PONTEVEDRA, Spain, March 22. MIREIA Belmonte has the spotlight squarely on her at the Spanish nationals/world championship trials, where the Olympic medalist is going through the paces in qualifying for this summer's world championships in her home country.
Belmonte has won multiple short course world titles, but doesn't have any long course world championship hardware on her mantel, a deficiency she looks to change this summer in Barcelona. After two days of competition at the nationals, Belmonte has locked up three events on her schedule for worlds, and that number is likely to grow.
With the meet allowing foreigners to compete in the championship final, Belmonte on Thursday found some competition in one of her Olympic medal events, the 200 fly, in the form of Hungary's Zsuzsanna Jakabos. Belmonte was able to take the win in a quick 2:06.70 over Jakabos' 2:07.38. Belmonte swam a 2:05.25 to win silver in the 200 fly at the London Olympics, while Jakabos was a 2:07.33 in the Olympic final for seventh place. Belmonte's teammate Judit Ignacio placed third with a 2:09.20, good enough for the second spot on the Spanish roster in the 200 fly.
Shortly after her 200 fly victory, Belmonte was back again for the 800 freestyle, the other event in which she collected silver in London. Her winning time of 8:24.89 was well off the 8:18.76 she swam in London, but good enough to secure a spot on the world team and drag along second-place finisher Beatriz Gomez to a spot on the team with an 8:26.54.
Marc Sanchez was the other Spanish swimmer to earn an automatic world championship berth in Thursday's competition, winning the 1500 freestyle in 15:12.53. The 21-year-old dropped about 20 seconds from his previous lifetime best to earn his first senior international team berth.
In other action on Thursday, Carlos Peralta was the only swimmer under 2:00 in the men's 200 butterfly with a 1:59.30, which beats the FINA B cut in the event and puts him in consideration for inclusion onto the world championship team. Duane Da Rocha also claimed a FINA B cut in the women's 200 backstroke with a 2:12.08.
Three Italians claimed event titles on Thursday. Luca Dotto, a world championship finalist in the sprint freestyles, won the 50 free with a 22.31; Federico Turrini took the men's 200 back in 2:01.18; Erika Ferraioli won the women's 50 free with a 25.68.
In Friday's finals, Belmonte added the 400 IM to her world championship schedule, winning with a 4:35.27, just a shade faster than the 4:35.62 she swam at the Olympics for eighth place in the final. Beatriz Gomez added a second event to her schedule with a runner-up time of 4:39.86.
Surprisingly, Belmonte did not swim the 200 freestyle, one of the many events in which she holds the national record (1:57.58). In her absence, Melanie Costa was able to win — and secure a world championships team berth — with a 1:58.15, tying for the win with Jakabos. Patricia Castro was able to get under the automatic qualifying time of 1:58.74, giving Spain two swimmers in the event with a third-place time of 1:58.45. Add Belmonte and you have three-fourths of a semicompetitive 800 free relay.
Mercedes Peris qualified for the team in the women's 50 backstroke with a 28.08, as did Aschwin Wildeboer, who broke his meet record of 24.84 with a 24.76. He still owns the national record of 24.48 from 2009.
Marina Garcia just missed the automatic qualifying time for worlds in the women's 100 breast with a 1:08.70, falling short of the 1:08.63 needed for an automatic invite. Manuel Martin also missed out on the 1:48.42 needed in the 200 free, winning with a 1:48.71. Notably, Paraguay's Benjamin Hockin was second with a 1:49.05.
Turrini won his second event of the meet, taking the men's 400 IM with a 4:19.94, and Hector Monteagudo won the other men's event on Friday, the 100 breast, with a 1:03.23.