PHOENIX, Arizona, December 13. WE saw some fast swimming from meets around the world this weekend, but let’s start at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, where Allison Schmitt won the 50, 100, 200, and 500 free, and the 100 fly.
Schmitt clocked 1:41.90, the third-fastest time ever behind Dana Vollmer and Natalie Coughlin, lowering her lifetime best of 1:42.08 from NCAAs, and she also clocked a fast 4:35.00 in the 500 free. Michael Phelps won the 100 and 200 free, 100 and 200 back, and 200 and 400 IM. None of his times were close to his lifetimes bests, but he did tell his fans via Twitter that it was the final short course yards meet of his career. Also in Annapolis, Germantown swimmer Arthur Frayler bagged the distance trifecta, with his 1000 time of 8:52.88 moving him into the top-ten all-time.
The future of backstroke looks very promising after some extremely impressive short course yards racing this weekend. At two meets, three teenagers swam the 200 backstroke, with all three swimming in the 1:40-range. First up on Saturday was the duo of Jacob Pebley and Ryan Murphy at the junior national championships in Austin, Texas. Pebley got to the wall first in 1:40.79, with Murphy just a little bit behind in 1:40.90. Murphy is only 16 years old, so he was rewarded with a national age group record for the 15-16 age group, a record that Pebley once owned. Pebley is 18 years old and missed the national age group record for the 17-18 age group, which is 1:40.53.
Or at least, that was the national age group record. On Sunday, Jack Conger stepped up at the Tom Dolan Invitational in Maryland, winning the 200 back in 1:40.41 and taking ownership of that national age group record. Just for comparison’s sake, those times by Conger, Pebley and Murphy beat the third-place time from last March’s 200 back final at the NCAAs. Pebley will be a freshman next year at Berkeley, while Murphy and Conger will be high school seniors next fall.
Since implying last week that he could take down Ian Thorpe in the 200 free, all eyes have been on James Magnussen this weekend at the long course Queensland state championships. Magnussen started off his meet quietly on relay day on Friday with some very fast relay splits. He started with a 48.36 anchoring his team’s 400 medley relay, then came back a couple of hours later and posted a 48.06 as the anchor leg of the 400 free relay. As a point of reference, half the swimmers couldn’t go that fast with relay starts in the 400 free relay final at the world championships, and Magnussen just did it in the middle of heavy training. The workload seemed to get the better of the 100 free world champion, as he wasn’t able to win the 200 free final on Saturday, placing second in 1:49.09. Cameron McEvoy got the win there in a lifetime best of 1:48.08, continuing his upward trajectory at just 17 years old. Magnussen will be racing the individual 100 free today.
Stephanie Rice has withdrawn from the meet, citing shoulder problems. This is the same shoulder she had surgery on last year, and her coach Michael Bohl told the media the injury might prevent the Olympic gold medalist from the work needed to defend both of her IM titles in London, but that it’s also too soon to jump to that conclusion.
Emily Seebohm didn’t have the kind of summer she hoped for, but she appears to be bouncing back, swimming a 59.37 in the 100 backstroke unshaved and unrested. No swimmer has been under 1:00 in the long course 100 back unrested since the world championships, so for now, Seebohm can hold on to that distinction. Seebohm also swam a 2:13.37 in the 200 IM, an event which will be tough for the Aussies, as Rice and Alicia Coutts also will be vying for one of two spots on the Olympic team in that event.
Over in Szczecin, Poland, the European championships resulted in some major changes to the short course meters world rankings. Mireia Belmonte Garcia took four wins over the course of the meet with world-best times in three of them. After winning the 200 fly and 200 IM on Thursday, Belmonte Garcia clocked 3:56.39 to win the 400 free on Saturday, by far the top time in the world this year and just off Laure Manaudou’s textile best of 3:56.09, and she now stands as the fifth-fastest performer of all time. Belmonte Garcia also won the 400 IM on Sunday.
Double Olympic champion Britta Steffen swept the 50 and 100 free, improving upon her world-leading time in the 100 free with a 51.94. World Championships silver medalist Lotte Friis clocked 8:07.53 to crush Coralie Balmy’s previous top-ranked time by more than seven seconds. Local favorite Konrad Czerniak, the silver medalist behind Michael Phelps in the 100 fly at Worlds this summer, had a great meet, swimming a 49.62 for the top time in the world in the 100 fly and 20.88 to put himself at the top of the world in the 50 free.
Daniel Gyurta won the 200 breast in 2:02.37, eclipsing Ed Moses’ long-standing textile best of 2:02.92 from back in 2004. And Swimming World’s European male swimmer of the year, Alexander Dale Oen took down a close field in the 100 breast to win in 57.50.
Also this week, we lost a great name in the swimming community. Danish swimmer Ragnhild Hveger passed away at the age of 90, according to the Washington Post. Hveger set world records on 44 different occasions and earned an Olympic silver medal in the women’s 400 freestyle at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin at just 15 years old.
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