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By guest writer Julia Wilkinson-Minks (2008 & 2012 Canadian Olympian)
BARCELONA, Spain, July 29. 48 hours ago, I did not think that Ye Shiwen would lose the 200 IM. 24 hours ago, I thought that if anyone had a chance to down this Chinese teenager, it would be Katinka Hosszu; I never fathomed that not only would Hosszu dominate the field, but that Ye would finish outside of the medals.
After smashing Hungary’s national record and setting herself up very well in the 100 backstroke this morning, it must not have been easy for Hosszu to scratch from the semifinals. This is where experience comes into play, because it is a risk either way; had she not won the 200 IM tonight, she would have been faced with the headaches of “what ifs.”
Even though Hosszu is known for swimming lots of events, she has experience with this backfiring: last summer in London, she swam the 200 butterfly semifinal and 200 IM back to back. She failed to move onto the finals in the butterfly, finishing 9th, and then went on to swim a dismal 2:14.19 in the 200 IM to finish 8th. Clearly Hosszu has not forgotten about this experience.
Very few swimmers can successfully pull off a tough double the way Missy Franklin did last summer: 8th in the 200 freestyle semi-finals and then gold in the 100 backstroke less than fifteen minutes later. Maybe Hosszu could have done it tonight: she sure won by a healthy margin. But that is hindsight, and I’m sure winning tonight is enough for her.
Hosszu’s backstroke was good, but was it good enough to take down the likes of Missy Franklin? I am going to say no. Tonight, Franklin experienced the bane of backstrokers’ existence and slipped on her start. One of her feet went straight down the touchpad: it was easy to see thanks to a race recap that included an underwater camera shot of the start. Slipping off your start is very hard to come back from because it virtually negates your first underwater kick-out, and I am sure she experienced a tiny bit of panic when it occurred. To still be ranked first after that only indicates that she is, hands down, the best 100 backstroker in the world.
Missy Franklin will prove herself tomorrow, and demolish the time she swam tonight, barring she doesn’t slip again. This proves the legitimacy of our need for the backstroke ledge, because sometimes, even the best backstrokers in the world slip.
Julia Wilkinson-Minks is a two-time Olympian for Canada and was a finalist in the 200-meter IM at the 2008 Beijing Games. In 2010, she became Texas A&M’s first ever NCAA champion in swimming when she won the 100-yard freestyle. She graduated from Texas A&M with a degree in Speech Communication. Julia retired from competitive swimming following the London Olympic Games and now lives in Texas with her husband Shane.
Follow her on twitter @juliah2o