Where Battlelines Are Drawn By The Best
Jul 30, 2010 - Craig Lord
In the first of a two-part article on the eve of a month that brings three of the biggest meets of the year, we looked at the big slowdown on the clock 2009 to 2010 so far. Today, we consider the kings and queens of consistency and the breakers and bolters bucking the trend, setting lifetime bests in textile and providing some clues as to where the battle is headed to this summer and on the way to London 2012.
Next week, the US trials will complete the pre-international-championship picture, before Europe gathers to race in the second week in August and the Pan-Pacific meet gets underway (with as many entries as a nation is happy to muster per event, and two per country for finals) in the third week in August.
The statistics backing up the text can be found in full at the foot of the article, while greater detail can be found in the SwimNews World Rankings updated daily by Nick Thierry.
Where Battle Lines Are being Drawn:
The sprint crew are far away from where they were on the clock this time last year - and we all know why. No perfect storm, no universal breakthrough in sprint coaching, but a pool full of world-class sprinters providing close competition for each other, The standout in the 50m free is Cesar Cielo, Olympic and world champion and record holder who is the only man now to have got past Alex Popov's 21.64 world mark of February 2008 on the eve of the short-lived shiny suits era. The Brazilian sizzled on a 21.55 last month. His part-time training partner at Auburn, Frenchman Fred Bousquet is the king of consistency this season with seven efforts among the best 25 performances in 2010, ranged between 21.71 and 22.13. The only man at the helm of the sprint crew to clock a best time so far this year is Masayuki Kishida (JPN), the only 2010 entry on the all-time top 80 list of performers, in at 62.
In the 100m, the kings of consistency are Fabien Gilot (FRA), Nathan Adrian (USA) and Yannick Agnel (FRA), the latter the only man among those in the top 25 performances list to clock a best time this season.
Agnel, of Nice, also rules the consistency chart over 200m, with no fewer than 6 efforts ranged between 1:46.30 and 1:47.69. World champion Paul Biedermann (GER) has a way to go to get to his world record efforts (200/400) of 2009 but he too has three efforts between 1:45.84 and 1:47.56 over 200m this year.
In the 400m, Zhang Lin (CHN) is the standout performer of the year so far, while Robery Hurley (AUS) has shown good consistency. Lifetime bests among those at the helm of the event have been delivered by Agnel; Guo Lei (CHN), up to 3:46.83 from 3:54.43; Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS), Clemens Rapp (GER) and Jun Dai (CHN).
Ryan Cochrane (CAN), Olympic bronze medallist, is alone in cracking 15mins so far this year over 1,500m free. Hurley leads the list of lifetime bests set by four men among those who have delivered the best 25 performances so far in 2010, Heerden Herman (RSA), 20 this year, next in line with a spring from 15:23.21 to 15:06.75. Sebastien Rouault (FRA) has been the most consistent of athletes with three efforts between 15:04.87 and 15:16.34, while Mark Randall (RSA) and Luca Ferretti, respectively 25 and 26, are to be found setting their fastest times since 2005 and 2006 respectively.
Ryosuke Irie (JPN) features in the list of most consistent in both the 100m and 200m backstroke. In the shorter event, Liam Tancock (GBR) has shown the way with a time inside what was the last world record to have been set by a swimmer wearing a textile suit. Camille Lacourt (FRA) is king of consistency, with 5 efforts between 53.29 and 54.00 and the only man among those in the top 25 performances list to have set a lifetime best. Irie and his world champion teammate Junya Koga have four entries each among the best 25 performances of the year.
Over 200m, Irie is a class apart to date this season, with four efforts between 1:55.11 and 1:56.81. Miguel Rando (ESP) and Peter Bernek (HUN) have established lifetime bests this year on their way up the rankings.
Out of focus in 2009 as he took time to take a different view of life, quadruple Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajima (JPN) is one of several swimmers based right now at the California stable of Dave Salo to have placed fast race practice on their list of priorities in readiness for faster moments still when the heat it on. In the 100m, Kitajima has clocked no fewer than 7 efforts between 59.91 and 1:00.89. His teammate and domestic nemesis, Ryo Tateishi is the fastest among those closest to shiny suit best on a stroke whose protagonists are struggling to match non-textile speed.
On the all-time list of performers (one entry per swimmer), you have to plunge down to 103rd and a 1:01.16 to find a swimer who has set a lifetime best this season, that man 26-year-old Dragos Agache (ROU), who spent the years 2001 to 2009 racing between 1:02.63 and 1:05.53
In the 200m, Eric Shanteau (USA) is king consistency, with five efforts between 2:10.59 and 2:11.59, and that building up to trials next week. Tateishi has the swiftest range of consistency, with four efforts between 2:10.21 an d 2:11.19, while Kitajima proves once more that he is a man who ought never to be dismissed, with four efforts between 2:10.73 and 2:11.33. The lifetime best honours go to the top two young breakers, teenager Anton Lobanov (RUS) and Michael Jamieson (GBR).
Takuro Fujii (JPN) is the most consistent of the speedsters at the top of the pile on 100m 'fly so far this year, while Michael Phelps (USA), in the midst of a relatively modest season by his standards, also has three entries among the best 25 efforts, his range 52.04 to 52.48, with more to come next week no doubt. Two lifetime bests among those at the helm of the rankings: Konrad Czerniak (POL) and Chris Wright (AUS).
Nick D'Arcy (AUS) tops the pile but on consistency count, Japenese teammates Takeshi Matsuda and Ryusuke Sakata lead the way, with 4 and 3 entries among the bets 25 respectively, Matsuda's efforts ranging between 1:55.18 and 1:56.87. Bence Biczo (HUN) is the breaker of the season with a lifetime best of 1:55.82, up from 1:57.77, while Wright is joined by Chad Le Clos (RSA) as the other two men at the helm to have set best times this year.
This year marks the return to 200m medley of Olympic champion Michael Phelps. He lost his world mark to teammate Ryan Lochte last year and this week coming will tell us something about where that domestic battle is headed. For now, their arch rival Laszlo Cseh (HUN) leads the consistency count over 200m and 400m medley, with three efforts between 1:59.01 and 1:59.14 and three efforts between 4:13.08 and 4:16.88. best times have been delivered by Yuya Horihata, who leaves his teenage years behind with a debut swin inside 2mins over 200m medley, and enters his third decade on a 4:12.02 best over 400m. The longer medley has also witnessed best times from Brits Roberto Pavoni and Joe Robuck as their nation reaches the two-year deadline to a date with destiny as host to the Olympic Games.
In 2010, Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) has raced three times inside her 2009 best time over 50m freestyle and sits just behind Therese Alshammar (SWE) at the helm of the world rankings. In the 100m, Kromowidjojo stands out again with 5 entries in the best 25 efforts of the year, from 53.44 to 54.68. Currently recovering from viral meningitis, the Dutch sprinter today abandoned hopes, on medical advice, of racing at the European Championships in Budapest from August 9.
Australian women are working hard to ensure a dominant status in the 4x200m freestyle after lifting the Olympic crown in Beijing. Take a look at the list of those who have set lifetime bests in textile this year and Australia has two out of the fastest four improvers, in Blair Evans and Kylie Palmer, while Bronte Barratt is quicker than she was in 2009 and within a second of her 2008 best.
If Federica Pellegrini (ITA) is the clear favourite for European the 200m freestyle crown, the Olympic four-lap champ also looks solid when it comes to retaining her 400m free crown in Budapest in the second week of August. Our exercise suggests that Camille Muffat (FRA) will be chasing a place on the podium in both events alongside Pellegrini. Best times have been registered in 2010 by Katie Goldman (AUS) and Li Xuanxu (CGN), both in the 400m and 800m, Goldman having stepped up from 8:33.93 to 8:22.83 to book a place in the race next to Olympic champion and world record holder Rebecca Adlington (GBR), owner of the two best 800m efforts so far in 2010. Over 800m watch too, shorter- and longer-term, for Pellegrini, with three tentative efforts from 8:27 to 8:31 on her way to deciding whether granting the late Alberto Castagnetti his wish to see her compete for big medals from 200m to 800 by London 2012.
Elizabeth Simmonds (GBR) and Emily Seebohm (AUS) stand out on backstroke as queens of consistency and textile speed that bucks the trend and cocks a snoop or two at shiny suits. Between then they have set 10 (five each) of the best 25 100m times this year, Simmonds having cracked the minute three times. Watch too for Elizabeth pelton, inside the minute for the first time ever this year, with the speedy season ahead of her and Olympic champ Natalie Coughlin on her way back to provide incentive to those who made hay while the first woman ever to break the minute was away getting a taste of life beyond the race pool last year.
Over 200m, Simmonds has clocked six of the best 10 efforts - including the top 3, so far this year, ranging from the Egerszegi-threatening 2:06.79 to 2:08.32, and including two sub 2:07 efforts. I witnessed the fastest of those and it might have been described as a cruise, the undoubted effort and toil hidden by model-like technical skills and mechanics fit to mesmerize. At Commonwealth Games, she will meet two Aussies who have also bucked the suits trend, Belinda Hocking and Emily Seebohm, while Shiho Sakai (JPN) will provide the Dolphins with a tight call at Pan Pacs with whichever Americans make the cut at trials, the two other Elizabeths, Pelton and Beisel among the favourites to fly the Stars and Stripes. Marie Kamimura (JPN) and Jenny Mensing (GER) and the other two swimmers among the best 25 performances to have clocked lifetime bests in 2010.
In the best 100 performances of the year so far over 100m breaststroke, there is just one, lonely, lifetime best: Samantha Marshall (AUS) clocked 1:07.45, after 1:07.86 in the last season of shiny suits. The time, good as it is for Marshall, is off the pace when it comes to chasing gold. At Pan Pacs level, Rebecca Soni (USA) is the queen of consistency, with seven efforts between 1:05.90 and 1:06.53, while Olympic champion Leiseil Jones (AUS) takes the two top slots with early season (late season Down Under, if you like) efforts of 1:05.79 and 1:05.85. At European level, look to Yulia Efimova for the practice-makes-perfect approach to speed: four efforts between 1:06.66 and 1:07.56.
No mistaking the empress of the 200m these days: Soni has seven of the best 25, six of those among the best 10 and ranged between 2:21.41 and 2:24.45. In Europe, Efimova is, as in the 100m, the champion of consistency so far this season.
Dana Vollmer (USA) leads the way in the 00m butterfly, both with her sesson-leading 57.39 and four other entries in the top 25 best performances. The swiftest lifetime best of 2010 is the 57.83 of Francesca Halsall (GBR), while double Olympic medley champ Stephanie Rice (AUS) is just 0.04sec shy of her lifetime best this season. Best times were also registered by 15-year-old Rono Hosoda and Tomoyo Fukuda of Japan, the latter a newcomer to the sharp end of the sport at 21, and Aussies Emily Seebohm and Alicia Coutts, who has taken a step up from 2008 after a down season in 2009.
Just one lifetime best from 2010 turns up in the best 50 performances of all time" Lyndsey De Paul (USA), 21 this year, steps up with a 2:08.44, after a 2:09.66 in 2008. Australia-based Ellen Gandy (GBR) leads the consistency chart, with four efforts between 2:07.70 and 2:09.12, Samantha Hamill (AUS) not far from the same picture. No doubting the leader of the pack in 2010: Jiao Liuyang (CHN), on 2:05.46, is within a second of her shiny best on a list where around 4sec is the average gap between the full 2009 season and the partial 2010 season.
Camille Muffat (FRA) extends the impact she is having in the 200 and 400m free to the same distances on medley. The Frenchwoman and training partner at Nice of Yannick Agnel's has put in no fewer than seven 200m efforts between 2:10.48 and 2:11.96. World champion Ariana Kukors is also high up there on consistency, with five efforts between 2:10.34 and 2:12.07, and that before the USA trials next week. The most extraordinary of presences in the list of the best 25 performances so far this year is that of Ye Siwen, 14 years old this year and up from a 2:16.89 when 12 going on 13 to a 2:10.32 as a 13-year-old going on 14.
In the 400m, Elizabeth Beisel (USA) has put in four efforts between 4:39.12 and 4:40.29, while world champion Katinka Hosszu (HUN), European s/c champion Hannah Miley (GBR) and Mireia Belmonte (ESP) have three entries each among the best 25 performances. Again, the standout presence among those 25 is that of young Ye (CHN), up from a 4:50.27 when 12 going on 13 to a 4:37.97 as a 13-year-old going on 14.
Here are the names in focus from the best 25 performances (multiple swims by single performers counted):