By Emily Sampl
BOULDER, Colorado, July 9. BEGINNING tomorrow, all eyes will be on the Bulldog Grand Slam at the University of Georgia, as a couple of great matchups are on the horizon involving Michael Phelps, Allison Schmitt, Ryan Lochte, Megan Romano, Yannick Agnel and more. In addition, the first sectional meet of the month begins tomorrow in Orlando, while Europe’s top junior swimmers have begun competition at the European Junior Championships. Here are the top five headlines from those three meets.
1. Bulldog Grand Slam
Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and a bunch of other top swimmers from North Baltimore, SwimMAC Carolina, Club Wolverine, Athens Bulldogs, Bolles, Dynamo and other teams will converge on Athens, Ga. beginning tomorrow for the Bulldog Grand Slam at the University of Georgia’s aquatic center. There aren’t a ton of teams competing, but those that are are bringing stacked rosters, as many swimmers are hoping to squeeze a few more races in before nationals in a few weeks.
2. Bulldog Grand Slam: Men’s Mid-Distance Freestyle Events
Of all of the events on the men’s side, the 200 and 400 freestyles are shaping up to be incredible races. The list of competitors in those two events reads like a national championship final plus a few foreigners: Yannick Agnel, Conor Dwyer, Ryan Lochte, Matt McLean, Charlie Houchin, Ous Mellouli, Michael Wynalda, Connor Jaeger, Michael Klueh. And the list goes on. Both events are so loaded that all of the major contenders won’t even fit in the A final. At next month’s national championships, the top spots in the 200 free final will have implications for the United States’ 4×200 free relay; this weekend’s 200 free final could give a few indications as to which swimmers might fill those spots.
3. Bulldog Grand Slam: Women’s Sprint Freestyle Events
The women’s freestyle events are looking solid across the board, from the 50 to the 800, but the sprint free events will definitely provide some fireworks. In the 100, Amanda Weir, Allison Schmitt, Madison Kennedy, Megan Romano, Shannon Vreeland and Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace make up the top six seeds, and it’s anyone’s guess who could come away with the victory. Schmitt, Romano and Vreeland are all great 200 freestylers and should have some back-half speed, while Weir, Kennedy and Vanderpool-Wallace are pure sprinters. All of the same swimmers will compete in the 50 free as well, except Schmitt and Vreeland. The 100 free is the last event of the meet so it’ll be interesting to see who has the most left in the tank.
4. Speedo Champions Series – Orlando
While the Bulldog Grand Slam is going on in Georgia, the first of nine Speedo Champions Series sectional meets will be getting underway in Orlando, with some of Florida’s best in attendance. University of Florida alum Elizabeth Beisel will compete in seven events, while two-time Olympian Katie Hoff will swim in four events for her new team, Hurricane Aquatics. Claire Donahue will also make the trip from Kentucky to race her best event, the 100 fly. A bunch of past and current University of Florida swimmers highlight the men’s field, including Marcin Cieslak, Dan Wallace and Sebastien Rousseau. Arkady Vyatchanin, a two-time Olympian and bronze medalist for Russia, will continue his string of competing in US meets after finishing second in USA Swimming’s Arena Grand Prix series.
5. Arena European Junior Championships
The Arena European Junior Championships began today, with the top young talent in Europe assembling in Dodrecht, The Netherlands. Swimmers ages 13-18 will compete for individual and relay titles ahead of the senior-level European Championships in Berlin in August. Keep an eye out for some quick, young swimmers who will look to make some noise internationally two years out from the 2016 Rio Olympics.