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Courtesy of: Peter H. Bick
Courtesy of: Peter H. Bick
Commentary by Jeff Commings
BARCELONA, Spain, July 28. IT happens at every meet. Someone we expect to win races and swim super-fast falls prey to illness. No one is invulnerable, no matter how tough they train or how many abdominal muscles they can show off.
Caitlin Leverenz was notably ill at last spring's NCAA championships, and didn't have the kind of meet she wanted to close out her college career. But most memorably for me was Natalie Coughlin's flulike symptoms that kept her from accumulating the massive number of medals she was predicted to win at the 2003 world championships.
This year, that nasty bug has caught Americans Nathan Adrian and Dana Vollmer. The USA camp has confirmed that they are not feeling 100 percent, but did not say whether these are serious illnesses or little viruses that will pass them by the end of the week.
No matter what the severity, both were less than stellar tonight. Vollmer, the defending 100 fly gold medalist, qualified fourth for tomorrow's final. Normally that would not be cause for alarm, but Vollmer tends to swim strong and aggressive through each swim. After prelims, she told the media that it was nerves, but after semifinals, she admitted a bug might be holding her back. No matter who you are, it's not easy to swim through that. Vollmer will need a great night's rest and a strong mental focus to be able to race against a talented field tomorrow night. She has the mental strength to do it, but will her body be able to do what her mind dictates?
As the leadoff swimmer for the United States, Adrian could only muster a 47.95 swim. It's not quite the time we expected from Adrian, but he got a gift in the fact that he was the only swimmer under 48 seconds in the opening leg. I would have chalked up the (relatively) slow swim to first-race jitters if I hadn't been in the facility to watch the medal ceremony.
At first, Adrian was covering his mouth and sipping water while getting his medal. I wasn't sure what was going on. I thought he just had a dry mouth. But I saw him go behind the medal stand and vomit, thankfully away from most of the spectators in the arena. I have seen many swimmers vomit after races. If you "leave it all in the pool," as they say, you might feel the need to blow chunks. I've never done it, but I have seen it done more times than I care to count.
But Bob Bowman, the men's head coach, told the media Nathan was not feeling well. When the head coach says one of his star swimmers is not feeling well, you know it's serious. Whatever the illness is -- whether food poisoning, stomach bug or full-blown flu -- the upside is that Adrian is not racing again until the 100 freestyle prelims on Wednesday. That's two full days of bed rest, with a little bit of swimming in between.
He can think of James Magnussen while he's getting rid of this bug, and remember that Magnussen was very sick a few weeks before the 2011 world championships and did amazing things in Shanghai.
World record scare! I always love watching swimmers legitimately chase world records, and Katie Ledecky had that 400 free world record of 3:59.15 in her sights tonight. On pace for about 350 meters, Ledecky didn't care that Federica Pellegrini had a rubber suit on her back to carry her to the first sub-4:00 400 freestyle in 2009. Ledecky wanted to be the first person to do it in a textile suit, and boy did she do it! I can't fathom a 3:59.82, and it happened right in front of me! I was amazed by Ledecky's ability to hold on to the pace as well as she did. Essentially, she had a 3:58 in her sights, but needed to work on her middle 300, when her splits were in the 30-mid range. But she's only 16 years old. There's plenty of time to work on holding more even splits. Kudos to her and coach Bruce Gemmell.
Boys do cry. After exiting the pool in the final of the 400 freestyle Sun Yang became visibly emotional when he greeted a television journalist in the mixed zone. He hugged this journalist for about 30 seconds, his body heaving as other journalists looked on. I'm not sure if many were aware of the agony Sun has dealt with in the post-Olympic year, with changing coaches, being told who to date (or not to date) and essentially being treated like a child for the past 10 months. Anyone who can put all that aside and go 3:41.59 in the 400 free deserves to be as emotional as he wants.
A little humble pie. I was 1-for-4 in predicting the gold medal winners in tonight's finals in our pre-meet predictions. I was clearly off in thinking Camille Muffat could win the 400 free, but I don't think anyone expected her to go 4:07 tonight. But predicting Sun Yang's 400 free was easy; the relays, not so much. I got the top three correct in the women's 400 free relay, with me picking Australia to beat the Americans. I said "No country will be able to match the one-two punch of the Campbell sisters," and for 350 meters, I was right. But I wrote that preview before seeing what Megan Romano did at the World University Games, and for her to be able to do it twice in two weeks is astounding. It looks like she'll be the freestyler for the USA on the medley relay, and it's well deserved. As for the men, well, I wasn't sure the French had the firepower to win again, especially because Agnel would not be as fast and the others three couldn't replicate last year's drama. I was wrong. And I think Adrian's illness (and Ryan Lochte's 47.80 split) opened the door for Russia, Australia and France to win. It was mass hysteria here in the Palau Sant Jordi. You can tell the French love their swimmers, and that was evident not only in the men's relay, but in every event the French swam. They have more support than the Spanish, which is probably not a surprise given that France is right next door, but still a great thing to see.