PHOENIX, Arizona, April 15. JAPAN, France and Italy wrapped up their world championship selection meets over the weekend, giving swimming fans even more to get excited about in the months leading up to the big meet in Barcelona. First up in Japan, Kosuke Hagino was denied a sixth win in the 200 backstroke by Olympic silver medalist Ryosuke Irie, but Hagino will go to the world championships in six individual events and also the 800 free relay. Hagino set national and Asian records in the 200 IM and 400 IM, and will also race in the 200 free, 400 free, 100 back and 200 back.
France's Jeremy Stravius also will tackle a tough schedule at the world championships, as he is likely to swim eight events in Barcelona, including relays. Stravius almost took down 200 free Olympic champion Yannick Agnel in the 200 free, placing second by 13 hundredths of a second, and also won the 100 fly on Sunday. Stravius will also swim the 50 back, 100 back and 200 IM at the world championships.
Camille Muffat is the only swimmer so far to go 1:55 in the 200 free this year, and she did it twice on Sunday, winning the event with a 1:55.48. She will race the 100, 200 and 400 freestyles at the world championships.
Muffat dethroned Federica Pellegrini from her one-day rule atop the world rankings in the 200 free. Pellegrini had swum a 1:56.51 on Saturday, which was a couple of tenths faster than she swam last year in the Olympic final to get fifth place.
Back here in the United States we were getting an idea of how most Americans were setting up for the long course season, with some spectacular racing in Mesa, Arizona, at the Arena Grand Prix. Katie Ledecky was the standout swimmer on the women's side, winning the 200, 400 and 800 freestyles. Her time of 8:20.64 is the fastest in the world by three seconds, while her 200 and 400 free times rank in the top five.
Tyler Clary also won three events on the men's side, with victories in the 200 back, 200 fly and 400 IM. Clary is likely to earn selection onto the world championship team in those events, and challenge for medals in Barcelona.
If you missed any of our coverage of these events, you can go to our world channel at swimmingworld.com and catch up on the meets. And we have lots of interviews with swimmers from the deck of the Grand Prix for you on swimmingworld.com.
The South African nationals started earlier today in Port Elizabeth, and the country's Olympic heroes, Chad Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh, raced in semifinal contests today. Le Clos was second in the 50 fly semifinals to Roland Schoeman, the 2005 world champion in the event. Schoeman posted a very fast 23.23 to Le Clos' 23.78. Schoeman would need to go under 23 seconds to be fastest in the world, ahead of Fred Bousquet's 23.00 from last week. Van der Burgh had no trouble moving on to the final of the 100 breaststroke, posting a 1:00.71. No one was added to the world championship roster today, with Myles Brown missing the automatic cut in the men's 400 free by three tenths of a second.
Down in Cozumel, Mexico, the 10K World Cup continued with a surprising win in the men's race. Daniel Fogg of Great Britain, branching out from pool swimming, beat open water legend Thomas Lurz by two seconds. The women's race featured Italy's Martina Grimaldi getting the victory by just two tenths of a second over American teenage Eva Fabian and five tenths ahead of teammate Rachele Bruni. The next stop on the 10K World Cup tour is Lac St. Jean in Canada on July 25, an event that is not likely to feature top talent, as they will be in Barcelona racing for medals at the world championships.