The US Report on 2013 FINA World Championships is courtesy of Varun Shivakumar.
Ever since Ryan Lochte returned from the London Olympics with a “disappointing” two gold medals, many have questioned whether the Rochester, New York native still has the resilience to dominate in such a wide variety of events. At these Games, Lochte relinquished the 200 Individual Medley to fellow superstar, Michael Phelps, and would also settle for third in his signature 200 Backstroke race behind fellow countryman, Tyler Clary, and behind Japanese phenom, Ryosuke Irie.
Unfortunately for Ryan, his troubles only continued when he surrendered the 200 backstroke to Polish prodigy Radoslaw Kawecki at the 2012 FINA Short Course World Championships last December in Istanbul, Turkey. Kawecki’s 1:48.48 just edged Lochte’s 1:48.50 at the competition. Though Lochte had a very impressive Short Course World Championships overall with new world records in the 100m IM and 200m IM, and a record 8 medals tallied in Turkey, his decision to forego the 400 IM and his loss in the 200 Backstroke combined to create some doubts of Lochte’s full potency in the pool.
And now, at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Lochte is giving all of his doubters a mouthful to swallow. Following his impressive 200 Individual Medley on Day 5, Lochte faced a formidable schedule on Day 6, and did not fail to deliver.
Beginning with the 200 meter backstroke, Lochte got off to an early lead, and never looked back. Leading off in a very controlled 55.89 first 100, Lochte stayed strong throughout the back half of the race to finish in a sterling time of 1:53.79. With the win, Lochte defended his World Title from 2011, when he claimed the gold with an outstanding 1:52.96. Though Kawecki threatened to creep up on Lochte with just 50 meters to go, Ryan maintained his composure and showed that he can still finish big-time races when it counts.
Less than an hour later, Lochte would step up to the blocks again in the 100 butterfly, an event in which Lochte does not have significant exposure on the international scene. Though he completed prelims with a distant 13th place finish (52.26), Lochte grabbed the top seed going into finals with a very strong 51.48 showing. The effort was a lifetime best for Lochte, bettering his 51.65 from Olympic Trials last year in Omaha, Nebraska. The time can likely be attributed to his 27.35 split coming home, the fastest of all the finalists going into Day 7.
Finally, Lochte joined fellow countrymen Conor Dwyer, Charlie Houchin, and Ricky Berens in the 4×200 meter Freestyle Relay. Following Dwyer’s strong 1:45.76 leadoff split, Lochte finished his marathon day with an incredible 1:44.98 second leg that propelled the Americans to an over half-second lead with Houchin taking the helm. Houchin’s second appearance on a World Championship team did not disappoint as he contributed a very solid 1:45.59 split, before Berens anchored in a very respectable 1:45.39. The relay combined to go 7:01.72, a full two seconds over their nearest competitors, Russia, who finished in a 7:03.92.
- Missy Franklin has had a very strong World Championship meet overall, so she should not fret over her 4th place finish in the 100 meter freestyle. In fact, as Franklin mentioned in her post-race interview, the finish was an improvement from her 5th place finish at the London Olympics. Her 53.47 was also faster than her 53.64 from a year ago, and it is just off her lifetime best from prelims. Shannon Vreeland finished 8th with a 54.49 and was about a half-second off her time from the semi-finals. However, both ladies did compete in the 4×200 meter freestyle relay on Day 6, so Vreeland’s fatigue should certainly be taken in stride.
- Tyler Clary, the reigning Olympic champion in the 200 meter backstroke, had to settle for 3rd behind Lochte (1:53.79) and Kawecki (1:54.24) in his signature race with a final time of 1:54.64. Though Clary may not be happy with his final time, he still managed to drop time between each round (1:56.76 prelims, 1:55.16 semi-finals). Clary still has the 400 meter Individual Medley on Day 8, an event in which he has finished second twice at the World Championships (2009 Rome 4:07.31, and 2011 Shanghaii 4:11.17)
- Both Missy Franklin and Elizabeth Pelton advanced through the semi-finals of the 200 meter backstroke relatively easily, with Franklin seeded 1st (2:06.46) and Pelton seeded 3rd (2:08.20). It will be interesting to see if Pelton can match her impressive 2:06.29 from the U.S. World Championship Trials just over one month ago. Also, Franklin appeared to be controlled, although it is very likely that she was experiencing some fatigue from the 100 meter freestyle final earlier, and from her big relay swim the night before. Look for her to shine in the final on Day 7 in her arguably best event.
- The men’s 50 meter freestyle saw both Americans turn in outstanding times, and they are both in position to do damage entering Day 7. Anthony Ervin turned in a ridiculous 21.42 time that not only shattered his lifetime best of 21.60 from Olympic Trials one year ago, but also rattled the American record of 21.40 held by Cullen Jones from the 2009 World Championships in Rome. Behind Ervin’s second-place finish, Nathan Adrian turned in a 21.60 to tie with Cesar Cielo for 3rd overall, and provided that Adrian can improve in finals as he tends to do, the Americans can expect to do very well in the final.
- In a race where much of the attention was centered on newly-minted world record holder, Rikke Pedersen from Denmark and also on rising star, Yuliya Efimova, from Russia, Micah Lawrence performed very well for herself by finishing 3rd overall. Though her 2:22.37 fell short of her preliminary time of 2:21.74, Lawrence has improved greatly from the Olympics last year, where she finished 6th with a 2:23.27.
- Eugene Godsoe showed that he is actually human when he failed to qualify for the final in the men’s 100 meter butterfly with an 11th place finish (51.96). However, Godsoe can still look forward to the 4×100 meter medley relay where we will likely see him swim the butterfly leg in prelims.
- Dana Vollmer held her own in the 50 meter butterfly with a 5th placed 26.06. She will need to drop about another half-second in order to compete with Jeanette Ottesen Gray who enters the final with a top-seeded 25.50. This time is also equivalent to Dara Torres’ American Record from 2009. Christine Magnuson failed to qualify for finals with a 10th place finish (26.19). Magnuson is likely done for the week, as Claire Donahue will most probably receive the bid for the morning swim for the 4x100m medley relay on Day 8.
None today, though Ervin did come dangerously close to the American record in the 50 freestyle.