MONTE Carlo, Monaco, June 3. RYAN Lochte’s name appears nine times on the start lists for this weekend’s Monte Carlo stop of the popular Mare Nostrum circuit, but the Olympic champion will not be in Europe when competition starts Saturday.
The meet would have been Lochte’s first competition since re-tearing his MCL tendon last month. The tear forced him to withdraw from the Arena Grand Prix in his current hometown of Charlotte last month, but Lochte does not appear to be staying at home resting his knee. Last weekend he was in Knoxville, Tenn., at a special clinic for local swimmers, and a post on his Twitter account today indicated that he would be spending Saturday in Las Vegas, Nev., at an exclusive pool party.
— Ryan Lochte (@RyanLochte) June 3, 2014
Dave Marsh, the head coach at SwimMAC Carolina where Lochte trains, confirmed to Swimming World that Lochte would be skipping the meet. Lochte was entered in all three backstroke events, the 100 and 200 butterfly, 100 and 200 freestyle and both IMs.
“Ryan is making good progress but not ready to go yet,” Marsh said.
Monte Carlo is the first of three cities on the tour that will have athletes also traveling to Canet and Barcelona in the next week. Each meet is two days long and offers cash prizes to the top finishers. The series often produces some of the top in-season times of the long course season, with several swimmers making final preparations for the summer’s big competitions.
With Lochte out of the meet, the biggest storyline in Monte Carlo will be the return of Therese Alshammar to competition almost one year after giving birth to her first child. One of the mainstays in the sport in the past decade, Alshammar could find herself on the Swedish team for the European championships if racing in the Mare Nostrum series goes well. The 36-year-old is entered in the 50 free and 50 fly, with Jeanette Ottesen of Denmark seeded first in both events. Alshammar will also face SwimMAC Carolina sprinter Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace and Cal Aquatics’ Natalie Coughlin in the 50 free in what should be an epic final.
The United States typically does not have a strong presence in the Mare Nostrum meets, but Monte Carlo will feature more than a dozen Americans racing against some of the world’s best. Nathan Adrian should be the class of the field in his events. Adrian is seeded second in the 50 free behind teammate Anthony Ervin, but expect Adrian to snatch the victory based on times posted earlier this year. In the 100 free, Adrian might be challenged by Russia’s Andrey Grechin, but Grechin just raced in the Russian nationals and might be in a transition phase in preparation for the European championships.
Tom Shields will not get to race reigning world champion Chad Le Clos in the 100 fly, but that event will still be packed with big names. World championships silver medalist Laszlo Cseh and current world leader Steffen Deibler are the top names set to swim the sprint butterfly race. Shields and Deibler will face off in the 50 fly, while Shields will get his opportunity to race Le Clos in the 200 fly. Le Clos is the reigning Olympic and world champion in the longer butterfly distance.
Ryan Murphy, fresh off his double NCAA victories in the backstrokes for UC-Berkeley, will get to race Japanese star Ryosuke Irie in all three backstroke events. Jeremy Stravius, the 2011 co-world champion in the 100 backstroke, could be a factor as well, as could Murphy’s training partner Jacob Pebley.
Recent NCAA Division I standouts Melanie Margalis, Josh Prenot and Tynan Stewart will also get some vital international racing experience before this summer’s big selection meet in August. Also swimming in the meet is a squad from Oklahoma Baptist University, which cleaned up at the NAIA championships in March. Daniel Ramirez, a native of Mexico, was the big star for the Bison at the NAIA meet, winning three events with multiple division records. He’ll race in the 50 and 100 backstrokes, as well as the 100 butterfly.
Katie Meili will race for the USA in Monaco, going up against world record holder Rikke Moller Pedersen in all three breaststroke events. She’ll also swim in the 50 and 100 free as well as the 200 IM.
As expected, Katinka Hosszu is competing in as many events as possible, scheduled for eight races in two days. Though she has been showing remarkable improvements in backstroke in the past few months, she will have a hard time winning the 100 and 200 events in Monaco. Rising star Mie Nielsen of Denmark could take the shorter event, while Great Britain’s Lizzie Simmonds or Russia’s Daryna Zevina could take the win in the 200 back.
Hosszu’s competition in the 400 free will feature Olympic champion Camille Muffat of France, world championship bronze medalist Lauren Boyle of New Zealand and multiple worlds medalist Mireia Belmonte of Spain. This could likely showcase a preview of this event at the European championships in August.
Hosszu is also entered in both individual medleys, the 100 and 200 butterfly races and the 200 free. Belmonte is primed to be Hosszu’s toughest rival in the IMs and 200 butterfly in Monaco, as well as in Berlin at the European championships.
Damir Dugonjic is the top seed in the men’s 50 and 100 breaststrokes, with Germany’s Marco Koch and Hendrik Feldwehr as his top rivals. Yasuhiro Koseki recently had a great meet at the Japan Open and will look to race Europeans for the first time this year. In the 200 breast, look for a tight three-way battle featuring Koch going up against Brits Andrew Willis and Michael Jameison.