Summer Season is Heating Up

By John Lohn

CRANBURY, New Jersey, July 11. SOME thoughts from the deck as the summer shifts into high gear with the Janet Evans Invitational, Pan American Games, U.S. Summer Nationals, World University Games and Japanese International Meet. Enjoy the next month and here's to fast swimming from all corners of the globe.

**Barring a drastic development that would see Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte slide in the 200 individual medley, the American men should go into the Beijing Olympics as overwhelming favorites to replicate their gold-silver finish from Athens in 2004. But, behind Phelps and Lochte, a highly intriguing battle is brewing for the other position on the medal podium.

While Laszlo Cseh won the bronze medal at the World Championships in Melbourne in the 200 I.M., thanks to a clocking of 1:56.92, the Hungarian can expect a push from Brazil's Thiago Pereira. True, Pereira was fourth in Melbourne, a little more than two seconds behind Cseh, but Pereira certainly has the potential to close the gap.

With the Pan American Games set for next week, Pereira will have the opportunity to deliver a message in a number of disciplines, as he's slated to contest five individual events: The 200 I.M., 400 I.M., 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke and 200 breaststroke. Pereira has enjoyed a strong tuneup season, so don't be surprised if the Brazilian throws down an effort of 1:57 for the shorter medley.

**This prediction is hardly going out on a limb, but we'll go with it anyway. Janet Evans' long-standing American record in the 400 freestyle, an effort of 4:03.85 from the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, will be taken down at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. But, which swimmer will collect the mark, Kate Ziegler or Katie Hoff?

While Ziegler recently broke Evans' global standard in the 1500 freestyle, Hoff broke the world record in the 400 I.M. at the World Champs. The women had a great battle at last summer's Nationals in the 400 free and another in Indy would not only be a highlight for the spectators looking for a tight finish, but would also likely take the clock to a point no American woman has ever before managed.

**When Alain Bernard recently went 21.76 in the 50 freestyle at the French Championships, he became the third-fastest man in history, trailing only Alex Popov and Roland Schoeman. Gary Hall Jr. has also been 21.76. More, Bernard added significant intrigue to the one-lap sprint with the next Olympiad approaching rapidly. Always one of the most exciting events on the schedule, the 50 free has some great storylines.

First and foremost, the spotlight will be on Hall trying to qualify for his fourth Olympics and having the chance to make it a three-peat in the 50 free. The two-time defending Olympic champ, Hall will provide a gauge as to his status when he races at the Pan American Games. Look for Hall, the quintessential big-stage performer, to deliver an effort of high note.

When the Beijing Games roll around, at least one major American name will be missing from the 50 free, as each country is limited to a pair of entries. With Ben Wildman-Tobriner and Cullen Jones coming off a one-two finish at the World Champs, one sub-22 performer will not get the chance at the title of fastest man in the world, whether it be Hall, Wildman-Tobriner or Jones.

Beyond the American scene, Australian Eamon Sullivan continues to rocket up the international charts and is another man likely to dip below the 22-second mark. Also factor in Brazil's Cesar Cielo, a rising force on the sprint scene who won NCAA titles in the 50 and 100 freestyles for Auburn University in March.

**Considering his past accomplishments, a sensational showing by Ian Crocker at Nationals is to be expected. The fastest man in history in the 100-meter butterfly, Crocker's clocking of 50.40 in the event at the 2005 World Championships in Montreal stands as one of the greatest swims ever produced. The effort is one of four sub-51 efforts by Crocker.

But, Crocker is far from a one-event wonder, as his prowess in the 50 and 100 freestyle will attest. A 2004 Olympian in the 100 free, Crocker has the talent to garner another Olympic slot in that event if he desires to make the push. Unquestionably, the United States would benefit from having an athlete of Crocker's ilk on the 400 free relay, for there is reason to believe that, on the right day, he can be a 48-point in the 100 freestyle. So, here's to seeing Crocker in the 100 free in Indy and providing a prelude as to what might come in Omaha next year.

**Taking into account his leadoff leg of 48.42 in the 400 freestyle relay at the World Champs and his recent 49.10 mid-training mark in the 100 free at the Santa Clara International Invitational, there's reason to believe that it's only a matter of time before Michael Phelps takes down the American record in the 100 free. The mark stands at 48.17, set by Jason Lezak at the 2004 Olympic Trials.

Phelps has demonstrated greater early speed his races, a scary development with his ability to close a race faster than anyone on the planet. That combination lends itself to the possibility of a sub-48 performance in the near future, something only accomplished by The Netherlands' Pieter van den Hoogenband. Yes, cracking the 48-second barrier is obviously a monumental feat, but this is Michael Phelps we're talking about and doubting the man would be flat-out foolish.

If Phelps has the chance in the future to race the 100 and 400 freestyles in peak condition, it would hardly be stunning to see two more American standards. Of course, Phelps already owns World and American marks in the 200 freestyle, 200 butterfly, 200 individual medley and 400 individual medley.

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July 12, 2007. I think that Ryan Lochte is going to take out Phelps at the Olympics this year. Lochte's hungry and Phelps is getting old. Eric

July 12, 2007. I know Nick Brunelli is coming off injury last year, but why "NO" mention of him competing in the 50 , or 100 freestyle?? He was top 5 in the world prior to getting injured at Nationals last year, and he did win the 50free at TYR Meet of champions, and took 2nd just behind Lezak in the 100fr, last month.. He beat Roland in both of those races as well. In addition, He won 50 and 100fr at Spring Nationals this year as well. Just wondering what Nick has to do, to gain some hype prior to a meet?? Jcook

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