MESA, Arizona, April 24. WITH Michael Phelps only scheduled for the 50 freestyle tomorrow, the attention in the men’s side of the Arena Grand Prix on Friday in Mesa, Ariz., might turn to Ryan Lochte and the tough double he’ll look to pull off.
Lochte, who won the 100 fly on Thursday over Phelps, will race the 200 freestyle and 200 backstroke. Both events are next to each other on tomorrow’s program, which means Lochte would have about 15 minutes between events if he makes the championship finals of both races.
Lochte dodged a bullet in the 200 free, with world championship silver medalist Conor Dwyer electing to swim the 400 IM tomorrow instead of the 200 free. That might give Lochte clear sailing for the win in the 200 free, though Darian Townsend could be the closest challenger.
Lochte will have reigning Olympic champion Tyler Clary in the 200 backstroke, as well as 2008 bronze medalist Arkady Vyatchanin. Another major threat could be Ryan Murphy, who won both backstrokes last month at the NCAA championships, nearly breaking Lochte’s record in the 200 back.
With Chase Kalisz stepping out of the meet, the men’s 400 IM looks to be a battle between Clary and Dwyer. Will Clary hold back slightly in the 400 IM to save for the 200 back later in the session, thereby giving Dwyer and Michael Weiss an opportunity?
In the men’s 50 free, Nathan Adrian will ride the emotion of his thrilling win in the 100 free into what could be an electric swim. He’ll have two-time Olympic finalist Anthony Ervin and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Roland Schoeman vying for supremacy in a race that could be decided by hundredths. In the prelims, Ervin will have a race with another 50 free specialist, Josh Schneider. Schneider put himself on the map in 2010 with an NCAA title that catapulted him to be one of the top sprinters in the United States.
Phelps is scheduled to swim the 50 freestyle event, but said in a press conference tonight that he’ll swim it butterfly. He’ll be in an unusual lane for him, swimming in lane eight in heat 12.
In the women’s 50 free, Natalie Coughlin and Simone Manuel are the top two seeds. The two represented the United States at the world championships and could be joined in the final by Jessica Hardy, who swam the 50 free in the Olympic final in 2012.
Elizabeth Beisel and Caitlin Leverenz were the American representatives at the 2012 Olympics in the 400 IM and are the top two seeds in the event tomorrow. They’ll likely be joined by Swedish star Stina Gardell and 16-year-old phenom Becca Mann, who swam in the Olympic Trials final in this event in 2012.
Tomorrow’s 200 free final will be an opportunity for fans to see the reigning Olympic champion racing in front of them. Allison Schmitt is in good form in Mesa, winning the 100 free. Megan Romano, who was the short course yards American record holder in the 200 free until last month, will look to place in the top three and work on increasing her lead in the overall Grand Prix point standings.
Though Lochte will have a close double time-wise, it could be argued that Beisel will have the harder turnaround. She has the 400 IM and 200 back tomorrow, coming in as the top seed in both.