Nathan Adrian Comeback Continues at Pan American Games

nathan-adrian-usa-2-2017-world-swimming

Pan American Games Storyline (Nathan Adrian)

With the countdown until the next Olympiad now under a year, American swimmers have had several opportunities to unleash their final warning shots for the 2019 campaign. Between the World University Games, World Championships and U.S. Nationals, clarity has started to emerge for what to expect in 2020. However, a handful of athletes still have another chance to deliver a final salvo at this week’s Pan American Games, which begin Tuesday. Here are a few storylines to keep an eye on from Lima, Peru.

The Nathan Adrian Comeback

At the World Championships, Nathan Adrian emerged as a feel-good story, as the veteran anchored the United States to gold in the 400 freestyle relay. While he was caught by Great Britain’s Duncan Scott on the anchor leg of the 400 medley relay, Adrian proved himself quite capable just eight months after being diagnosed and undergoing treatment for testicular cancer.

At the Pan Am Games, the 30-year-old will get the chance to race the 50 and 100 freestyles on an individual basis, and measure himself against a strengthening arsenal of American sprinters. At Nationals, not only did Ryan Held pop a 47.39 effort in the 100 freestyle, Maxime Rooney (47.61), Tate Jackson (47.88) and Dean Farris (48.07) all affirmed their status as contenders for bids to the 2020 Games. With Caeleb Dressel flirting with the world record and Blake Pieroni and Zach Apple looking sharp at Worlds, an epic battle is shaping up for Team USA roster spots in the 100 free and on the 400 free relay for Tokyo.

As a three-time Olympian and eight-time medalist, Adrian will certainly carry experience into the next year. But if he can register a pair of impressive times in Peru, he will build additional momentum and stand as a reminder to his younger foes that the old guard has no plans to back away.

Chasing Efimova

annie-lazor-

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

With USA Swimming selecting the roster for the World Championships based on last summer’s Nationals and Pan Pacific Champs, athletes on a hot streak during the 2019 season did not get the opportunity to race in Gwangju. Included in that category was Annie Lazor, who has been one of the most consistent 200 breaststroker in the world this year.

Lazor enters the Pan Am Games ranked No. 2 in the world in the 200 breast, her top time of 2:20.77 not far off the 2:20.17 that Russia’s Yuliya Efimova posted to win the world title. Lazor could provide the U.S. with a big bump in this event, which proved to be a disaster at Worlds due to Lilly King’s disqualification and Micah Sumrall’s semifinal elimination.

Outside of the performance by Efimova, the 200 breaststroke was one of the most underwhelming events at the World Champs as 2:22-mid and 2:22-high were good enough for the podium. Another time from Lazor in the low-2:20 range – or better – would quickly vault her to top-challenger status for the start of the Olympic year.

Making a Dent

adam-peaty-100-breast-semifinals-2019-world-championships_2

Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

There’s no denying that the 46.14 split of Duncan Scott on the end of Great Britain’s gold-medal-winning 400 medley relay was a defining moment of the World Championships. But the fact that the United States lost 1.45 seconds on the breaststroke leg to Adam Peaty was a significant body blow that needs to be better absorbed.

Andrew Wilson had a solid showing at the World Championships, advancing to the finals of both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events. However, Wilson was two seconds back of Peaty in the final of the 100 breast and Michael Andrew did not get beyond the semifinals. The event, particularly as it applies to the medley relay, is a major concern.

Some individuals may argue that every country has a weak point in a relay and the United States’ struggles in the breaststroke are offset by Caeleb Dressel’s unmatched skill in the butterfly. Yet, for a country that is the sport’s superpower, finding a consistent 58-mid performer in the 100 breast should be a target.

At the Pan American Games, Cody Miller or Kevin Cordes – both veterans and podium finishers in major international competition – will look to establish himself as the man who can fill the breaststroke void. While Cordes has been quiet this year and owns a best of 1:00.75 for 2019, Miller has a pair of 59-low marks to his credit and could be on the verge of a big performance, which would be a welcome sight for the U.S. medley relay.

A Rising Star

At this past week’s Nationals, Gretchen Walsh performed admirably in her events, finishing second in the 50 and 100 freestyles, the shorter event featuring a time of 24.85. Now, her older sister steps to the blocks, as Alex Walsh is slated to contest the 200 backstroke and 200 individual medley for Team USA.

Walsh has been an age-group star for years and her two individual events at Pan Ams will provide a gauge as to where she stands less than a year from the Olympic Trials. The elder Walsh sibling has the chance to throw her name into the mix with Melanie Margalis, Ella Eastin and Madisyn Cox in the 200 medley. More, a strong effort in the 200 backstroke would place Walsh in contention for the No. 2 position behind Regan Smith.

Heading into the Pan American Games, Walsh sports personal bests of 2:11.83 in the 200 medley and 2:09.36 in the 200 back.

4 comments

  1. Tess Smith

    So pleased for Nathan as he is an amazing competitor

  2. avatar
    Anonymous

    Think we will crush. 4 x 100 WR. Next year..