5 Storylines To Follow At the FINA World Cup Stop In Toronto; World Records On Watch

Coleman Stewart breaks WR 100 backstroke Cali Condors ISL (photo: Mike Lewis)

5 Storylines To Follow At the FINA World Cup Stop In Toronto

The first stop of the 2022 FINA World Cup in Berlin marked the return of international racing after a recent lull in the schedule. A number of the sport’s stars were in attendance and posted some quick times. As the series shifts to North America, here is a look at some of the key storylines ahead of the second stop in Toronto, scheduled for Friday through Sunday. 

Resurgence of Ruta Meilutyte

Ruta Meilutyte retired in 2019 at the age of 22, but made a successful return to the sport in the summer. She was crowned champion in the 50 breaststroke at the World Championships in Budapest and has seemingly carried that momentum into the short-course season. At the Berlin World Cup stop, Meilutyte won the 50 and 100 breaststroke with relative ease. In the 50, she came within a whisker of Alia Atkinson’s world record of 28.56, touching in 28.60. In Toronto, Meilutyte will face fellow breaststroke ace Lilly King, along with Lydia Jacoby and Annie Lazor.

Kyle Chalmers vs. Matt Sates 

One of the most exciting races of the first World Cup stop was the men’s 200 freestyle. Australian freestyle specialist Kyle Chalmers led the race for 175 meters before South African Matthew Sates overhauled him on the last 25. Sates won in a time of 1:40.88, with Chalmers finishing narrowly behind in a time of 1:41.09. When racing each other last year at the World Cup stops, Sates got the better of Chalmers in the 200 freestyle. Both men are entered in the event in Toronto and it will be interesting to see if Chalmers continues to use his strong front end to take the race out and put pressure on Sates. 

Chad Le Clos Back in Form

Chad Le Clos‘ 100 butterfly in Berlin was one of the most impressive swims of the meet. He won comfortably in a time of 48.58. This time would have won him gold at the 2021 World Short Course Championships and is the 10th-quickest swim in history. While the swim is still half a second outside his personal best, it is the fastest Le Clos has been for a few years. Le Clos also won the 200 fly in a time of 1:49.62 and finished second in the 50 fly.  In recent months, Le Clos has been open about his struggles with mental health and depression.

Le Clos’ performances in Berlin suggest that he is in a good place physically and mentally. He recently moved his permanent training base to Frankfurt, Germany, to train under Dirk Lange. It will be interesting to see if Le Clos can build upon his impressive start to the short-course season in Toronto, and carry momentum into 2023 and international action on the long-course scene.

U.S. Selection Policy For Short Course Worlds

In Toronto, three of the United States’ top short-course meters swimmers will be in action: Justin Ress, Coleman Stewart and Beata Nelson. Nelson had a great showing in Berlin, winning the 100 and 200 backstroke events and the 200 IM. She also finished second in the 100 IM and reached the final in the 50 back. Stewart is the world-record holder in the short-course version of the 100 backstroke and Ress complements his long-course talent with elite short-course skill.

Not one of them, however, was selected for the U.S. team going to the 2022 World Short Course Championships in Melbourne. The U.S. selection policy still prioritizes long-course times, an approach which denies short-course specialists such as Stewart and Nelson the opportunity to represent Team USA in international meets. Both Stewart and Nelson would be medal contenders in numerous events at Worlds.

The selection policy is outdated and discriminates against short-course standouts. In Toronto, the talents of Ress, Stewart and Nelson should be clear to see. It begs the question as to whether the U.S. will reevaluate its selection criteria for Short Course Worlds. 

Can Dylan Carter win the 50 free, fly and back again?

In Berlin, Trinidadian Dylan Carter showed immense sprint versatility. Carter won the 50 freestyle, 50 butterfly and 50 backstroke. In each of the 50s, Carter beat some major names. In the 50 freestyle, he finished over two tenths faster than Kyle Chalmers and French superstar Florent Manaudou.

The 50 backstroke saw Carter narrowly edge the 100 backstroke long-course world record holder, Thomas Ceccon. In the 50 fly, he got the better of Chad Le Clos and the current world record holder, Sebastian Szabo. In Toronto, Carter will be joined by Americans Justin Ress and Coleman Stewart. Both Ress and Stewart will provide a formidable challenge in the 50 backstroke.

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