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Pugilistic Lochte Pulls No Punches

Aug 7, 2010  - Craig Lord

Ryan Lochte and Rebecca Soni produced scorching, pugilistic victories on the last day of action at US nationals in Irvine, California. Lochte pulled no punches with a 1:55.58 win over Aaron Peirsol, Tyler Clary and Michael Phelps in the 200m backstroke, while Soni raced lonely as a cloud in her own storm for a 2:21.60 win in the 200m breaststroke. That race saw silver go to Amanda Beard but the 2004 Olympic champion says she doesn't think she will make it to Pan Pacs (read the race reports below for an explanation). Chad La Tourette races to helm of 1,500m world ranks in 14:55. 

Race reports 

Day 5 finals

Women's 800m freestyle

World champion in 2007, down and almost out at Beijing 2008, Kate Ziegler is back on the US team - though gold went to Chloe Sutton (MVNCA), who raced stroke for stroke until the half-way turn in 4:13s. Just two laps later, Sutton had opened up lead of 1sec, two more laps 2sec, as Ziegler started to slip off the pace. By the last turn, Sutton had the race in her command, Ziegler 3.5sec back but clearly heading for silver and a place back on the US team. Sutton, grand prix star this season, claimed the crown in 8:24.77, Ziegler a place at Pan Pacs later this month in 8:28.14, with bronze going to Haley Anderson in 8:32.80.

Sutton, 18 and coached by Bill Rose, is now 5th best in the world this year, Ziegler 10th. The champion told the poolside mike at Irvine: "Something that coach Rose and I have been working on is easy speed ... in the second 100 just set a pace and hold it the rest of the way ... like a machine." She aimed to make it to London 2012 in pool and open water. 

The last time I saw Ziegler she was in floods of tears in the mixed zone at Beijing, her hopes and dreams in tatters. Good to see the smile back as she bent to receive her medal today.

US Nationals 2010: 8:24.77; 8:28.14; 8:32.80; 8:34.25; 8:38.79

US Top 5 2009: 8:27.69; 8:27.90; 8:31.66; 8:31.95; 8:32.00

US Top 5 2007: 8:18.52; 8:22.80; 8:26.41; 8:35.10; 8:35.30

Women's 100m freestyle

Jessica Hardy took the early lead and turned first in 25.87. That could not prevent gold from slipping away on the way home, Dana Vollmer claiming the crown in 53.94 - second best in the world so far this year - but the breaststroke world record holder reaped the reward of that early pace with a 54.14 silver lining that placed her on the US team for the first time since she made the Olympic grade but had to be dropped after a banned substance showed up and the finger of blame pointed at a food supplement that contained more than it said it did on the label.

The bronze went to the best American 100m free woman for a few seasons leading to the Olympic bronze in 2000, Natalie Coughlin on 54.34 and a relay force for the US at Pan Pacs along with 4th-placed Kara Lynn Joyce, 54.71, and Amanda Weir, on 54.73 and last inside 55sec.

Vollmer, twice a bridesmaid at these nationals, was bride at last, as she noted: "It's definitely an amazing feeling ... I was touched out twice at this meet already." Her time is the second effort in the world so far this year below 54sec, and would have been good enough for 23rd in the world in 2009.

US Nationals 2010: 53.94; 54.14; 54.34; 54.71; 54.73

US Top 5 2009: 53.02; 53.30; 54.03; 54.25; 54.36

US Top 5 2007: 53.40; 54.45; 54.46; 54.78; 54.91

Men's 200m backstroke

The race sizzled with static charge before the fighters got wet. Walking out on deck, Tyler Clary looked a little nervy. No wonder as the meat in a sandwich of world record setters. To his right Aaron Peirsol, world and former Olympic champion, to his left Ryan Lochte, Olympic and former world champion with those green boots made for walking with meaning, and a lane beyond Peirsol Superfish himself, Michael Phelps making a return to playing sometime scarecrow to backstroke flock. 

The boss of that murder delivered a bloody nose to all in puglistic style: Ryan Lochte was a class apart: 27.07 and 56.20 for his first two splits gave him the lead going into those two turns but it was the punch off the wall that knocked his rivals over like feathers felled in a gale. Coming off the last wall, Lochte had a bodylength lead, Peirsol, Clary and Phelps battling in his wake. Gold was at his fingertips from the gun and in his grasp in 1:55.58, world No 1 in 2010 and on the way back down to the world record of 1:54.32 he set in textile back in 2007 to lift the world crown. In the closing strokes, Peirsol, on 1:51.92 for victory in Rome last summer, got the better of those seeking minor spoils, silver his in 1:56.28, Clary on 1:56.36 and Phelps on 1:56.98. Nick Thoman was first man in beyond 1:57, by 0.71sec.

Had the quality of the field had something to do with his fast start, Lochte was asked: "Alot ... I knew I had to get out fast and hold on for dear life." Lochte acknowledged that he had hit the lane line several times and noted that he had "two weeks to correct it" before Pan Pacs back at this pool later this month. By then, the champion over 200m back and medley and 400m medley this week will go "a lot faster", he said.

US Nationals 2010: 1:55.58; 1:56.28; 1:56.36; 1:56.98; 1:57.71

US Top 5 2009: 1:51.92; 1:53.82; 1:54.53; 1:54.59; 1:57.04

US Top 5 2007: 1:54.32; 1:54.65; 1:54.77; 1:56.75; 1:57.43

Women's 200m breaststroke

What Lochte did on backstroke, Rebecca Soni (Trojan) did in four-lap breaststroke - plus. Out in 1:08.17 (a little more measured than that Rome eye-popper), the Olympic champion raced in a pool apart on her way to a 2:21.60 victory that compared to her season best of 2:21.41 at the Barcelona leg of the Mare Nostrum Tour in June.

If Soni stole the headline, the sub-head had a sheen to it too: Amanda Beard, a mum and 14 years beyond her first Olympic medal as a 15-year-old who arrived at her blocks in Atlanta clutching a teddy bear, took second in 2:26.50 and has a right to race on Team USA once more.

She may decline, however, success having come as a shock to the 2004 Olympic 200m champion. "Unfortunately I won't be able to swim at Pan Pacs," she told the crowd on deck after the race. "I wans't planning on that ... I have to go home and look after someone." The cameras turned to the place in the crowd where Beard's family, including baby son and the swimmer's partner, stood cheering. "I don't know what to say, 'cos I was not expecting to have to talk!" said Beard. 

Today's effort was the 18th best in the career of a woman who held the world record at 2:22.44 back in 2004, her six best swims inside 2:25, the best of her first comeback a 2:25.43 at US Olympic trials in 2008. Beard delivered her son just 11 months ago. Fighting fit.

Asked what difference it had made to be a mother, she noted: "I think every mother knows that when you have a child, nothing is about you anymore, everything is about your child. He's awesome." She then appealed for someone to step in as nanny, so who knows maybe she'll be back in Irvine later this month. If not, the slot goes to 

Katy Freeman, third in 2:26.67.

US Nationals 2010: 2:21.60; 2:26.50; 2:26.67; 2:27.10; 2:27.63

US top 5 2009: 2:20.38; 2:22.51; 2:23.20; 2:24.29; 2:26.84

US top 5 2007: 2:23.36; 2:25.62; 2:25.94; 2:26.64; 2:26.72

Men's 200m breaststroke

Eric Shanteau (Texas), who lost the world crown in Rome last year at the tough to Daniel Gyurta (HUN), raced a class apart to take the national crown in 2:10.09, Scott Spann, North Baltimore, taking silver and sealing his place on the Pan Pacs team in 2:12.26. Bronze went to Eliott Keefer, on 2:12.68.

The time was inside Shanteau's 2007 textile best of 2:10.65 and ranks him 4th in the world so far this year on a list that boasts three sub-2:10 efforts. There were 23 of those last year, with 13 under 2:09 and five under 2:08.

Relief etched on his face, Shanteau told the poolside mike: "I'd not made the team until now. These qualifying meets are always pretty stressful and when you leave it 'til pretty much the last race of the meet, its always on the back of your mind." He added that he is now looking forward to a Pan Pacs clash with Kosuke Kitajima, the quadruple Olympic champion from Japan who has been based in california with coach Dave Salo this past season. 

US Nationals 2010: 2:10.09; 2:12.26; 2:12.68; 2:13.05; 2:13.16

US top 5 2009: 2:07.42; 2:09.79; 2:10.38; 2:10.39; 2:10.63

US top 5 2007: 2:09.91; 2:10.65; 2:12.85; 2:13.24; 2:13.24

Men's 1,500m freestyle

Chad La Tourette made his move at 500m, left the pack behind and, stroke holding, pace constant, a model of the metronomic, the 22-year-old raced to the helm of the world rankings in 14:55.39. That's the second sub-15mins effort of the year and sets up a great battle with the man who went that way first in textile 2010, Olympic bronze medallist Ryan Cochrane (CAN).

The silver went to Peter Vanderkaay in 15:03.86, bronze to Sean Ryan, 18 this year and on a lifetime best of 15:04.84 that compares to his 15:16.84 heat and a 15:28.29 best before that.

Very fine as the champion's effort was, the pool commentary got a little carried away when the scream went out: that was the fastest time ever by an American in a textile suit. The owner of that 14:45.29 Olympic silver medal in 2004 might have something to say about that (Larsen Jensen). Meanwhile, the medals were presented by the legendary 1976 Olympic champion Brian Goodell, on 15:02.40 back in Montreal (wow!).

La Tourette has been threatening a 30-lap breakthrough for some time. On a lifetime best of 14:53.77 at Universiade last year, after 14:57.50 in 2008, he almost cracked the magic mark in 2007, with a 15:00.26, a big step up from a teenager on 15:18.96 in 2006.

His 500s today: 4:55.04; 9:54.63; 14:55.39.

Asked how tough the 30-lap challenge was, La Tourette said: "It always hurts, like a fire inside your abs that consumes you ... but its worth it to see the time at the end."

US Nationals 2010: 14:55.39; 15:03.86; 15:04.84; 15:07.37; 15:10.87

US top 5 2009: 14:53.77; 15:09.17; 15:09.66; 15:12.32; 15:13.47

US top 5 2007: 14:52.98; 14:57.01; 15:00.26; 15:08.28; 15:12.33

And that concludes the entertainment ... as another battle rises with the sun here in Budapest...