Column by John Lohn, Swimming World senior writer
BASKING RIDGE, New Jersey, July 26. WE’RE quickly approaching this summer’s Nationals, a meet which will serve as the selection competition for the Pan Pacific Championships and, in part, for next year’s World Championships in Shanghai. Additionally, the European Championships are just around the corner, setting up battles for bragging rights on that continent. Here are a few storylines to follow as the summer heats up.
**Over in Europe, one of the biggest duels to watch will be between Germany’s Paul Biedermann, the reigning world champion in the 200 and 400 freestyles, and France’s surging youngster, Yannick Agnel. Biedermann, of course, set a pair of world records last year while the tech suits were in full force. This will be a chance for the German to show where he stands in textile and see how close he can get to the 1:43.86 Michael Phelps popped at the 2007 World Championships.
For Agnel, who dominated the competition at the European Junior Championships and continues to make noise on the overall international stage, we’ll see whether he’s ready to hang with Biedermann with major crowns up for grabs. The feeling here is that Agnel will give Biedermann all he can handle in Budapest, site of the Euro Champs.
**We’ve talked about Missy Franklin in this space before and Nationals seem like the place for the 15-year-old Colorado Stars standout to take the next step in her career. Franklin had a solid tuneup meet at the Speedo Western Section Championships and will be expected to be among the finalists in the 100 and 200 freestyles, along with the backstroke disciplines.
**What will we see from North Baltimore Aquatic Club sensation Elizabeth Pelton’ While Pelton advanced to the World Championships last year, she was just scratching the surface of her talent and is likely on the verge of establishing herself as the next go-to girl in American swimming. Pelton has already been sub-minute in the 100 backstroke this year and has been 2:08-mid in the 200 back.
More, Pelton has the ability to deliver a major statement in the 200 individual medley on the opening night of competition. That event could be considered the deepest of the women’s program at Irvine, the likes of Ariana Kukors, Julia Smit, Katie Hoff and Dagny Knutson potentially in the field.
**Training at Trojan Swimming Club, Hungarian Katinka Hosszu will be among the top women to watch at the European Championships. Hosszu has enjoyed a sterling tuneup season, clocking times of 2:11.12 for the 200 individual medley and 4:34.68 for the 400 I.M. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Hosszu push 4:30 for the longer medley considering her midseason results and the way she has risen internationally over the last year.
**It’s hard to argue that any event at Nationals will be deeper than the field which will gather for the men’s 100 backstroke. We’re looking at a lineup that could include two-time defending Olympic champion Aaron Peirsol, Olympic silver medalist Matt Grevers, Nick Thoman, Randall Bal and Ryan Lochte. That’s some serious star power.
Of the men that don’t make the United States squad for Pan Pacs, the Stars and Stripes could put together a team to rival the rest of the world. During introductions for the final of the event, it’s going to take the announcer longer than normal to reveal the field, given the accomplishments of the cast which will be competing.
**So, those are a few of the storylines that will unfold shortly. Let’s hear about some others that will draw the interest of the worldwide swimming community. Drop your thoughts to Reaction Time, and enjoy the next few weeks.