Commentary by Jeff Commings, Swimming World Senior Writer
The Arena Pro Swim Series in Santa Clara was one of the last opportunities to see so many of the world’s best in one place before this summer’s big competitions. With the exception of those looking to race in French Open a couple of weeks from now, everyone else is now ready to put in their final weeks of training before the crucial taper period for the World University Games, Pan American Games and world championships.
We got to see pretty much all the top Americans, except for Katie Ledecky, Elizabeth Beisel, Conor Dwyer and a few others. Katinka Hosszu, Vlad Morozov and Femke Heemskerk were a few foreigners who provided some great competition. While the times on the scoreboard weren’t expected to be spectacular, there were three athletes who got everyone talking about the possibilities for later this summer.
According to swimming superfan Bill Bell, Efimova’s sweep of the breaststrokes in Santa Clara was a first for the Arena Pro Swim Series and its previous iterations. It is indeed difficult to find someone with sprint and endurance talent in breaststroke. Efimova is on track to take all three breaststrokes in front of a home crowd in Russia, which would also be a first. She almost did it in 2013, winning the 50 and 200 breast while taking silver in the 100. Efimova’s race strategies in all three races in Santa Clara showed that she knows when to turn on the necessary gears and get to the wall first. All eyes will be on her as she comes off a 16-month doping suspension, but it appears any doubts about her ability to race after a long hiatus have been erased.
The field of male breaststrokers in the United States continues to grow each year, and Cody Miller is working his way to the top of the heap. He’ll be racing the 100 breast at the world championships, and after swimming a lifetime best 59.51 in Santa Clara, he puts himself in a good position to qualify for the championship final in Kazan. Hopefully, his best swim of 2015 will happen in six weeks. But don’t pigeonhole him as just a sprinter. During his four years at Indiana University, he excelled in the 200 breast as well and could join the likes of Brendan Hansen and John Moffet as Americans who qualify for both breaststroke events at the Olympics.
After last March’s NCAA championships, it became apparent that Murphy was going to be a major force in backstroke this year and next. But his dominating swims in the 100 and 200 backstrokes in Santa Clara sent a very clear message: Murphy will be the one to beat in Omaha next year. He’s only swimming the 200 back at worlds, where he is a serious medal favorite. The ease in which he won both races in Santa Clara has to give him plenty of confidence as he heads into the final phase of training.