Commentary by Jeff Commings
PHOENIX, Arizona, October 11. THE official name of the FINA World Cup is the FINA/Arena World Cup, but I feel this year it should change to the FINA/Arena/Katinka Hosszu World Cup, based on the way the Hungarian has made the eight-meet circuit her personal playground this year.
After the first two meets in Dubai and Doha, Hosszu has collected $22,000 in cash after winning an astounding 14 events and placing third in two others. Sixteen events over the course of a week! This goes beyond a Phelpsian feat, since she's been swimming harder events and has been doing some of them with less than 20 minutes rest between races.
Hosszu's past experience as a collegiate swimmer at the University of Southern California has undoubtedly helped her in these meets. It also helped that the competition was not as intense in the Middle East, where she rarely had to expend much energy to get to the wall first in several events.
At the meet in Stockholm, Sweden, which starts in a matter of hours, Hosszu will have to step up her game if she wants to win multiple events. The European leg of the tour tends to feature more competition, and Stockholm will bring out some tough competitors that could end Hosszu's golden run.
Lotte Friis of Denmark is scheduled to swim the distance freestyles this weekend, and the 2009 world champion should have no problem beating the 8:29.31 that Hosszu swam to win in Doha. Hosszu's winning time of 4:04.24 in the 400 free might be a little more of a challenge for Friis, but her history in distance freestyle could help her to win both events. Friis' lifetime bests are 8:04.51 in the 800 and 3:58.02 in the 400.
Hannah Miley of Great Britain will be Hosszu's strongest contender in the individual medley events. Like Hosszu, Miley was a finalist in both IM races at the 2012 Olympics, with Hosszu getting the better of Miley each time. Miley and Hosszu are best at the 400 distance, so that race will likely be a great one on the women's side.
On the upside for Hosszu, she could leave Stockholm as the sole leader in the overall points totals. Daryna Zevina of Ukraine, who's tied with Hosszu with 45 points, is not racing in Stockholm, so whatever points Hosszu grabs in Sweden will be a nice cushion.
Another race to watch is the women's 100 breaststroke. Jessica Hardy is the former short course world record holder and current long course world record holder, and she'll likely line up next to reigning Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte, who shocked the world with a two-second drop in her lifetime best to claim the gold medal. Both like to push the first 50 hard, so the winner will be the one with the best closing speed.
Olympic medalists from Europe on the women's side will include Inge Dekker of the Netherlands, Germany's Britta Steffen and Sweden's Therese Alshammar. Sarah Sjostrom, the former world record holder in the 100 long course butterfly, will also delight the home crowd in several events.
The meet in Stockholm will feel different without the presence of South Africa's Chad Le Clos, who returned home after performing well in the Middle East. Le Clos won the overall grand prize in the men's division in 2011, but is likely focusing more on preparation for the short course world championships in December. Cameron van der Burgh and Roland Schoeman also elected to return to their respective training sites in South Africa and the United States to prep for racing in Turkey. Darian Townsend will still represent South Africa well in Stockholm, racing in several freestyle and individual medley races this weekend. Townsend is a 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the 400 free relay, multiple NCAA champion and former short course world record holder in the 200 IM.
Kenneth To is starting to make a name for himself on the World Cup circuit, leading in the overall points standings and showing that he will be a presence at short course worlds in several events. To was able to beat several established sprinters in the 100 free in Dubai and Doha, including countrymen Tomasso D'Orsogna and Kyle Richardson, but this weekend, Sweden's Stefan Nystrand and Italy's Luca Dotto will present formidable challenges.
Be sure to look for some great performances from Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, not only in the individual medleys but the middle distance freestyle and butterfly. Cseh won a bronze in the 200 IM in London, and after testing the waters, so to speak, in the Middle East, I'm guessing Cseh will be looking to get his revenge on To and Townsend in that event after placing third to them in Doha.
Paul Biedermann will be another name to watch. The 200 and 400 freestyle world record holder was off his form in London, not making it into the 400 free final and out of the medal chase in the 200. How will he do against a young field in Stockholm that includes Cseh and Australia's Robert Hurley?
Some of the most talented backstrokers in history will race in Stockholm. Russia's Stanislav Donets, who came close to breaking Nick Thoman's short course world record in 2010, has amazing underwater dolphin kicks and should use that to his advantage. Brazil's Guilherme Guido, Australia's Ashley Delaney and Germany's Helge Meeuw are also great underwater swimmers, and with the bulk of the short course races swum underwater, this should provide some great battles.
Anthony Ervin and Tom Shields will represent the United States on the men's side. Ervin is coming off two wins in the 50 free in Dubai and Doha, and could make it a threepeat, if he can get to the wall ahead of Trindad and Tobago's George Bovell, Nystrand and Australia's Matt Targett.
If I was only able to follow one race at the meet, it would be the women's 50 butterfly. Dekker, Alshammar and Sjostrom are seeded 1-2-3. Need I say more?
What race will you be excited to follow? Take a look at the heats sheets posted below, then sound off in our Reaction Time section.