I guess it’s really no surprise that German swimmer Britta Steffen is a good 200 freestyler. She’s the World Record holder in long course in both the 50 and 100 freestyles, but she always looks like she’s got a little bit left at the end of that 100; she closes like few sprinters in history do in that race.
On day 1 Friday of the Indian Ocean International Meet on the French island of Reunion (just off the coast of Madagascar), Steffen pulled off a major upset in the first race of the meet: the women’s 200 free. There, she swam a new Meet Record of 1:54.66 and Steffen’s career-best time.
This is a race she hadn’t swum in short course since 2007 until this year (and only a small handful of times in long course over that same period). In 2012, though, she’s put a particular focus on it in short course, and the results have been very positive so far. It appears as though she’s finally found a race short enough to use her speed but long enough for her to expend all of her energy – though her back half was still very good (splits: 56.35/58.36).
That picked-off Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, who had a big day of racing ahead of her but was 2nd here in just 1:55.03 – a time she’s beat several times this season. At this point, it’s more of a surprise if she doesn’t show up at a meet than if she does, and the rest of this day belonged to her.
She actually won the day’s other 5 events, for the most part in dominating fashion, as she tackled the entire schedule on the meet’s first day. That included a 28.40 in the 50 back, where she beat Polish swimmer Aleksandra Putra (29.78). 15-year old Christelle Bertsch broke the Reunion record in that same race with a 30.10 for 3rd place.
Hosszu then took another gold in the 200 back with a 2:11.20 and an unusual 100 breast win with 1:10.68 (a best time and the first record we can find for her in short course meters). Then she had another big showdown, this time with Dutch swimmer Inge Dekker. The race-tested Hosszu has held her taper from Short Course Worlds fairly well, whereas her Dutch counterpart skipped that meet altogether. Still, Dekker had some good World Cup swims as compared to her 59.43 for silver in this race.
Hosszu finished the session back in a more familiar event, though also the most grueling race she had on Friday, in the 400 IM. She swam a 4:37.60 for her first meet Record on the day. With little competition and lots of fatigue, she was basically floating by the time she finished, splitting 1:21 on the breaststroke and only 1:04 on the freestyle.
The total still equated to an impressive day of swimming for Hosszu, who will wake up tomorrow and take on another huge schedule. Her final daily tally was 5 golds and a silver in 6 possible events.
On the men’s side, Paul Biedermann won the men’s 200 free in an easy 1:46.55 coming off of his silver at Short Course Worlds in the same event.
French swimmer Camille Lacourt, making his post-Olympic debut, won the 50 back in 24.20, which outside of Steffen’s 200 was probably the most impressive swim on the session. He was chased by local Florent Hassambay in a new Reunion Record of 26.15. Hassambay followed that swim with a win in the 200 back in 2:07.16. He also won the 100 fly in 55.45, another Reunion Record.
Lacourt’s Marseille teammate Maxime Bussiere won the men’s 100 breast in 1:02.18: far from a season-best for the once-arcing swimmer who is now just a part-time athlete.
The session wrapped with a 4:29.91 from 17-year old Olympic Nice swimmer Ambroise Petit in the 400 IM.