Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Thoughts from the European Short Course Championships - Ranomi Kromowidjojo Special

When it comes to Ranomi Kromowidjojo this year the overriding question has to be...What might have been in 2010?

She started the year in white hot fashion with blazing times of 24.40 (LC 50m Free) and 53.44 (LC 100m Free) back in March. Even after all the major LC competitions this summer, she remains top ranked in the world over 100m Free and second in the 50m Free. Fully tapered at Europeans, Britta Steffen's textile best time of 53.30 surely would have gone... and by some margin. Unfortunately for Kromowidjojo and Holland, she was hit with a bout of Meningitis in July, before she could perform at Europeans...

... as a result its all the sweeter that she should have returned at the European Short Course Champs, on home soil, in such top form.

Here's a run down of her phenomenal performances from last week's competition.

1.) Women's 100m Freestyle Final - 51.44 (Last year in Istanbul - 51.44)

The 4th best performance of all time, equalling her time exactly from last year's corresponding competition. Missed the WR by just 0.43 seconds.

2.) Womens's 50m Freestyle Final - 23.58 (Last year in Istanbul - 23.58!)

The 10th best performance of all time, equalling her time exactly from last year's corresponding competition. Missed the WR by just 0.33 seconds.

3.) Women's 4 x 50m Medley Relay - Freestyle split - 22.70. (Last year in Istanbul - 22.70!!

Equals her own fastest relay split of all-time, EQUALLING HER TIME FROM LAST YEAR'S CORRESPONDING COMPETITION!

4.) Women's 4x50m Freestyle Relay - Split 23.09.  (Last year in Istanbul - 23.03. So close!)

The Dutch team get pretty close to their own World Record, just 1.09 seconds away.

Had Marleen Veldhuis' 23.38 from the relay heats replaced Femke Heemskerk's 23.79 from the final, and Kromowidjojo swam the 22.70 that came later in the competition, a difference of 0.8 seconds, they would have missed the WR by just 0.29.

For the 100m Free in Shanghai 2011 and London 2012, I'm making Kromowidjojo favourite with Fran Halsall her closest competition.

PS. Has anyone in major competition history, ever swum four races, equalled their time from the year before in three of those races, and been just 0.06 seconds off in the fourth race? Only logical explanation is that Ranomi Kromowidjojo is a robot, unaffected by suit law changes.

PPS. Thanks to Youtube user zwemsitenl (http://www.zwemsite.nl) for the videos, hope you don't mind me stealing them offering them to a wider audience).

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Sun Yang - 14:35.43

My gut reaction to Sun Yang's 14:35.43 is that it was the best swim of 2010.

In a year that has seen some incredible swims, this one might just top them all. To come so close to a record many felt would last well into this decade is remarkable, and you know what... it might even be better than Grant Hackett's 14:34.56. 

Shocking statement? Not really. Hackett was wearing an ankle to shoulder body suit, Sun Yang was in a pair of jammers. In such a long race, I would certainly prefer to have a suit that covers the legs. (Don't forget the messages swimmers were told back in the early 2000s from the suit makers, that these suits were faster than skin).

So what lies ahead for Sun Yang? Just how good is he?

He's clearly a huge talent, on December 1st he will celebrate his19th birthday. He stands 198cm (6"5) tall, towering over his fellow Asian freestyle star Park Taehwan (6").and has been a member of the Chinese national team since 2006. He swam at Worlds in 2007 and then in the 2008 Olympics, where he made the final of the 1500m (heat time of 14:48.39). Last year he made further progress winning bronze at the World Championships with a time of 14:46.84. His coach in Australia (and Grant Hackett's old coach), Dennis Cotterell, apparently expected his young charge to break Hackett's WR next year.

Looks like he is ahead of schedule.

Right now he leads a deep field of 1500m Freestylers, stacked with talent. Ryan Cochrane, Ous Mellouli, Sebastien Rouault, Pal Joensen, Zhang Lin, Chad La Tourette & Peter Vanderkaay will all have to bridge the gap to Sun Yang.

Speed Endurance prediction - Hackett's World Record goes in the final of 2011 Worlds in Shanghai. With a home crowd cheering Sun Yang on once again and a year's improvement it should go. Also, watch out for Thorpe/Biedermann's 400m mark too.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Park Taehwan - 48.70 - 100m Free

Park Taehwan's huge meet continues as he blasted a 48.70 to win the 100m Free at the Asian Games. The time moves him to 16th in the world this year, just ahead of middle distance rivals Paul Biedermann, Yannick Agnel, Ryan Lochte and Danila Isotov .

The 1500m is still to come tomorrow. Should be a top race between Park, Sun Yang and Zhang Lin.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Park Taehwan - 3:41.53 - 400m Freestyle

Question - "Who is the male swimmer of 2010?"
Answer -  "Easy... Ryan Lochte. Next."

Up until two days ago that answer was pretty water tight. Not any more. Park Taehwan just staked a huge claim for male swimmer of the year, and the possibly more coveted 'Speed Endurance Swim of 2010'. His time of 3:41.53 winning the 400m Free at the Asian Games leads the world, makes him the second fastest ever in a textile suit and is the tenth fastest swim of all time (suited efforts and Ian Thorpe included).

Incredibly he was under Paul Biedermann's world record pace for 349m of the 400m race.

I have always liked Park as a swimmer. I like the fact that he is 6 ft (183cm) tall, by no means a physical freak. I like the fact his stroke isn't flashy, just efficient. And I like the fact that in the space of two days he has blown the rest of the world away on the 200m and 400m Free.

Watch and enjoy.

PS. Sun Yang's not too bad either.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Asian Games 2010 - Day One and Two

Whilst much of the swimming world's focus is now firmly on SCM/SCY swimming, in Guangzhou (China) the best Asia has to offer are competing in their biggest LCM meet of the year.

The meet is essentially a head-to-head between China and Japan, and it's fast. Day Two's swimming has just finished and there have already been a number of stand-out swims. For anyone that is surprised at how fast the swimming is (or anyone that immediately assumes doping is involved when it comes to China), you shouldn't be. Japanese and Chinese swimmers have been on great form all year.

Much is made of Britain's rise in the sport ahead of London 2012 and there is no doubt that we are closing the gap on USA and Australia, but so is the rest of the world, particularly in China and Japan.

Highlights from the first two days

Takeshi Matsuda - 200m Fly - 1:54.02

Matsuda's stunning time puts him at the top of the world rankings in 2010 ahead of Michael Phelps. As this is the last major LC competition of the year, Matsuda's time is unlikely to be topped this year. We all know that Phelps isn't on top form this year, but he has still been dominant in his pet event and this will mark the first time since 2005 that Phelps hasn't led the world rankings at the year's end.

Zhao Jing - 100m Back - 58.94 (First leg of the Medley relay)

Zhao Jing became the first woman under 59 seconds in a textile suit with her relay lead-off split. The women's 100m Back has been one of the more interesting events in swimming this year. Emily Seebohm looked like she was clearly out in front after setting a textile best times early in the year, Britain's Lizzie Simmonds and Gemma Spofforth got close to Seebohm before Aya Terakawa vaulted herself to the top of the world rankings and a new textile record with her 59.13 in September. Zhao Jing, however, has really put down a marker in the event. Terakawa will have the chance to respond in the individual 100m Back later in the week.

Zhao Jing - 200m Back - 2:06.46

Talking of putting down a marker, how about two world leading and textile best times in two days. Zhao Jing, 19, is the first woman in a textile suit to better Krisztina Egerszegi's 2:06.62 set all the way back in 1991.The event had been dominated by Lizzie Simmonds this year with the world's top three times, but no longer. Zhao Jing, world champion in the 50m Back last year in Rome, proved that she isn't a one-year wonder and will be a huge threat next year and beyond.

Ye Shi Wen - 400m IM - 4:33.79

Ye Shi Wen, just 14 years of age continues her impressive year. She moves to 2nd in the world in the 400m IM behind Hannah Miley's 4:33.09 and just ahead of USA's Elizabeth Beisel's 4:34.04. 2010 might be the year of the comeback, but it has also thrown up some fantastic new talents. Ye Shi Wen, Yolane Kukla, Yannick Agnel, Silke Lippok, Bence Biczo, Evan Pinion and Vlad Morozov are just a few of the new names to get accustomed to in the lead up to London.

Park Taehwan - 200m Free - 1:44.80

I mentioned earlier that this competition is essentially a head-to-head between China and Japan. That is true for most events, however it's not so in the men's middle distance Freestyle. South Korea's Olympic champion Park Taehwan rocketed to the top of the world in the 200m Free by a full 0.5 seconds.

Park has been on fire this year. He set some lightning quick times back in February, had a strong Pan Pacs in August... all the time saving his best for the Asian Games.

1:44.80 is a sensational time. Park Taehwan is the first man since the new suit laws to get towards Michael Phelps (1:43.86) and Ian Thorpe's (1:44.06) best textile times. I'm just going to say it, the men's 200m Free is the most intriguing event in swimming right now. Phelps, Lochte, Biedermann, Agnel, Park, Verschuren, Isotov, Lobintsev, Zhang Lin, Sun Yang, Basson, Meichtry... Thorpe?

Monday, 8 November 2010

2010 - The Year of the Comeback

What is it with comebacks in 2010? There are still two months of the year left, and already there have been a number of high profile returns to the sport. Why is it happening this year? Is it linked to the new suit laws? Increased professionalism in the sport? Burning desire to get back into competition in time for London 2012?

Here's a rundown of the major comebacks so far this year...

Janet Evans - Easily the biggest shock comeback so far. Many doubts still remain as to the level Evans can come back to, but it has certainly captured the swimming world's imagination. Some people think her comeback will be more Mark Spitz than Dara Torres (I'm sitting comfortably on the fence). Like Torres, she is starting with Masters competitions and seeing where it goes from there.

Geoff Huegill - Janet Evans can try all she wants, Geoff Huegill still takes the prize for swimming's best comeback of 2010. In fact, you'd do well to convince me that its not the greatest swimming comeback of all-time. His 100m Fly victory in Delhi was the feel-good swim of the year.

Libby Trickett - Staying in Australia, Trickett recently announced that she was making a comeback after a year out of the water. It has come at a good time for the Australian women's relays.

Laure Manaudou - Another recent comeback. Although Manaudou hasn't been out of competition all that long (competed in Beijing), mentally she seemed to check out years ago. The swimming world hopes to see the form she showed earlier in her career when it looked like she would go down as one of the all-time greats of the sport. If the comeback is a success, she still might...

Ed Moses - Spurred on by the lack of top American breaststrokers, Moses confirmed to Swimming World's Garrett McCaffrey that he was gearing up for a comeback. He's got a big money bet with Ryan Lochte about what time/rankings he can get back too. I, for one, would definitely like to know more details of that bet. The comeback could see him training alongside Kitajima with Dave Salo in California. Moses was an excellent LC Breaststroker (silver at 2000 Olympics), but was on a different planet when it came to SCM. If you don't remember Moses, check out his performances from the 2002 SC World Cup Series.

Natalie Coughlin - Less of a comeback than the others on the list after only short time out of the water, but she came straight back at world leading level this year.

Amanda Beard - Beard's silver at US Nationals was sensational. Few gave Beard much chance, she was coming out of retirement and less than a year after giving birth. But she showed her class at US Nationals and then again at Pan Pacs (5th in the final). She's currently tied for 7th in the world this year on 2:24.30. London calling.

Dara Torres - I've lost count of which comeback this is, but Torres confirmed that she is back in training for London 2012, and will probably make it.

Vote above on who you would like to see announce a comeback in time for 2012. Ian Thorpe is streaking away with the vote currently (I still stick by my earlier comments, Thorpe's coming back). If there is anyone else not on the list that you think should be, add your suggestion in the comments section.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Janet Evans Returns for 2012. Wait. What?

Another normal day in the swimming world. The Moscow World Cup wrapped up, next stop Stockholm, some more top US swimmers commit to their future universities, Janet Evans is coming out of retirement.

*Choke* Sorry, what was that last one?

Janet Evans, the greatest female distance swimmer ever, is rumoured to be coming out of retirement.

Assuming this happens, some thoughts:-

1.) Evans had an extremely distinguished and LONG career. She won international medals between the years 1987 and 1994. She also competed in the 1996 Olympics, where she finished 6th. That is 9 years competing at the very top

2.) Evans has been out of swimming for, wait for it, 14 YEARS! Natalie Coughlin is considered to have 'made a comeback' after 2 years out of the sport.

3.) As swimmers get older, the tendency is to drop down in distance. The training focus moves from quantity towards quality. An 800m swimmer will often end up in the 200m/400m towards the end of their career. Evans, who remains the third fastest 800m Freestyler, and fourth fastest 1500m Freestyler in history, no longer has that huge base behind her... even if she has continued to swim regularly, a move down in distance might come naturally to her.

4.) Evans reached the very top of the sport, well ahead of her time. She has won everything there is to win in swimming. Apart from the obvious financial benefits, what more is there to acheive?

5.) Evans WAS ahead of her time. Right up until 2006 Evans remained in a class of her own, then came Manaudou, Ziegler, Adlington, Pellegrini etc. The current crop of distance freestylers are the best they have been for years. The depth is incredible. Evans would not only need to be at her best, she would need to be better. At 40, that's asking a lot.

5.) If the goal is to reach the 2012 Olympics, the domestic competition will be fierce. Katie Hoff, Chloe Sutton, Kate Ziegler, Allison Schmitt are all established stars and all potential Olympic medalists. Youngsters such as Dagny Knuton and Chelsea Chenault are on the up too.

6.) The only sensible reasoning behind this comeback would be a) financial gain, which if even moderately successful on her return, would be plentiful b) she misses the thrill of competition, c) it brings her back into the media spotlight for a few more years.

7.) Finally, sit back and enjoy a clip of Evans from Seoul 88. She has a stroke that no coach would suggest to their swimmer, it is beautiful and fluid from the side on, and inelegant and choppy from above. Looks like a perfect open water stroke to me.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup - Stockholm

FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup - Stockholm - 6-7 November

The World Cup series will look to go out with a bang this weekend at the final leg in Stockholm.

The start list has been released and there are some intriguing battles shaping up.

Races to watch out for

Duje Draganja v Roland Schoeman v Steffen Deibler - 50m Fly

Schoeman and Deibler have been battling it out all World Cup series in the 50m Fly but in Stockholm they will be challenged by short course expert Draganja. Qatar's Croatia's Draganja has had a quiet year by his high standards only managing 24.26 at Europeans, however in Stockholm he returns to the shorter pool where he has had so much success.

Draganja will also swim the 50m Free, 100m Free, 100m Fly and 100m IM.

Alain Bernard v Lyndon Ferns v Steffen Nystrand v Draganja v Schoeman v Deibler - 100m Free

Alain Bernard will see World Cup action for the first and only time in 2010 in Stockholm. Down to swim the 50m, 100m & 200m Free, it will be the 100m Free that should throw up the best race (although it will be very interesting to see what he goes over 200m v Biedermann).

So far nobody has been able to get close to Cesar Cielo's stunning 45.87 set in Brazil in September. Schoeman, Deibler and co. have all had a fair few attempts now so I wouldn't expect huge improvements from them. Bernard, however, could have a shot at Cielo's time.

Sebastien Rouault vs Pal Joensen - 1500m Free

After their epic battle in Budapest this summer, we'll get to see Rouault v Joensen Part II. In one of the best races of the European Champs, Joensen led for 1350m with Rouault trailing by up to 3 seconds during the race, however the Frenchmen reeled in Joensen to win in a time of 14:55.17 to 14:56.90.

Joensen on home turf (kind of, still in Scandinavia) has his chance for revenge and has more SC racing this year under his belt, Rouault though is a product of the US collegiate system won't have any problems in SCM.

Camille Muffat v Coralie Balmy v Ophelie Cyralie Etienne v Lotte Friis- 400m Freestyle

The women's 400m Free is one of the most interesting races in world swimming right now. Federica Pellegrini is out in front right now, but there is an extremely strong (and deep) group chasing her.  In Stockholm we will get the see the best France has to offer as well as European Bronze medalist, Lotte Friis.

In 2010 the French trio of Balmy, Etienne and Muffat's best times in the 400m Free LC are split by just 0.09 (4:05.40 to 4:05.49, joint 4th and 7th in the world), which should lead to a great race this weekend. My money would be on Muffat who can swim great untapered. Worth watching out for German youngster Silke Lippok too who continues to impress, although 400m could be too far for her.

Dana Vollmer v Sarah Sjoestrom v Therese Alshammar - 100m Fly

Vollmer's 100m Fly in Berlin (55.59) was one of the swims of 2010. Just half a second shy of the world record, she took down the World Cup points leader Alshammar in the race. However, you know that Alshammar will not want the same result when she swims in front of her home crowd. Sjoestrom too will have home support. Should be close, but you have to favour Vollmer on this one though.

Monday, 1 November 2010

FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup - Berlin Recap

As expected, there were a number of fast times from the Berlin leg of the World Cup series. In a notoriously fast pool, the large number of international swimming stars did not disappoint.

Speed EnduranceTop Performers

Femke Heemskerk - 100m Free - 51.96, 200m Free - 1:52.42, 100m Back - 57.72

The star of the meet. Heemskerk destroyed a quality field in both the 100 and 200m Freestyle. She became the 3rd fastest woman ever over 200m Free and moved up to 8th all-time in the 100m Free. Heemskerk also smoked a 57.72 to win the 100m Back in the 6th fastest time of the year (notably ahead of Natalie Coughlin's best effort of 2010 so far).

Now, if only Heemskerk had some other lightning quick Dutch female sprinters to swim a relay with...

Dana Vollmer - 100m Fly - 55.72, 100m Free - 52.50, 200m Free - 1:53.67, 50m Fly 25.74

If Heemskerk takes the prize for swimmer of the meet, Vollmer just about takes performance of the meet for her 100m Fly effort of 55.72. Just 0.54 away from Diane Bui Duyet's World Record, Vollmer became the 3rd fastest ever in the event. She let Therese Alshammar take the race out (25.9 to her 27.3) but came back in an incredible 28.29. Bear in mind that most swimmers get faster as the World Cup series progresses, there might be more still to come from Vollmer.

Thiago Pereira - 200m IM - 1:52.81, 400m IM - 4:02.83, 100m IM - 52.59

No surprise that Thiago Pereira swam fast, he's been lights out throughout the entire SC season so far. Once again his best performance came in the 200m IM where he was under World Record pace by 0.37 at the 150m mark. Unfortunately he couldn't match the suited speed of Darian Townsend, an excellent Freestyler, on the final 50m, however he did come back faster than in Rio where he swam 1:52.72. (In Rio he was even faster at 150m - 0.83 seconds under WR pace).

As mentioned before... Pereira is getting close to Townsend's WR and could break it... Ryan Lochte could smash it.

A full set of results can be found here.

(Moscow World Cup starts tomorrow. Results will be here)