Ryan Napoleon
Courtesy of: Kyle Terada - USA Today Sports
By guest writer Julia Wilkinson-Minks (2008 & 2012 Canadian Olympian)

If you were to ask every swimmer in the final at World University Games in Kazan why they were there, they might all give you a completely different response. Some countries have sent their "B" team to this meet, their swimmers who failed to qualify for the World Championships team. Others teams are comprised of swimmers for whom this is the final tune-up before World Championships. And then, there are teams who are a mix of both.

Personally, I would not have wanted to swim in a foreign (and by foreign, I mean anything that is not Canada or the US) country only a few weeks before World Championships. I do, however, have to keep in mind that I am a slightly obsessive-compulsive hypochondriac who was never been that good at adjusting to strange foods and uncomfortable village accommodations. That is why I was surprised when I saw some swimmers choose to represent their countries at both competitions, although I am sure that, for them, this is the right step in their preparation for World Championships.


That being said, it is a mixed bag when it comes to the preparation for Kazan. Even within a single relay, some swimmers might be completely tapered and shaved down, others are stepping up on the blocks with hairy legs and sore shoulders. That adds a whole new element to the competition.

Russia stormed their home pool in three of the four finals this evening, including both relays. The men's 400 freestyle relay, which included all four of the men who won a bronze medal for Russia last summer at the Olympics, smashed the American's meet record and finished in 3:10.88.

In the women's relay, the Russians took gold ahead of the Americans and Canadians. Megan Romano, a member of the US World Championships team, anchored for the United States. Another woman bound for Barcelona, Brittany MacLean, swam the third leg of Canada's relay. Both these women will be on the blocks for their country's relays in Barcelona, and no doubt will benefit from this extra experience racing a relay on the international stage.

Another woman who will be heading to Barcelona, Yana Martynova, won Russia's first gold medal of the competition, in the women's 400 IM. Her time of 4:39.02 puts her half a second outside of top ten in the world this year.

Ryan Napoleon proved that being left off the Australian World Championships roster was not going to keep him from reaching the podium this summer. Although I'm sure he would have rather had a chance at the podium in Barcelona, his third-place finish at World Championship Trials relegated him to the Australian World University Games team instead. Although his time tonight was not quite as fast as the 3:46.26 that he posted at Trials, he won the race and earned Australia's first gold medal of the Games in the pool.

From "B" team swimmers who hold top ten positions in the world, to World Championship team members who are on the last leg of their preparation, looking at the results from World University Games is comparing the incomparable. Shaved and tapered versus un-rested might as well be apples versus oranges.

Julia Wilkinson-Minks is a two-time Olympian for Canada and was a finalist in the 200-meter IM at the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2010, she became Texas A&M's first ever NCAA champion in swimming when she won the 100-yard freestyle. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Speech Communication. Julia retired from competitive swimming following the London Olympic Games and now lives in Texas with her husband Shane.

Follow her on twitter @juliah2o