The best of the best in Swiss swimming convened in Zurich this past weekend to compete in the 4-day National Championships. The competition served as one of several qualification meets Swiss swimmers can utilize to try to clock qualifying times for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The Swiss qualification process follows two phases, with the first having wrapped up today, March 13th, and the next phase taking place March 14th through July 3rd, to include this summer’s European Championships, as well as individual competitions that can receive approval by the Swiss Swimming Federation.
Although several best times were achieved, as well as a few new Swiss National Records, just a handful of swimmers were able to rein in Rio-Qualifying times during this weekend’s competition. Acquiring two cuts by himself was breaststroker Yannick Käser from Limmat Sharks Zurich. Käser fired off a smooth 1:00.94 in the 100m breaststroke to dip beneath the Swiss Olympic-qualifying mark of 1:00.94. In fact, Käser’s swim almost ran away with a new National Record, sitting just .17 of a second off of his own record held at 1:00.61 from last year.
Käser also collected a 200m breaststroke Rio-qualifying time en route to winning gold in that event. His winning time of 2:11.86 dipped well beneath the 2:13.11 qualifying standard and, again, was close to his own Swiss National Record. Kaser set the national record of 2:11.65 at the 2015 FINA World Championships in Kazan last summer, where he finished 18th out of prelims.
Butterflier Martina van Berkel carried away the 200m title of the stroke, touching in 2:09.75 to represent the ony sub-2:10 racer of the field. van Berkel’s time this weekend was even faster than the 2:09.88 she threw down in Kazan to just miss out on a semi-final spot (17th) at that meet. van Berkel’s career-best is the 2:08.45 she registered in Berlin in 2014, which stands as the Swiss National Record.
In the shorter butterfly event, Svenja Stoffel scored a best time en route to standing atop the podium, as the Schwimmclub athlete touched in 59.07 to punch her ticket to Rio in the 100m butterfly. 59.51 was the threshold under which the 100m butterfly racers needed to get under, so Stoffel got the job done in finals to start her Olympic journey.
Also making it under the Rio-qualifying mark was Danielle Villars, although she claimed her status during prelims. Villars topped the field in the morning session, touching in a time of 59.41. She holds the National Record at 58.91 from 2014, so the 23-year-old has proven she’s capable of even swifter outings.
SC Uster Wallisellen swimmer Maria Ugolkova made waves in the women’s 100m freestyle event, becoming the first Swiss female swimmer in history to score a sub-56-second time. Ugolkova earned gold in the finals in a time of 55.30, skimming beneath the Rio-qualifying mark of 55.39 by less than a tenth of a second. Uglkova’s mark now stands as the Swiss National Record after lowering her own prelim swim of 55.98, which was the actual first time a Swiss swimmer stopped the clock sub-56.
Although Villars also scored a sub-56-second outing with her finals time of 55.98, the mark wasn’t fast enough to punch a ticket to Rio.
On the men’s freestyling stage, Alexandre Haldemann raced his way to a career-top-10 best time with his mark of 1:49.16, the only swimmer to dip beneath the 1:50 threshold. Haldemann’s mark in the invidual race was in addition to his 1:49.28 lead-off in his squad’s 800m freestyle relay, therefore, both marks comfortably sit beneath the Swiss Rio-qualifying time of 1:49.49.
Haldemann was a key member of the Swiss World Championships roster, where he raced in both the 100m and 200m freestyle individual events, as well as the 400m free relay and 800m free relays. In the 200m freestyle individual race in Kazan, Haldemann touched in 1:48.49 to sit in 26th place after heats, while his lead-off of 1:48.90 helped the Swiss squad earn a 16th place finish in the 800m free relay.
Although not of Switzerland, Russian swimmer Andrey Grechin took double wins in the men’s sprint freestyle events in Zurich this weekend, claiming gold in both the 50m and 100m. Grechin clocked a 22.12 to take the splash n’ dash, while he touched in 49.26 in the men’s 100m to be the only man of the field to score a sub-50 mark.