Day 1 is in the books at the 5th Grand Prix of the 2010-2011 season, and there were a lot of interesting races. We’ll take a look at the 10 biggest results from the 1st day.
10 Big Races
1. Michael Phelps didn’t go his season-best time in the 200 free. In fact, his 1:48.45 was more than 2 seconds slower than he went just a few weeks ago at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. But if a slow time could ever be a good thing, I’d say that this one is. His 1:46 from Indianapolis was a great time, but dropping off 2 seconds in a few weeks shows that he’s on a training track and that he’s putting in serious work in the pool. You don’t get 2 seconds “out of shape” in a month, but you can get 2 seconds INTO shape in that period of time. His rival, Ryan Lochte, finished 2nd in 1:48.69, followed by Markus Rogan (1:49.23) and a fourth place tie between Michael Klueh of FAST and Wu Peng of the hometown Club Wolveirne (1:50.24).
2. The Brazilian men dominated the 100 breaststroke, with a 1-2-3 finish spearheaded by a great 1:01.62 from Felipe Franca Da Silva. The 23-year old broke the pool record twice today, and ultimately lowered it by over 2 seconds. Team USA approaches their season differently than most of the world, with no need for an early 2011 taper to qualify for World’s, but many chose to rest for the early-March Grand Prix in Indianapolis anyways. The American men are still struggling in the breaststrokes (Mike Alexandrov was 4th in 1:02.41 and Mark Gangloff was 6th in 1:02.83), and the 100 breaststroke remains one of only three men’s Olympic events (along with the 50 and 400 freestyles, though the USA’s best sprinter, Nathan Adrian, hasn’t jumped into long course competition yet) where the Americans don’t have a swimmer ranked in the top 15 in the world.
3. Dana Vollmer was smoking-fast in the 100 fly, where her winning time of 57.50 moved her to 3rd in the world rankings (and just a few tenths behind Alicia Coutts at the top). She went out strong, but came home even better, with splits of 26.94 and 30.56 (compared to 27.03 and 31.02 for runner-up Natalie Coughlin). Coughlin also looked great with a final mark of 58.05, though under her new low-yardage training plan, her times don’t seem to dip in-season. This is also her first meet of 2011, so she might be at a different point of her training than the competition. Defending National Champion Christine Magnuson was 4th in 59.84.
4. Michael Phelps won the 100 fly in 52.30, just 37 minutes after his victory in the 200 free. His ability to pull off this double on a quick turnaround is another sign that he’s back in a serious training program. University of Florida sophomore Marcin Cieslak, who swims for Poland internationally, built upon his NCAA short course success with a great long course time of 53.08, which moves him into the top 25 in the world at an awkward point of his season, which is not too shabby. Peng Wu was 3rd in 53.26.
5. David Nolan matched Phelps’ double (though obviously he didn’t place quite as high). He placed 12th in the day’s first event, the 200 free, but in the 100 fly clarified that he has the potential to be just as much of a force as he does in the 100 back. He finished 7th in 54.17, which is a fabulous mark for this time of year, and the best 18 & under time in the country this year by roughly a second.
6. Davis Tarwater began his second meet back from a hiatus to complete his education overseas at the prestigious University of Oxford in the UK. Though he did compete with the Oxford club team, it was nowhere near the level of training he receives back at SwimMAC Carolina with David Marsh. So far, so good for Tarwater, with a 53.93 5th-place finish that was just a touch off of his Indy time. He has more of a long-term view than most of the swimmers at the top-end of these Grand Prix races, since he’s preparing his efforts for the 2012 Olympic Trials rather than World Championships this summer. He’ll likely be shooting to make the London Olympic team in either this 100 fly, or as a member of the 800 free relay.
7. Cal’s Caitlin Leverenz got back into long course, her superior course, action at this Grand Prix with a 4:40.71 to win the women’s 400 IM by over a second ahead of USC’s Stina Gardell (just because the NCAA season is over, doesn’t mean that the madness in the Pac-10 stops). The two were out in front of the rest of the field by about 6 seconds. Leverenz catapults herself to the top 10 in the world in her first long course race of the season, and Gardell, who swims for Sweden internationally, moves into a tie for 13th.
8. In the men’s 400 IM, Tyler Clary took an easy win in the 4:16.74 (about 2 seconds off of his season best that sits him 8th in the world). Twenty-nine year old Robert Margalis, who’s likely making his last drive for an Olympic team in 2012, was 2nd in 4:20.96. This is Margalis’ best event, and he’s arguably swimming as well as he has since 2006 (suit adjusted, of course), but so long as Clary and Lochte keep this event on their schedules, it’s going to be tough for Margalis to crack into the top two.
9. More great swimming coming out of the state of Pennsylvania, this time in the form of Allie Szekely from the Central Bucks Swim Team in Doylestown, PA. In an overall unimpressive women’s breaststroke field, the 13-year old Szekely stood out with a 3rd-place finish in 1:11.85. This ranks her in the top 5 of under-18 swimmers in the USA this season (along with event winner Annie Zhu, who is only 16). She’s cut roughly 7 seconds off of her time in the past 9 months, and at this point looks like a serious threat at breaking Amanda Beard’s NAG record of 1:08.09. She’s a young 13, and so will have roughly 22 months to cut another 4 seconds off of her mark.
10. As compared to other college swimmers in this meet (like Leverenz), Allison Schmitt didn’t have a great 1st day. She was 8th in the 200 free at 2:00.86. Then again, we don’t have much to compare it to, because she doesn’t usually start competing long course until closer to the middle of May. Though her placing wasn’t great, I can’t imagine that she was at all disappointed with that swim. Katie Hoff won the race in 1:58.24, and the young Jasmine Tosky was 2nd in 1:59.60. Whitney Myers, 26, is finally recapturing much of the long-course success she had while swimming for Arizona. Now training at the FAST Center of Excellence in Fullerton, she finished 3rd in this race in 1:59.98, which is her best time in this race since 2005 (and her 3rd-best time ever).
The meet will continue tomorrow, where the meet’s third session will include a 3-swim performance from Michael Phelps (200 fly, 100 back, and 200 breaststroke). This will again test his conditioning and training. That 200 breaststroke is an important race, because Ryan Lochte’s newfound presence on the breaststroke leg of the IM really highlights Phelps’ biggest weakness. Though the Phelps-Cesar Cielo showdown in the 100 free isn’t until Sunday, we will get to see the debut of Cielo since the announcement of his PRO-16 program back home in Brazil when he takes on the 50 free. Cullen Jones, too, will be making his 2011 debut, and we’ll get to see Natalie Coughlin for the first time this year in her pet event: the 100 back.