Pan American Games Swimming Preview: Men’s Edition

Nov 21, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; A fan holds up the national flag of Brazil during a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Photo Courtesy: David Richard-US PRESSWIRE

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Commentary by Jeff Commings, Swimming World Senior Writer

Brazil has sent a very strong group of swimmers to challenge the American men’s dominance in the Pan American Games swimming competition. Don’t be surprised if Brazil wins as many or more gold medals on the men’s side than the United States.

Brazil’s Pan Am team consists of many athletes who will also be attending the world championships in three weeks. With the exception of Cesar Cielo, all of Brazil’s best male swimmers will be on hand in Toronto. Though the United States is essentially fielding its “B” team for the meet, expect some very fast times from them as well.

The sprint freestyles will be the highlight of the men’s competition. Led by Bruno Fratus, Brazil could win the 50 freestyle. Cullen Jones and Josh Schneider are likely to win medals, but aren’t likely to have the speed that has put Fratus third in the world so far this year. Expect Fratus to go under 22 seconds, even if he’s not putting in full preparation for Pan Ams in anticipation of worlds. George Bovell of Trinidad and Tobago is expected to be at or near the 22-second barrier as well, so expect a thrilling four-man battle for three medals.

Bruno Fratus

Photo Courtesy: David Farr

Matheus Santana, the junior world record holder in the 100 freestyle, makes his long course senior-level international debut at Pan Ams, and could leave with a gold medal in the 100 free for Brazil. The 100 free is not Jones’ specialty, but he could challenge Santana if all the stars in alignment. Darian Townsend, swimming in his first major international meet since becoming an American citizen this time last year, will also be in the hunt for a medal.

Canada’s next big 100 freestyle hope in the post-Brent Hayden era is Santo Condorelli. He could find himself on the medal podium as well, but he’ll need a lifetime best to do it. Brett Fraser of the Cayman Islands is also expected to be in the chase for a medal, but will also need to beat his lifetime best to stand on the medal podium.

Joao de Lucca and Nicolas Oliveira are looking for a Brazil 1-2 sweep in the 200 freestyle, but Americans Michael Weiss and Michael Klueh stand in their way. The likelihood that De Lucca and Oliveira will not be fully tapered on their ultimate journey to the world championships opens the door for the Americans to take the gold medal in this event.

Thiago Pereira has amassed 18 Pan American Games medals, and could add to that this week in the individual medleys. Brazil has a strong chance to sweep the 200 IM with Henrique Rodrigues, but American Gunnar Bentz has a shot at going 1:58 in the 200 IM, which could be very competitive in Toronto.

Thiago Pereira

Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

Brazil should take gold in both breaststroke events, with Felima Lima, Felipe Silva and Thiago Simon expected to dominate the competition. Brad Craig and BJ Johnson will represent Team USA well, but would need to produce major drops in their best times to match Brazil’s strong breaststroke squad.

Leonardo de Deus is a medal contender at the world championships in the 200 butterfly, and should be the class of the field there. Look for Brazil to also take gold medals in the 400 free relay and the 400 medley relay.

The United States men’s team is not without its immense talent. Nick Thoman won silver in the 100 backstroke at the 2012 Olympics, and he is the class of the field in that event, though teammate Eugene Godsoe also has a legitimate shot at gold. Godsoe won silver in the 100 back at the 2011 Pan Ams, and is looking for an upgrade. He and Giles Smith will represent the United States in the 100 fly, and could have a great battle with Brazil’s Arthur Mendes and Venezuela’s Albert Subirats.

Nick Thoman

Photo Courtesy: David Farr

Canada is also sending many swimmers from its world championship team to Pan Ams in an attempt to bump up their medal totals. Their best chance lies in Ryan Cochrane, who should have no trouble winning the 1500 freestyle, but Americans Klueh and Ryan Feeley will make it interesting in the 400 free, depending on their ability to hold Cochrane’s pace as the race progresses.

In addition to Cochrane and Condorelli, look for Richard Funk in the 200 breaststroke and Jeremy Bagshaw in the distance freestyles to bump up Canada’s medal tally.