As the 2012 FINA World Cup Series rolls into the third-and-final tour, a trio of meets in Asia, the action kicked off in Beijing’s famed water cube (now a combined swimming center and public water park).
Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu took the two weeks off to refresh and perhaps do some training, and looked sharp again on Friday. Not every swim was a best time, but she certainly looked like she was re-energized.
Some new faces (for the series at least) popped up for the home-country, including Olympic lightning-rod Shiwen Ye, who posted one of the all-time great 200 IM’s on day 1.
Women’s 800 Free
Look out, Katinka Hosszu is back to her old self. After not finishing the European tour on the highest of notes, the Hungarian series-leader came out on fire in Beijing with an 8:21.49 in the women’s 800 free that is her best by three seconds. Though she didn’t swim a whole lot of 800’s in short course coming into this season, she’s now dropped her personal best by 17 seconds in the last 6 weeks.
Whereas in Moscow, a perhaps-fatigued Hosszu succumbed to the pressure by the young Americans Becca Mann and Leah Smith, in Beijing she stood tall to a challenge. China’s Siyu Yan pulled even with Hosszu with about 200 meters to go, and the two battled the whole way home. Eventually, Hosszu would hold her off by a tiny .09 seconds – Yan finished 2nd in 8:21.58. That left Laura Crockart, an Australian in her series debut, in 3rd with an 8:23.83.
Men’s 100 Free
Though Anthony Ervin won the last stop of Europe in this race, the Australians have really dominated the 100 free so far on the circuit. That looks like it will only continue over the next week, as Cameron McEvoy has joined the Australian squad for Asia. He served as a small challenge (the best challenge) for Tommasso D’Orsogna in this race, but ultimately Tommy held the lead wire-to-wire and took a relatively easy win in 47.06. That makes for his 4th win, finishing right within the same consistent tenth-of-a-second range that he’s been at almost every tour stop so far.
McEvoy was 2nd in 47.41, and Kenneth To, back into the swing of the 100 free after sitting it out for a few meets in Moscow and Berlin, picked up $500 with an easy 47.59.
Anthony Ervin, after winning the Berlin race by launching out to a fast start, sat back in this race early and could never recover. He was 5th in 47.63.
Women’s 200 Free
Outside of a big swim by Camille Muffat, this 200 free was pretty weak through the first month of the tour. Now, headed into the Pan-Pacific region, though, the depth has shot through the roof with the addition of Asian and Australian competitors. Yiwen Shao, a native Chinese swimmer, won in 1:55.13, but it took a big 28.5 anchor (half-a-second better than most of this field) to out-touch a trio of Zsu Jakabos (1:55.14), Yuhan Qiu (1:55.24), and Katinka Hosszu (1:55.25). That’s four swimmers hitting the wall within .12 of each other.
Men’s 50 Breast
Even the addition of Australian Olympic medalist Christian Sprenger couldn’t make this men’s 50 breaststroke any more exciting or notable. Glenn Snyders from New Zealand won in 26.64, followed by Sprenger in 26.74, and Shuai Wang in 26.86. It continues to look like this will be a race dominated by either Cameron van der Burgh or Fabio Scozzoli at Worlds: both of whom are already back home from this series.
Women’s 100 Breast
Australia got on the board again with Sarah Katsoulis winning this 100 in 1:05.30. That’s as fast as she’s ever been outside of the super-suit driven 2009 World Cup Series, and a tenth better than she was at the last World Championships in 2010. She was followed by her teammate Sally Foster in 1:05.97. Sweden has dominated the sprint breaststrokes throughout this series, and a new face as emerged here in Asia as former Arizona State Sun Devil Rebecca Ejdervik was 3rd in 1:06.11. She’s ideally a 50 breaststroker, so watch for a potential win there on Saturday, but she had a lead at the haflway mark before fading.
Japan’s Rie Kaneto was 4th in 1:06.32. She picked up the tour in Europe, but faded hard as the meets progressed. This was another time that was subpar for her. The same goes for American Jessica Hardy, who was only 7th in 1:06.60.
Men’s 400 IM
In maybe the most head-scratching news of this stop, Japan’s Daiya Seto, who has been so good in this series, and Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, were both absent from day 1 of this Beijing stop. That’s especially strange for Seto, who being from Japan is now geographically much closer to home.
As it was, though, China’s Zhixian Yang took the win in 4:05.62. China historically has done basically nothing in this event, and that time’s already 2nd on their all-time list, and about a second away from the National Record already. With the Olympian Yang having just turned 20 in May, though, the record could go down in short order.
Australian Travis Mahoney was well back in 2nd in a 4:09, and China’s Feilian Mao was 3rd in a 4:10.
Women’s 100 Fly
The Netherlands’ Inge Dekker, despite a new challenger in Jeanette Ottesen, cruised to a win in this women’s 100 fly in 57.62 – nothing special, but a solid time in comparison to the rest of her season. Ottesen took 2nd in 58.01, and China’s Yufei Zhang was 3rd in 58.05.
Singapore’s Tao Li, a 2008 Olympic finalist in this race in long course, was 4th in 58.07. She’s had a roller-coaster four years since the Beijing Games, but is still young enough to turn things around for Rio.
Men’s 100 Back
We may be on a new continent, but not much has changed in this men’s 100 backstroke. Russia’s Stanislav Donets put up another stellar time (though not his best of the series) with a 50.07. Australia’s Bobby Hurley is still nipping right at his heels, but with a 50.25 could only take 2nd. Another Australian, Ashley Delaney, took 3rd in 51.53.
Women’s 50 Back
Though it looks like she’s going to have new challengers on this Asian leg of the tour, Australia’s Rachael Goh won her 4th-straight 50 backstroke, but this one in a season-best time of 26.66. That’s within a tenth of her own best time. China’s Haihua Cheng made sure that she needed every bit of that drop to pull of the win, as Cheng was 2nd in 26.81.
Yanxin Zhou was 3rd in 27.18.
Men’s 200 Fly
No Seto? No problem for Japan, as this happens to be an event where they’re extremely deep (even as compared to the 100 fly). With his countrymate, who has been good in this race, sitting out, Kazuya Kaneda won the men’s 200 fly in 1:51.22. The diminutive 24-year old has had a great year so far, making the semi-finals of this race at the Olympics, and has a great swimming pedigree (his mother was a 1976 Olympian). He seems to be continuing to get better, not something all Japanese swimmers do into their mid-20’s, and if he can hold on until 2016 he might do some damage.
China’s Shun Yang was 2nd in 1:52.14, and then there was a huge dropoff to Australia’s Christopher Wright in 1:55.47.
Women’s 200 IM
Zsu Jakabos (2:08.22) swam a best time in this race to out-touch her teammate Katinka Hosszu (2:08.35) for the 2nd-straight event, but despite both having pretty good times, they couldn’t help running into the Chinese teenage buzzsaw that is Shiwen Ye. The IM double-Olympic Champion (and it wasn’t even close) won this event in 2:06.10. That’s just shy of her own personal best, but it is the 8th-fastest swim in history.
In this swim, it was really her backstroke that was the killer split – she used a 31.55 to break open a big lead. That’s in contrast to the Olympics in long course, where her closing 50’s garnered so much attention. That’s a new talent for her, and her closing freestyle leg was still solid but really nothing attention-grabbing in 29.57 – slower than Hosszu.
If Ye can add that kind of a backstroke leg to her long course IM, then we might have a shot at seeing one of the toughest suit-era World Records finally be broken.
Men’s 400 Free
This men’s 400 free had some decent names in it, but New Zealand’s Matt Stanley upset them all to win in 3:40.73. That’s just two-tenths away from a National Record for a swimmer who was a relay-only participant in London, and moves him into the top-50 of all-time.
American Michael Klueh, coming out of his new training grounds in Ann Arbor, took 2nd in 3:41.62. He’s likely on much more of a high-training cycle than many of his competitors are, so to go within two seconds of a suited 2009 time will be a positive result for him. China’s Yunqi Li was 3rd in 3:41.83, being run-down by the American in the last 25 meters, and Bobby Hurley was 4th in 3:42.84. USC trained, Swiss born Dominik Meichtry was 5th.
Women’s 50 Free
Nothing too thrilling in this 50; China’s Fan Yin won in 24.47, followed by Dekker in 24.53 and Ying Zhang in 24.60.
Hardy again looked off of her pace and took 5th in only 25.07. Australian Mel Schlanger was 7th in 25.24.
Men’s 200 Breast
Sean Mahoney is really going to rake in some serious cash on this Asian tour, at least unless the deep Japanese contingent decides to get involved. He had basically no competition in this race, and didn’t have to push at all to win in 2:06.38. That included a nice even-splitting of his final two 50’s.
China’s Zhi Xie was 2nd in 2:08.12, and Weijia Liu was 3rd in 2:08.99.
Men’s 100 IM
What’s really made this 100 IM fun to watch throughout this series is not only how close and how fast the times have been, but how consistently fast Trinidad’s George Bovell and Australia’s Kenneth To have been. Both swimmers have really stepped up to the plate at every meet in this series, meaning that we’re seeing best-on-best every week.
This time, it was To’s turn to take the title back, as he won in 51.58. He goes out hard, challenging Bovell every time to run him down; this time Bovell was not able to do it and finished in 51.69. That win could all-but-seal To’s claim to the overall series points standings, and $100,000 cash prize, barring anything extraordinary in Singapore and Tokyo.
Australia’s Kyle Richardson was 3rd in 52.71.
Men’s 50 Fly
Jason Dunford won this men’s 50 fly (Matt Targett seems to have not traveled to Asia) in 23.14, just out-touching China’s Qibing Zhang. That was by far the slowest winning time in this series so far, but with little competition, Dunford was able to pick up his second win.
Ashley Delaney was 3rd in 23.43.
Mixed 200 Medley
As these mixed medley relays continued to flounder on the backs of most countries not having the numbers, or the desire, to swim them, the final saw 4 Chinese relays and 1 from Singapore. The winners touched in 1:43.04: a decent time from the early results we’ve seen so far.