Women’s 100 Backstroke Looks Stocked; Lohn Lineup for 400 IMs

Column by John Lohn, Swimming World senior writer

BOSTON, Massachusetts, October 10. BECAUSE of the pressure of the moment and the limited slots available, the United States Olympic Trials are always a nerve-wracking experience. But some events are a little more rattling than others, given their depth and the fact that – in some instances – a highly ranked performer will be left home.

At next year's Olympic Trials in Omaha, the women's 100 backstroke figures to be among the most hotly contested disciplines. We've touched on this topic before, but now we'll look a little deeper at an event that will assuredly leave a contender behind. The question is who that individual will be, and how fast it will take to nail down a berth to London.

Any discussion of the 100 backstroke must start with Natalie Coughlin, long the queen of the event and owner of the last two Olympic gold medals. It's hard to envision an Olympics without Coughlin carrying the banner in this event for the American contingent. Coughlin placed at last summer's World Championships, but you can expect her to ratchet it up a notch in pursuit of an Olympic three-peat, something accomplished by only Dawn Fraser (100 freestyle) and Krisztina Egerszegi (200 backstroke).

Of course, Missy Franklin will be a contender, if not the favorite in Omaha. She didn't get the chance to contest the 100 back at the World Champs, but mined gold in the 200 back in Shanghai. She'll have a hefty schedule to negotiate, but it's difficult to not see Franklin on the United States squad in any event she desires. Yep, she's just that talented.

The other two names who will vie for positions are Elizabeth Pelton and Rachel Bootsma. Among the rising stars in the United States, both women have cracked the one-minute barrier and have the ability to deliver when it matters most: In the championship final at Trials.

So, we ask our readers: How do you see the women's 100 backstroke unfolding? As of now, I'm going with the combination of Franklin and Coughlin, citing the limitless ceiling of Franklin and the experience of Coughlin as the deciding factors. But the next eight months will provide a better gauge in terms of what to expect.

**Wanted to get some discussion going on all-time finals, so over the next several months, we'll ask readers to put together historical eight-person championship finals in specific events. Fill out the field based on the greatest swimmers in history and post it in the comments section.

This Week: Men's and Women's 400 Individual Medley.

The Lohn Lineup (Alphabetical order): Alex Baumann; Tamas Darnyi; Tom Dolan; Gary Hall Sr.; Charles Hickcox; Ryan Lochte; Michael Phelps; Jesse Vassallo.

Clearly, this has been an event dominated by the Americans. Darnyi, Dolan and Phelps all repeated as Olympic champions. Vassallo was denied his best chance at a gold medal in Olympic competition due to the 1980 United States boycott of the Moscow Games.

The Lohn Lineup (Alphabetical order): Tracy Caulkins; Donna de Varona; Krisztina Egerszegi; Katie Hoff; Yana Klochkova; Claudia Kolb; Gail Neall; Stephanie Rice.

As has been the case in other events, consideration was not given to the athletes from East Germany and China who were linked with systematic doping. The selection of de Varona and Kolb was easy, due to the dominance of those women in the 1960s.

**Although the World Cup season kicked off over the weekend in Dubai with Chad Le Clos registering six victories, the meets ahead will feature stronger fields and the official leadup to the Olympic year. It will be a positive development to see some of the sport's bigger names in action, including the return of Aussie superstar Ian Thorpe.

**Be sure to check in with Swimming World following next weekend's Eastern States Clinic in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. We'll have interviews with some of the best coaches in the world, as well as with elite athletes. Scheduled to speak on the coaching side are, among others, Eddie Reese, Dave Marsh and Dave Durden. Meanwhile, Olympians Ryan Lochte and Nathan Adrian will be in attendance on the athlete side.