By John Lohn
PHILADELPHIA, Penn., June 10. IT’S Friday, which means the next installment of our World Championships Preview. This week, we thought a look at Laszlo Cseh would be a good idea. After all, he’s been the hottest swimmer in the world during the last week.
A 19-year-old Hungarian, Cseh has been shredding the competition during the first two stops on the Mare Nostrum Series – Spain and France. Going 4-for-4 in the individual medley events, Cseh has been sizzling with the World Championships a little more than a month away.
After winning the 200 I.M. and 400 I.M. at the Barcelona segment of the Mare Nostrum Series, Cseh broke his own European record in the 400 I.M. in Canet, as he blazed a mark of 4:10.10. In firming up his position as the second-fastest man in history, Cseh established himself as the overwhelming favorite for gold at the World Champs. Of course, it helps that world-record holder Michael Phelps is bypassing the event.
By swimming 4:10-low, Cseh is within striking distance of Phelps’ global standard of 4:08.26. More, he appears headed for his first gold medal in either Olympic or World Championship action. While Cseh was the silver medalist at the 2003 World Champs, he earned bronze at the Athens Olympics.
Without Phelps in the event, Cseh should receive his greatest competition from Italy’s Alessio Boggiatto and the United States’ Ryan Lochte. Tunisia’s Ous Mellouli could also be a factor. None of those swimmers, however, are likely to push Cseh. Ranked second in the world this year (4:14.78), Boggiatto is more than four seconds off Cseh’s world-leading effort.
The 200 individual medley, however, is a different story for the Hungarian ace. Fourth at the Olympics, Cseh will find the shorter I.M. to be a more loaded field. Phelps and Lochte will enter the competition favored to repeat their gold-silver showing in Athens. Cseh, meanwhile, is likely to battle for the bronze medal, unless he can break into the 1:58-low range. That type of effort might land silver.
Although he is best known for his medley endeavors, Cseh could also make a mark in the 100 backstroke, an event in which he finished sixth in Athens. Behind Aaron Peirsol, a near-lock for gold, Cseh has the tools to earn a place on the medal podium.