World Championships Day Six Prelims Notebook: Michael Who?

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BARCELONA, Spain, August 2. IF the 200 butterfly seemed to be severely lacking with Michael Phelps’ absence, the 100 butterfly seems to be just fine — at least internationally.

Three swimmers cracked the 52-second barrier in today’s preliminaries, a positive sign for the event as we creep up on the one-year anniversary since Phelps won gold in the 100 fly at the London Olympics. As far as morning swims go, that was encouraging.

Perhaps seeing Evgeny Korotyshkin pop a 51.55 in the fourth of six heats lit a fire under Chad Le Clos and Laszlo Cseh, the other two swimmers under 2 seconds. While it was not out of the ordinary to see Le Clos under 52 seconds, it was a little jolt to see Cseh win heat six and post a 51.89. Cseh has never been known as a sprint butterflyer, though he was the silver medalist in the 200 fly at the Beijing Olympics. More people will break 52 in tonight’s finals, including Germany’s Steffen Diebler and Poland’s Konrad Czerniak. With the semifinals of this event happening about an hour after the men’s 200 backstroke final, Ryan Lochte should be in good shape to crack 52 and get into his first 100 fly long course worlds final, though he will have to be conscious about having enough left for the 800 freestyle relay final. Eugene Godsoe will have to be at his best in the semifinal. Having two Americans in the 100 fly final in 2013 will silence any doubters that the United States had no one to carry Phelps’ torch in this event.

Pump up the volume.There must have been a sale on vuvuzelas yesterday in Barcelona. This morning, I was nearly blasted out of my seat a few times by the sound of those obnoxious horns throughout the arena. Usually there are only just a sprinkling of them, but I heard three times as many, mostly from the French who stopped by to cheer Yannick Agnel lead the French 800 free relay in prelims. That’s good for creating noise in the building.

Some of the teams are getting more into cheering during prelims. Japan continues to be the most supportive team. I don’t know what they are saying in Japanese just after the whistle is blown to get the swimmers on the blocks, but I like it. They never miss a heat.

I stand by last night’s commentary calling out the United States’ lack of enthusiastic cheering, and it appears nothing changed overnight. Besides the cheers of “Let’s go (insert name here),” I heard very little. The support for the prelim 800 free relay was nice, but they need to have that for the entire session. And one commenter on that article said the Germans were just as quiet. They were in the rows above the Americans this morning, and they looked just as sleepy. I’m sure they will get on their feet for tonight’s 800 free relay, but I hope the Americans go crazy tonight when Ryan Lochte and Tyler Clary step up for the 200 backstroke final. Just because a 1-2 finish is almost assured doesn’t mean they can’t get behind them and pull them both into the finish.

Relay, relay, relay! I completely underestimated Russia’s potential in the men’s 800 free relay. This morning, they put all of their top swimmers on it, and I think they will be tough. Danila Izotov, Nikita Lobintsev, Artem Lobuzov and Alexander Sukhorukov coasted through the morning, but they have the firepower to make tonight’s final one of the most thrilling races of the meet. I can’t predict who will win, but it will not be decided until the final strokes. Russia and the USA did battle at the 2009 worlds, with the Americans getting the win — and the world record — by six tenths of a second. After misfiring on the 400 free relay, the Russians are out for blood. The key in this relay, as I mentioned above, is how Lochte will recover from the 200 backstroke final and 100 fly semifinal. He will only have 30 minutes after the 200 fly before the relay. Maybe he swims anchor to get about five minutes more prep time.

And with Charlie Houchin’s 1:45.66 on the morning relay, the chances for American gold improves, but not by much. I would put Ricky Berens on the relay, mostly for his previous experience. He could crank out a much faster split than the 1:47.06 he put up this morning.

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