By John Lohn
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind., April 7. WHEN the U.S. World Championship Trials opened last week, a number of questions surrounded the competition: How would the collegians react to a lengthy season? What schedule would Michael Phelps embrace? Would the U.S. form a squad capable of rivaling its team from Athens?
Well, most of the questions were answered. Now, the countdown to Montreal has started. But, before we begin to look ahead to the possibilities in Canada, let’s take a look at some of the key developments and storylines from Indianapolis.
**His versatility is downright scary. Approximately eight months after he collected eight medals in Athens, Michael Phelps put his vast talents on display once again. While he stayed with the 100 butterfly, 200 freestyle and 200 individual medley, Phelps added the 100 freestyle and 400 freestyle to his program. In the end, he had victories in all five events.
Despite not being at his peak training point, Phelps uncorked a number of stellar times and proved that he’ll be a force in the 100 freestyle, where he clocked a personal-best time of 49.00 and defeated American record-holder Jason Lezak. Slated to swim eight events in Montreal, the Phelps legend should grow.
**Some have called her the female version of Michael Phelps, but with the way she performed in Indy, Katie Hoff has established her own identity. Although just a 15-year-old, Hoff is one of the world’s most versatile swimmers and seems to get better with each day.
Out of the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, Hoff won both individual medley events and the 200 freestyle and took second in the 200 backstroke. During her incredible week, Hoff set an American record in the 200 I.M. and proved she’ll be chasing global marks in Montreal.
**As far as the men’s and women’s teams go for Montreal, they appear to be on opposite sides of the spectrum. While the men are loaded with returning talent from Athens – Phelps, Peirsol, Hansen and Jensen, etc. – the women must form an identity.
Sure, Natalie Coughlin and Kaitlin Sandeno will return to the international stage, but there is the need for improvement if the Americans plan to compete at the highest level with the Aussies, particularly in the prestigious relay events.
**Here’s a nomination for Jeri Moss as Surprise Performer of the Meet. Taking advantage of a wide-open field behind Natalie Coughlin, Moss placed second in the 100 backstroke to qualify for international duties. The third-place finisher in the 200 back, Moss was also named to the team in that event after Katie Hoff opted to bypass that event in Montreal.
**For the past seven years, Ed Moses has been one of the world’s elite breaststrokers. The Olympic silver medalist in the 100 breast in 2000, Moses formerly held the world record in that event and also established himself as one of the globe’s premier 200 breast performers.
Unfortunately, though, even the great ones face the end at some point. And, it looks like Moses has arrived at that stage in his life. Able to finish only fifth in the 100 breast in Indy, Moses didn’t contest the 200 distance.
**The Texas duo of Aaron Peirsol and Brendan Hansen, international staples for the United States, uncorked splendid meets. Peirsol set the only world record of the week, as he clocked 53.17 in the 100 back, and also gave his global standard in the 200 back a run. Hansen, meanwhile, obliterated the competition in the breast events and gave his world mark in the breast a push before settling for the eighth-fastest time in history.
**With Amanda Beard opting to bypass the Trials and this summer’s World Championships, it could be suggested that the women’s breaststrokes have been weakened. Still, the United States looks strong in those disciplines.
Tara Kirk won both the 100 and 200 distances and nearly produced an American-record swim in the 100 breast (1:07.11) while Jessica Hardy continued her growth by placing second in the 100. Then there was Kristen Caverly, who qualified for the World Champs in the 200 breast after competing in Athens in the 200 back.
**Coming off a grueling month that included the Southeastern Conference Championships and the NCAA Championships, Ryan Lochte still found a way to deliver in Indy and qualified in three individual events and as a member of the 800 free relay. This summer, there’s every reason to believe that Lochte will medal in both individual medley events and the 200 backstroke.