If you thought the selection for the American men’s 400 free relay squad was interesting, wait until things really heat up for the men’s 400 medley relay selection.
The 400 medley selections, in a country like the United States, are vastly different than the 400 free relay. Generally speaking, it’s a wholesale change from prelims to finals. In the men’s race, it has been at every Olympics since 1992 except for one, and at least for the last six World Championships (presuming that 2007 would’ve been done that way were it not for a DQ by the prelims relay).
The big exception was at the 2000 Olympics, where Ed Moses swam both the prelims and finals of the breaststroke on the medley after Pat Calhoun finished 25th in the heats of the 100.
This year, there’s no reason to change that. Everyone is swimming well enough to warrant a prelims spot and a medal (the Americans will win one, though which color is in question).
However, the reason that this is interesting is that unlike free relays, it doesn’t give swimmers the opportunity to earn their finals spots with good prelims swims. Coaches always push some guys through automatically in the free relays, but there’s usually a few guys fighting for a few-minus-one spots.
In the medleys, the coaches have to know which is their best order before seeing anybody in prelims.
Fortunately for the Americans, at the World Championships, the medley relay comes at the end of the meet, so they’ll get to see the 100 meter races of each event before having to decide.
Two of these spots are still to be decided: the men’s 100 backstroke (David Plummer and Matt Grevers) and the men’s 100 fly (Ryan Lochte and Eugene Godsoe) are up in the air.
The 100 back looks really tight, with Plummer and Grevers taking the top two seeds in the semi-finals, and either result would probably come out about as well for the Americans.
The butterfly decision is shaping up to be really interesting. Eugene Godsoe has shown the ability already at this meet to step up and be great, taking silver in the 50 fly even though he said he was fully-tapered at Trials.
Lochte, after the 200 free semifinals, looks very good as well. Regardless of what people think about who should’ve been in the 400 free relay final, we can’t forget that 47.80 was actually a very good time for Lochte.
This is a very important leg for the Americans. Whoever takes the spot will replace Michael Phelps, and Ian Crocker before, which have been the United States’ silver bullet for a decade-or-more.
How will the coaches decide who gets to swim in finals? Will it be the higher placer of the 100 fly between the two, strictly? Will there be credit given to Lochte for the fact that he’s got vastly more relay experience at this level? Will Godsoe be given some leeway because he’ll have way fewer yards under his belt by the time this relay rolls around?
Will it even matter? The Australians haven’t been great, but Christian Sprenger’s breaststroke gives them that one leg that the Americans can’t come close to (though, Kevin Cordes’ size should make him really good on relay starts).
Nothing would be better than to be a fly on the wall of the room when the American coaches are deciding who gets to swim that butterfly leg. That’s the most interesting part of swimming that nobody ever gets to hear much about.
- It’s been a tough year for Caitlin Leverenz, but she ended on a good note going toward 2014 with a 5th-place finish in the 200 IM.
- The curtain was pulled back on American breaststroking a little bit, as they were introduced to how good the rest of the world is. Of course, the Americans are in the best shape in the stroke as they’ve been in a long time with Kevin Cordes and Nic Fink both going into just their junior years of college, but there’s still a ways to go. This final, with Cordes and Fink finishing 7th and 8th, puts a lot of things into perspective.
- Ryan Lochte is in a groove. Just like at the World Championship Trials, he’s masterfully working his way through three rounds of the 200 free. Watching him and Kosuke Hagino in the 200 IM later in the meet should be a real show.
- Missy Franklin was able to take the top seed in the 100 back even with a big slip on her start. That says two things: one is that nobody in the world is in the same class as her above the water. The other is that when the new backstroke starting platforms are installed, there may be nobody who benefits more than Franklin. Let’s hope that she doesn’t overthink the start in finals too much.
- Liz Pelton is living up to her potential at this meet. The normally-consistent Aya Terakawa looks way-off, which means that the Americans could find themselves with a double podium.
- The Americans, with Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer, and Australia, with Thomas Fraser-Holmes and Cameron McEvoy, are the only two countries to put two swimmers into the final of the 200 free. There have been questions as to whether the Americans could win the 800 free relay without Phelps, but we’re not seeing anything to indicate differently. The only thing we didn’t get is that Jeremy Stravius didn’t swim the 200 free, but will swim the relay, or they probably would’ve had two as well, but with the thinnest field in the 200 free that we’ve seen in over a decade, the Americans should feel confident with their depth still.
None that we noticed; Katie Ledecky missed her 1500 free NAG Record for 15-16’s from the World Championship Trials by two seconds.