PHOENIX, Arizona, December 19. IF you thought we wouldn’t see any more world records in 2011, the American women’s swim team set out to prove you wrong with a world record in the short course 400 medley relay at the Duel in the Pool on Saturday. Natalie Coughlin led off the relay with an American record time of 55.97 in the 100 back, then Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer and Missy Franklin followed up with a final time of 3:45.56, breaking the record by more than two seconds.
That was the first event of the fifth Duel in the Pool, and the Americans never looked back, winning the meet by 101 points without superstars Michael Phelps and Nathan Adrian. Tyler Clary sat out the second day of the meet after he complained of shoulder pain. The diagnosis turned out to be an issue with his rotator cuff, and Clary is back in southern California to get treatment and figure out how 2012 looks for him. Clary was second in the 400 IM and third in the 200 back on Saturday.
The Europeans had a few bright spots during the meet. Lotte Friis of Denmark almost broke the world record in the 800 freestyle, coming within 24-hundredths of a second of Alessia Filippi’s mark. As you can see in this photo, she was not expecting the time. Friis was three seconds under the pace early on, but Filippi had a much stronger back half. Friis is already one to watch in the 800 free at the Olympics, and this swim has to give the Dane some confidence.
Sprint freestyle at the Olympics could be dominated by the Europeans. The Dutch women won the 50 and 100 freestyles, with Marleen Veldhuis taking the 50 and Ranomi Kromowidjojo winning the 100. Finishing second in the 100 and third in the 50 was Great Britain’s Fran Halsall.
The European women ended the meet with a victory in the 400 free relay that broke the world record, but the time will not count since all four are from different countries. Jeanette Ottesen, Fran Halsall, Aliaksandra Herasimenia and Ranomi Kromowidjojo combined to swim 3:27.53, faster than the world record of 3:28.22 that a Dutch team swam back in 2008. Interestingly, the four European swimmers finished in the top four spots in this event at the World Championships this past summer, with Ottesen and Herasimenia sharing the gold medal.
Jessica Hardy upset Soni for the second time in two months in the 100 breast with a textile best time of 1:03.33, and Caitlin Leverenz set an American record of 2:04.91 to win the women’s 200 IM, coming up just short of Julia Smit’s world record of 2:04.60 from the Duel two years ago that was set in a high-tech suit that USA Swimming had banned before that Duel in 2009. Leverenz’ time of 4:24.62 in the 400 IM lowered the American record despite finishing well off of Smit’s world record. Katinka Hosszu beat Leverenz in that 400 IM to establish the top time in the world, setting up a great battle in three months at the NCAAs.
Though he was training through the meet, Ryan Lochte looked fresher in the Duel than he did at the US nationals two weeks ago, winning the 200 and 400 IMs and the 200 back.
You can read full recaps from both days of the meet and watch athlete interviews at SwimmingWorld.com.
Many top swimmers who did not swim at the Duel in the Pool instead went to Oklahoma City for the Chesapeake Elite Pro-Am. The big story out of Oklahoma was the comeback of Anthony Ervin, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist in the 50 free. Ervin tied Gary Hall Jr. in Sydney for that gold medal before winning the 50 and 100 free World titles the next year. However, he retired a few months before the 2004 Olympic Trials and had only hinted at a comeback – until now.
This weekend, Ervin swam in his first big national meet since 2003, winning the 100 free and placing second in the 50 free. In the 100 free, he held off Britain’s Simon Burnett, while he lost the 50 free in a shoot-out to 50 free NCAA Champion Josh Schneider.
At a meet in Riccione, Italy this weekend, Ian Thorpe swam his first long course race since retiring in 2006. He swam a 50.84 in the 100 free and 1:51.51 in the 200 free in yet another step towards competing at Australia’s Olympic Trials in March. Also in Riccione, Milorad Cavic won the 50 and 100 fly, swimming 52.10 in the 100 fly. Cavic swam poorly at the World Championships after missing most of 2010 due to back surgery.
Ous Mellouli is competing in the Arab Games this week, despite a tweet a few weeks ago that severe back pain might keep him out of the meet in Qatar. Mellouli is Tunisia’s biggest swimming star, and he proved it with three wins so far in the 200 free, 200 fly and 400 IM. The times are far off what he’s already swum earlier this year, but the fact that he’s swimming means he’s on the road to recovery.
After another shoulder surgery last week, Stephanie Rice has announced on Twitter that she will be back in training on Tuesday. Rice says that while her shoulder is slightly infected, she can swim again after pulling out of the Queensland State Championships last week.
USA Diving is holding its winter nationals in Knoxville, Tennessee, to pick a team that will attend the World Cup meet in London in February. Kristian Ipsen and Troy Dumais were light years ahead of the field in the men’s three-meter synchro final, winning by 89 points. Ipsen and Dumais will be in the final of the individual three-meter event tonight in a tough field that includes Chris Colwill and Drew Livingston.
Haley Ishimatsu had a harder time winning the women’s 10-meter final, beating Katei Bell by just 28 points. The World Cup meet is important for the Americans as they try to qualify for a spot on the roster in several events at the Olympics. Who gets to dive in those spots will be determined at the Olympic Trials in June.
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