It’s a busy session on morning 2 of the 2012 London Olympics, as we’ll see maybe the most anticipated debut of the meet: Australian James Magnussen and the men’s 400 free relay. Missy Franklin and Matt Grevers will also swim the preliminary rounds of their 100 backstrokes.
Refresh the page frequently, as we’ll be updating as the races happen.
Women’s 100 Backstroke Prelims
Australia’s Emily Seebohm went off on the early round of the women’s 100 backstroke, and almost seemed to take the wind out of the sails of an event that was expected to be deep and fast. Seebohm took down the Olympic Record very early, in the first of the three fastest, circle-seeded heats, with a 58.23. That whacked half-a-second off of the 58.77 that Kirsty Coventry set back in 2008. That also breaks her own Australian National Record of 58.88, and was the third-best swim ever done.
Nobody else in her heat was too fast, though Georgia Davies did break a minute for the home fans by taking 2nd in the heat, and 6th overall, in 59.92.
In the next heat, Russia’s Anastasia Zueva, almost seeming to be caught up in the shock wave, won in 59.88. For the World number-two coming into this meet, she probably could have been better, and will certainly need to be in the semi-finals. She’s one of the few swimmers in the world who has the speed to hang with Seebohm’s 28.57 on the front-half of this race.
Then, in the final heat, the young American Missy Franklin again showed the ability to block everything out, and swam a 59.37 to grab the second seed and a spot in lane 4 in the semi-finals. The biggest criticism of Franklin in these backstrokes has been her walls, and while her start still isn’t the greatest, her turn on this swim looked fantastic. She blew by about 4 swimmers on that underwater, perhaps picking up some hints in her short time working with Cal coach Teri McKeever in the Olympic training camps, to come from the back and win her heat.
Belinda Hocking (59.61) and Japan’s Aya Terakawa (59.82) rode with Franklin to top-5 seeds.
Other swimmers safely through include the Chinese pair Yuanhui Fu and Jing Zhao in matching 59.9’s, and the Czech Republic’s Simona Baumrtova in 59.99, making her the first swimmer in her country to break a minute in this race. Former NCAA Champion Julia Wilkinson also broke a minute for just the second time of her career.
The other American Rachel Bootsma was also safely through in 1:00.03, as were the World Record holder Gemma Spofforth, Kirsty Coventry, and Canadian Record holder Sinead Russell. Italy’s Arianna Barbieri was the final qualifier in 1:00.25, another Italian Record, as their medley continues to look like it’s going to hold up from an impressive swim at the European Championships in May.
The biggest misses were 15-year old Mie Nielsen, the Danish Record holder, who was 17th in just a 1:00.38 (a second off of what was expected), and Laure Manaudou in 1:01.03 for 22nd. Brazilian Fabiola Molina ended her career with a 1:01.40; Molina, one of the oldest swimmers in this meet, has said she plans to retire after the Olympics to work on starting a family.
Men’s 200 Freestyle Prelims
In the prelims of the men’s 200 freestyle, there were a lot of 1:46’s and 1:47’s, but nobody really broke away from the pack to establish themselves as a big favorite, unlike what we’ve seen through most of this meet. China’s Sun Yang, already with a gold in the 400 free, used a good back-half to take the top seed in 1:46.24. We don’t really have a good idea of where he’s at, as his top speed doesn’t seem to be quite what someone like Ryan Lochte’s is.
Lochte, swimming right next to Yang in the second-to-last heat, touched comfortably in 1:46.45. Just like in the 400 IM, he was very controlled in this race.
France’s Yannick Agnel sits 3rd in 1:46.60. He was the top seed coming in, and has plenty of room to drop both on the front-half and the back-half of this race. Park Tae-Hwan, Britain’s Robbie Renwick, and Australia’s Kenrick Monk were all through as well in 1:46’s. Renwick looked much better in this 200 than he did in Saturday’s 400.
There were no real surprising misses in this prelim, though only the younger of the two Fraser brothers, Brett Fraser, moved on with a 1:47.74 for 14th. That’s still half-a-second off of his best time from 2011, swum at the Pan Am Games.
Switzerland’s Dominik Meichtry, better known to an American audience as the future Mr. Jessica Hardy, took heat 4 out very hard in a 51.7. He still hung on for a 1:47.97 and the final qualification, but he’ll probably tweak his pacing before finals.
Denmark’s Mads Glaesner was a scratch.
Women’s 100 Breaststroke Prelims
Great Britain’s first Olympic swimming medal might come from a Lithuanian. After prelims of the women’s 100 breaststroke, Lithuanian-born, but British-trained, Ruta Meilutyte swam a 1:05.56 to take the top seed. For just a 15-year old, that’s a phenomenal time; perhaps the best we’ve ever seen by a swimmer that age (though no great records internationally are kept). It’s certainly better than American Amanda Beard was in 1996 when she took silver just shy of her 15th birthday, who is generally the gold standard for junior breaststrokers.
Meilutyte was out in 30.58, which in itself is a National Record and ranks 2nd in the world this year. She didn’t give up much speed on the back-half, though, and touched in a new world-leader. Meilutyte has a stroke that should hold up very well through three rounds as well – there’s not much in the way of a big explosive recovery, just a very smooth and even stroke cycle.
Without a rooting interest in the final, and with such a statement swim, the local British crowd might pick up on Meilutyte’s “honorary British” status, and get behind her in the semi’s. That could be big for her confidence.
American Rebecca Soni, with little need to turn things on early, posted a 1:05.75 for the 2nd seed, followed by Russia’s Yulia Efimova in 1:06.51. Soni needs to continue to be confident on her ability to swim a fast second 50, because in the semi-final tonight, she could sit as low as 6th-or-7th at the turn. With just 50 meters to make that ground up, things can get tense.
Efimova, for all of her speed, doesn’t go out all that fast in this 100. It will be interesting to see if in the semi’s, she gets caught up in a battle with Meilutyte and is pushed out of her comfort zone on the pacing.
The other American, Breeja Larson, was 4th in 1:06.58 and will sit next to Soni in the semi’s (a position that suited her well in Omaha). Australia’s Leisel Jones looked better than her Trials with a 1:06.98 for 5th.
Denmark’s Rikke Moeller-Pedersen answered any lingering questions about her health with a 1:07.2 that is almost as fast as she was at Worlds last year. She now moves into medal favorite status in her better 200, and the Danish medley relay looks very strong if Nielsen can have a better leadoff swim (see 100 backstroke).
Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson, a former NCAA Champion in the 200; Australia’s Leiston Pickett; and 2008 finalist Suzaan van Biljon of South Africa were both qualified. China had only one qualifier, Jin Zhao in 13th, after taking a huge gamble and letting their two best breaststrokers focus on the 200. The two Canadians Jillian Tyler and Tera van Beilen were the last two finalists in 1:07.8’s.
Britain continued to struggle, as neither Siobhan Marie-O’Connor (1:08.32-21st) or Kate Haywood (1:09.22 – 28th) earned a second swim.
Men’s 100 Backstroke Prelims
The men continued to not wake up on day 2 of this meet quite as quickly as the women did, as only Matt Grevers, out of the final heat, broke 53 seconds. He will be the top seed headed into the semi’s in 52.92. He split the race very well, but with his 6’9 frame was able to swim with a lot of relaxation and still take the top seed.
There were some good swims behind him though, even if none joined him under 53. Feiyi Cheng of China will be the 2nd seed in 53.22, which cuts six-tenths off of his own Chinese National Record. The Chinese men are having a fantastic meet so far.
The Americans took two of the top three seeds, with Nick Thoman sitting 3rd in 53.48. Thoman has a tendency to improve as the rounds wear on, so that swim is a good sign for him headed into the evening.
France’s Camille Lacourt, the defending World Champion, is 4th in 53.51, followed by Ryosuke Irie in 53.56.
Nick Driebergen had the best individual performance thus far by a Dutch swimmer to place 6th in 53.62. The two Russians, USC-trained Vlad Morozov and Florida-trained Arkady Vyatchanin, tied for 10th in 54.01. New Zealand’s Gareth Kean, Australia’s Daniel Armanmart, and Spain’s Aschwin Wildeboer were the last three into the final.
There were some swims in this prelim that were very surprising, not in their quality but lack thereof. Poland’s Marcin Tarczynski was only 27th in 55.06, and New Zealand’s Daniel Bell was 37th (out of 43) in 55.53. Israel’s Yakov Toumarkin was 24th in 54.91, but he had such a big breakout at the European Championships that it was expected to be tough to turn things back around.
Women’s 400 Free Prelims
In very much a deja vu of the men’s 400 IM, the first fast-heat of this women’s 400 free was similarly slow. That left one huge name on the bubble, with Rebecca Adlington qualifying 8th in 4:05.75, and medal hopeful, American Chloe Sutton, left out in 4:07.07. Sutton was 10th overall, which left her in a very similar position as she was at Worlds – where she was 9th after the prelims.
Whether this was another case of a missed-taper from Sutton like last year, or simply not taking the global surge in the women’s middle-distance races seriously, is not certain; but this year, the 4:05.75 it took to final is more than two seconds better than what was needed at Worlds.
There was nothing too crazy at the top of the seeds, with Camille Muffat swimming a pretty traditional 4:03.29 for the top seed (splitting 2:00.5-2:02.7). Allison Schmitt (split 1:59.2-2:04.1) was just a hair behind in 4:03.31. Those splits will become very significant in the final, as those two are expected to swim completely opposite races – Schmitt leading the charge, and Muffat trying to close. Neither seemed as efforted as we’ve seen earlier this year.
The two big surprises were the 3rd and 4th seeds. Coralie Balmy of France swam a 4:03.56 and Lauren Boyle of New Zealand was a 4:03.63. For Balmy, that’s still not quite as good as she was in a suit in 2009 (she was really good in polyurethane), after a bad 2011 season she continues a return to top-of-the-world status for which she was headed in her early 20’s.
Boyle seems to be on fire again, just like she was at Worlds last year where she was 3rd after prelims. Perhaps feeling that she was in dangerous position, a great final 100 meters of 1:00.96 was the best in the field. That swim broke her own National Record by more than two seconds.
Denmark’s Lotte Friis was 5th in 4:04.22, and Canada’s Brittany MacLean re-broke her own National Record with a 4:05.06 for 6th. Italy’s Federica Pellegrini, the World Champion, was 7th in 4:05.30. Though not a great final result, Pellegrini did exactly what she wanted. She was out in a 2:02.10 (about where she’ll want to be in finals), but didn’t negative split like she will on Sunday evening.
Mens’ 400 Free Relay Prelims
Nobody made much headway in the prelims of this men’s 400 free relay, though the Australians took the top seed in a very-good 3:12.29. They took a different strategy this year and have their superstar James Magnussen on the anchor, where he split a good 47.35; but he can certainly be better in the final. James Roberts (48.22) needs to be better in finals, and Tommaso D’Orsogna did his best to force the hand of the coaching staff with a 47.7 split. Eamon Sullivan and Matt Targett still probably get the finals spots, but that’s a very good swim for the 21-year old: another of this great young Aussie sprinting crop.
As for the second-seed the United States, who finished in 3:12.59 in the same heat as Australia, the best split was Matt Grevers in 47.59, followed by Jason Lezak on the anchor in 48.04. This leaves the American coaches a tough decision in finals as well. We know that Cullen Jones and Nathan Adrian will be on that relay; we can guess that Michael Phelps will be. That leaves one spot – and with popular sentiment behind Ryan Lochte, who is swimming so well, that would leave Grevers out. The coaches may end up going that way, because Grevers will have a much quicker turnaround from the 100 back semi than he did in the morning.
Jimmy Feigen led off in 48.49, and Ricky Berens was just a 48.52.
The Russians sit 3rd, with a 47.56 anchor from Nikita Lobintsev, and the heat 1 winners France are 4th in 4:13.38.
South Africa looked pretty good in 7th at 3:13.93, though with a 48.7 Graeme Moore anchor it looks like he still hasn’t snapped out of the funk he was in at their Olympic Trials.
Even with a sizable drop to a 4:15 for 8th-place Italy (everyone else was 4:13 or better), the Brazilians still missed out on the final. They finished 9th in 3:16.14, again without Cielo swimming. That will be a huge disappointment for Brazilian fans, who were hopeful of medal potential. They were replaced by a surprise 6th seed in Belgium. The Belgians have a good group of swimmers, anchored by a 47.9 from Pieter Timmers, but were DQ’ed in prelims at Worlds last year.