MONTREAL, Canada, July 14. THE FINA Masters world championships set for early August in Montreal will easily top all previous editions in terms of star power, with the presence of Olympic medalist Arkady Vyatchanin on the psych sheets.
Vyatchanin has signed up for the 50, 100 and 200 backstrokes, as well as the 100 fly and 200 free. He has been putting in a lot of work out of the pool this year, as the former Russian standout continues to shop for a country to represent after ditching his home country for international competitions in April 2013. He’s said he hopes to find a country in time to swim at the 2015 world championships, which are in Russia. The fortunate thing about swimming at the Masters world championships is that athletes swim for their clubs, not their countries, so Vyatchanin can still swim as The Man Without A Country while representing the New York Athletic Club.
Vyatchanin is ranked fifth in the world among elite swimmers in the 200 backstroke with a 1:55.30 from the Arena Grand Prix meet in Santa Clara, Calif., last month. He’s also ninth in the world in the 100 back with his 53.81 from the Arena Grand Prix in Charlotte. Not in recent history has a swim from the Masters world championships been fast enough to be considered for the overall world rankings, but Vyatchanin is likely to do it.
He’ll also put a sledgehammer to the Masters world records in the 30-34 age group in all five of his events. Naturally, his backstroke times already exceed the listed world records, but he has to swim them in a sanctioned Masters meet for them to count. His seed time of 1:53.04 in the 200 free is slightly better than the world mark of 1:53.15 posted in 2009 by Australian Olympic medalist Daniel Kowalski and his 100 fly seed time of 53.57 would beat Romanian Olympian Stefan Gherghel’s record of 54.19.
Another multiple Olympic medalist is registered for the meet with aims of winning more hardware. Josh Davis is returning to Masters worlds after cleaning up in the 2006 edition and is seeded first in the 100 free just ahead of fellow USA Swimming national junior team alum Brian Jacobsen. At age 39, Jacobsen was the second-oldest competitor at the 2012 U.S. Olympic swimming trials and has continued to show remarkable times since then. Also in that 100 free for the 40-44 age group is Noel Strauss, who impressed at a young age by setting multiple national age group records that lasted for more than a decade.
Three male swimmers named as the 2014 Masters Swimmers of the Year by Swimming World Magazine are scheduled to race in Montreal. After becoming the first Frenchman to be named as one of the World Masters Swimmer of the Year, Nicolas Granger will be chasing his world records in the 200 IM (2:11.22) and 400 IM (4:44.76) in the 45-49 age group as well as attempt to add the 100 free, 100 breast and 200 free marks to his list of conquests. Expect Richard Burns to also make a run at some world records in the 70-74 age group. He’ll try to beat his world records in all three backstrokes (33.59, 1:15.13, 2:44.59) and the 50 fly (31.42) and possibly add his name to the 100 fly.
Tim Shead is also looking to add to his world record haul in Montreal. He’ll swim all three breaststroke events, the 200 IM and 200 back. After breaking five short course meters world records in 2012 and 2013, he’ll be looking to add long course records in the 60-64 age group to his tally.
The women’s events will also feature three people on the recent Swimming World Magazine list of the World Masters Swimmers of the Year. Yoshihiko Osaki of Japan set two long course world records in the 75-79 last year in the 400 free and 200 IM, and will look to add to that tally. She’s racing in the 200 back, 200 free, 50 free, 100 back and 800 free in Canada.
Laura Val, a perennial presence in the World Masters Swimmers of the Year list, is set to do more damage to the world records in the 60-64 age group. The 63-year-old owns all the records except for breaststroke in that age group, and look for her in the 50, 100, 200 and 400 freestyles as well as the 100 fly.
Erika Braun will have some tough competition in the 100 free, seeded first in the 40-44 age group ahead of Costa Rican Olympic champion Claudia Poll. Braun owns the world record in the 100 free with a 58.04 and will likely bring Poll in under the 1:00 barrier as well. Braun also owns the world record in the 50 fly and will attempt to lower that time, as well as chase Edith Ottermann’s world record of 26.44 in the 50 free. Braun’s best time is a 26.32 from 2012, which she swam to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Trials at 40 years old.
Poll won the 200 free at the 1996 Olympics, the only athlete from Costa Rica to earn Olympic gold. She’ll look to take down a nine-year-old world record of 2:09.28 in the 200 free, held by the legendary Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen. Poll is seeded with a 2:10.32.
Another Olympian of note in the women’s meet is Linley Frame of Australia. Frame, the 1991 world champion in the 100 breast, made a comeback bid for the 2012 Olympic team but has stayed in the water since, posting world records in the 50 and 100 breast in 2012. Frame is swimming all three breaststrokes in Montreal, but will have a challenge in the 200 from Brooke O’Connor, whose seed time exceeds the listed world record of 2:38.44 by 1984 Olympic silver medalist Susan (Rapp) Von Der Lippe.