And at long last, tomorrow we will see Ian Thorpe debut his new, hopefully improved, and older long course freestyle at the Italian Long Course Open Winter Championships.
We saw him swim in November in the Asian leg of the World Cup Series, where he didn’t place well (though that wasn’t the goal of the swims), and now he’ll take on a 50-meter pool in Riccione. From his nearby training base in Switzerland, this is a much shorter trip. The competition will be held over two days: Friday December 16th, and Saturday December 17th.
I think that this time, there’s a bit more pressure on Thorpe to be better. He doesn’t have to be going the 48.6 that Magnussen did in Queensland earlier this week, but his fans will probably breathe a big sigh of relief if he can come anywhere close to matching the 50.44 that fellow comebacker Michael Klim posted earlier this week.
Thorpe will be the 5th seed in that race behind a full Italian crew (Luca Dotto, Filippo Magnini, and Luca Leonardi) and young Dutch star Sebastiaan Verschuren (who I’d actually pick to win this race). Thorpe will also race the 200 free. I think there might be some benefit for him to do some 50’s between now and Australian trials, but he has not agreed thus far in his comeback.
Among other bigtime international swimmers who will be at this race include Trinidad & Tobago’s George Bovell, who is back in full training after a bad car accident in August. Triin Aljand, the Estonian sprint specialist will be there. France’s rising middle-distance star Ophelie Etienne will give Federica Pellegrini the best push of the field in the 200 and 400 freestyles. Jeremy Stravius will make a quick turnaround after the Euro Short Course Championships this past weekend, as will his teammate Benjamin Stasulius.
Most of the Dutch men’s National Team is coming. That includes butterflier Joeri Verlinden who will lead an international crew of butterfliers (Milorad Cavid and Peter Mankoc occupy the other top-three seeds) in what could be the best race of the night outside of that men’s 100 free.
A huge majority of the best stories of this meet will be on the women’s side of the pool, but the fairer sex does offer up one potentially huge talking point: the return to action of 2009 distance World Champion Alessia Filippi. She has been ominously absent from major competitions since dipping her toes into more terrestrial endeavours – she hasn’t raced anywhere since June, and in all of 2011 she doesn’t have much in the way of races that one would consider serious attempts.
After seeming as though she might be considering a change of event to the backstrokes, she will get back to her old favorites the 400 and 800 frees at this meet. She’s also entered in the 100 back, however, and the 200 IM.