After the 100 breaststroke final on Wednesday at the 2013 Russian Cup, their World Championship qualifying meet, we commented that runner-up Vyacheslav Sinkevich was going best times and had a chance to be pretty quick in his better race, the 200.
Even his times in the sprints, though, didn’t accurately foreshadow the monstrous time he put up in the 200 breaststroke semi-final on Thursday. There, Sinkevich took the top seed in 2:08.62 which knocks seven-tenths off of the old Russian Record set by Grigory Falko in 2009 in 2:09.36.
That swim, just in semi-finals, already makes Sinkevich the first swimmer under 2:10 this year, and would have put him 5th in the Olympic final last summer. He was 10th in the 200 breaststroke in London.
Most shocking about his swim were his splits: out in a 1:02.0, and back in a 1:06.6. With the improved speed he showed earlier in this meet, one might have guessed that he’d start this race faster than he usually does. Quite the contrary, in fact, as compared to his previous personal best (2:09.90 from the Olympic semifinal), Sinkevich started this race in a nearly identical first 100 split, and made up over a second on the back-half of that race.
That race was but a semi-final, and he’ll have the opportunity to lower his time tomorrow; for today, the best overall race, though, was the final of the men’s 200 free, where six Russians were 1:46’s to make the 800 free relay for Barcelona.
The race win went to Danila Izotov in 1:46.37, followed by Nikita Lobintsov in 1:46.59, Alexander Sukhorukov in 1:46.96, and Artem Lobuzov in 1:46.96. If one were to aggregate those times, that’s already a 6:06.58, without accounting for relay starts, which would have put them right in the mix with Germany and China at last summer’s Olympics for a medal. Repeating the success will be the challenge though, after the Russians missed even making finals in that 800 free relay in either London or Shanghai at the 2011 World Championships. Their 5th finisher was Mikhail Polishchuk in 1:48.39, which doesn’t leave them much room to play around in prelims.
Breaststroker Julia Efimova, after coasting through prelims, won teh women’s 100 breaststroke in 1:07.44 with a very good second 50 (she split 33.0-34.4). The 21-year old doesn’t have to be on top form to make FINA standards in this race, this swim is right around what she typically goes at qualifying meets (though maybe a touch slower than she was last season). The runner-up Anna Belousova was also under the FINA A standard in 1:08.04, so the 16-year old should join Efimova in Barcelona. Anastasia Chaun, who is better in the 200, took 3rd in 1:09.20.
In the women’s 100 freestyle, Victoria Andreeva pulled off a mild upset by winning in 54.79, with the National Record holder Victoria Popova taking 2nd in 54.85. In total, Andreeva dropped a full second from her previous lifetime best at this meet.
Though one of their best female swimmers was only the runner-up here, there’s a silver lining for the Russian women. The first is that both were better than the FINA Automatic Qualifying standard, so both can swim the race individually at Worlds. The 2nd is that, with Margarita Nesterova (55.18) and 15-year old Maria Baklakova (55.37), the Russian women might have their best free relay in a long time. All four are young enough that they should be just as good, if not better, by the time the 2016 Olympics roll around.
Semen Makovich won the men’s 200 IM in a lackluster 2:00.97, which is well off of his best time. That means no automatic qualifiers for Worlds for the Russians, unless they choose to give Makovich a pass on a B-standard in honor of gaining experience, as he’s only 17-years old.
The other final on the day was the men’s 1500 free, where Evgeny Kulikov became the first double winner of the meet in 15:14.96. That adds to his earlier win in the 400, though without an A-time in either race, his qualifying status is in limbo. Evgeny Eliseev was 2nd in 15:17.97. as the Russian distance group continue to lag behind the sprinters and 200 freestylers.
Back to semi-final action, Vlad Morozov took the top seed in the 50 backstroke in a new Russian Record of 24.80. That broke his own best time of 24.86 set last summer, and put him ahead of Vitaly Melnikov who was 25.22.
Anastasia Zueva, making her first appearance at this meet, topped the 100 back semi-final in 1:01.17. A post-Olympic injury limited her training, so she’s not all that far ahead of the second seed Maria Gromova. 14-year old Darina Ustinova, who won the 200 back running away, is the 4th seed in 1:01.66. She had a huge drop in the 200 from semis to finals, so watch out for her on Friday.
There were no standout swims in the semi-finals of the men’s 200 fly, the women’s 200 IM.