By John Lohn
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., March 31. FINALLY, we have arrived at the final installment of our World Championship Trials preview. The competition gets under way tomorrow and is sure to bring six days worth of sensational action.
Certainly, a number of sizzling times are expected to grace the scoreboard. Yet, questions also remain. How will the male collegians respond after last week’s NCAA Championships? What events will Michael Phelps contest? Who will emerge as a breakout performer? Soon, we’ll see. Here’s a glance at how the men’s and women’s individual medley events are shaping up.
On the men’s side, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte stand above the rest of the field and, provided they contest both I.M. disciplines, pencil them in for trips to Montreal. Phelps, of course, is the world-record holder in both events. As for Lochte, he set an American standard in the 200-yard I.M. at last week’s NCAA Champs.
If Phelps or Lochte slips up or bails out on an event, several men are capable of jumping into the fray. Eric Shanteau was third in both I.M. events at last year’s Olympic Trials and Pat Mellors and Justin Mortimer are high-level performers. The question with Lochte, along with the other collegians, is how they’ll adapt to the long-course format. There’s also a question to how much energy is left in the tank.
For the women, the 200 I.M. is shaping up to be a spectacular race between Amanda Beard, Katie Hoff and Kaitlin Sandeno. The three Olympians could all push the American record of 2:11.70, set by Beard in a silver-medal winning performance in Athens.
Kristen Caverly and Caroline Bruce, also Olympians, could give a push, but must drop some time to be at the front of the field. Also keep an eye on Whitney Myers, who has gone under 2:15.
For the 400 I.M., Sandeno and Hoff probably have a stranglehold on the first two places, as both have been under 4:40, with Sandeno owning the American record. En route to silver in Athens, Sandeno clocked 4:34.95. Ariana Kukors is a name to watch.