Big thanks to Brazilian correspondent D’Artagnan Dias for contribution to this report.
As the weather continued to deteriorate in Rio on Friday into what is expected to be a cool, rain-filled weekend, the times overall reflected that as it was a slow session (especially as juxtaposed to the record-breaking night we saw on Thursday). That is not-withstanding another 50 meter, textile-best at this meet (though again, that had some help from a tail wind).
Men’s 100 Free
This 100 free had a lot of buildup, especially after Cesar Cielo was so good in the 50. Ultimately though, the weather seemed to be too much. Of course, in last night’s 400 free relay, the competitors fizzled a bit, so maybe the sprinters were just getting worn out by this point of the meet. Cielo won in 48.28. That ranks 6th in the world this year, but unlike the shorter sprint he was quite a bit slower than his 2011 best.
He was out in 23.0 and came back in 25.2 – comparing that to his splits in December that was without any rest (he came home in 24.7), that’s a big step backwards in his quest to come close to James Magnussen’s closing speed.
Marcelo Chierighini was 2nd in 49.05. He was very good in the prelims in 48.79, but he too was hit hard by the poor conditions at the Maria Lenk stadium. Fred Bousquet swam a 49.15, good but also not as good as his 50, to wrap up a 1-2-3 finish from Auburn Tiger alums. Bousquet had an outstanding start, and was one of the few swimmers in this final who performed to expectations – this was nearly identical to his swim from French Trials in March.
Nicolas Oliveira was 4th in 49.46; and Bruno Fratus was 5th in 49.51. Joao de Lucca was 6th in 49.61 (slower than a 49.2 in prelims). Those are the two-best times of his career, but not as big of an improvement as he was hoping for.
This leaves Cielo and Oliveira (thanks to his 48.71 from Brazil’s long course Nationals in December) as the two individual entries; Chierighini locked up his spot on the relay with this swim. Nothing is certain until the official announcement, but nobody did anything here that would even remotely seem to take Fratus’ spot, though de Lucca may have put himself into position for a prelims swim.
Men’s 400 IM
If Thiago Pereira wasn’t happy with what seemed to be a strong 200 IM swim of 1:57.1 earlier in the meet; then he probably was really unhappy with the 4:13.48 he swam to win the men’s 400 IM on Friday. Still, that time moves him into the world’s top 10 and is only a second slower than he was in all of a 2011 season. Now 4 days in to a long, 5-day meet (that has included relay swims), that’s a good mark whether he wants to believe it or not.
He was 10 seconds ahead of his next-closest competitor Esteban Salgado in 4:23.08. Diogo Yabe, husband of the more famous Fabiola Molina, in 4:23.48.
Women’s 400 IM
Spain’s Mireia Belmonte took the win in this 400 IM in 4:39.41; that was a fairly comfortable win for her, and more significantly was a full two seconds faster than she was at this same meet last year (even though she was there racing Kirsty Coventry, giving her better competition). Though nobody expects anything great from her here (she was much faster than this swim last month at Spanish Nationals), it could give the Spaniard hope of a better season-end finish than she had in 2011.
Joanna Maranhao, who is representing Flamengo with Belmonte, wasn’t able to pull off the upset in this race like she did in the 200 IM. She did, however, swim well to take 2nd in 4:42.32, having been destroyed by Belmonte on the breaststroke leg as the difference-maker. That’s telling, as Belmonte is not typically that good on the breaststroke, at least in elite terms, so Maranhao really was not good to be beat that badly. Keeping in mind that her training cycles have been thrown off thanks to a nasty stomach bug last month, though, and that’s a strong swim for her (who has already sealed up an Olympic spot in this race).
Those two were 17-seconds clear of the next-fastest swimmers.
Women’s 100 Free
After shutting the lights down in the 50 fly on Thursday, Denmark’s Jeanette Ottesen (racing for Corinthians) returned to her prior pattern of solid, but not breath-taking, swims in this 100 free. She won in 54.37, which is about half-a-second slower than she was last month.
That makes the 50 fly time really stand out as a half-second, career improvement even when the rest of her races have just been normal, in-training swims for her. Maybe that says that she actually does have a chance to upset the medal-stand in the 100 fly.
Daynara de Paula from Flamengo took 2nd in 55.47; that’s the fastest she’s been since 2009. Larissa Oliveira was 3rd in 55.92, and Tatiana Lima 4th in 55.96. Brazil women’s swimming is still much stronger in the 50, which speaks to a lot of athleticism but a lack of development.
Men’s 50 Breaststroke
Felipe Franca de Silva didn’t match his pre-meet boasts about setting a World Record, however in this 50, despite a bad finish, the poor weather, and a slow day overall, ended up with at least a textile-record thanks to a 26.87 in this men’s 50 breaststroke. That does clear Cameron van der Burgh’s 26.90 from the semi-finals of last year’s World Championships (de Silva ended up beating him in the finals, but was not as fast). He is consistently good in this 50, as he now holds 11 out of the 21 fastest swims in history, with this one slotting in at number 7 – though he was twice faster in polyurethane. If he can bring that same consistency to his new-found 100 breaststroke speed, he’s a medalist in London.
Joao Gomes took 2nd in 27.57.
4×50 Free Relay
Finally, we saw a little bit of speed again from the relays. Marcelo Chierighini pushed full-bore with a 22.03 leadoff for the winning Pinheiros relay. That’s a lifetime best for him and puts him into the top 15 in the world this year. It’s also three-tenths better than his previous lifetime best from the individual 50 free earlier this week. He had never been better than a 22.8 coming into this meet.
Cielo split 21.23 off of a rolling start for Pinheiros, and Bousquet split a 21.30.
- The women’s 50 breaststroke was better than the 100, but still was not very good. Ana Carvalho won in 31.78, which is top-20 in the world, very early in a non-Olympic year.
- Argentina’s Juan Pereira won the men’s non-Olympic 800 free in 7:58.40. Matching what we saw from his countrymate Cecilia Biagioli on Thursday, this is a new Argentine National Record. The swim is also two-tenths away from the South American Record.
Pinheiros soared to the lead with 1799 points, after Flamengo were the leaders after the previous two days of the meet. Flamengo, despite another win by Cielo, slid sizably back as we saw the first serious lead open up in this meet. That 103.5 point margin can still be erased easily in a single record-breaking swim, but it is still a break. Minas, last year’s champions, sunk back to 4th, and are all-but-out of the team battle.
1. Pinheiros 1799
2. Flamengo 1695.5
3. Corinthians 1597.50
4. Minas 1378