By Emily Sampl
BOULDER, Colorado, April 8. SEVERAL countries will hold their national championships meets this week, including Spain, as the XV Spain Open gets underway Thursday, April 10 and concludes Sunday.
A number of Spain’s top swimmers will compete at the meet, along with a few international standouts as well. Distance queen Mireia Belmonte will compete in a full schedule this week that includes the 200 fly, 200 IM, 400 free, 400 IM, 800 free and 1500 free. Belmonte’s highest world ranking this year is eighth in the 800 free, as she posted an 8:30.20 at the Nice Invite in February. She’ll be looking to break into the world rankings in her other individual events as well in her first major long course meet of the new year.
Belmonte will have her hands full with countrywoman Melanie Costa Schmid in the 400 free, as the two are separated by two seconds in the psych sheets with Belmonte in at 3:54.52 and Costa Schmid entered at 3:56.84, both short course meters times. Costa Schmid will be a factor in a couple of other freestyle events as well, with the fastest seed times in the 100 free (53.84) and 200 free (1:52.52), which she posted at the European Short Course Championships in Denmark and Zaragoza City Trophy, both short course meters meets. She will also swim the 200 back, where she’s seeded second.
Marina Garcia, a 2012 Olympian, 2013 FINA World Championship finalist and freshman at the University of California, will enter the meet this week as the favorite in the 50, 100 and 200 breast. Garcia finished in the top eight in both the 100 (7th, 1:07.08) and 200 (6th, 2:23.55) breast at last summer’s FINA World Championships. After a successful short course season at Cal, hopefully Garcia can make the quick turnaround and translate that speed into long course.
On the men’s side, another recent NCAA participant – Florida’s Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez – should have a big impact in his home country this week. He’s the top seed in the men’s 100 and 200 breast and 200 IM, second seed in the 200 free and 400 IM, and third seed in the 50 breast. Solaeche-Gomez set the Spanish national record in the 200 IM at the Spanish Long Course Championships last year and will look to improve upon his time of 1:59.39 following a short break after the men’s NCAA Championships. He’ll face stiff competition in the breaststroke events from Portugal’s Carlos Almeida, a former Louisville Cardinal who won an NCAA title in the 200 breast.
A couple of other swimmers could walk away with multiple individual event titles as well. Olympic backstroker Aschwin Wildeboer will have an opportunity to sweep the men’s sprint backstroke events as he comes into the meet with the fastest long course times in the 50 back (24.58) and 100 back (54.24). Poland’s Konrad Cerniak will be a force to be reckoned with in the 50 and 100 free and 100 fly, and sprint specialist Rafael Munoz should be the favorite in the 50 fly, an event he holds the long course world record in at 22.43.