Monday, 30 May 2011

German Nationals, Mare Nostrum Swimming Tour, British Nationals

German Nationals, 31 May - 5 June

Germany's swimming stars get their first and only chance to stamp their tickets to Shanghai.

Start List
Qualifying Times - Very tough!

Mare Nostrum Tour

A great sneak preview of some of the world's elite swimmers ahead of July's World Championships.

Barcelona, 4-5 June

Start List

Canet, 8-9 June

Start List

Monaco, 11-12 June

Start Lists and Results

British ASA Nationals, 14-17 June

British swimmers get another chance to make the team for Shanghai. While many swimmers have already booked their place on the plane, other stalwarts of British Swimming such as Jo Jackson, Lizzie Simmonds, Kris Gilchrist and Robbie Renwick are yet to nail down individual spots.


Sunday, 22 May 2011

Japan Open - Day Three - Kanako Watanabe

A New Star Is Born?

The labels we have for supremely talented youngsters are often overused, for every 'next big thing' that emerged as a world beater (ie. Michael Phelps, Aaron Peirsol, Ian Thorpe), you will find scores more that failed to reach the lofty heights that many pre-emptively forecasted. This weekend in Japan, 14-year-old Kanako Watanabe has set herself up for such a label. After a solid 31.83 in the 50 Breast and an exceptional 1:07.10 in the 100 Breast, Watanabe saved her best performance for last as she clocked a truly world class 2:23.90 in the 200 Breast. To put the time in some context, it is 0.4 seconds faster than Amanda Beard's fifth-placed finish at last year's Pan Pacs and moves Watanabe to second in this year's world rankings.

Unfortunately Japan has already selected their World Championship team, and Watanabe isn't on it after just missing out on selection at Japanese Nationals. She will, however, have a chance to compete at the World Junior Championships in Peru in August.

If everything goes according to plan, she should continue to improve. Leisel Jones broke through as a 15-year-old and developed into one of the greatest ever female Breaststrokers. Agnes Kovacs won silver in Atlanta aged 15, before winning gold in Sydney four years later. Amanda Beard won silver in the 100 and 200 Breast in Atlanta, aged 14, and then took Gold in Athens in the 200 Breaststroke. She is certainly not the first 14-year-old Breaststroke star to hit the big time. Women's Breaststroke, however, has also seen its fair share of youngsters who shone brightly for a short amount of time. Whether it is physiological or mental, some Breaststrokers struggle to come close to the times they were doing as 14 or 15 year olds.

Two reasons for optimism a) Japan leads the world in men's Breaststroke, clearly they have a great programme going over there, b) Watanabe has some fierce domestic competition in the forms of Satomi Suzuki and Rie Kanetou that should help her continue to progress.

Other Day Three Highlights

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Japan Open - Day Two

Day Two at the Japan Open is in the books. No time to waste, let the bullets fly...

 1996 born Kanako Watanabe followed up yesterday's 1:07.10 effort in the 100 Breast with a win in the 50 Breaststroke. Her time of 31.83 set a new Junior record.  Watanabe falls more into the category of a 100/200 specialist (ie. Rebecca Soni), than a 50/100 swimmer (ie. Jessica Hardy). Tomorrow's 200 should be a cracker after last month's 2:25.59 at Japanese Nationals. Another world ranked top 10 swim (sub 2:25) could  be on the cards.

 Ryosuke Irie won the 200 Back in a blazing time of 1:54.55. That time is the third fastest swim since the suit ban and only Ryan Lochte and Aarson Peirsol have swum faster in a textile suit. Right now the 200 Back is shaping up to be a terrific race in Shanghai. It's hard to look past Ryan Lochte, but Irie looks like his strongest challenger. 10 days ago Tyler Clary also reported on twitter that he swam 1:54.7 in jammers... in training! Those three look to have a lead on the rest of the world right now.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Japan Open - Day One - ジャパンオープン2011(50m)

The Japan Open (ジャパンオープン2011(50m))always seems to throw up some fast swims and the opening day was no exception. Here's a look at those who got the meet off with a bang:

• Aya Terakawa takes top billing after the joint second fastest 100m Backstroke of 2011. Her time of 59.35 sits behind only her own effort of 59.17 at Japanese Nationals. The swim also solidifies Terakawa as one of the most consistent 100 Backstrokers in the world right now. She is the only woman to have swum inside 60 seconds on three occasions this year, a feat she accomplised an incredible seven times last year. She won't go into Shanghai as the favourite, but don't be surprised to see her take home gold.

• Ryosuke Irie is another Japanese Backstroker who will be pushing for medals at Worlds. Today's effort of 53.11 is just a hundredth of a second off his own 2nd ranked time in the world. Irie's consistency on the major stage has come under scrutiny after an off performance at Pan Pacs, but in the non-Camille Lacourt tier of 100 Backstrokers, on this year's evidence, Irie is at the top of that pile.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

This Week's Racing

Polish Nationals - May 19-22
(Feat. Konrad Czerniak, Pawel Korzeniowski, Marcin Cieslak, Radoslaw Kawecki, Otylia Jedrzejczak)

Results and Startlists

Live Video

Japan Open - May 20-22
(Feat. Kosuke Kitajima, Naoya Tomita, Ryo Tateishi, Ryosuke Irie, Junya Koga, Takeshi Matsuda, Aya Terakawa, Shiho Sakai, Natsumi Hoshi)

Results and Startlists

British swimmers getting in some long course tune-up racing before June's National Champs...

Northampton May Meet - Results / Startlist
City of Sunderland May Open 2011 - Results / Starlist
Millfield Meet of Legends - Starlist

Naoya Tomita Gives This Blog A Shout-Out

It was only a matter of time before my public admiration for all things Japanese swimming was rewarded with a shout-out, and here it is. Naoya Tomita, World SC Champion and textile best time holder in the 200m Breast no less, gave his reasons for not swimming the event at this weekend's Japan Open as:
" build Speed and Endurance..."
So he's basically pulling out of the event to help this blog. Hey, I don't understand the reasoning, but I love the gesture. It's this type of selfless act that will keep me singing the praises of Japanese swimmers.

This is not a one-off event either, elite swimmers are bending over backwards to give dedications to this very site. Back in January, I was credited with helping Chloe Sutton during Open Water races:
“My biggest weakness is my lack of aggression. It’s just not in me to retaliate when others get nasty. I rely on my Speed and Endurance to get me through.”
My pleasure Chloe.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Ian Thorpe Talks About His Comeback

Ian Thorpe is currently in the UK helping the BBC and British Swimming promote their Big Splash initiative. While over here, Thorpe has been training in Manchester, home to his 3:40.08 400m Free time, arguably his greatest ever swim. He has also written his most in-depth account of his comeback so far. Here it is in its entirity:

From BBC Sport

By Ian Thorpe

We have a rule of thumb in swimming: for every month you have off it takes about three months of training to get back to your previous condition.

I'm not sure what the time frame is when you've been out of action for five years like me, but it can't be too good!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Swimming at the 2012 Olympic Games - Day 5 Roundtable (Men's)

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.

Men's 200m Backstroke

The Americans have dominated this race for a long time. Ryan Lochte is a stud, but Peirsol is retired, and Japan's Irie now holds the fastest textile mark in history. Who gives way first? Or is there a darkhorse that has the chance to upset two of the best ever?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Previewing the Charlotte Ultra Swim

(This is a 50-swim-off-free-zone. You can read more about that here, and then show off your flashy predictive skills in the vote above.)

Psych SheetHERE


Live Video - HERE

Return of Spoff (and fellow Brits)

This meet marks the first time Gemma Spofforth will be racing competitively since British Nationals. Despite securing her spot on the 100m Back, Spofforth clearly wasn’t at her best. It subsequently came to light that she was enduring yet more family tragedy as the competition took place.

It’s good to see Spofforth racing again after she complained in Manchester of a lack of race practice. That shouldn’t be an issue in Charlotte as she faces the sub-60 second likes of Missy Franklin, Natalie Coughlin, Elizabeth Pelton and Rachel Bootsma.

Regarding this competition, in Spofforth’s own salami and fennel infused words ‘…this weekend’s meet in Charlotte, the annual meet that we dread year after year, but for some reason I feel like we are getting slightly ready to swim faster this year than all previous.’

When it comes to in-season racing, swimming doesn’t get tougher than this.

Other Brits in action in Charlotte: fellow Floridians Steph Proud & Marco Loughran, Arizona’s Simon Burnett, Robert Holderness and Ian Hulme, now swimming for Club Wolverine in Michigan.

Other Highlights

• What shape is Amanda Beard in?

• What sort of form will Conor Dwyer be in after falling ill at what could have been a historic NCAAs?

• Just how good can Ireland’s Barry Murphy be in the 100m Breast?

• Checking in on the progress of Watchlist members Ryan Murphy, Sean Ryan, Lia Neal, Camryne Morris and Gillian Ryan.

• Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Chloe Sutton, Peter Vanderkaay, Natalie Coughlin, Rebecca Soni, Jessica Hardy, Matt Grevers... you get the idea, this event is stacked with some of the best US swimming has to offer.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

New Vote: Who Will Win The 50m Free Swim-Off At The Charlotte Ultra Swim?

Who Will Win The 50m Free Swim-Off At The Charlotte Ultra Swim?

After a dead heat in the 50m Free at US Nationals last year, Josh Schneider and Cullen Jones will swim-off on Thursday at the Charlotte Ultra Swim. At stake, a spot on the US World Championship team. For one night only, swimming morphs into a boxing contest. Two heavyweight's going head-to-head.

The Contenders 

Friday, 6 May 2011

Yannick Agnel To Miss the 400m Free at the World Championships

After being struck down by a lung infection, Yannick Agnel has been forced to change his event schedule at the World Championships. Despite being ranked 2nd in the world this year, the Frenchman will drop the 400m Free (and likely the 4 x 100 Free) from his programme. He still plans to race in the 200m Free and 4 x 200m Free.

Clearly a big loss for Agnel and the entire French team. He wasn't a lock for a medal, however China's Sun Yang, South Korea's Park Tae Hwan and Agnel were looking like the clear Top 3 for Shanghai. Agnel's withdrawal from the event opens the door for the likes of Ous Mellouli, Peter Vanderkaay, Ryan Napoleon and Paul Biedermann.

(If he is forced to pull out of the relay) His loss will also be felt on France's 4 x 100m Free relay. He added a much needed stability to the French team, which was highlighted by his final leg on the gold medal winning relay in Dubai. The demons that have so often haunted this French relay might just start creeping back in again...

Jessica Hardy Makes The 100m Breaststroke Interesting Again

At the Brazilian Championships today, Rebecca Soni had her closest race since the switch to textile suits. The challenge came from a rejuvenated Jessica Hardy.  Soni was still able to win the race by 0.34 seconds (1:05.79 to 1:06.13), which isn’t exactly ‘close’… but the fact that Hardy has regained her form in this event makes things a lot more interesting looking ahead to London. Although Soni is currently in a class of her own, Hardy’s pure speed poses a legitimate threat.

This result should also shift Hardy’s focus back onto Breaststroke. For a while it looked as though she was morphing exclusively into a sprint Freestyler.

During the recent Olympic roundtable discussion I took Yulia Efimova ahead of Hardy, but after being cleared to compete in 2012 and today’s swim I’m moving Hardy up to 3rd, behind Soni and Jones. For anyone playing along at home, I suggest moving Hardy up a few spots on your cheat sheet. Unfortunately the American didn’t qualify in this event for Shanghai so we won’t get a chance to see all the contenders rumble until we reach the big show next year.

Best to let Hardy have the last word: