By Emily Sampl
VICHY, France, July 2. SEVERAL swimmers have a chance to make a big splash at this weekend’s French Open, especially in the sprint freestyle events, where a couple of big-name swimmers will go head-to-head. Here are five men to watch at the meet.
1. James Magnussen, Australia
Only four Australian men will travel to Vichy, but the Aussies are certainly not lacking in talent as James Magnussen, Matthew Abood, David McKeon and Jayden Hadler will all be racing. Magnussen will race his best events, the 50 and 100 free, in hopes of boosting his world rankings heading into the Commonwealth Games. He’s currently eighth in the 50 at 21.77 and first in the 100 at 47.59, times he posted at the Australian National Championships in April and the BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series in January.
2. Cesar Cielo, Brazil
Brazil’s Cesar Cielo will definitely be in the mix for a couple of titles this weekend, as he competes in the 50 and 100 free and 50 fly. Cielo holds the world’s top time in the 50 at 21.39, which he posted at the Maria Lenk Trophy in April. In the 100, he’s ranked fourth at 48.13, behind Magnussen, Cameron McEvoy and Nathan Adrian. He also owns the fastest 50 fly of 2014 with a 23.01. Look for some quick times out of Cielo in Vichy as he’ll have a relatively light schedule with three sprint events.
3. Thiago Pereira, Brazil
Thiago Pereira of Brazil is always a factor in the individual medley events, and will be again this weekend as one of the top individual medley swimmers at the meet, along with Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh and Germany’s Markus Deibler. Pereira enters the meet with a season-best 1:57.98 in the 200 IM, good for seventh in the world and only .02 ahead of Deibler’s 1:58.00. Pereira is a bit lower in the 400 IM at 15th (4:15.45) but definitely has the potential to move up. Hungary’s David Verraszto has been slightly faster than Pereira this year with a 4:14.35, potentially setting up an exciting head-to-head duel between the two swimmers this weekend.
4. Ryan Cochrane, Canada
Distance freestyle ace Ryan Cochrane of Canada has the potential to leave the meet with multiple titles in hand. Cochrane’s best times this year include a 3:47.30 in the 400 free, 7:55.34 in the 800 free and 15:01.72 in the 1500 free. He’ll match up closely with Australian David McKeon in the shorter races, as McKeon owns the fastest time of 2014 in the 400 free (3:43.72) and is only a second ahead of Cochrane in the 800 free (7:54.29).
5. Florent Manaudou, France
France will have a sizeable contingent at the meet, including a handful of Olympic medalists. Florent Manaudou, the 2012 Olympic champion in the 50 free, will add to an already loaded sprint lineup that includes Cielo, Magnussen, Abood and others. He’s posted times of 21.70 in the 50 free and 48.69 in the 100 free, which both rank in the top 15 internationally. With the home crowd on his side, both the 50 and 100 figure to be great races as he faces off with a couple of the world’s top sprinters in Cielo and Magnussen.