A game that has sort of informally started in our comment sections in the leadup to the Olympics is “what’s it going to take for….” XYZ to happen. These experiments are mostly for fun (because really, none of us know what it’s going to take) but always generate some passionate discussion.
We’re going to start taking a research-driven approach to this game, and post what we think it’s going to take for different things to happen between now and the 2012 London Olympics. Sound off for what you think it’s going to take for this specific scenario in the comments! If there’s any situation (big or small) that you’d like to see us really dig into, shoot me an email at [email protected].
In honor of January 26th being celebrated as “Australia Day” down under, we’ll kick things off with one of the more heated debates – how fast will Ian Thorpe and Michael Klim have to go at the 2012 Australian Olympic Trials from March 15th-22nd to make the team?
Keep in mind that these swims have to be done in March – there will be no “bonus trials” like the ones held for the 2011 World Championships squad last year.
So let’s assume we take their words for it, and both swimmers are shooting primarily for spots in the 100 free (2 spots)/400 free relay (6 spots). Even though the Australians are the defending World Champions, this battle is still surprisingly wide-open (though the finals quartet all swam very well in that relay). Let’s start with some hard numbers – the fastest 8 in 2011 (remember that this would only include flat-starts):
James Magnussen (47.49) – 20
James Roberts (48.49) – 20
Matt Targett (48.66) – 26
Matthew Abood (48.69) – 25
Eamon Sullivan (48.87) – 26
Kyle Richardson (48.89) – 24
Cameron Prosser (49.14) – 26
Cameron McEvoy (49.19) – 17
The major caveat is that Sullivan was injured most of last year, and he busted out a sub-48 relay split as the Australians won gold. Let’s not forget that with Australian trials coming so early in the schedule, it’s much less risky for swimmers to put a full-effort into the trials than it is for Americans.
Magnussen is in, there’s no doubt about that. He should be sub-48 at trials (though much faster at the actual Olympics rather than Trials), so that’s one spot gone. After that, there’s a ton of parity. With Sullivan healthy, Roberts so young, and with Targett swimming very well, it’s hard to not see at least a pair of 48.4’s coming out of that group, even at trials (surprisingly, only Roberts and Sullivan have been that fast in textile out of the 8 listed above).
The Verdict: 48.3 for an individual swim.
Moving on to the relay, Magnussen will take a spot. Targett will take a spot. Roberts will take a spot. The top 3 will be 48.5 or better. Eamon Sullivan, if healthy, will also be 48.5-48.6. The young Cameron McEvoy is swimming incredibly well – and local observers think there’s no way that he doesn’t earn his way onto the Olympic Team. His rate of improvement pegs him at maybe a 48.7 by trials (faster if he hits a full taper). That will put him close, though he certainly has a very good shot at a spot in the 200.
Based on last year’s swims, and their tendencies to be faster in an Olympic year, I think that the 48.7 is the target. In an event like the 100 free, where the finish is bound to be tightly squeezed in the 5-8 range, it’s hard to get any more exact than that, and a lot will come down to who swims what in the final round. But I’d say a 48.7 is a fair prediction for Olympic relay participation.
The Verdict: 48.7 for a relay swim
Thorpe in the 200
The big issue in play here for Thorpe is that though he’s focused on the 100 free, scoring a spot in the 200 free has a much lower threshold for success. The top two last year where Thomas Fraser-Holmes at 1:47.19 and Kenrick Monk at 1:47.53 – both of which were done at Trials and not Worlds. If he can’t go better than a 1:47.53 at trials, then his presence or absence in the individual at the Olympics might not matter much to the rest of the field. That’s about the mark he’d be looking at there.
Cameron McEvoy will again jump in, and if I were a wagering man, I’d take him and his 1:48.05 from December to earn the 2nd individual spot behind Fraser-Holmes at somewhere around a 1:47.4. (Note that he dropped exactly 5 seconds in this race from December 2010 to December 2011). In terms of relays, if the Australians choose to take 6 legs, I’d probably peg about a 1:48.2 – overall, I think that this group of 200 freestylers is going to be much faster than they were in 2011.
The Verdict: 1:48.2 for a relay swim.