Commentary by Maria Dobysheva, Swimming World Contributor
The best Russian athletes have gathered in Moscow to participate in the National Championships and qualify for upcoming Worlds in Budapest this summer. Nationals Championships kick off on Monday, April 10th. Yulia Efimova, Vladimir Morozov, Evgeny Rylov and others will compete in their best events and try some new ones.
Yulia Efimova changed her training base after winning two silver medals in the Rio Olympics. She did not have a long break and after her commitments in the USA, where she was training with Trojan and coach Dave Salo since 2011, was settled, she moved to Australia to train with new group. Efimova already posted some fastest world results this year (she’s currently #1 in 50 and 200 breaststroke from the New South Wales Open Championships in Sydney). For Nationals, she is entered in all three breaststroke events and additionally will swim the 200 IM. Efimova’s personal best was a 2:12.91 from the meet two years ago.
Vladimir Morozov enters in the 50 and 100 free. After winning the FINA World Cup Trophy in 2016 and setting a couple of World records in short course, Morozov was having a break. Despite lack of training this year, he performed at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis in March and posted a 22.09 50 free and 49.56 100 free. Morozov’s goal is to make the Worlds team in his two main individual events as well as get on a relay. He will not try other events he used to – no 50 back for him this time. Morozov is well aware that the lineup for both sprint events is pretty much packed with big names in the team (except for Andrey Grechin who skipping Nationals), so he is looking forward for a great battle.
Anastasia Fesikova and Darya K. Ustinova will fight for tickets to Worlds. Both ladies are favorites in the backstroke events. Fesikova (aka Zueva) holds the second fastest time ever in the 100 back, which she posted six years ago in super suit era. She competed in Rio and failed to make the final in the 100 back (it was her first major meet after maternity leave).
For Nationals, Fesikova gets ready to go as fast as she can in the 50 and 100 back, while Ustinova needs to complete her transformation from teenage big hope to adult level. She was not successful in Rio when she could not advance in heats with a 1:01.45 (her PB is 59.78 form Olympic Trials last year). Her focus is on making to the Worlds stage to prove that her Rio disappointment was just an accident.
Evgeny Rylov, a backstroker who won bronze at the last Olympics will swim the 50, 100 and 200 backstroke. After his breakthrough year Rylov is eager to maintain his status and improve his personal bests. At Flanders Speedo Cup in January, Rylov posted 53.96 100 back, which is currently the seventh fastest result in the world, followed by his countryman Grigory Tarasevich with 53.96.
Anton Chupkov, another star that rose in Rio where he won bronze medal in 200 breaststroke, will swim two breast events: the 100 and 200. While 200 is his main goal, Chupkov will try to qualify for the 400 medley relay. Chupkov did not participate in any international meets this year yet and this will be his first start since the Olympic Games in Rio.