Around the Swimming World: Ben Proud Could Swim 20-Second 50 Free

Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

By David Rieder.

When Ben Proud swam a 21.11 in the 50 free semi-finals at the European Championships, it may have been the fastest race in history. When Cesar Cielo and Fred Bousquet swam faster than that in 2009, both were wearing now-banned full-body polyurethane suits—likely an advantage of more than two tenths for a 50-meter race.

And Proud can be faster—that’s almost assured. Watch his race: The explosive start, the straight-arm lightning-quick tempo and the finish. Ugh, that finish.

At 37 seconds in that race video, Proud reaches for the wall… and keeps reaching. In the last few moments of the race, he seemed to shut off the gas. Finally, he touched the wall, opting for the long finish with his left arm instead of throwing his right hand forward for another stroke.

No, that long finish probably wasn’t what cost him the world record—he was two tenths slower than Cielo’s 20.91—but it was probably the difference of at least a few hundredths.

Proud finished fourth at the Rio Olympics in the 50 free in 21.68, and then he took bronze at the 2017 World Championships in 21.43. He finished the 2017 season with a lifetime best of 21.32, and then he swam just off that time in April to win gold at the Commonwealth Games (21.35). Dropping tenths every year in the 50 free is unheard of at that level, but Proud has continued his progression and moved into elite company.


Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

Proud is a pure 50 freestyler, and he hardly extends himself to the 100 free. On the other end of the spectrum is 2017 World Champion Caeleb Dressel, one of the world’s best in the 100 free and 100 fly in addition to his 50 skills. These days, Dressel belongs to an endangered species of sprinter.

Of the entire final field of 50 freestylers at Worlds last year, only Dressel even qualified for the 100 free semi-finals. At the European Championships, none of the finalists from the 100 free will race against Proud in the 50 free final.

Proud does have a nice 50 fly—he was World Champion in that event last year, and he second finished behind Andriy Govorov in the evnet at the European Championships—and he’s proven himself a capable enough 100-meter swimmer for relay purposes. At the Commonwealth Games in April, he anchored England to a silver medal in the 4×100 medley relay.

But Proud is redefining speed in the 50 free, and he’s capable of posting a time we haven’t seen in the decade since the suit era—if, that is, he can nail his finish.

Wet Take

Caeleb Dressel is poised to explode at Pan Pacs.

Call it a hunch. The guy was winning seven gold medals at the World Championships last July, and he was smashing American records at the NCAA championships in March. The outlier performance in the bunch was from U.S. Nationals, where he finished a stunning sixth in the 100 free among other swims that were less than his best.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

After another 10 days of rest, expect to see that beastly Caeleb Dressel again. Provided he gets through to the final, he will race Kyle Chalmers in the 100 free for the first time since Rio. He should be without any major challenger in the 100 fly, and then in the 50 free, Dressel will look for some payback after losing to Michael Andrew at U.S. Nationals.

And yes, maybe he will be in the range of his insane times from last summer—47-low in the 100 free, 49 in the 100 fly and 21-low in the 50 free (like Proud was in Glasgow). Maybe he will swim the 200 free on Thursday—an otherwise free day in the meet schedule for Dressel—and put himself into consideration for the U.S. men’s 4×200 free relay.

Even after Nationals, even after watching him fade to sixth in the 100 free, it’s worth remembering that he was the best swimmer in the world last year. That talent didn’t disappear overnight.

Aquatic Stock Watch

UP – Mykhailo Romanchuk

On the day of his 800 free prelims swim at the European Championships, Romanchuk celebrated his 22nd birthday. One day after that, he celebrated his second European title of the week in the 800—all after coming up short in the event most would consider his best.

Romanchuk finished second behind German Florian Wellbrock in the 1500 free but captured victories in both the 400 and 800 this week. He leaves Glasgow ranked third in the world in the 400, first in the 800 and, despite the defeat, second in the 1500. After breaking out with a silver in the 1500 at the 2017 World Championships, a strong week at the continental meet cemented his status as one of the world’s finest distance freestylers.

KOLESNIKOV Kliment RUS Gold Medal and New World Junior Record 100m Backstroke Men Finals Glasgow 06/08/18 Swimming Tollcross International Swimming Centre LEN European Aquatics Championships 2018 European Championships 2018 Photo Andrea Masini/ Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

Photo Courtesy: Deepbluemedia/Giorgio Scala

DOWN – Kliment Kolesnikov

Four days ago, Kolesnikov was declared the future of men’s backstroke after the teenager set his first world record in the 50 back. He followed that up with another European title in the 100 back, his time on par with the fastest in the world. Finally, he qualified third in prelims of the 200 back, and thanks to the two-per-country rule, he was out of the semi-finals.

The European Championships format can be unforgiving to swimmers from nations deep in one event or another. Evgeny Rylov and Grigory Tarasevich knocked Kolesnikov out of the 200 back, two days after Kolesnikov and Rylov knocked out the third qualifier in the 100 back prelims, Tarasevich. A painful bump in the road for Kolesnikov after a historic start to his week.

DOWN – Pernille Blume

Blume, the fifth-ranked swimmer in the world in the 100 free with a season best of 52.72, did not make the final of the event at the European Championships. She was upset with the results of her 50 free, where she lost to Sarah Sjostrom by one-hundredth. So in her 100 free semi-final, Blume decided to touch the wall and go for a 50 time.

She split 23.98, well off her 23.75 from the 50 free. She tried to push off the wall and keep racing, but she faded badly over the last 15 meters and ended up 10th.

A very weird decision that cost Blume at least a silver medal in the 100 free.

SAME – Sarah Sjostrom

Barring a catastrophic upset in the 50 fly final on Thursday, Sjostrom will leave Glasgow with four gold medals—a quiet four gold medals, if that’s possible. She posted the world’s fastest times earlier in the week in the 50 free and 100 fly, but in the 100 free final, she cut it close and won by just three tenths.

Sjostrom’s time was 52.93, more than 1.2 seconds off her own world record. At Pan Pacs, there could be a full podium faster than that. Sure, she didn’t lose any hardware, but 2018 definitely has not brought what Sjostrom was looking for in the 100 free.

Impact Race of Tomorrow: Men’s 4×100 Medley Relay at European Championships

Great Britain will all but certainly win gold in this medley relay, but keep an eye on the time—and how stacks up compared to what the American men swim on Sunday in their medley relay.

adam-peaty-gbr-bird-2017-world-champs 6.41.25 PM

Adam Peaty — Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

Britain is likely to post a team of either Brodie Williams or Luke Greenbank on backstroke, followed by Adam Peaty, James Guy and Duncan Scott. The last two legs are extremely solid, Peaty is the best breaststroker in the world, and Williams and Greenbank both missed the 100 back European final.

Based on best times recorded so far this year, here’s how the two relays stack up:

USA: Ryan Murphy 52.51 + Andrew Wilson 59.19 + Dressel 50.50 + Blake Pieroni 48.08 = 3:30.28

GBR: Greenbank 54.37 + Peaty 57.10 + Guy 51.31 + Scott 48.02 = 3:30.80

That puts the Americans at a slight advantage, despite an enormous two-second deficit on breaststroke. Huge backstroke and butterfly advantages make up for that. Let’s see how the times shake out at the end of the week.

N.B.: What’s at Stake for Team USA at Pan Pacs

Any American swimmer can swim any event they desire at Pan Pacs. Only three of those can advance to swim in finals, with a maximum of two making it to the A-final—quite similar to the two-per-country rule that has felled plenty of Russian and Hungarian swimmers this week in Glasgow.

As for selecting next year’s World Championships team, the two fastest Americans in each event will qualify, based on times from the A-final at Nationals, the A-final at Pan Pacs and the B-final at Pan Pacs.

Seems simple enough, but keep this past example in mind: In 2010, Elizabeth Pelton was the top-ranked swimmer in the United States in the 200 back, with her time of 2:07.48 from Pan Pacs. But Pelton didn’t qualify to swim the event at the 2011 World Championships—Elizabeth Beisel and Missy Franklin made it instead—because Pelton swam that time in prelims. Her fastest time in a final was third-best.

So try to keep up with the World Champs roster during the meet—or wait for an official announcement from USA Swimming sometime in October or November.

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Author: David Rieder

David Rieder is a staff writer for Swimming World. He has contributed to the magazine and website since 2009, and he has covered the NCAA Championships, U.S. Nationals, Olympic Trials as well as the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the 2017 World Championships in Budapest. He is a native of Charleston, S.C., and a 2016 graduate of Duke University.

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