PHOENIX, Arizona, February 16. IT'S deja vu all over again.
Wasn't it about this time last year when we were talking about a 15-year-old and how awesome she's going to be in a few months? In 2012, that was Katie Ledecky, and we all saw how she backed up the expectations with a gold medal in the 800 freestyle in the London Olympics. In 2013, we can't deny any longer that Becca Mann is going to be another major force in distance swimming.
Her 800 freestyle tonight in Orlando at the Arena Grand Prix was a marvel to behold. With a 4:12.50 split at 400 meters, I was worried. The split was only two seconds slower than the time she swam last night to win the 400 free. That's fast.
And what had me shaking my head in disbelief was the 4:14.87 she swam in the final 400 meters. That's really fast. That's about what Rebecca Adlington split in her final 400 at the Olympics to win the bronze medal. In fact, 4:14.8 would have ranked fifth among all Olympic finalists' splits last year.
Maybe I shouldn't compare Mann's swim tonight to the swims done in the Olympics. It's not fair to the Olympians. They did those swims completely shaved and tapered. Mann has said repeatedly that she did not have one easy workout at Clearwater Aquatics before this meet, and even though 15-year-olds have an amazing ability to recover that those in their 20s don't have, it makes me shudder to see what she'll uncork this summer.
If the 800 free was mind-blowing, Mann's 200 IM was awe-inspiring. Seven minutes after completing the most grueling Olympic swimming event for women, Mann hopped up for the 200 IM, and won with a 2:15.25. In the scheme of things, that time won't make Caitlin Leverenz, Ye Shiwen or anyone else lose sleep tonight, but it shows how incredibly talented this young girl is.
It is always dangerous to spotlight young swimmers, especially at 15 years old. It's a lot of pressure to put on someone so young. Janet Evans, Amanda Beard and Krisztina Egerszegi are some of the few young Olympians who have been able to find major success as 15-year-olds (or 14, in Egerszegi's case) and continue to perform well as adults. I hope that is true for Mann. She might find herself in Ledecky's shadow for now, but for how long?
Watch this SwimmingWorld.TV interview with Mann after winning the 400 IM on Saturday: