Photo Credit: Griffin Scott
QUEENSLAND, Australia, August 19. THURSDAY marks the start of the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre in Queensland, and the meet is shaping up to be another great duel between the United States and Australia, as well as Japan. With only two swimmers allowed to compete in finals per country, there will be plenty of competition within and between countries for spots in the championship finals. Here are five races to watch at the meet!
1. Women’s 200 Free
The first event of the meet features several of the top mid-distance freestylers of the past several years, as Americans Missy Franklin (1:54.81) and Katie Ledecky (1:55.16) and Australians Emma McKeon (1:55.57) and Bronte Barratt (1:56.05) lead the way in a stacked field. Ledecky owns the fastest time of the four swimmers in 2014 at 1:55.16, which she posted just two weeks ago at U.S. Nationals. McKeon swam her seed time of 1:55.57 at the Commonwealth Games a few weeks ago, while Franklin (1:56.40) and Barratt (1:56.61) have been slightly slower than their entry times this summer. Barratt and Franklin have been a major force in the 200 internationally for several years, while McKeon has recently emerged as a major threat. Ledecky has shown incredible speed in the 100 and 200 freestyles after previously focusing mainly on the 400 through 1500 and could run away with the title.
2. Men’s 100 Breast
With Australian Christian Sprenger missing from the men’s 100 breast lineup, the race is basically wide open, and it’s anyone’s guess who could come away with the win. The top six swimmers in the event – Yasuhiro Koseki, Kevin Cordes, Nicolas Fink, Felipe Silva, Cody Miller and Glenn Snyders – are separated by only two tenths of a second, with Koseki leading the way in 59.72. Cordes actually has the fastest time of 2014 of the group at 59.83, but will likely need a faster time than that for a gold medal. Only two swimmers per country can compete in the championship final, which will likely leave out one of the three Americans seeded in the top six. In terms of times, this group will likely not top Adam Peaty’s top-ranked 58.68 from the European Championships, but this could be one of the closest races of the entire meet.
3. Women’s 100 Breast
The women’s 100 breast looks to be a two-country battle between the United States and Japan, as both countries have three swimmers seeded in the top six. Japan should be led by Kanako Watanabe, who swam a 1:05.88 at the Japan Open in June; that’s the second-best time in the world in 2014 behind world record-holder Ruta Meilutyte’s 1:05.21. Satomi Suzuki (1:06.48) and Rie Kaneto (1:07.23) could also challenge for medals, depending on which swimmer qualifies for the final. For the U.S., Jessica Hardy and Micah Lawrence tied for the national title a couple weeks ago with matching 1:06.51s; that was a personal best for Lawrence, while Hardy has been in the low 1:05 range before. Olympian Breeja Larson will definitely be a factor as well, with a season best of 1:06.73, also from Nationals. Outside the U.S. and Japan, competition should come from Australians Lorna Tonks (1:07.26) and Sally Hunter (1:07.73).
4. Men’s 100 Fly
The most interesting battle in the men’s 100 fly may be within one country, as five swimmers from the United States sit atop the psych sheet – Michael Phelps (51.17), Tom Shields (51.29), Ryan Lochte (51.48), Tim Phillips (51.49) and Matthew Ellis (51.73). Three-time 100 fly Olympic champ Michael Phelps should never be counted out, though he’ll have plenty of competition from his own teammates. Lochte’s fly has improved a ton in recent years, while Shields just put up personal bests in both the 100 and 200 fly at this month’s U.S. National Championships. Whichever two Americans end up advancing to the final could be favorites for gold. A couple of others are on the doorstep as well, including Australia’s Chris Wright (51.77) and Japan’s Takuro Fujii (51.84) and Hirofumi Ikebata (51.89).
5. Men’s 200 IM
In the past, it’s always been Michael Phelps vs. Ryan Lochte in the 200 IM, but this time around they’ll have company as several other contenders should be right in the mix in what could be a very interesting race. Japanese teammates Daiya Seto and Kosuke Hagino have put up some great times recently, as Hagino currently has the best time in the world in 2014 at 1:55.38. That’s over a second faster than Phelps and Lochte’s times at U.S. Nationals, and two seconds better than Seto’s 1:57.32. Those four swimmers make up the top four in the world right now, while American Conor Dwyer, who’s also entered in this event, is fifth at 1:57.41. Brazil’s Thiago Pereira will also race, and is seeded third at 1:56.30. It’s shaping up to be a great heavyweight battle between the best of the best.