Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Thoughts from the World Short Course Championships - Day One
Swimming fans around the world, rejoice... our sport is saved.
It feels like the end of Star Wars. Luke Skywalker is burning Paul Biedermann's bodysuit, the ewoks are going nuts, C3:PO's doing the robot like he just don't care... all celebrating the end of the techsuit era. The sport's darkest hour has passed... a World Record has been broken again.
It won't sit well with many sceptics that China was the first nation to acheive the feat, but I happen to believe in innocent until proven guilty. Is it such a surprise that a nation that became more professional, worked harder, and brought in the best coaches from around the world for their home Olympics are reaping the rewards two years later?
What a statement. What symbolism that China, as a nation, were the first to break a world record in 2010. "The times, they are a-changin'" (and getting faster again).
A look at the splits tells the story. China won it because of their incredible strength in depth. Every swimmer was either on 1:53 or 1:54. They didn't have the fastest splits of the race, Australia's Kylie Palmer took that accolade with an incredible 1:52.42, Camille Muffat, France, led off in an equally impressive 1:53.17 with Katie Hoff just behind in 1:53.37. They just flat out had the strongest team, an area the US has dominated in for years.
The excitement didn't end there on a superb Day One of competition...
- The French have finally figured out how to win a 4 x 100m Freestyle relay. You pick your best 4 swimmers and don't let Alain Bernard swim last.
It worked tonight as they beat my pre-race favourite, Russia. Russia had the lead at the 300m mark, 0.11 seconds clear of France. Danila Isotov went for Russia, Yannick Agnel for France. Isotov led comfortably for most of the race, before being stunningly overhauled by the young French rising star. (You may remember a certain swimming blog predicting that Agnel was the last piece of the puzzle for the French team).
A closer look shows that Isotov was taking advice from Bernard in the call room. His split of 46.48 on the final leg is a long way short of what was expected of him. His team mates were in the 45.7, 45.8 range and he is supposed to be the Russian No.1 in this event. I think its fair to say that Isotov lost this relay rather than Yannick Agnel won it.
- With regards to the individual Men's 100m Free, Cesar Cielo put down a marker with his split of 45.08, the fastest split by some margin. Nathan Adrian was some way off that with his lead off effort of 47.35. Alain Bernard, 46.78 , and Steffen Nystrand, 46.70 both had solid lead legs but will need to make up ground on the Brazilian World and Olympic champion.
Classic Cielo... just dominating major meets.
- Outside of the relays, the undoubted star of the evening was Spain's Mireia Belmonte Garcia, who won an incredibly tough double this evening.
First up was the 200m Fly final (8:05pm) that saw Liu Zige and Felicity Galvez take the race out ahead of world record pace at 100m.They paid the price though. As both women started to drop back, Belmonte Garcia and Britain's Jemma Lowe turned on the jets to take the top two spots in 2:03.59 and 2:03.94. At the 100m mark they were placed 7th and 8th respectively. That's how you pace a race. Belmonte Garcia's final 50m (31.58) was faster than her third 50m (31.72), the only woman achieving to this feat in the final.
The fly victory was impressive, but the 400m IM was a performance to leave you stunned. Swimming the final at 8:49pm, just 44 minutes after the 200m Fly, Belmonte (4:24.21) won a battle against China's Ye Shiwen (4:24.55). The key to this race was the Breaststroke leg as the Spaniard came from nowhere to take the lead. Her split of 1:13.51 was over 3 seconds faster than the next fastest breaststroke split. Going into the freestyle leg against Ye Shiwen, who won a World Cup leg in the 100m Free, now was the time the tiredness would surely kick in... but it never came. Belmonte came back sub-60 seconds to round off an incredible evening's work.
Credit also to Ye Shiwen, just 14 years of age, she showed real fight and pushed Belmonte incredibly hard. Her last leg of 59.03 was extremely impressive. The future looks bright for this swimmer. She should be hailed alongside swimmers such as Yannick Agnel and Silke Lippok as one of swimming's brightest talents.
- Ryan Lochte got the evening off to a strong start with his 1:41.08. An excellent first race out of the way for the American. Hopefully he'll get even faster as the meet continues and maybe even break a world record or two.
Paul Biedermann didn't have a race to remember, finishing down in 5th. Cue the claims that Biedermann is just a suit swimmer blah blah blah. I'm tired of hearing it. The German is a great athlete swimming in arguably the most loaded event on the men's side.
- A race to watch out for tomorrow is definitely the Men's 100m Breaststroke. Mike Alexandrov (57.18), Felipe Silva and Cameron Van Der Burgh (both 57.19) are split by just 0.01 seconds going into the final. Fabio Scozzoli on 57.34 is also looking in fine form after a sub-58 heat swim too. For fans of the 200m Breast, Daniel Gyurta and Naoya Tomita both made it through and look in good form.
- Talking of showdowns, the Men's 100m Back should be another tasty final. Stanislav Donets is the in-form swimmer after his times at European SC and he qualified fastest tonight in 49.62. Camille Lacourt, the star of LC Backstroke this year was second fastest in 50.53 with World Record holder Nick Thoman third in 50.69. Tough final to call.
- Check back in tomorrow for more live video and analysis.