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Belmonte Bags A Brace, Takes 'Fly Mark

Mar 31, 2011  - Craig Lord

Spanish national championships, Madrid - day 1 finals:

Mireia Belmonte continued where she left on last December as a triple world s/c champion, when she bagged two titles on the first day of Spanish spring nationals in Madrid. At the start of the session she clocked a Spanish record of 2:06.25 in the 200m butterfly and towards the end of the first day of finals wiped 15sec off her best 800m freestyle time to take the crown from Kristel Kobrich (CHI) and defending champion Erika Villaecija in 8:27.88, 6th best in the world so far this year. Belmonte turned halfway in 4:16 and came home in 4:11.

In both cases, Belmonte was inside target times set by her federation for the world championships in Shanghai this July and the Olympic Games in London next year.

Technical director for Spanish swimming, Luis Villanueva, told reporters this week that Mireia Belmonte has Phelpsian qualities. "She is a swimmer with a beastly talent, there are very few like her. At the world s/c championships in Dubai she showed us that much. Four medals, three of them as good as it gets. She won the 200 'fly and 400 medley on the same day. She has talent and potential to go further." Where is there room for improvement: "It is the case that she's sometimes erratic but we should not forget she's only just 20 and her success came early in her life."

Race reports

Women's 200m butterfly

Defending champion Mireia Belmonte, triple world short-course champion, raced inside her shiny suit best of 2009 with a 2:06.25 Spanish record that kept European silver medallist of last year, Zsuzsanna Jakabos (HUN) at bay on 2:07.85, 0.01sec ahead of the bronze-medal winner Judit Ignacio, the champion's 16-year-old teammate under the guidance of coach Fred Vergnoux at Sabadell.

Both Spaniards made the cut for Shanghai world titles. Belmonte's effort lifted her to second on the world rankings so far this year behind Australia-based Brit Ellen Gandy's 2:05.90. The Spanish champion's splits:  29.08; 1:00.80; 1:33.35; 2:06.25 (32.90 last 50).

Belmonte, winner of the world s/c crowns over 200m butterfly, 200 and 400m medley and silver medallist over 800m freestyle last December, stepped up from a textile suit best of 2:07.85 set this time last year. At European championships, when Jakabos clocked 2:07.06, Belmonte swam a 2:08.30, the 20-year-old's  challenge now to make trials a warm-up for the big long-course meet of the year and not the other way round. 

After the 200m 'fly, Belmonte dashed off to get ready for the 800m freestyle against world s/c champion ahead of her in Dubai, Erika Villaecija.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 2:07.85; 2:10.79; 2:11.09
  • 2011 podium: 2:06.25; 2:07.86 HUN; 2:07.87
  • ESP record: 2:06.25 Mireia Belmonte 2011 (2:06.90 2009)

Best ESP podium result at world titles: no medals

Women's 800m freestyle

Belmonte collected her second crown of the session with an 8:27.88 victory over Kristel Kobrich, of Chile, on 8:28.88, with defending Spanish and world s/c champion Erika Villaecija third in 8:34.83, good enough for selection to the world championships in Shanghai along with the 2011 national champion.

Kobrich turned first at the half-way mark on 4:14.81, with Villaceaja on 4:15.66 and Belmonte on 4:16.61. Over the next 100m, Belmonte swept past the defending champion and edged up to Kobrich's shoulder. With 200m to go, Villaceaja now dropped, Kobrich still led but by just 0.64sec. A length later and Belmonte ahead for the first time in the race and from there it was a question of how well the Chilean could hang on. 

Belmonte fell just 0.29sec shy of Villaecija's Spanish textile best while wiping out her previous personal best of 8:43.17 from last year with some gusto.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 8:35.97; 8:37.71; 8:45.77
  • 2011 podium: 8:27.88; 78:28.88; 8:34.83
  • ESP record all suits: 8:24.08 Erika Villaecija 2008
  • ESP textile best: 8:27.59 Erika Villaecija 2007

Best ESP podium result at world titles: no medals

Men's 200m butterfly

In the absence of 2010 champion Eduard Galdeano, the crown went to 18-year-old Nil Vidal, of Real Club Mediterráneo in Málaga, in 2:01.30 in a tight tussle for the podium prizes. The winner's time compared to a lifetime best of 2:00.41 when he took bronze a year ago.

The silver this time round went to another 18-year-old, Adrian Mantas, on 2:01.66, 0.38sec outside his best from last month, while the bronze went to Carlos Vives, on a best time of 2:01.98. There were no qualifiers for Shanghai.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 1:59.95; 2:00.13; 2:00.41
  • 2011 podium: 2:01.30; 2:01.66; 2:01.98
  • ESP record all suits: 1:58.85 Eduard Galdeano 2009
  • ESP textile best: 1:59.42 Eduard Galdeano 2010

Best ESP podium result at world titles: no medals

Men's 200m backstroke

In the absence of defending champion Miguel Rando, runner-up of 2010 Aschwin Wildeboer, of Sabadell, stepped up for the crown in 1:58.74, off a 58.00 half-way split, his last three 50m efforts a metronomic 30.13, 30.44 and 30.30. The time left him 0.12sec shy of his target time for world title in Shanghai.

The silver went to Italian Federico Livorno, on 2:02.20, the bronze to Rufino Regueira, on 2:03.18. Spain's textile-suit best remains the property of 1991 world record holder Martin Lopez-Zubero, who back then was on his way to the 1992 Olympic title in Barcelona. 

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 1:58.63; 1:59.18; 2:01.42
  • 2011 podium: 1:58.74; 2:02.20 ITA; 2:03.18 
  • ESP record all suits: 1:54.92 Aschwin Wildeboer 2009
  • ESP textile best: 1:56.57 Martin Lopez-Zubero 1991

Best ESP podium result at world titles: gold - Martin Lopez-Zubero at Perth in 1991 on his way to the Olympic title in Barcelona the year after

Women's 200m backstroke

Duane da Rocha, of Canoe in Madrid, kept her crown in 2:11.31, just 0.5sec ahead of Lydia Morant, the bronze going to Natalia Torne, on 2:15.14. All three were just a touch outside their best times. The difference between gold and silver was small in the clock but huge in terms of selection, Da Rocha just on the right side of the cut, Morant just on the wrong side, though Spanish policy allows the national performance director to use discretion.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 2:10.98; 2:12.69; 2:16.02
  • 2011 podium: 2:11.31; 2:11.81; 2:15.14
  • ESP record: 2:09.53 Nina Zhivanevskaya 2000

Best ESP podium result at world titles: no medals

Men's 1,500m freestyle

Marco Rivera, Club Natación Santa Olaya in Gijón, kept his crown in 15:37.37 ahead of 16-year-old Antonio Arroyo, on 15:51.52, a little down on his breakthrough 15:41.99 from last month, the bronze going to another 16-year-old Victor Goicoechea, on 15:54.42, who last year at 15 clocked 15:31.16. There were no qualifiers for Shanghai.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 15:18.39; 15:31.75 GRE; 15:44.96
  • 2011 podium: 15:37.37; 15:51.52; 15:54.42
  • ESP record all suits:  14:57.47 Marco Rivera 2009
  • ESP textile best: 15:08.95 Marco Rivera 2007

Best ESP podium result at world titles: no medals

Men's 50m freestyle

George Bovell, back in his native Trinidad & Tobago after some years in the US, won the dash at Spanish nationals in 2010 and repeated the feat again this year, on a 22.38 ahead of Javier Noriega, on 22.76, the bronze going to Eloi Saumell, on 22.87. That locked out the best of Spain last year, 17-year-old Aitor Martinez, on 22.90. No swimmer raced inside the Shanghai cut. What many often forget about Bovell is that he took bronze in the Olympic 200m medley final in 2004 behind Mssrs Phelps and Lochte.

Bovell is back home from a period at Auburn and working with his coach of many moons ago, Anil Roberts, who goes down in swimming history as the swim coach who became his country's sports minister.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 22.35 TRI; 22.62 ESP; 22.79 POL; 23.16
  • 2011 podium: 22.38 TRI; 22.76; 22.87
  • ESP record all suits: 22.04 Javier Noriega 2009
  • ESP textile best: 22.08 Javier Noriega 2007

Best ESP podium result at world titles: no medals

Women's 50m freestyle

Maria Fuster, of Club de Natación Palma de Mallorca, took the title in 26.06 ahead of national record holder Araceli Herraez, on 26.17, the bronze going to Kong Kong's Yu Sze Hang in 26.28. None swam inside the Shanghai cut set by Spain.

How they measure up:

  • 2010 podium: 25.89; 26.07; 26.15
  • 2011 podium: 26.06; 26.17; 26.28
  • ESP record all suits: 25.49 Araceli Herraez 2009
  • ESP textile best: 25.54Ana Palomo 2004

Best ESP podium result at world titles: no medals