We’ll start the wrapup of day 2 in Beijing with the obligatory Ian Thorpe report, as he finished 13th in prelims of the 100 fly and failed to final. His closing time was a 54.35, which was about three-tenths slower than he was in prelims of Singapore (54.09).
Thorpe went out as well as he did in his previous attempt at this race, but in the back-half he faded a bit more than he had previously. The marks were 25.29/29.06. The slow-down at the end of the race could be a sign of Thorpe becoming a bit more fatigued from the travel and multiple meets in multiple days. Whereas athletes that are in high shape are usually not as affected by the World Cup schedules (and in fact, some get better as the meets progress – to a point – because of a tapering affect), for those who are not quite there yet it can be taxing. This says to me that Thorpe is still working on improving conditioning as much as he is speed.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s snap back to the man who has been the focus of the series since its beginning in Dubai. South Africa’s Chad le Clos won that 100 fly in 50.93, which gives him 6 out of the 10 fastest times in the world this year in the event.
That victory was one of three on the day for Le Clos, which surged his series winnings past $40,000 and gave him 17 race victories for the entire series. In the 200 IM, he won in 1:55.04, ahead of popular Austrian Markus Rogan in 1:56.33. In the 200 free, he continued to show his potential versatility with a victory in the 200 free (similarly to the victory in the 100 free from day 1). His time there was 1:43.62 and pushes him to 3rd in the world this year behind only Michael Phelps and Paul Biedermann, both of whom are current or former World Record holders in the event. He touched just ahead of impressive young Chinese freestyler Haiqi Jiang in 1:43.89.
For Le Clos, who has never before been known as much of a freestyler, that time is easily a career-best, and in fact makes him the 3rd-fastest South African ever in the event (behind the legends Darian Townsend and Ryk Neethling).
What’s most impressive about Le Clos’ performance in this meet is that his post-race comments indicated that the toll of the 7-meet journey is really wearing on him (especially given that it’s spanned multiple time zones and the meets are quite back-to-back). He went so far as to say that after waking up from a nap in between sessions that he felt “delerious”. Still, Le Clos has really matured over the course of this series from a good young swimmer into a true “man” in the sport of swimming.
The peril will be well worth it, however. As you’ll see from the points table at the bottom of this article, le Clos has clinched the overall series victory, and $100,000 prize, unless someone breaks a World Record at the final stop in Tokyo (unlikely).
This meet also saw Libby Trickett’s best performance to-date since her return from retirement when she finished 5th in the 100 free in 53.96. That puts her inside the world’s top-30 this year, and based on her splitting (26.23/27.73) indicates that she’s finally starting to get a good feel for the water and her pacing again.
Emma McKeon, who has looked outstanding in the two stops – Singapore and Beijing – so far, showed a bit of a chink with a 53.09, which was quite a bit slower than she was in the last meet. Still, that was good enough to give her a victory over Cate Campbell (53.13). Campbell went out extremely fast (25.30) but faded hard on the way home.
Other interesting races included the 400 freestyle, where Australian Blair Evans took a huge win in 3:58.31 ahead of teammate Kylie Palmer in 4:03.04. That gives Evans by far the best time in the world this year, with only American Allison Schmitt having broken the 4-minute mark. That is, in fact, the best time in Evans’ career (moving her to 8th on the all-time list). After losing some momentum in the long course season, the 20-year old Evans looks to be back on track for stardom. Don’t count her out for a medal in London if she can continue to perform like this.
In the women’s 200 breaststroke, Japan’s 15-year old sensation Kanako Watanabe continued to impress her will upon the World Cup with her 4th-straight victory in the event. As she’s approaching a peak for the home meet in Tokyo, Watanabe put on a real show in this race to win in a sparkling 2:19.05. She both started and clsoed the race very fast, which resulted in a mark that stands as the 12th-best of all-time (and #4 in textile).
In the men’s 200 backstroke, Sun Xiaolei continued some hot swimming by breaking his 2nd Chinese National Record of the meet. This one came by way of a 1:52.36 in the finals, though that was well off of Omar Pinzon’s winning time of 1:50.46. Xiaolei now holds 4 of the 6 Chinese backstroke National Records.
As we mentioned, Chad le Clos has locked up the overall men’s series title, and the $100,000 prize, unless someone sets a World Record at the final stop in Tokyo. Remember that in Tokyo, the final stop of the meet, points are worth double, so all of the other men’s spots are still up for grabs.
The favorite for 2nd, and a $50,000 prize, is Marco Koch of Germany. He currently sits 3rd, but Sano has given no indication that he’s going to swim any of the meets in the Asian leg of the series. Koch’s attendance record (he and le Clos are the only swimmers I’ve noted who are swimming all 7 meets in the series) will pay off big for him. Of course, with the final meet taking place in Japan, Sano may make one final appearance, which would seal the runner-up position for him.
On the women’s side, Therese Alshammar is in the same position in that she will take the overall series prize unless – 1) someone breaks a World Record in Tokyo or 2) Missy Franklin materializes in Tokyo, renounces her amateurism, and Alshammar has a terrible meet. (Neither of which is going to happen).
China’s Ying Lu has competed sporadically, but 16 big points from a National Record swim in the 100 fly bumped her into 3rd place in the standings (which means 2nd for money). If Blair Evans swim as well as she did in this meet and the last (she earned runner-up points in both), Ying’s lead is unlikely to last. South Korea’s Hye Ra Choi has swum surprisingly well, and she seems to be the only other swimmer in serious contention for the big-3 series prizes.
|Rank||Name||Nationality||MEN Points awarded (Bonus)||Total|
|1||Chad Le Clos||South Africa||25||16||20||25||25||25||136|
|5||Michael Phelps||United States||16||16||32|
|WOMEN Points awarded (Bonus)||Total|
|2||Missy Franklin||United States||25||25 (20)||70|
|4||Allison Schmitt||United States||20||20||40|
|7||Hye Ra Choi||South Korea||3||2||16||7||28|