PHOENIX, Arizona, January 18. THE Arena Grand Prix kicked off this morning in Austin, Texas, with some of the world's best racing for a place in finals. Some of those races were quite anticlimactic, such as the women's 200 breast, which featured just six swimmers, and the men's 200 breast, which had only 12 swimmers. Unlike the Grand Prix meets of the past, USA Swimming tightened up the qualifying standards to make it more of an elite meet. Last year's Grand Prix meet in Austin featured about more than 500 swimmers. This year, fewer than 300. The top four qualifiers for tonight's men's 100 free final swam for the United States in the 400 free relay at the Olympics, either in prelims or finals, and should provide for a great race tonight. The crowd will get excited for local heroes Ricky Berens and Jimmy Feigen, both of whom train at the University of Texas and are the top two seeds. Olympic champion Nathan Adrian is the third seed, while Matt Grevers is fourth going into tonight's finals. Also watch out for Anthony Ervin, who has plenty of 100 freestyle experience in his career, having swum in the 400 free relay at the 2000 Olympics.
Missy Franklin has the luxury of being in only one event today, and she's likely to take the win tonight in the 100 free, racing against a field that includes Canadian Olympian Victoria Poon and rising teenager Simone Manuel. Ryan Lochte wasn't able to make it into the 100 free final, placing ninth, but he'll be a factor in the 100 fly final, which will include Bobby Bollier as the top seed, as well as Olympic Trials finalist Eugene Godsoe and 200 fly Olympian Tyler Clary. Clary will be coming off a swim in the finals of the 400 free, which will be headlined by Canadian distance star Ryan Cochrane.
We'll provide a complete live recap of finals of the Grand Prix tonight and through the weekend on swimmingworld.com, including special Race Day recaps on swimmingworld.tv.
Down Under in Perth, Australia, several Olympic medalists from China and Australia are racing at the special Aquatic Super Series, which, like the Grand Prix is offering cash prizes for top three finishes in each race and a $15,000 check to the top male and female swimmers of the meet. Christian Sprenger had the top swim today on the men's side, posting a 59.7 in the 100 breast, less than a second slower than he swam at the Olympics to win the silver medal. Ye Shiwen and Cate Campbell put up fast times as well. Ye won the 200 IM with a 2:09.67 while Campbell won the 100 free with a quick 53.51. James Magnussen also had a good swim in the 100 free, winning with a 48.38. Take a look at our recap of the first day of the meet on swimmingworld.com.
Katinka Hosszu hasn't let up on racing in the beginning of 2012 after collecting more than $200,000 at meets last fall. She's now at the Euro 2012 meet in Luxembourg, entered in every individual event and likely to win most of them. So far she's won the 800 free and 400 IM, and will likely wrap up today with a win in the 200 fly. Her one roadblock will likely be Ruta Meilutyte, the Olympic champion in the 100 breast. We'll see how that and other races shake out over the weekend, and bring you results on swimmingworld.com.
Back here in the States several college teams will be in action. The SMU Classic will feature teams from Southern Methodist, Southern Cal, Michigan, Florida, Louisville and Purdue in some great head-to-head competition. Joao de Lucca of Louisville will match up against Southern Cal's Vlad Morozov in a heated 100 free race, while Christian Quintero of USC could provide a good mid-distance battle with Michigan's Ryan Feeley. Depending on the team that Florida sends, they could challenge for the meet victory, with Sebastien Rousseau able to swim virtually any event well for the Gators. The Gator women will stay in Gainesville to race for the first time since the Ohio Invitational six weeks ago in a meet against Florida Atlantic.