By Emily Sampl
BOULDER, Colorado, April 17. LAST weekend featured a busy international meet schedule, with a number of countries holding their long course national championship and trials meets and selecting teams for major meets to come this summer. Not many long course meets had been held thus far in 2014, which gave swimmers the opportunity to move up in the world rankings and qualify for international teams. Here are a few of the standout swims from each of the major meets held over the weekend.
Great Britainâ€™s long course national championships served as the selection meet for this summerâ€™s Commonwealth Games, and a couple of swimmers made big statements during the meet. Siobhan-Marie Oâ€™Connor branched out from her usual breaststroke lineup this weekend and swam the 200 IM, taking the race out under world record pace and finishing half a second off Hannah Mileyâ€™s national record with a 2:09.71, only the second sub-2:10 swim of 2014.
Distance swimmers Jaz Carlin and Daniel Fogg also put up some impressive performances in the distance freestyle events. Carlin posted an 8:18.36, a personal best and new British record, to win the 800 free and slingshot to first in the 2014 world rankings. Carlin also put up a 4:04.68 in the 400 free, just off her personal best of 4:04.25 from last year. Daniel Fogg, meanwhile, dipped under 15 minutes in the 1500 free, one of only a few swimmers to do so this year with a 14:59.86. Another British record fell in the womenâ€™s 100 breast, as Sophie Taylor lowered her own record from 1:07.36 to 1:07.08. Ross Murdoch also scared the menâ€™s 100 breast national record with a 59.56, only .01 off Daniel Sliwinskiâ€™s 59.55.
France also held itâ€™s national championship meet last weekend, and a few of the countryâ€™s top Olympic stars showed theyâ€™re hungry for more this summer. Florent Manaudou, the 2012 Olympic champion in the menâ€™s 50 free, posted the second-fastest time in the world this year in that event, swimming a 21.70 to pull within .05 of Australiaâ€™s Eamon Sullivan for the top time. Manaudou also lowered his season best in the 100 free to 48.69, which is tied for sixth in the world, and showed some versatility with the eighth-best 50 breast (27.66). Franceâ€™s 400 free relay is shaping up to be a serious contender once again as two other Frenchmen cracked the top 10 rankings at the meet â€“ Mehdy Metella (48.72) and Fabian Gilot (48.73). Yannick Agnel should be a part of that relay internationally as well; although he didnâ€™t swim the 100 free last weekend, he did post the third-fastest time in the 200 free this year with a 1:45.63.
Backstroke specialist Camille Lacourt had a strong meet in Chartres, leaving with the top-ranked 50 back (24.37) and sixth-best 100 back (53.59). Countryman Jeremy Stravius certainly gave him a run though, with a 24.80 in the 50 and 53.85 in the 100. On the womenâ€™s side, mid-distance freestyler Camille Muffat put up several solid mid-season performances in her best events. She touched in 54.08 in the 100 free, 1:57.05 in the 200 free and a 4:07.14 in the 400 free for three top-15 performances.
Spaniard Mireia Belmonte Garcia continued her dominance in her home country with more national titles over the weekend and a few top-ranked times as well. She moved past American Katie Ledecky for the top spot in the 400 free this year, becoming the first swimmer to dip under 4:04 with a 4:03.84. In the 1500 free, she turned in the first sub-16:00 performance of 2014 with a 15:58.07, 13 seconds better than second-ranked Martina Caramignoli of Italy, who swam a 16:11.70 at the Italian spring nationals. Belmonte Garciaâ€™s 200 fly time fell just off the best performance of 2014, as her 2:06.33 just missed Natsumi Hoshiâ€™s 2:05.98 from the Japanese nationals meet the same day. Belmonte wrapped up the meet with season bests in the 200 IM (2:11.26) and 400 IM (4:32.92), that latter of which is the fastest time in the world this year.
Japan has notoriously lacked a strong sprint freestyler on its medley relays in international competition, but that may be coming to an end thanks to Shinri Shioura. Last weekend, Shioura broke into the top six in the world in both the 50 and 100 free, posting times of 21.88 and 48.69, respectively, in what could be a sign of great things to come. Shioura lowered his own national record in the 50, becoming the first Japanese swimmer ever to break 22 in the event. With traditionally strong legs in back, breast and fly, Japan may have found the anchor theyâ€™ve been looking for.
Strong 200 freestyle swims by Kosuke Hagino (1:45.89), Takeshi Matsuda (1:46.98) and Yuki Kobori (1:47.27) could also put the Japanese in the hunt in the 800 free relay as well. Hagino had an impressive meet in Tokyo, also posting the quickest times this year in the 200 IM (1:55.38) and 400 IM (4:07.88) and the second-best times in the 400 free (3:43.90), 100 back (53.08) and 200 back (1:54.23). His 400 free time broke the Japanese record, while his 200 IM set a new Japanese and Asian record in that event. Hagino finished second in both backstroke events to Ryosuke Irie, who set new world-bests in both the 100 (52.57) and 200 (1:53.91).
Other notable swims in Tokyo came from the womenâ€™s breaststroke group, led by Kanako Watanabe (1:06.53 â€“ 100 breast; 2:21.09 â€“ 200 breast), Satomi Suzuki (1:07.06 â€“ 100 breast) and Rie Kaneto (1:07.23 â€“ 100 breast; 2:21.58 â€“ 200 breast), and the menâ€™s butterfliers, highlighted by Takuro Fuji (51.84) and Hirofumi Kebataâ€™s (51.98) sub-52s in the menâ€™s 100 fly.
Swedenâ€™s Sarah Sjostrom turned a lot of heads at the Eindhoven Cup meet in The Netherlands last weekend, posting four times that rank either first or second in the world for 2014 in the 50 free (24.15, second), 100 free (52.73, second), 200 free (1:55.04, first) and 50 fly (25.52, first). Denmarkâ€™s Mie Nielsen also had a few standout swims, posting the fourth-best 50 back (27.76) and second-best 100 back (59.36) for 2014. Fellow countrywoman Rikke Pedersen scared the womenâ€™s 200 breast record with a 2:19.61, only half a second off her 2:19.11 from last summerâ€™s FINA World Championships.