USA Looking To Win All Four Backstroke Titles At Pan Pacific Championships (Medal Predictions)

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Each day through August 19 (US), Swimming World will provide medal predictions for the Pan Pacific championships. We invite you to offer your thoughts on who is in line to win medals in the comments section!

Commentary by David Rieder

CHARLESTON, South Carolina, August 14. THE men’s backstroke events at Pan Pacs could get interesting quickly as Americans jockey for positions in the final. USA Swimming took only three fourth-place finishers from Nationals to Pan Pacs, two of whom are coming from the men’s backstroke events. Matt Grevers should be the odds-on favorite in the 100; despite having a slower time so far this year than Ryosuke Irie (52.57 to 52.75), Grevers consistently swims his best in the biggest races, as he won the gold medals at the 2012 Olympics and also at last year’s Worlds. He’s got more in the tank from his swim at Nationals.

Kosuke Hagino has the fourth-best time in the world at 53.08, but he learned from Worlds that swimming so many events may not be the best idea, as he faded badly at the end of his primary event, the 400 IM. The 100 back might be an event he scratches in Australia. Other medal contenders include the best of the remaining Americans, Ryan Murphy, David Plummer, and Nick Thoman, one of whom won’t even get to swim in the B-final at night. Remember that potential World Championships-qualifying swims can only come from a night swim.

Meanwhile, Australians Mitch Larkin, Ben Treffers, and/or Josh Beaver will be in the mix, and like the Americans, one will definitely be left out of the championship final. Look for a nice battle between the third Australian and the third American in that consolation heat.

The 200 back features a different mix of swimmers, particularly among the Americans. Entering the meet, Irie (1:53.91), Hagino (1:54.27), and Tyler Clary (1:54.71) have the three best times in the world. Clary posted that time last week with an emotional win at U.S. Nationals. World Champion Ryan Lochte had a considerable lead at the 150, but his lack of conditioning showed following knee injuries over the past year.

Expect Lochte to swim a smarter race at Pan Pacs in order to get back on the podium, but he will have to go through Clary and Ryan Murphy in prelims to even make the A-final. Aussies Mitch Larkin and Josh Beaver could contend for medals as well, along with Brazil’s Leonardo de Deus.

Men’s backstroke medal predictions:
100:
Gold:
Matt Grevers, USA
Silver: Ryosuke Irie, Japan
Bronze:David Plummer, USA

200:
Gold:
Ryosuke Irie, Japan
Silver: Tyler Clary, USA
Bronze: Ryan Lochte, USA

The United States, Australia, and Canada all have big names for the women’s 100 backstroke, but the battle for gold should come down to Emily Seebohm and Missy Franklin. Seebohm leads Franklin in the world rankings, 58.92 to 59.38, and she also has the better best time, 58.23 to 58.33. Franklin has had Seebohm’s number at both the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds, and I expect more of the same in Gold Coast. Franklin might not approach her American record, but I think Franklin can dip well under 59 seconds. She will have the 200 freestyle final right before it on the meet’s opening night, but we’ve seen Franklin pull off amazing doubles in her career many times.

There should be a nice battle for bronze, and based on lifetime numbers, Elizabeth Pelton has the top best time with a 59.27 from 2013 Nationals. Fellow American Rachel Bootsma also swam under 1:00 in 2012, but she just edged Pelton for second at Nationals, with both swimming up in the 1:00-mid range. I’d look for faster times in Australia, and I give Pelton the advantage. Australians Belinda Hocking (59.78) and Meagan Nay (59.90) both rank in the world top-ten, and Canada’s Sinead Russell joins them there (59.91). Russell’s teammate Brooklyn Snodgrass makes a case for a medal as well.

All three Aussies rank ahead of Franklin in the 200 back, led by Hocking’s 2:06.40, but I’m not buying that. The race might be closer than last year’s World Championship final, where Franklin beat Hocking by nearly two seconds, but Franklin won’t be coming off a double with the 200 free like she was at Nationals, and I doubt she’ll be far off her 2:04.76 from Worlds. Other Pan Pacs swimmers in the world top-ten include Nay, Seebohm, Canada’s Hillary Caldwell, Japan’s Sayaka Akase, and the USA’s Elizabeth Beisel.

Beisel’s best time came at the Santa Clara Grand Prix in June with a 2:09.11. She slipped off the start at Nationals after entering with the top qualifying time, so she should be capable of much better at Pan Pacs. Pelton also ranks in the world top-20, with a 2:09.73 from Santa Clara. Kathleen Baker and Lisa Bratton qualified to swim the event at Pan Pacs, but the battle for the second American spot in the finals (and on next year’s World Championships team) should come down to Beisel vs. Pelton.

Women’s backstroke medal predictions:
100:
Gold:
Missy Franklin, USA
Silver: Emily Seebohm, Australia
Bronze: Belinda Hocking, Australia

200:
Gold:
Missy Franklin, USA
Silver: Belinda Hocking, Australia
Bronze: Elizabeth Beisel, USA

Previous Pan Pacs medal predictions:

400 and 800 freestyle

100 and 200 butterfly

200 and 400 individual medley

6 Comments

6 comments

  1. Todd Stafek

    Lisa Bratton, not Amy Bratton!

    • Jeff Commings

      Sorry about that, Coach. Looking forward to see how Lisa does in Australia!

  2. commonwombat

    Nay won’t be there (nor was she at CG) as she’s currently out with injury.

    We can bet “London to a brick” that Franklin will be a major step up from times at Nats however I’m not 100% convinced regarding US 2nd line backstrokers, Both the 100 & 200 times at Nats were poor and as of yet, the likes of Pelton and Bootsma have yet to fully convince internationally. Beisel DID muck up her start in the 200BK but, apart from her 400IM (arguably her prime focus) her other events weren’t stellar.

    • David Rieder

      commonwombat, I agree that I’m not sold on the women behind Franklin, especially in the 100. We’ll see where Bootsma and Pelton are in Australia, but neither has been especially fast this year. As for the 200, I disagree on Beisel. She was swimming great prior to the slip – she made the 200 fly final (and scratched) and also the 200 free final (which she also scratched). Was swimming best times up to that point. Looked very good in prelims of the 200 back. More confident in her.

      • Josh

        I’m with David on this one. That 2:09.1 was what, 20-30 minutes after a 4:33 400 IM? When the pressure is on, Beisel has always been able to deliver, and Pan Pacs should be no exception. The last time she went from Nationals to Pan Pacs in 2010 she went from something like 4:39 to 4:34 in the 400 IM. She’s even more well-rounded and faster now, and has always been a big-meet swimmer. I’d look for her to have a stellar meet in Australia.

      • commonwombat

        Was aware of the “scratchings” but she also swam the 200IM, did she not ? My recollection was that she swam something like 2.12 …. and out of the placings in a less than lightning quick race. In no ways am I knocking her; she’s probably the 3rd biggest name and reputation on the US women’s team ….. I just recalled that she scratched other events at Nats and had another swim where she was some seconds off the pace.

Author: David Rieder

David Rieder has been a contributor to Swimming World since 2009. A native of Charleston, SC, he currently attends Duke University, where he works as the public address announcer for the varsity swim team.

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