Commentary by Jeff Commings
PHOENIX, Arizona, July 27. THE American sprinters keeping an eye on the results of the Commonwealth Games final in the 100 free should not take an easy breath. James Magnussen’s 48.11 to take gold is just a prelude for what I believe will be a monster performance in front of a home crowd next month at the Pan Pacific championships, when he goes head to head with the Americans.
The Australians, with few exceptions, are not swimming as fast as they did last April at their nationals. Emily Seebohm didn’t break 59 seconds to win the 100 back yesterday. Alicia Coutts is off her game. Part of that could be chalked up to the illness that appears to be running around the team, but I believe most of the Aussies are saving up for next month in the Gold Coast, where Team USA will be looking for a big battle with the Australians.
I strongly believe Magnussen is preparing for sub-48 seconds in the 100 free. He’ll need it to beat Nathan Adrian next month. Cameron McEvoy, too, could dip under in what would be a stunner for Australia. In the past two years, Magnussen has failed to improve on his Aussie trials times at the big international meet, and I believe if there were any hiccups today in the final, he’ll have them corrected for Pan Pacs.
And what about that 800 free relay? I’ll come back to the Scots and the South Africans in a minute, but the Americans are going to be close to breaking seven minutes, and the Australians had the promise to do the same today. But McEvoy fell off the pace about an hour after the 100 free final, making it one of the more exciting relays in recent history. If Australia wants to put a scare into the Americans in the relay, the average splits will have to be faster than 1:47, especially the leadoff leg.
Our medal predictions did not include South Africa in any of the relay medal spots. Now, the Springboks have won silver in the men’s 400 free relay and bronze in the men’s 800 free relay in Glasgow. Though they don’t have an extremely strong backstroke leg, I believe we could see South Africa on the medal podium in the 400 medley. Congrats to South Africa for rebuilding relay strength, and going beyond the sprint free relay.
Scotland, too, is where it’s at for the 200 freestyle. That was a superb 800 free relay for them, buoyed by Calum Jarvis, Dan Wallace and Robbie Renwick. When it comes time to represent Great Britain internationally, it appears the bulk of that relay will be Scottish.
I hope Fran Halsall decides to swim at the European championships next month. I would love to see her and Sarah Sjostrom battle in the 50 free. They are the only two to go under 24 seconds in textile, and with the two in adjoining lanes, one or both might find themselves the new world record holder. It’s time for Britta Steffen’s rubber suit-fueled 23.73 to go down.
I want to publicly apologize to Siobhan-Marie O’Connor. Sometimes I think a young swimmer is a little too green to perform well against veterans at the major championships, but Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky should have taught me to never underestimate the gift of youth. O’Connor is having the meet of her life in Glasgow with a gold and three silvers, and is quickly becoming a name to watch. Her first name is pronounced very different from the spelling: It’s SHA-VONE. Remember that when she’s standing on the medal podium next year at the world championships.