Day 1 is in the books from the loaded Sette Colli meet in Italy, and we saw some exciting head-to-head action.
Besides the huge international field, this is the final chance for many Europeans to qualify for the Olympics, including a large portion of the Italian squad. There are also huge amounts of cash being given out, including a 500 Euro prize for an event win (300 for second, 200 for third), and bonuses for Meet Records.
Women’s 400 Free
The very first finals race of the meet pitted the first-and-fifth place finishers from last year’s World Championships head-to-head, with Federica Pellegrini the favorite on home soil and Denmark’s Lotte Friis next to her. While neither swimmer had quite a Muffat-esque closing to this race, both closed very fast with 29.5’s on their final 50. Ultimately, Pellegrini was a bit better over the last 100 meters to win 4:06.03 to 4:06.15; neither really responded to Muffat’s deeds of the past month, but they showed that it would be foolish to give away the Olympic gold medal in this race before every stroke is swum – it’s going to be a wild finish.
Another Italian, Martina de Memme, was 3rd in 4:09.55. Among other notable finishers: South Africa’s Wendy Trott was 5th in 4:10.10.
Men’s 400 Free
Italy’s Gabriele Detti won the men’s 400 free in 3:49.27. That’s a best time for the 17-year old, and he showed that he’s got the Pellegrini-esque closing speed. His countrymate Andrea D’Arrigo (who is only 16, but doesn’t have the same closing kick yet) was 2nd in 3:51.72. He faded hard against Ous Mellouli, who is fresh off of his big closing kick in the open water 10km qualifier. Mellouli was 3rd in 3:51.73.
Mads Galesner was 4th in 3:51.88, and France’s Sebastien Rouault was 5th in 3:52.35.
Women’s 100 Breaststroke
Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen won the women’s 100 breast in 1:07.88, beating the great Japanese swimmer Satomi Suzuki (1:08.15) in a come-from-behind victory. For Pedersen, that’s her first swim under 1:08 in 2012 – she often swims very well in this meet – and not a surprise from a Danish team that’s been unloading the last year.
Sweden’s Jennie Johansson was 3rd in 1:08.17, followed by Italy’s Michela Guzzeti in a best time of 1:08.39. More importantly for Guzzeti, that clears the FINA Automatic qualifying standard and should put her onto the Olympic squad, pending confirmation.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Rebecca Ejdervik, looking to convince the Swedish Olympic Commitee that her 1:07.9 from last year was good enough to warrant a trip to London, was 5th in only 1:08.94. That’s right on her best time, but may not be enough.
Men’s 100 Breaststroke
South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh broke his second Meet Record in his last two outings, though this time didn’t get under the minute barrier (and was pushed a lot harder) with a 1:00.39 win. He was able to hold off a hard-charge from Fabio Scozzoli of Italy (finishing in 1:00.43) for this win; That should be a good boost as these two will be the two World Championship medalists competing for gold in London (Scozzoli took silver and van der Burgh bronze in Shanghai).
On the other hand, both swimmers are really pure-sprinters though, so Scazzoli’s ability to by .2+ faster on the second-half of the race could plant a seed for van der Burgh.
France’s Giacomo Perez-Dortona, after not swimming great in the Mare Nostrum, was back on form with a 1:00.88 for 3rd. That’s almost identical to his time at trials, and should cement his position as France’s new A-1 breaststroker for the Olympics.
Germany’s Marco Koch was 4th in 1:00.92, and Ryo Tateishi was 5th in 1:01.18.
Women’s 100 Fly
The Netherlands’ Inge Dekker caught Sarah Sjostrom on a bad day and nipped her in the women’s 100 fly 58.25-58.57. That’s maybe the first vulnerability we’ve seen from Sjostrom this year, as she’s been nearly-unbeatable all year long. This is her slowest finals time of 2012, but after being so fast so many times, I think many fans will actually breath a small sigh of relief on that time. She is coming down from altitude training in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain, so that’s a likely explanation.
Dekker, on the other hand, hasn’t been faster than that time this year. She probably won’t be a medal contender at the Olympics, but if she can cut another half-a-second off of her 57.6 from last year, the Dutch will feel a lot better about their medley relay that will head to London seeeded only 12th.
Sjostrom’s teammate Martina Granstrom continues to be rock-solid this year, and finished in the money in 58.81 – just edging out 200 butterflier Otylia Jedrzejczak from Poland in 58.82.
Finland’s Emilia Pikkarainen, only 19, shaved .05 off of her own National Record with a 59.02 for 5th. Does anyone else get the feeling that the Nordic nations are headed for a huge year in swimming? The Finnish,
Men’s 100 Fly
South Africa’s Chad le Clos got into a fantastic 100 fly battle, with the trio of him, Jason Dunford, and Poland’s Konrad Czerniak all turning in a grouping spread over just .01 seconds. Of the three, however, le Clos has by far the best endurance, and so if he’s in a 100 meter race at the turn, he will always like his chances.
The South African took the win in 52.51, followed by Dunford in 52.65 and Czerniak in 52.72.
The top Italian was Matteo Rivolta in 52.84 – just a bit slower than he was at the European Championships. The Netherlands’ Joeri Verlinden won the B-Final in 52.77.
Women’s 50 Free
The women’s 50 free final, that was so anti-climactic at Worlds last year, is shaping up to be incredible at the Olympics. Ranomi Kromowidjojo added to that anticipation with a 24.21 win at the Sette Colli meet. That’s not her best time of the year, but it is the 4th-swim she’s put up at 24.2 or better in 2012. Only one other swim (Fran Halsall of the UK in 24.13) has been that fast even a single time in 2012.
As the Dutch continue to clog-up the World Leader boards, Marleen Veldhuis was 3rd in this race in 24.58 and Inge Dekker was 4th in 24.97. Veldhuis holds the coveted second spot in this race for the Olympics.
Filling in around the swimmers from the Netherlands were Sweden’s Therese Alshammar in 24.52 for 2nd, which is her best time of the year, and Sarah Sjostrom for 5th in 25.25. Again, Sjostrom has been way faster than that in 2012 (a 24.63 in April).
Men’s 50 Free
Brazil’s Cesar Cielo won the men’s 50 free in 22.17, followed by future French Olympian Florent Manaudou in 22.18 for 2nd. Though the Brazilians have been doing a lot of training and even more travelling, I don’t think Cielo can be happy with that time. He really needs to settle back down in Pro-16’s pre-Olympic training area at the Crystal Palace and get back to focusing on sharpening his race skills between now and London.
Finland’s Ari-Pekka Liukkonen finished in the money at 3rd in 22.30 – just missing re-breaking his own National Record from Europeans. Italy’s Marco Orsi was 4th in 22.32, while Brazilian’s other big sprinter Bruno Fratus tied for 5th in 22.37.
Full Meet Results from Day 1 available here.
Complete Meet Results available here.