By David Rieder
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, August 28. THE swimming community has been buzzing today with the news of Mack Horton’s 800 free at the Junior World Championships in Dubai. Horton swam the fifth-fastest time in the world with a 7:45.67, a time which elevates his status from rising star to the verge of elite among distance swimmers. Still, I’ll reserve any further comment on Horton’s exploits until he completes his week with the men’s 1500. With that said, Horton isn’t the only one swimming fast in Dubai.
Ruta Meilutyte Excelling Beyond Breaststroke
Whether FINA should have allowed this double world record-holder to compete in Dubai has been a debate for the past week. Nathan Jendrick argued that no one should stop Meilutyte from swimming in the meet, but on Friday’s Morning Swim Show, I indicated that I didn’t really agree with the decision. I didn’t understand why a swimmer with two world records in the bag along with a world title would want to go to a meet where she would have so little competition and swim her prime events. While some comments on Jendrick’s article equated Meilutyte’s participation to Franklin swimming in high school meets, but Meilutyte does get other chances to represent her country, and she has no real team to associate with when swimming for Lithuania at a meet such as this.
Today, though, Meilutyte came to compete among on her peers in events in which she doesn’t hold world marks. Meilutyte finished second in the women’s 100 free in 54.94, finishing behind Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey, who put up an impressive 54.47. Despite having already won the 50 breast and entering the final of the 100 breast on Thursday as a huge favorite, this 100 free might be Meilutyte’s most impressive performance of the meet. She got a chance to show what she could do against her peers without entering with the aura of world record-holder. In swimming, Meilutyte will never be a normal 16 year old competitor, but in that final, she was just that.
Katie McLaughlin a Legitimate Threat in the 200 Fly
The young Southern Californian won the women’s 200 fly at Junior Nationals in 2:09.68, vaulting herself into third in the United States this year, behind just Cammile Adams and Maya Dirado, the pair who qualified for the World Championships. Just three weeks later, however, she cut another second off that time, clocking 2:08.72 on Tuesday. She used a furious final 50 split to beat Hungary’s Liliana Szilagyi for the gold medal. She moved up to 16th in the world with the swim and now stands just a half second behind Dirado (2:08.28) in the national rankings, and she will enter the U.S. National Championships next summer as a legitimate threat to get on the Pan Pacs team.
Moreover, McLaughlin has the potential to grow into a consistent force in the 200 fly, something the Americans have not had in years. No one has won a medal in the event at a big meet since Kim Vandenberg picked up a silver at the 2007 World Championships — and Vandenberg failed to qualify for the Olympics in the event a year later. In fact, this event has been the weakest for the Americans since Misty Hyman stunned the world with a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics. McLaughlin, who has obliterated the 2:10.37 that was her lifetime best prior to this summer, has an opportunity to jump into the international fray in this event, and once she’s there, she may not stop.