The United States pulled off a resurgent performance at the Pan American Games to win the most swimming events in a drama-filled meet in Toronto, while disabled swimming world record fell at the world championships. Those were just two of the top headlines that dominated a busy week in and out of the pool, and we’re counting down the top five on The Week That Was.
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The Week That Was #5: USA Water Polo wins gold at Pan American Games, qualify for Olympics
Winning the gold medal in women’s and men’s water polo at the Pan American Games was not much of a surprise for the Americans. But they were necessary victories, as it meant automatic qualification for the 2016 Olympics. The women routed Canada 13-4 in the gold medal match, with Maggie Steffens and Courtney Mathewson each scoring four goals. The men’s gold medal match was much closer, as Brazil lost to the Americans 11-9. It was a major team effort for the American men, as Josh Samuels and Luca Cupido scored three goals each and goalie Merrill Moses recorded 17 saves. Both squads now head to the FINA world championships to see if they can keep their winning streak alive. The men have never won a world championship medal, while the women last won the world title in 2009.
The Week That Was #4: New Zealand’s 2016 Olympic Trials might conflict with men’s NCAA championships
Many countries will be holding their 2016 Olympic Trials in late March/early April next year, and New Zealand’s scheduled date for their meet has presented a major conflict for the athletes that train in the United States and compete at the NCAA championships. The New Zealand Open will begin March 28, just two days after the conclusion of the men’s NCAA Division I championships. That presents a dilemma for a few New Zealanders, including Corey Main of Florida and Matthew Hutchins of Wisconsin. Others train outside the U.S. collegiate system, so it will not affect them. “I’m devastated,” Hutchins said.
The Week That Was #3: Missy Franklin and Becca Meyers win ESPY Awards
Though only two swimmers were nominated for the ESPY Awards that honor the top athletes in the world, both managed to earn trophies. Missy Franklin won Best Female College Athlete for her final collegiate season that included an American record in the 200 freestyle. She was not at the ceremony, but tweeted a video of her getting her car towed in Denver around the time her win was made official. Becca Meyers was half a world away from the ceremony in Los Angeles, competing at the IPC world championships (see The Week That Was #2), so she’ll have her trophy waiting for her for Best Female Athlete With A Disability when she returns from Scotland.
The Week That Was #2: World records shattered at IPC world championships
Some of the best disabled swimmers in the world converged on Glasgow, Scotland, for the IPC world championships. Russia dominated the meet, winning 32 gold medals. The most prolific athlete at the meet was Daniel Dias of Brazil, who seven gold medals to bring his total world championship medal tally to 29, 23 of which are gold. More than a dozen world records were set at the meet, including three by American Becca Meyers. One of the best disabled swimmers in the world, American Ian Silverman, was unable to compete as officials deemed his disability was not extreme enough to be considered for disabled competition.
The Week That Was #1: Drama-filled Pan American Games produces breakout stars
Very few swim meets in history have experienced the rollercoaster of emotions produced at the Pan American Games in Toronto. Host Canada got off to a strong start, winning three events on the first day and keeping the United States off the gold medal podium. Slowly but surely, the Americans began to rally, and the medal numbers began to rise. At the end of the meet, the United States collected 32 medals, the lowest medal count for the USA since the current race program was implemented in 1987. But there were several bright spots for the USA. Sean Lehane, swimming on his first senior-level team, won the 200 backstroke, while Giles Smith got his first international medal with a gold in the 100 butterfly. Veterans Natalie Coughlin, Allison Schmitt and Josh Schneider gave the team big boosts in the pool with gold medal performances, while Darian Townsend won his first international medals as an American citizen with a silver and bronze. Coughlin swam the 100 back for the first time at a major meet since the 2012 Olympic Trials, and produced a stunning 59.05 leading off the victorious medley relay.
Canada and Brazil sent members of their world championship team to the event, which gave them an advantage in several races. Felipe Silva blazed through the 100 breast, Etiene Medeiros showed her strength in the 100 back and Leonardo de Deus won the 200 fly. Thiago Pereira now owns the record for the most medals won at Pan Ams by an athlete in any sport, claiming five to bring his total to 23. Pereira would have won six in Toronto, but was disqualified in the 400 IM. For Canada, the team relied heavily on Ryan Cochrane, who won the distance races, and Audrey Lacroix, the women’s 200 fly winner.
Pereira’s DQ was part of a very dramatic day in the pool. It started with a stunning announcement that Peru’s Mauricio Fiol tested positive for a banned substance, and his silver medal in the 200 fly was returned. Then, Emily Overholt was disqualified in the 400 IM for an illegal touch after initially finishing the race in first place. The DQ gave the gold to Caitlin Leverenz, who would go on to win the 200 IM outright.
A few athletes had outstanding performances to produce breakout swims. Federico Grabich of Argentina was the surprise winner of the men’s 100 free, and Santo Condorelli produced the fastest 100 free so far in 2015 with a 47.98 leadoff for Canada. Katie Meili delivered on the promise of a strong 100 breast with a 1:05.64 in prelims that is second-fastest in the world, before winning the event in finals. American Kelsi Worrell also showed her strength in the long course pool with a 57.78 to win the 100 fly, the third-fastest swim of the year so far.