Thursday, 17 March 2011

Swimming at the 2012 Olympic Games - Day 2 (Men's Events) Roundtable

With the recent announcement of an unchanged Olympic Schedule for London 2012, what better time to go through some of the talking points. I sat down with two esteemed swim bloggers, Braden Keith of The Swimmers Circle(BK) and David Rieder of (DR) to hack, dig, crawl, and otherwise muddle our way through the Olympic Schedule.

To catch up on the previous discussions:
Swimming at the 2012 Olympic Games - Day 1 (Men's Events) Roundtable
Swimming at the 2012 Olympic Games - Day 1 (Women's Events) Roundtable

2012 Olympics Day Two Roundtable – Part I (Men's Events)

200m Freestyle

On paper, defending champion Michael Phelps and WR Holder/World Champ Paul Biedermann are the favorites, but can they win? How will this event fit into Lochte's program?

BK - If Lochte chases 8 golds, then he's going to have his two biggest challenges, unfortunately, on the same day with the 200 free and later the 100 back. Personally, I think he's going to focus on 7, and drops the 100 back, which makes the 200 free much more feasible.

We see that Phelps is serious about his training again. Bob Bowman is happy with how he's been training (and he wouldn’t have said that if he didn't mean it), so I feel much more comfortable picking him for a medal than I would have done a few week ago. I think that the top 3 are fairly safe picks in Lochte, Park, and Phelps (in any particular order), but I'm still convinced that Biedermann has shown enough sparks to be in there. This is a touch pick, because there's about 5 guys I want to give medals to.

Agnel and Sun are getting much, much better, but those top 3 just aren't going anywhere yet. The youngsters will have to wait their turn in this race.

Prediction - 1) Lochte 2) Park 3) Phelps - Wildcard: Robbie Renwick (GB). He was the Commonwealth champ, and the coaches in the UK have really hit something special with their female mid-distance swimmers, it's only a matter of time until that trickles over to the men's side.

TW- Renwick? With all the stars in this event I was not expecting that. I think making the final is the best he can hope for. A Semi final is more likely. I also think the top 3 are far from safe picks!

Without doubt this is swimming's Hollywood event. There are so many story lines; Lochte v Phelps. Phelps v Biedermann. Biedermann v Agnel. East v West etc. Now we can add some Ian Thorpe hype to that list.

Thorpe will only swim this event if he knows for sure he has a shot at a medal, otherwise it makes no sense for his legacy to be 'just' a finalist.

As hard as I try to make the argument for the other guys, at 100% I don't see Phelps losing. I also think the entire field will be split by fractions, making predictions extremely hard. The talent this event has is mind blowing: Biedermann, Agnel, Izotov, Lobintsev, Mellouli, all of these guys have a great shot at finishing in the top three.

Prediction (ask me in a few weeks and it will have changed again) - 1) Phelps 2) Lochte 3) Park - Wildcard - Sun Yang. Yes he is a 1500m specialist, but so was Grant Hackett who had no problems dropping down to 200. Agnel could just as easily take this spot.

DR - Ok you guys covered most of the bases. I'll start with the predictions: 1) Phelps 2) Lochte 3) Park. All the guys you mentioned will be in the mix - so basically the entire final will probably be 1:45 or better. Darkhorses: Sebaastian Verschuren - been steadily improving since surprisingly making the final in Rome. Thomas Fraser-Holmes - I picked this guy for Commonwealths where he bombed the final but ended up posting a 1:47.0 leading off the relay. Not as young as Agnel or Izotov but he's coming up as well. (Put him, Thorpe, and Monk on a relay and you have a solid bronze medal!)

BK - I know Renwick is a bit out of left field, but hey, that's the beauty of a wildcard pick! I think that it would be a wildly successful outing for him if he can place top 6...which is what I'm pegging him for.

Fraser-Holmes is still a great upset pick for a medal, David, especially if the Australian team can settle in. There were a million things that could've affected his performance at the Commonwealth Games, and here's to hoping that Thorpe, at the very least, reinvigorates that program.

TW - I still can't see either Renwick or Fraser-Holmes having a serious impact on this event. Verschuren I rate highly and was close to listing him as a potential medalist, although he still needs to drop a chunk of time to contend.

Who's your Russian? Danila '1:43.9 wearing only legs' Izotov, or Nikita 'Mr. Consistenski' Lobintsev.

BK - Both are going to be awesome. At the moment, I've gotta say Lobintsev, but Izotov is still just a baby.

Men’s 100m Back

DR – I want to make a point about Lochte's potential 200 free/100 back double. At a meet like Worlds, where the two events are about an hour or more apart, he could handle it. At the Olympics, the two finals are separated by just the women's 100 back final. No medal ceremony, no semis, etc. Would pretty much require him to run from the pool (200 free) back to the ready room for the 100 back. No warm-down, no media, no nothing. In this situation, he would not be able to make the U.S. team; Grevers, Plummer, and Thoman are too good to lose to someone coming straight from a 200 free final.

TW- That would be brutal, but perhaps that is going to be Lochte's super human feat in London. Not winning 8 Golds, which has been done before, but to do an insane double like this one.

Grevers is the pick of the US backstrokers, but Lochte can beat the other guys. I've been impressed with Plummer's consistency since he broke through last year but can he get down to 52 low? I've heard a lot about how great Nick Thoman is/is going to be, but he hasn't convinced me long course (in jammers) yet. Let’s see what he does in Shanghai.

Clearly right now there isn't even a debate about who the favourite is for this event. Camille Lacourt is well clear. It’s because of Lacourt that I don't see Lochte going for this race. I hope Tancock can come through in front of a home crowd, but he will face some seriously tough opposition from the likes of Ryosuke Irie and Junya Koga. Aaron Peirsol's retirement definitely helps his chances though.

Prediction - 1) Camille Lacourt 2) Matt Grevers 3) Liam Tancock. Wildcard - Helge Meeuw. This was between Meeuw and Stanislav Donets, but I'm going with the German record holder. He's been away from the international scene for a little while and became a dad. It’s never been a question of talent with Meeuw, it was always consistency. Rome 2009 showed what he can do when he's on top form.

BK - Camille Lacourt looks really good in this race. He's at the head of a very impressive French backstroking group, and I can't see who touches him.

Grevers had a temporary lapse last summer, but he'll be back. If anyone can get close to LaCourt, it's going to be Grevers, but he needs to improve that consistency. The fact that Busch is leaving the Arizona program adds a wrench into finding that consistency, so we'll have to wait and see how he gets on with the new coaching staff. The good news is that he won't be swimming in Shanghai, so he'll have that extra time to settle in to the new training routines before having to face the world.

Tancock seems to be still maturing as a "swimmer" versus just an "athlete" relying on pure talent and fast-twitch muscle. This is very encouraging for him.

I'll pick the same top 3 as Tom: 1)Lacourt 2) Grevers 3) Tancock. My upset is Jeremy Stravius. As I said, the french are deep on the backstrokes, and them earning two medals would not surprise me one bit.

DR - I've marvelled many times the last few years at France's meteoric rise in backstroke since Beijing. Their best backstroker at that point was 55-low, and only that kept them out of the medley relay final.

Grevers trains mostly with Rick DeMont (same as Magnuson and for the most part Alexandrov), so he shouldn't be too much affected by the change. I think DeMont will stay at Arizona through 2012 or else Grevers will follow him. Agree with Braden's points on Tancock, though he is still looking for more consistency.

Tom mentioned Koga and Irie as possibilities, and the Russians Vyatchanin and Donets could be in the mix. Australia has Delaney and Stoeckel or possibly some young gun who can break into the mix, as well as Meeuw of Germany. Here's my wildcard: Aschwin Wildeboer. Former WR-holder, but he was fairly mediocre on the long course scene last year before he turned up with a real nice showing in Dubai. Not sure where he'll be in London, but he could be in the mix.

I'll be real original and pick the same top three: 1) Lacourt 2) Grevers 3) Tancock.

Men's 4 x 100m Relay

Does France's victory in Dubai prove that they are finally done with underperforming in the 4 x 100m Free relay? What impact will Ian Thorpe have on the Australian team?

TW - Winning a world title should help the confidence of the French team, but make no mistake, they were a fortunate to win in Dubai. The Russian's should have won the race, and had Danila Izotov got anywhere close to what he is capable of, they would have. The US team was missing Phelps and had an underperforming Nathan Adrian leading off. That won't happen in London.

For France or Russia to win the following needs to happen:

France - Alain Bernard to swim at full potential (probably leading off), continued improvement from Yannick Agnel as well as Fred Bousquet/William Meynard/Amaury Leveaux to make a step forward.

Russia - Their hopes could rest on an 18-year-old Siberian/Californian, Vlad Morozov. The Russian's have excellent depth in the 100m Free but by 2012, Morozov could be the star of the team. If he is in the Top 3 in the world when London rolls around they could go in as favourites.

As hard as I try to make a case for Russia and France to win this race, I just can't see them beating the US in London. Nathan Adrian is emerging as one of the best sprinters in the world, Phelps is getting faster and Jason Lezak isn't getting slower. It's not a bad position to be in when Ryan Lochte is your weakest link. The supporting cast of Garrett Weber-Gale, Josh Schneider, David Walters, Matt Grevers, Jimmy Feigen etc. doesn't hurt.

Prediction. 1) USA 2) Russia 3) France.

Wildcard - Australia. Ian Thorpe will strengthen the Australian team. I think he can get down to 48-low and his return should spur the other guys on. Sullivan has the talent to be the best in the world but if he continues to be injury plagued, their chances will be slim. James Magnussen and Kyle Richardson are both improving nicely.

BK - That's the beauty of the American relay. While Russia and France have to depend on this teenager and that teenager to continue development at a meteoric pace, the US is stacked. The Americans' big question mark is how long Lezak can hang on to this level, but the beauty there is that if he doesn't, they still have any number of guys to back him up that can be strong parts of a Championship relay.

Prediction  1) USA 2) Russia 3) France

Wildcard: Brazil. We all know about Cielo. If they keep sending their young sprinters to work with Brett Hawke at Auburn, good things will happen for this relay. That is, if their national federation will pull their you-know-whats out of their you-know-wheres.

DR - same prediction 1) USA, 2) Russia, 3) France

Brazil and Australia seem like the fourth and fifth best teams going in, so I'll have to go with real darkhorses - South Africa - 3/4 guys from the 2004 gold medal team coming back (Schoeman, Ferns, Townsend), and Graeme Moore and Gideon Louw are both on the rise. Don't think they'll medal but they aren't nobodies. Germany - Paul Biedermann and Steffen and Markus Deibler is a good place to start. Benjamin Starke will be a factor again this year. Also might have some young talent who can really make a mark on relays.

Big-time Darkhorse:  Belgium! I did a virtual top-three for the 400 free relay back in January, and the Belgians (Timmers, Aerents, Surgeloose, deKoninck) were second to the French (ahead of the USA). Definite potential to see some 48s this year, and from there, anything's possible. By "anything," I mean they could make the final with a great swim.

USA will definitely have Phelps, Lochte, and Adrian in London, and we'll see if Lezak can hold onto that last spot. Matt Grevers should be back on the team for London, and he could drop a nasty split. Garrett Weber-Gale has a chance to get on that team, as does American record-holder Dave Walters. Outside chances include: Berens, Robison, Jones, Schneider, McGill, Feigen, Hill, Brunelli, Savulich (probably someone else big I'm leaving off!)

For France, Bernard, Gilot, and Agnel seem like probabilities, and Bousquet or Meynard could get the last spot. Leveaux you never know. For Russia, Morozov will be the star. (I'd put them third without him.) Grechin, Lagunov, Izotov, Lobintsev, Sukhorukov, Fesikov all with chances.


  1. It really is difficult to see anyone beating Lacourt right now, unless the home crowd can give Tancock that extra boost to catch up.

    Does anyone think it likely that Donets will make the jump up to long course for 2012?

  2. Donets is a strange case. He is head and shoulders above the rest of the world in the short course 50 and 100 Back, but his best LC event has always been the 200.

    His starts and turns are superb (like Nick Thoman)... but I do wonder whether he is destined to become one of those swimmer's who become better known for their short course acheivements (like Nick Thoman?).

    Whatever the case may be, he's definitely a guy to watch out for this year (like Nick Thoman).

  3. I find it really hard to predict for the Olympics, with the World Champs still to come. Shanghai will reveal a lot, to see weather these stand out swims from Asian Games and Euros can be replicated on a grand stage.
    The 200 free is loaded. Which is awesome. Lochte could potentially drop this event and focus on the 100 back, after Peirsol's retirement, which would also grant him a spot on the 4x100 medley relay. Remember he got silver or bronze at 2007 worlds. But i think Phelps at his best will be very very tough to beat. Park's time from Asian Games amazed me, he is definitely the afstest swimmer on top of the water but his lack of underwater work is a huge flaw against some of the best dolphin kickers of all time. Biedermann is always string on the back end when the first 100 is slow. At Euros I dont think anyone split sub 52 so he was able to fly home in 53. But Park and the Americans are all out in 51s and its pretty much game over if you are out 52.5 against that. I don't think anyone can get Phelps' textile best of 1.43.8, remember that was one of the best swims of all time, at the time. You just can't go out in 51.0 and still come home in under 53. Tough stuff. Agnel has shown steady improvement and could really come into the mix pretty soon. His speed is his biggest asset against this field. The Russians Izotov and Lobinstev need to convince me in 2011 they can do it long course in jammers. Guys like Sun and Mellouli won't even bother. Bigger things for them at the end of the week. Remember Hackett never produced his best 200-400-1500 at an Olympics. They were always scattered over the years. When the stakes are that big its time to specialise.

    Lacourt is head and shoulders above the rest of the world at the moment. Would love to see him replicate those performances in Shanghai. The Japanese are threats as always (More so Koga 100m specialist) and Tancock too. Donets needs to convert to long course, because his short course stuff was outstanding. He could be a big, big mover this year. Not too sure about the Americans in this event. They have so much depth but are struggling for a standout right now. I think Gervers not being on the team this year works against him. But he did go 53.0 in 2010. I'd think Lochte is the best of them and we know he can step it up when it matters.

  4. Something about the german 4x100free-relays:
    Both, women and men, got a problem with the 4th spot.
    Of course first there's Britta Steffen. Then: Silke Lippok and Daniela Schreiber, who went under 54 at the Europeans. Good team, but Daniela Samulski retired, so who's gonna be Nr.4?
    Lisa Vitting replaced Britta Steffen at Budapest and did well - enough to beat the rest ;) But it won't be enough to medal at the Olympics... She has to improve.
    Another name is Dorothea Brandt, who's a 50m-specialist, so she needs to focus more on the 100 to get a spot.
    Behind them there are 3 or 4 other women (and girls) who are contemplable...

    Also 3 topguns with Biedermann and both Deiblers. But Nr.4? At the Europeans oldie Stefan Herbst did the job, but even in Europe you can't medal with 49,5.
    There's a real problem: Only 4 german men went under 50sec last year (Biedermann, Deibler 1+2 and Christoph Fildebrandt), so there's no real strength in deep.
    Beside them we've got two youngsters. Kevin Leithold (1992) and Maximilian Oswald (1994) who trained at quite small clubs the last years and now moved to DSV training centres, so if they can improve, they could really help our team... Dimitri Colupaev is someone who has to be mentioned, too. Junior World Champion and now training under Dave Salo at USC...

    My opinion: The girls have got a chance to medal. It's quite harder for the men.
    Finally we have to wait to the german nationals in June...

  5. Men's 200 Free, how exciting! How will Thorpe do (if he qualifies, that is)?
    My prediction: Phelps, Park, Lochte.

    As for Men's 100 Back, I thought the Japanese guys would get some more love, but apparently not. Guys like Irie and Koga. Will see what happens.
    My prediction: Lacourt, Tancock, Koga

    4X100 Relay
    My prediction: France, USA, Australia

    These Olympic discussions have been very entertaining to read.
    Thank you for posting them!!