COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado, February 6. MISSY Franklin won't have much to reflect on swimming in her final high school competition, as she will board a plane to compete at the Orlando stop of the Arena Grand Prix next week.
Dana Vollmer, the reigning Olympic champion in the 100 butterfly, will make her first appearance in the race pool since winning three gold medals in London. Vollmer is continuing to train with Teri McKeever and her stable of swimming stars in Berkeley, Calif., and next week's meet will mark the beginning of her quest to defend her world title in the 100 fly later this year in Barcelona.
As for Franklin, this will mark her third-straight appearance at the Arena Grand Prix, having raced in Minneapolis and Austin. Franklin is the overall points leader in the female standings, though her upcoming participation in NCAA swimming means she won't be able to collect any payday from participating. The new NCAA rules that will allow student-athletes to earn a portion of their winnings to cover travel expenses do not go into effect until August 1.
Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer are also scheduled to attend the meet, coming down from intense altitude training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Lochte is the overall leader in the men's points standings, and will likely continue to build on that lead in Orlando.
Tyler Clary, the reigning Olympic champion in the 200 backstroke, will also be in Orlando to get back into racing shape … at least in the pool. Recently, Clary participated in the Skip Barber Racing School IndyCar Academy to fulfill his aspirations of being a race car driver. But the 2016 Olympics is his most important goal, and Orlando marks his second meet since the London Olympics.
A small international field will attend to get in crucial racing experience before the world championships. Canada's Ryan Cochrane, the silver medalist in the 1500 freestyle in London, was dominant in the Austin stop of the Grand Prix, and could be just as dominant in Orlando. Also scheduled to attend is China's Wu Peng, a training partner of Clary's at the University of Michigan's postgraduate program. No word yet on whether the team's newest addition, Japan's Junya Koga, also plans to race in Florida.
Prelims start at 9 a.m. with finals set for a 6 p.m. start. Arena, the new title sponsor of the meet, is allowing spectators to meet famous athletes with their new “Autograph Arena,” which will be open at various times throughout the meet.
It is likely more swimmers will attend the Orlando meet than showed up in Austin, as USA Swimming has lowered the “B” qualifying standards. However, the meet will still be capped at 600 swimmers.