Psych Sheet Primer
The psych sheets are out for the Missouri Grand Prix, and the two biggest names in American swimming are both missing; Michael Phelps is buckling down his training in Colorado, and Ryan Lochte is expected to be attending the 2011 All-Star Game in Los Angeles. This is not surprising; both swimmers participated in the Austin Grand Prix, and in the big scheme of things another meet isn’t necessary at this point in time. I would expect both swimmers to participate in the Indianapolis Grand Prix stop two weeks later, which is expected to be much higher profile.
But there are several swimmers who will be making their 2011 debut, and none will draw more attention than 5-time Olympian Dara Torres. After rehabbing from a remarkable knee surgery, where doctors were able to regenerate knee tissues from her own cells, she is hitting the water for the first time in a major event since the 2009 Rome World Championships. She will only swim a single event, the 50 free, where she is the American record holder. This is likely the event that she will chase, as an individual, for London 2012, and this race will be a nice benchmark for where she stands, as several of her main competitors will also be in the field. This includes Jessica Hardy, Amanda Weir, and Kara Lynn Joyce.
Another superstar, though her star is still rising at the other end of the age spectrum from Torres, who will be missing from this meet is 15-year old Missy Franklin, who has a commanding lead in the overall series point standings. She is competing in the Colorado High School State Championships the weekend before, and chose not to miss school two weeks in a row. Though it is unlikely that anyone will make up the gap in this meet (she is 28 points ahead of her next closes competitor Lochte, who’s also not swimming), third place swimmer Ricky Berens has a chance to jump into second. Franklin has already said that she intends to decline the prize money if (when) she wins and maintain her amateur status, so the prize will go to the second place competitor, assuming that swimmer has exhausted their amateur eligibility. Berens is currently 17 points behind Lochte for second, which means he needs 5 event wins and a silver to make up the distance. Berens is only entered in 4 events, so he can’t entirely make up the gap, but if he continues his 100% attendance (he’s one of the few swimmers who could possibly do so) he could definitely take a run at Lochte.
American butterflier Tyler McGill will also be at this meet. He has broken through as a significant member of Team USA, and possibly the heir apparent after Michael Phelps’ anticipated 2012 retirement, and we now get to see him start his push towards Shanghai and possibly London beyond. Rebecca Soni, who is the reigning American Female Swimmer of the Year, will also make her 2011 debut in this meet. Though nobody will touch her in the 200 breaststroke, she is squared up against Hardy in the 100. Hardy had previously turned her full attention to freestyle, but after surprising even herself with the amount of speed she still had in the sprint breaststrokes, she may be mulling the idea of getting back into the short-axis stroke. Soni vs. Hardy in the 100 breaststroke is probably the mano-e-mano race of the meet.
Though the top American swimmers will not be at this meet, there will be an incredibly exciting slew of foreigners in attendance. The lineup in the 100 free, besides Matt Grevers, Berens, and McGill, will also have a top 8 that includes Frenchman Fred Bousquet, Brazilian Nicolas Oliveira, Brit Simon Burnett, and Kenyan Jason Dunford. Each of those swimmers have a slew of major Continental Championship medals under their belts, and this is going to be a heck of a race.
Overall, despite the absence of a handful of the biggest names in the sport, this meet will overall provide much better top-to-bottom competitiveness and a ton of final heats.
In the race for the $20,000 series grand prize, Missy Franklin still has a commanding lead. Out of the top 9 swimmers, who are listed on the leaderboard below, only Berens will be participating in this meet. He should cut Lochte’s second-place lead down to single digits by the time Indianapolis rolls around.