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Commentary by Jeff Commings
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee, December 7. WHETHER or not Michael Phelps decides to follow through with a comeback effort for the 2016 Olympics, we’ve got a very promising prospect in the 200 fly on the cusp of becoming the country’s go-to swimmer for at least the next seven years.
Andrew Seliskar is the second seed in tonight’s 200 butterfly final at the USA Swimming nationals, and whatever his result tonight, he’s going to put a scare into his domestic competition in the lead-up to next summer Pan Pacific championship selection meet. Seliskar is already proving his worth, having won the gold medal in the 200 fly at last summer’s junior world championships. Though not as tall and muscular as those he’ll race in tonight’s final, Seliskar has a natural stroke that shows off his natural talent. The 200 butterfly needs a consistent performer among Americans in the coming years if any chance exists to challenge Chad Le Clos in Rio de Janeiro.
Placing fourth in the Olympics in the women’s breaststroke seems to have been a blessing in disguise. We already watched Rikke Moller Pedersen break the world record in the 200 breast at the world championships, one year after seeing herself one spot off the podium in the event in London. Alia Atkinson was fourth in the 100 breast in London representing Jamaica, and she’s been on a tear this fall, chasing world records at the FINA World Cup. Now, she’s got that 200-yard breast U.S. Open record in her sights, and I’m sure the current record holder, Breeja Larson, will have mixed feelings about it. Larson is a senior at Texas A&M, where Atkinson excelled and won the NCAA 200 breast title in 2010. Atkinson split 59.65 at the 100 this morning then relaxed in the final half of her prelim race, but expect to see a major push tonight. After seeing three American records broken last night — as well as a close call by Missy Franklin in the 200 free — Atkinson might provide the only major record of the night to close out the meet.
My, how technology has changed. Just a couple of years ago, the pool deck at major meets would be lined with camcorders to film races for swimmers to watch later. Now, I’m seeing coaches hold up iPads and cell phones to record races. I don’t own an iPad, but I know there are plenty of apps to use for video playback, including Coach Cam. And if you’re a part of the national team, you’ve got the opportunity to sit and enjoy in-depth video analysis of your race here, thanks to Russell Mark and his staff at USA Swimming. I watched a couple of athletes analyze the videos of their races, and it made me wish this technology was available 20 years ago.