Do Slow Times In Mesa Mean USA Swimming Team Is In Trouble?

Ryan Lochte
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Editorial content for the 2015 Arena Pro Swim Series Mesa is sponsored by Arena. For full Swimming World coverage, check out our coverage page

Commentary by Jeff Commings

Looking at the times from the past two days of the Arena Pro Swim Series in Mesa, Ariz., it’s understandable if you worry that USA Swimming’s world championship squad won’t be competitive when the rolls around in a little more than three months.

Tyler Clary’s 4:19.59 to win the 400 IM isn’t even in the top 25 globally. The same goes for Breeja Larson’s 2:27.82 in the 200 breast. Kelsi Worrell’s 58.24 in the 100 fly and Cammile Adams’ 2:08.80 are in the top 20, but the times aren’t likely to make their competition very nervous.

The reason is simple: The United States has already picked the world championship squad, and the 47 members of the team are in the throes of hard training. In order to qualify for their respective countries’ teams, most of the non-Americans who are likely to contend for medals at worlds had to put in a full taper and shave these past few weeks. Japan’s team had some very tough standards to beat in order to make the team, which explains the quick swims from the likes of Kosuke Hagino and Kanako Watanabe. The same goes for Australia, Germany, Great Britain and France, just to name a few.

If the United States had held its world team selection meet this month, we’d see a lot more Americans than Katie Ledecky at the top of the world list. Missy Franklin would be at or near the top in backstroke. Matt Grevers might be the world No. 1 in the 100 back. Elizabeth Beisel would likely be the best 400 IMer in the world at this point in 2015.

But Beisel didn’t make the championship final of the 400 IM here in Mesa. Tom Shields placed 10th overall in the 200 fly tonight. And right now, that’s OK. Most of the athletes here shrugged off their times as pretty standard fare, even if they were in some cases almost 10 seconds slower than their end-of-season goal.

“You have to keep your head down and what we do,” Clary said about the times the global competition is putting up this spring. He noted that he doesn’t pay too much attention to the times posted around the world, even the ones that are as fast as his goal time of 4:08-plus for worlds. “It’s not out of the ordinary for them to be going that fast right now.”

Most who attend meets on the Arena Pro Swim Series circuit know that elite athletes go through periods of hard training and will only approach their best times at the end of the season. Others might see Ledecky under her 400 free world record pace for part of the swim and wonder if something’s wrong with Team USA.

Nothing’s wrong. The Americans will be the dominant force they’ve always been at the world championships. The world is closing in, which is why many on the national team spent more than three weeks training at altitude before arriving in Mesa. It’s a perk the national team members enjoy more than once a year, and all of them know it will pay off when world championships begin in Kazan in August.

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Jocelyne Humbert O'Kane

No, it means they are training and will get faster and faster

Jody Dykes
9 years ago

Not even!

Kristie Wisniewski
9 years ago

Ha ha. Funniest question ever. Whom a meet that really means nothing beside a $1000 top prize for 1st. It’s a taper event. The big times always come out on the world stage especially at the Olympics.

Elizabeth Hinely
9 years ago

They are just warming up…

Dave Nicholson
9 years ago

Every year an article asking this question is posted. Every year the American team improves dramatically just in time for the big meets. I’m willing to bet that US Swimming knows what they’re doing.

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