PHOENIX, Arizona, January 16. THE Austin Grand Prix this weekend featured many of America's top swimmers kicking off their Olympic seasons with some impressive performances. The top storyline, though, was Janet Evans punching her ticket to the Olympic Trials. The 40 year old legend who still holds the American record in the 800 free clocked 4:17.11 in the prelims of the 400 free on Friday before posting an 8:49.05 on Sunday in the 800. Evans did not come close to challenging for the win in either race, but Evans has achieved her initial goal of getting to Omaha.
Allison Schmitt put up one of the most impressive performances on the women's side in Austin. Schmitt won the 200, 400, and 800 free, and finished second in the 100 free. Her 200 free time of 1:55.83 would have won silver at last summer's World Championships, where she finished sixth. Schmitt is a clear favorite to make the Olympic team in the 200 and 400, and her time of 54.55 in the 100 free puts her in contention to chase a 400 free relay spot at the Olympic Trials.
Nathan Adrian swept the sprints in Austin, winning the 100 free on Friday in 48.97 and then beat out Fred Bousquet to win the 50 free on Saturday, 21.94 to 22.05. Meanwhile, Anthony Ervin, on the comeback trail, made his mark in Austin, finishing third in the 50 free and fourth in the 100. Ervin, the Olympic gold medalist in the 50 free back in 2000 and World Champion in 2001, swam a fast 22.27 in his signature event.
Michael Phelps started off the Olympic year on the right track with three wins in Austin. Phelps won the 100 fly on Friday while winning the 100 free B-final with the third-fastest time overall. On Saturday, Phelps won the 400 IM in 4:16.95. That race was Phelps' first 400 IM long course since the 2010 Pan Pacs and only his second since setting the world record in Beijing. His time in Austin isn't far off the 4:13s and 4:14s Phelps swam in the lead-up to Beijing, but he insists that he does not plan on swimming it again in London. Phelps finished off the meet with a win in the 200 IM, a third-place finish behind Matt Grevers and David Plummer in the 100 back, and a B-final win in the 100 breast.
Natalie Coughlin won the 200 IM in Austin in 2:12.44. Coughlin won bronze in the 200 IM in Beijing, but this is her first competitive race of any 200 since then. Also in Austin, Missy Franklin broke 1:00 to win the 100 back in 59.92, and Rebecca Soni once again reminded the world how dominant she is in the 200 breast, posting a 2:22.73. Check out full recaps of all three days in Austin at SwimmingWorld.com.
200 miles north of Austin, some of the top college swimmers in the country swam at the SMU Classic in Dallas. USC's Vlad Morozov blasted the men's 100 free with a 42.51, the top time in the country this year, while Florida's Marcin Cieslak swam an equally-impressive 1:43.85 in the 200 fly. Both should contend for NCAA titles in the events in March.
At the CeraVe Invitational at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Arthur Frayler posted a pair of meet records in the 800 and 1500 free, the 800 record belonging to none other than former Germantown star Fran Crippen. Frayler later discussed the significance of breaking the record held by his former teammate and mentor. You can watch race videos, interviews, and read features from the meet at SwimmingWorld.TV.
Ian Thorpe competed at the Victoria Championships in Melbourne this weekend, his first swim meet in Australia since 2006. Thorpe did not make the final in the 100 free, posting a time of 51.05 in prelims, but he went on to finish fifth in the 200 free in 1:50.79. Thorpe is showing progress from his World Cup competitions in November and meet in Italy last month. Michael Klim, also on the comeback trail, beat Thorpe in the 100 free with a time of 50.15.
Matt Targett ripped off an impressive 100 free with a time of 48.77, faster than Nathan Adrian swam at the Austin Grand Prix. He also touched in 23.51 in the 50 fly. Melanie Schlanger provided the fireworks on the women's side, swimming a 53.87 in the 100 free and 1:58.07 in the 200 free, while Alicia Coutts won the 200 IM in 2:12.18.
David Reider contributed to today's Streamlined News.