Monday, 30 April 2012

Where does Team USA stand heading into London 2012? Freestyle Edition

We have now seen Olympic Trials in the majority of leading swimming nations, with Germany's  trials still to come May 9 - 14. There will be some noteworthy swimming events coming up over the next couple of months, but in terms of Olympic selection the attention will soon shift firmly to the US trials in Omaha in late June.

As hard as it is to say as a non-American, I can't help but feel like the Olympic trials so far in the other nations have been a support act for the main headliner... and in true rock star style, they are making us wait.

Here is a breakdown of where I see the US standing in each event, and how their stock has risen U+2191.svg/taken a fall U+2193.svg or stayed the same since Shanghai. First off, we take a look at the Freestyle events.

50m Free

Men U+2191.svg Nathan Adrian remains USA's best bet for a medal in this event and outside of Cesar Cielo's 21.38 from the Maria Lenk Trophy, won't have seen anything too concerning so far this year. Fred Bousquet won't be there which is also a plus, but Bruno Fratus' emergence just about cancels that out. Behind Adrian they have comeback kid Anthony Ervin, established guys such as Garrett Weber Gale, Jason Lezak and Cullen Jones, as well as a group of young sprinters who they will look to make a step forward (particularly Josh Schneider and Jimmy Feigen).
Women = No real change. Jessica Hardy,who finished 8th in Shanghai, was the top ranked American in 2011. A spot in the final with an extremely slim medal chance still appears to be on the cards at this point. The challenge to break into the upper echelons of the event has become harder with Fran Halsall and Ranomi Kromowidjojo joining Therese Alshammer in the 24.1s this year. The reason for the = sign and not the dreaded downward arrow is simple... Dara Torres. Until we see what shape Torres is in, the jury remains tantalisingly out.

100m Free

Men U+2193.svg The US men have been well and truly 'Magnussened'. Before Shanghai, Nathan Adrian was one of the favourites for gold, but is currently barely clinging to his place in the medal discussion. Australian's Magnussen and Roberts as well as Cesar Cielo, Brent Hayden and even Yannick Agnel all have the edge at this point in time. Realistically, Adrian needs to show up with a sub-48 second swim in Omaha to get back into the frame.

Women U+2193.svg Missy Franklin is the unknown quantity in the 100m Free right now for the US. She swam an impressive 53.63 last summer, but has since seen Ranomi Kromowidjojo (52.75) and Sarah Sjostrom (53.05) move well clear in the rankings. It remains to be seen what Franklin and/or Natalie Coughlin et al can do, but the rest of the world, particularly Europe, has taken big strides forward during and since Shanghai.

200m Free

Men = Tough event to grade. On the plus side for the US, we haven't seen any further progression from either Sun Yang or Park Tae-Hwan so far in 2012. However, Yannick Agnel's 1:44.42 from French Trials represents the biggest threat to US dominance since 2009. Agnel's time was 0.02 seconds quicker than Ryan Lochte's winning time from Shanghai, and while Lochte and Phelps are still favourites in the event, Agnel has a great shot at playing spoiler. We're also waiting to see what sort of form Paul Biedermann is in at German trials next week.
Women = Another tough grade to give. On the one hand, Camille Muffat's textile best time of 1:54.87, closely followed by Sarah Sjostrom's 1:55.23 have moved the event forward this year. However, neither time seems out of reach of Missy Franklin (1:55.06 last year) or even Allison Schmitt (1:55.83 untapered in January). Federica Pellegrini is still to show her strongest hand in 2012 and can't be discounted.

400m Free

Men U+2191.svg This may raise some eyebrows given that the US have been relatively weak in this event in recent years, but the door has been left ajar by Yannick Agnel's decision not to compete the 400m Free. Only Sun Yang has been quicker than Peter Vanderkaay's time from the Shanghai final this year, and if Vanderkaay improves in his second year in Florida he could pose an even greater challenge to Sun Yang, Park Tae-Hwan and Paul Biedermann for a medal. The US will also look to Matt McLean, Charlie Houchin or Michael Klueh to get into the reckoning for a top 8 spot in London.

Women U+2193.svg The 400m Free has really kicked into gear so far this year. Camille Muffat set a new textile best time of 4:01.13, Rebecca Adlington continues to improve her textile best and is now down to 4:02.35 and Kylie Palmer has also lowered her best to 4:03.40. Added to that group, we are still yet to see a 100% Federica Pellegrini or Lotte Friis this year. The American women have depth, but they need to improve considerably to challenge for a medal. Allison Schmitt's 4:05.90 and Katie Hoff's 4:07.00 untapered swims  are good signs, but still not in the same league as the women listed above. It may take a swim of 4:04 or 4:05 to have a chance of making the final in London.

800m Free

Women U+2191.svg There is better news for the US women in the 800m Free. Although Rebecca Adlington is faster than she was last year and Lotte Friis is still expected to be her main competition, the 800 Free hasn't seen the level of improvement that the 400m Free has. Chloe Sutton has been 8:26 already this year and Kate Ziegler's bronze medal time(8:23.36) from Shanghai has only been bettered by Adlington (8:18.54) and China's Xin Xin (8:22.76) this year. At to the mix some young Americans (Gillian Ryan, Katie Ledecky) who could take big strides this year and the Americans medal prospects still seem strong in this event.

1500m Free

Men = The US qualified two men for the 1500m final in Shanghai, but neither Chad La Tourette (5th, 14:52.36) or Peter Vanderkaay (6th, 15:00.47) could get close to the medal podium. This year has seen Park Tae Hwan swim 14:47, the emergence of Britain's Daniel Fogg (14:55) and China's Hao Yun (14:58), and the return to form of David Davies (15:00). On the plus side for the US, they have good depth in this event with several men knocking on the 15 minute barrier last year (Andrew Gemmell, Sean Ryan, Arthur Frayler, Evan Pinion, Michael Klueh, Mike McBroom, Ryan Feeley) who could be primed for a breakthrough this year.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Cesar Cielo Blasts a 21.38 50m Free - Can he be stopped in London?

(video courtesy of and swimmers daily)

Cesar Cielo hooked up a huge 50m Free swim at the Maria Lenk Trophy in Brazil. His time of 21.38 was just 0.02 seconds shy of Fred Bousquet's textile best time of 21.36 set at the 2010 European Championships.

After lowering his own textile personal best of 21.52 set at Worlds last year, it leads us to the question... In the 50m Free, can anyone stop Cielo in London?

As it stands currently Cielo is head and shoulders clear of his competitors in London. Bousquet's failure to qualify for the French Olympic team removes the only man faster than Cielo in the last 4 years.

Cielo has a number of strengths that his competitors can't currently match. His starts are sensational and he seems to have become even stronger since his move back to Brazil. To add to that, he has incredible mental strength which manifests itself during major competition finals. Since 2008 he has not lost a 50m Free in a major final (... and no, I am not including Pan Pacs as a major competition).

Here's a rundown of the main (sans-Bousquet) competition:

Bruno Fratus - Cielo's compatriot keeps his run of sub-22 second swims going. As long as he doesn't suffer a repeat of the final in Shanghai (5th - 21.96), he looks the safest choice for a medal outside of Cielo.
Nathan Adrian - The American has no shortage of talent having been 21.55 in textile, but has underperformed in recent major finals (with the exception of 2010 Pan Pacs where he beat Cielo).
James Magnussen - Last year he didn't appear to have enough speed to compete in the 50m Free, but his 21.74 swim at Australian trials dispelled that myth. Still needs to find a chunk of time to beat Cielo, but can't be written off.
Luca Dotto - The Italian was a little fortunate to make the Italian team given that he is the 3rd fastest Italian man in the event this year, but he is the silver medalist from Shanghai and at the age of 22 seems to be trending in the right direction in this event.
Florent Manaudou - Olympic medals run in the family and he made a big breakthrough last year into senior swimming at the age of 20. He's the type of swimmer that many won't think of as a potential medalist, but having been 21.86 this year has every chance in the always unpredictable 50m Free final
Andrey Grechin - Training partner of Ian Thorpe and under the tutelage of Alex Popov's old coach Gennadi Touretski. His 21.82 at Russian Trials moved him from darkhorse to serious medal contender.

To compare Cielo and Bousquet, here is the Frenchman's 21.36.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Maria Lenk Trophy

April 24 - 29

This week at the Maria Lenk Trophy Cesar Cielo gets his first chance to respond to rival James Magnussen's startling times set at the Australian Olympic trials.

As we saw last October, Cielo changed his race tactics in the 100m Free as a result of Magnussen's back end speed. At Pan Ams (at altitude) Cielo's stand out swim was his 47.04 relay split with a final 50m split of 24.53, a big shift in strategy from his homecoming split of 25.38 from Shanghai.

Unfortunately for the Brazilian, Magnussen still has the same back end speed he had in Shanghai and has added the front end speed to match (Magnussen's splits: 22.68 / 24.42 (47.10) ).

As it stands now on the eve of the Maria Lenk trophy, Magnussen is still a relay takeover faster than Cielo.

Psych Sheet
Competition Schedule

Live Streaming - Showing finals at 19:00 BRT / 1:00am BST (h/t to swimswam for the video find)

Other Highlights:

Thiago Pereira - One of the most consistent performers over the last few years in the 200m IM & 400m IM,  needs to bounce back after a disappointing World Champs.
Fred Bousquet - Must still be sore after missing out on London, and goes up against his nemesis Cielo.
Bruno Fratus - Has emerged as one of the few men that can swim consistently sub-22 seconds over 50m Free, his semi final time of 21.76 in Shanghai would have been good enough for silver in the final, however he couldn't reproduce that form and ended up 5th.
Marcelo Chierighini - The sprinter with bags of raw talent has had an extended period of time at Auburn under Brett Hawke to hone his craft, it's time to see what time he can put up in the 100m Free.
Felipe Silva - The 50m speedster has shown the ability to make a splash in the 100m. His 1:00.01 from the heats of Shanghai highlighted his ability, but he underwhelmed in the semi final with a 1:00.73.
Jeanette Ottesen / Lotte Friis / Laure Manaudou / Mireia Belmonte - All four European women have qualified for London and it will be interesting to see where they are with their training 100 days out.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Russian Championships

April 17 - 22

After a disappointing World Championships in 2011 (especially on the men's side), it is time to see how well Russia can bounce back in the year that counts the most.


Live Streams

Day 1 Finals (17:00 Moscow time / 14:00 London time / 9:00 EDT)
Day 2 Finals
Day 3 Finals
Day 4 Finals
Day 5 Finals
Day 6 Finals

The video will show the swimmers and strokes in Russian, below is a handy translation:

МОРОЗОВ Владимир - Vladimir Morozov
КОРОТЫШКИН Евгений - Evgeny Korotyshkin
ДОНЕЦ Станислав - Stanislav Donets
ВЯТЧАНИН Аркадий - Arkady Vyatchanin
СЛУДНОВ Роман - Roman Sloudnov
ЛОБАНОВ Антон - Anton Lobanov
ФАЛЬКО Григорий - Grigory Falko
ГЕЙБЕЛЬ Сергей - Sergey Geybel
ЛАХТЮХОВ Станислав - Stanislav Lakhtyukhov
ИЗОТОВ Данила - Danila Izotov
ЛОБИНЦЕВ Никита - Nikita Lobintsev
СКВОРЦОВ Николай - Nikolay Skvortsov
СУХОРУКОВ Александр - Alexander Sukhorukov
ТРИЗНОВ Александр - Alexander Triznov
ГАНИХИН Максим - Maxim Ganihin
КОНОВАЛОВ Никита - Nikita Konovalov
ГРЕЧИН Андрей - Andriy Grechin
ЛАГУНОВ Евгений - Evgeny Lagunov

ЕФИМОВА Юлия - Yulia Efimova
АРТЕМЬЕВА Валентина - Valentina Artemyeva
ЗУЕВА Анастасия - Anastasia Zueva
НЕСТЕРОВА Маргарита - Margarita Nesterova
СОКОЛОВА Елена - Elena Sokolova

баттерфляй - Butterfly
на спине - Backstroke
брасс - Breaststroke
вольный стиль - Freestyle
комплексное плавание - IM

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Women's 100m Freestyle Living Up To It's Blue Riband Billing

Photo courtesy of @aadvangroningen

Today in Eindhoven Ranomi Kromowidjojo vaulted herself back to the top of the list of favourites in the women's 100m Freestyle. Having seen Sarah Sjostrom move past the rest of the world at the end of last year, Kromowidjojo broke out with a stunning 52.75 effort. 

This time not only breaks Sjostrom's previous textile best mark of 53.05 from November, but also clears Libby Trickett's time of 52.99 set in a mixed relay back in 2007 (in a lane next to Michael Phelps).

To highlight the depth of this event, here is a list of swimmers with a legitimate medal chance (and their best time in textile). I've put them into the tiers I see them currently:

Tier 1

Ranomi Kromowidjojo - 52.75
Sarah Sjostrom - 53.05

Tier 2

Fran Halsall - 53.48
Missy Franklin - 53.63
Aleksandra Herasimenia - 53.45
Jeanette Ottesen - 53.45
Femke Heemskerk - 53.60*

Tier 3

Britta Steffen - 53.30
Natalie Coughlin - 53.40
Yi Tang - 53.71
Mel Schlanger - 53.74
Cate Campbell - 53.84
Dana Vollmer - 53.94

There will not be many (if any) events at the Olympics with a deeper final field than the women's 100m Freestyle.

* Heemskerk didn't compete in Eindhoven today, with Marleen Veldhuis swimming 53.95 today she may not have qualified for the individual 100m Free.

London 2012 Swimming Poster Contest

Tony Austin at Scaq Blog has showcased the fine work of Howard Hodgkin's London 2012 Swimming Poster.

Now, this blog is not accustomed to artistic criticism, but the poster did leave me a little underwhelmed. So I came up with my own creation which I believe took about as long as Howard Hodgkin did to create his work. Both fine examples of poster work I'll think you'll agree.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Eindhoven Swim Cup

April 13 - 15

The Eindhoven Swim Cup serves as the last chance for the Dutch to qualify for London 2012. It always throws up some fast swimming, particularly look out for the women's 100m Freestyle final on Friday.


Live Streaming

Heats start at 9:00 (8:00 London time). Finals start at 17:00 (16:00 London time)

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Olympic Heartbreak - Fumiko Kawanabe

Fumiko Kawanabe on the right after finishing 3rd in the 100m Breaststroke.
As is always the case in Olympic years, for every jubilant swimmer that makes the Olympic Games, they're are always far more cases of distraught swimmers who have dedicated years of their life towards a goal to come up just short.

Every nation that has already had their Olympic trials have their own examples, but surely none have come close to the anguish Fumiko Kawanabe must be feeling.

On Wednesday Kawanabe finished third in the 100m Breaststroke, an agonising 0.02 seconds behind Mina Matsushima. Her time of 1:07.56 put her inside the world's top 10 this year at the time and inside Japan's tough Olympic qualifying cuts.

Missing out by 0.02 seconds in one event is gut wrenching enough for one person, but then today Kawanabe finished third once again in the 200m Breaststroke. The way the race unfolded was also crushing. Kawanabe went out for the race with searing speed, turning at 100m in 1:08.88 she was a second and a half clear of the rest of the field, at 150m she still held a second advantage over her closest challenger, but she couldn't quite hold on. This time she finished 0.27 seconds behind 15 year old Kanako Watanabe in a time of 2:23.83. Her time was good enough to move her all the way up to 4th in the world this year. That's right, Kawanabe is now the 4th fastest swimmer in the world this year and also 25th fastest in the event all-time, and still missed out on making the Olympic team.

If that hasn't pulled on the heart strings quite enough, let me continue. Kawanabe was born in 1984, a full 12 years earlier than Watanabe and 7 years earlier than 100m and 200m winner Satomi Suzuki. She has never been to an Olympic games before, and at the age of 28, the chances of her carrying on/making the 2016 team seem remote at best.

Both times this week were best times for Kawanabe, so hopefully she can take some solace from that, but for all the stories of disappointment you'll see this year, you'll be hard pressed to see one as sad as Fumiko Kawanabe.

Friday, 6 April 2012

200m Breast at Japan Swim: Kosuke Kitajima 2:08.00, Ryo Tateishi 2:08.17 (With Video)

(Thanks to Swimmer's Daily and   for the video)

Three things I love about this video:

1. The incredible times both Kitajima and Tateishi lay down. Both men are inside the previous textile best time.
2. How utterly exhausted both men are after the race. It broke them.
3. Kitajima going over to console 17 year old Akihiro Yamaguchi, who had just swum the race of his life to finish in 2:09.70 (4th in the world this year) and still miss the team for London. Having the world's greatest ever men's breaststroker giving you a tap on the head has got to make you feel at least a tiny bit better about things.

I said it on Twitter, but I will say it again - With every new accomplishment Kitajima picks up, he continues to move further ahead of the chasing pack when it comes to the greatest breaststroker of all time discussion. In terms of domination in one stroke, Kitajima is in very select company.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Delving into Japan's Depth In The Men's 200m Fly

A Japanese swimmer probably won't win the Men's 200m Fly in London. They might even come away empty handed, although with the strength of Takeshi Matsuda in the event that is looking unlikely at this stage. However, no nation can compete with the depth that Japan has in the Men's 200m Butterfly.

During today's heats at Japan Swim the top four men swam 1:56s and it took 2:00.02 just to qualify 16th into the semi finals. In tonight's semi finals it took a staggering 1:57.29 to make the final in 8th position. Matsuda led the way in 1:54.19.

To put this in context, here is what it took to make the final in some of the other major swimming nations to have held their Olympic trials:

Britain - 2:00.10
Australia - 2:00.31
Canada - 2:02.75
France - 2:04.96
China (only finals results available, so 8th place in the final) - 2:01.22

The one nation missing is of course USA. They are still yet to hold their trials, but here is a recap of the 8th placed times at the last two US Nationals:

2011 National Championships - 1:59.11
2010 National Championships - 1:59.75

Having incredible depth in an event does not make a huge difference in the overall medal table, but in an event that has been dominated by Michael Phelps for over a decade and one that will soon be up for grabs once the great man retires, Japan has put itself in a tremendous position to be leading the pack in a post-Phelps world.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Kosuke Kitajima Races To A 58.90 100m Breast (With Race Video)

Kosuke Kitajima is a rock star, breaking his own Asian record by 0.01, which just so happened to be set in the 2008 Olympic final. The time is the 5th fastest of all-time and he becomes just the second man under 59 seconds in a textile suit.

Ryo Tateishi, 2nd in 59.60, moved to 2nd in the 2012 world rankings.

Kitajima has now put himself within range of Norway's Alexander Dale Oen and his time of 58.71 set in Shanghai last year and keeps alive the chance to become the first male swimmer to win the same event in three consecutive Olympics.

Dale Oen set his time off a scorching first 50m split of 27.20, compared to Kitajima's still rapid 27.69, but it's worth noting that the Japanese star brought the race home significantly faster, 31.21 to 31.51. An Olympic final showdown between the two is set to be one of the highlights of the London Olympics.

(Thanks to Swimmer's Daily for the video find and for the video itself)

Chinese Olympic Trials

Chinese Olympic Trials - April 2 - 8

Day One Final Results
Day Two Results (using Google translate - some of the names also get translated eg. Ye Shiwen becomes Ye poetry)
Day Three Results 
Day Four Results

Competition Schedule
Qualifying Criteria
Entry List

Results will might be posted at the end of each session HERE

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Japanese Olympic Trials

Expect the world rankings to have a significant Japanese presence this time next week. The always fast Japan Swim (also serving as their Olympic Trials) start tomorrow.

Among the key storylines will be Kosuke Kitajima going up against the world's deepest domestic group of Breaststrokers. He will hope to keep his dream alive of becoming the first male swimmer in history to win the same event at three consecutive Olympic games.

Also watch out for Ryosuke Irie in the 200m Backstroke. Mr Consistency over the last few years, he is the biggest threat to Ryan Lochte and based on his 1:54.02 from January could be primed to take the next step up to the American's lofty heights.

Finally, look out for a number of the talented Japanese youngsters to move themselves from the potential category, to the legitimate medal contender group. Among those to watch out for are Kanako Watanabe (200m Breaststroke), Daiya Seto, Kosuke Hagino (both 400m IM), Miyu Otsuka (400m IM) and Sayaka Akase (200m Backstroke).

Start Lists & Results
Live Timing