Photo by Delly Carr
By David Rieder
GOLD COAST, Australia, August 22. ALMOST any American would call Kevin Cordes the best 100 breaststroker in the country. He has two of the three sub-1:00 performances by a U.S. swimmer this year, and his 59.70 from prelims at Pan Pacs puts him more than two tenths ahead of the next best time, a 59.91 from Cody Miller at Nationals. At Pan Pacs, the next best time was Nic Fink’s 1:00.24.
And yet, Cordes won’t swim the event at Worlds next year after an exceptional series of events. First, he had a terrible swim in the finals at Nationals, where his prelims time would have won. He looked on the path to redemption when he posted his lifetime best, the 59.70, in prelims at Pan Pacs. But in the final, he was DQ’ed for taking his goggles off underwater after they filled up on the start. He touched in 1:00.19, which would have gotten him his spot for Kazan, but it won’t count. Miller and Fink retain their spots.
As much as the qualifying system for next year’s Worlds has been criticized, the system did not fail Cordes here. He just couldn’t take advantage of not one, but two chances to qualify, even if the goggle incident could hardly be prevented and happens to most swimmers at one point or another. Cordes will likely swim breaststroke on the American men’s medley relay on Sunday after his 200 breast – an event he enters as the favorite for gold – and he could even swim the relay at Worlds next summer if he shows enough in his 200. But he will watch the 100 breast final from the stands.
Other than the Cordes situation, the biggest shock of the night came with Cameron McEvoy upsetting Nathan Adrian and James Magnussen in the men’s 100 free. Some have noted the poor weather conditions might be cause for the poor times from the men who took the top two spots at the Olympics in 2012, but McEvoy put those aside and blasted a phenomenal swim. The 100 free brought the only change for the American World Champs roster on the day, when Michael Phelps clocked 48.51 to knock Ryan Lochte out of the spot, and push Matt Grevers off the six-man relay roster.
Speaking of relays, the 800 free events proved to be epic. For the women, Bronte Barratt, Emma McKeon, and Brittany Elmslie each swam solid legs to establish a one second lead over the Americans, as Shannon Vreeland, Missy Franklin, and Leah Smith each swam down from what had been expected from them. Australian anchor Melanie Schlanger dove in with a full second lead on Katie Ledecky, and Schlanger had been having one of the best meets of her long career at Pan Pacs.
Alicia Coutts swam the fourth leg of the relay at Commonwealth Games last month, but Schlanger forced her way on with an impressive 1:57.16 in the prelims of the individual event. She had to deal with Ledecky, though, who was coming off a sick 200 free-800 free double on day one. Anyone who thought that someone who could swim an 8:11 800 after a 1:55.74 200 free would have more in the tank for the shorter distance… was correct. Ledecky blistered a 1:54.36, and the finish did not end up close at all.
The men’s race turned into a two-horse race, but not between the expected characters. A balanced Japanese squad led by Kosuke Hagino and Takeshi Matsuda took advantage of a poor 1:47.08 opening leg by Conor Dwyer and held on until the bitter end, when Matt McLean caught Matsuda with a clutch anchor leg and touched him out by just 0.13. The decision to use Michael Phelps on the relay paid off, and Ryan Lochte delivered with the best split in the field, a 1:45.57.
But what happened to Australia, which finished first and third in the individual 200 free? David McKeon and Thomas Fraser-Holmes both swam slightly slower times than in the individual event, but Cameron McEvoy dropped the stink bomb. He split 1:48.12, after taking bronze on Thursday in 1:46.36. Coming off his massive 100 free win, lactic acid and fatigue got the better of any adrenaline rush, and that proved to be a huge difference-maker for the Aussies, burying them before giving Mack Horton and Fraser-Holmes a shot at Japan and the U.S.