BERLIN, Germany, October 19. LAST year at the Berlin stop of the FINA World Cup, Missy Franklin broke the world record in the 200 short course meters backstroke. Who will provide the fireworks this year?
With Franklin not competing in this year's meet, the stakes are high for someone to either replicate Franklin's performance, or at least give swimming fans something to talk about on Monday morning. Katinka Hosszu, of course, will continue to amaze us with her unending endurance and racing prowess, though there was a little shine taken off her earlier this week in Moscow. Hosszu is by now almost guaranteed to win the overall grand prize of $100,000 once the World Cup meets are done, but someone could show up, break a world record and put all of our prognosticating to shame.
Could that be France's freestyle duo of Camille Muffat and Yannick Agnel? Both are racing in Berlin, their first major racing opportunity since they left the Olympics. Muffat will race the 200 freestyle, the event in which she won the silver medal in London, and will likely line up for the 800 freestyle. She'll have some tough competition in the distance free from USA national junior team members Leah Smith and Becca Mann, who posted 8:19s in Moscow earlier this week, as well as Lotte Friis and Hosszu. Muffat likely has no peer in the 200 in Berlin.
Agnel, the 200 free Olympic champion, will start his meet off with the 100 free, the event in which he placed fourth in London and produced a shocking 46.7 relay split to give France its 400 free gold. He could end Australia's World Cup stranglehold on the event and produce a time that could challenge last year's top short course time of 46.56. Agnel appears to be sticking with his 2012 plan to sit out the 400 freestyle, which will give the edge to hometown favorite — and world record holder — Paul Biedermann.
With Olympic champion and Stockholm 100 breast winner Ruta Meilutyte sitting out the Berlin meet and Sweden's Jennie Johansson out due to illness, Jessica Hardy could find herself on top of the podium in both sprint breaststroke events, and possibly the 50 free. Anthony Ervin will use today's 100 freestyle to prep for the 50 free on Sunday, the event in which he is battling with Trinidad and Tobago's George Bovell. In addition to Agnel, Ervin will have to fight Australia's Tommaso D'Orsogna and South Africa's Darian Townsend to increase his cash winnings.
Tom Shields isn't eligible to earn money, since he's still got NCAA eligibility left. But the California Golden Bear is picking up some valuable racing experience, judging by a Tweet posted yesterday:
Rough meet in Moscow. Learning a lot though #keepgrindin
— Tom Shields (@BeefyTShields) October 18, 2012
Expect Shields to take those lessons from his hard-luck third-place finishes in the 100 fly to Istanbul in December for short course worlds and later to the NCAA championships.
Below are the heat sheets for day one in Berlin. Be sure to come back to swimmingworld.com for live recaps of finals!