swum at this meet.
Rice scratched this 200 free final, but her 1:57.57 from the semi’s (make that an 8th Aussie 1:57 or better) gives her at least a shot at an alternate spot, if the Australian coaches have confidence in her shoulder. They’ll likely want to see another 200 free closer to the meet before making that decision. In the meantime, the alternates would be Jade Neilsen (1:57.70 – she was on last year’s World’s team) and Angie Bainbridge (1:57.74). Blair Evans was 7th in 1:57.91.
Men’s 200 Breaststroke – Semi’s
Brenton Rickard really geared up for this 200 breast semi-final and cut 5 seconds off of his prelims swim with a 2:10.99 for the top seed. With 2009 World’s bronze medalist Christian Sprenger out of the picture (he scratched this semi after a weak prelims time), Rickard is now easily going to be the National Champion and will instead focus on stringing together a good set of semi’s/finals swims here. This time ranks him 6th in the world this year.
No other swimmers yet went under the Olympic automatic qualifying mark, with Craig Calder coming in 2nd in 2:13.69. He will have to go a best time in the finals to slide under the 2:11 mark that is among the more difficult on the tables, or the Australians could end up hitting their first event of this meet without filling all of their roster spots.
Women’s 200 IM – Semi’s
Two-time World Champ Jessicah Schipper put a touch more effort into this 200 IM semi-final than she did in the prelim to drop two seconds and go a 2:09.94 for the top seed. She’s going to have to drop almost exactly another second (.99) to make the Olympic Team.
Samantha Hamill (2:10.14) and Amy Smith (2:10.90) took the 2nd and 3rd seeds respectively. While there’s some great young butterfliers behind them (16-year old Brianna Throssell in 4th in 2:12.18, for example), those are the only two who have the capability to get below the Olympic standard. My nod goes to Hammil, though, in the final.