Saturday, 5 May 2012

Where does Team USA stand heading into London 2012? Butterfly 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. This time we take a look at the Butterfly events.

100m Butterfly

Men U+2191.svg Big win so far for the Americans in the 100m Fly this year. Michael Phelps was always likely to head to London as the favourite, but the rest of the world haven't shown any kind of form that will scare Phelps. World silver medalist Konrad Czerniak, 52.07 this year, hasn't been able to get close to his 2011 best of 51.15. Milorad Cavic, who might still represent the biggest threat to Phelps, swam 52.21 as a guest at the Olympic pool in March. Australia's Christopher Wright leads the world in 2012 with 51.67. At 23 years old Wright stands a decent chance of dropping more time in London, but it will be tough for him to get down to the 50-point it will require to get close to Phelps. Tyler McGill, or whoever else takes the second US spot, has a strong chance of making the 100m Fly a US 1-2, or at least repeating the 1-3 from Shanghai.

Women = The status of the women's 100m Fly has stayed largely the same for the US. After her 56.47 textile best time in Shanghai, Dana Vollmer became the heavy favourite for gold in London and that has not changed. What has changed is that one of Vollmer's main competitors Sarah Sjostrom has closed the gap with her 56.79 swim this year. Britain's Ellen Gandy (57.25 this year) and Fran Halsall (57.56) have opposite strengths with Halsall's searing early speed and Gandy's stamina, but if both get their races right they have a chance. Alicia Coutts is slower at this point of the year than last year which is slightly worrying for Australia, but she has shown over the last few years that she can rise to the occasion at major competitions. Lu Ying is also down on her best time from last year but is safely in the mid-57 range. The second US spot looks likely to be heading to one of Natalie Coughlin, Christine Magnuson or Claire Donahue.

200m Butterfly

Men U+2191.svgAnother positive event so far this year for the US men. A number of darkhorses haven't shown the development expected from them so far in 2012. Hungary's Bence Biczo, a 1:54.79 swimmer last year hasn't cracked the 1:56 barrier yet. Chad Le Clos has swum 1:55.30 this year but will likely still need to find a second and a half to be in contention for a medal. Takeshi Matsuda remains the biggest threat to Phelps and he matched his best time in 2011 of 1:54.01 at Japanese trials. The only other man to have broken 1:55 this year is Nick D'Arcy who will certainly be in the medal hunt, but it would take a brave man to bet on him (or anyone) beating Phelps in his pet event. The stage could be set for a second American to get on the podium, whether that is Tyler Clary, Bobby Bollier or A.N.Other.

Women = The US have been boosted by the emergence of Camille Adams and her 2:06.76 untapered swim in January. It remains to be seen what level of improvement Adams can progress to, but it gives the US women a much needed shot in the arm in this event. Despite having two swimmers in the semi-final at Worlds, the US failed to get a swimmer into the final. The job isn't getting any easier either with the leap forward Japan's Natsumi Hoshi has made this year, taking her time down to 2:04.69 and joining Liu Zige and Jiao Liuyang on textile 2:04s. Ellen Gandy and Jemma Lowe are safely qualified and will have the home crowd support. Other threats will come from Zsu Jakabos, Mireia Belmonte, Jess Schipper and Katinka Hosszu. It still looks like an uphill battle for USA to medal in this one.


  1. vote who will win the men and women 200m free

  2. I largely agree with the analysis.. I'm concerned about Natalie Coughlin in the 100fly where she's likely to make the team but struggle to medal in london. It'l probably take a sub 57 just to medal and Vollmer, Coutts and Sjostrom are the medal favourites on paper at least.. The 100fly semi will clash with the 400FRR and with the 100back semi the following day. I dont know if Coughlin at 29years of age will pull that off, let alone medal...

  3. I don't really think think the US mens' prospects have gone up; I mean, Phelps can't do any better than gold. Also, Polish and German trials haven't happened yet.

  4. lol you're right. Phelps can't do any better then gold. haha

  5. College swimmers like Camille are not necessarily 'untapered'. They are in the midst of a competition season that is equally or more important than the LC comps. THey are quite capable of doing good swims in Jan & April
    particularly when there is an hiatus.

    But the w 200 has only improved in numbers 2.06 & under since 2005 when Jessica & Otilya touched. in 2.05s. What will be difficult is getting through more competitive heats/semis . So it will be she that mnages best with most in reserve. Shanghai was pretty tight also & could have gone any which way amongst 5 girls.

    In all -maybe except Phelps who has all the males flustered a micro decision within the race can swing lose it for most. Only Phelps is superior enough to overcome one of these annoyingly human occurrences.

  6. The nice thing for Natalie is that the 100 Fly Final is the first event of the Day 2 Finals and the 100 Back Semi is the last individual event that night, so it's possible for her to be at 100% for that first race, the butterfly final and then she should be able to get into the top 8 for the following day's Backstroke Final. I agree though, that right now, medaling in the 100 fly will be very difficult and I don't know if she will attempt those previous swims or solely focus on her 100 back. Olympic Trials and how she preforms will give us a much better idea.

  7. What the US needs is more young talent. The same people are at the top but the slew of young and fresh talent that used to be the US trademark before every OLympics is not as visible currently. It will be interesting to see the OTs this year

  8. I would argue that the stocks for w100fly has gone down. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with anything Vollmer has done, but the other Americans really haven't done much. Magnuson has decreased in stock.

    Internationally, the British swimmers have strengthened and so has Sjostrom. To me, Sjostrom is probably the primary reason why I believe the w100fly American stock should go down. Her time of 56.7 is about the time I expected from her last summer. Post race she was also quoted saying he was swimming with tired arms. Do I expect her to be near her WR? It's doubtful, but Vollmer is definitely not going to go unchallenged from Sjostrom.

  9. I agree with anonymous,
    the London olympics is definitely a sort of changing of the guards in US swimming, with many world leaders over the last decade presumably leaving the sport.

    This "mass extinction" really leaves many spots on the team open. I agree that there should be guys stepping up and fill these shoes, but in a lot of ways they haven't arrived yet. There's certainly a lot of names like Ryan Murphy, David Nolan et al that can step up for the men, we'll see how good they are crunch time this summer, and even more signfiicantly, next summer.

  10. As long as there is $ involved (and there should be), expect Team USA to have an older/post grad National Team. These swimmers have made the sport their livelihood and they should be rewarded.

    1. Yes especially when the graduate job market is bleak.

      However that alsp works for many Euro countries & GB.