The two final legs of the 2016 Arena Pro Swim Series fall simultaneously this weekend in Santa Clara and Indianapolis. These competitions act as the final tune up for American swimmers before their Olympic trials at the end of the month in Omaha (26th June-3rd July), but also offer an opportunity for some travelling overseas swimmers to assess their preparation with only eight weeks until the Olympic Games.
The first day of racing in the Santa Clara sun brewed up some exciting racing. The headline will go to Sun Yang with his 200m freestyle performance, but there were some additional excellently executed races by others in the Friday evening west coast heat.
Chinese favourite, Sun Yang, won the 200 metre freestyle final last night in 1.44.82. This puts Sun at the top of the World Rankings and means he is the only man under the 1.45 barrier this year. What is even more surprising from a swimmer only eight weeks from Olympics, is that the time last night was actually faster than the time he achieved to medal at the London Olympics in 2012 (1.44.9). It would suggest that Sun Yang is capable, with a little more preparation, of a very fast time when they line up in Rio. It is a shame that with the failed drug test, the banned coach who continued to be on poolside, the fighting in warm ups, and the strange ‘no show’ in the 1500m in Kazan last year, that performances like the one last night are tarnished. That feeling the public get with all failed drug test athletes who are allowed to continue in their sport – is what they are doing real or is it substance induced?
Overshadowed by the performance of Sun Yang, but not unnoticed by the swimming aficionados amongst us, was the second place finisher in Santa Clara, the American Conor Dwyer. The Olympic Gold medallist swam a time of 1.45.41 last night; form he hasn’t shown since 2013 at the Barcelona World Champs. Although he has been winning medals as part of the USA relay quartets over recent years, he has been relatively quiet on the individual, but seems to be timing it just right for another Olympic Games. If the planning has gone correctly, you would expect Dwyer to be even sharper at the US trials in four weeks, and if he is, it wouldn’t be surprising if Dwyer goes into Rio as the World No.1.
In the Women’s 200 Freestyle, the Australian ladies showed how strong their 4×200 Freestyle quartet is likely to be in Rio, as Emma McKeon and Bronte Barratt took the 1-2 in impressive fashion (1.56.36 and 1.56.65 respectively).
The tall frame of Stanford Swimmer, Sarah Haase, although she went slower in the final to take victory, clocked a swish 1.06.31 in the morning heats of the Women’s 100 Breaststroke. This puts her only half a second off the US No.1 and World No.2, 19-year-old Lilly King, and therefore all to play for leading into their US trials in a month’s time. You feel that whoever makes the team for the US will have a huge medal opportunity, particularly as World No.1 and drug cheat Yuliya Efimova is still pending as to whether she will be able to compete, and defending Olympic Champion Ruta Meilutyte looked vulnerable at the European Championships in London last month.
A long way East, the exact same races were being competed at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis, Indiana. Although this meet didn’t attract as many international swimmers as the equivalent in California, there was still some very fast swimming on show. The evening finals were started by an emphatic win in the Women’s 200 freestyle by Leah Smith. Touching the wall in a personal best time of 1.56.64, Leah will fancy her chances of making the USA team for 4×200 relay in Brazil. Known also for her distance events, watch out for her on the 400 metre event on Saturday.
Nic Fink came home strong and took the Gold in the Men’s 100 Breaststroke amongst a tough field which included Cody Miller and Kevin Cordes. In the final, unfortunately Nic was not able to dip under the 60 second barrier again, however his time of 59.93 in the heats, will put him in a confident mood going into Omaha at the end of the month.
Canadian International swimmer, Santo Condorelli, brushed away Singapore star Zheng Wen Quah in the second half the race to take the Men’s 100 Butterfly. Condorelli hit the touch pad and clocked a National record time of 51.93, neatly breaking the 52 second barrier, something that no one in California was able to do.
Finishing off the evening in Indianapolis was 20-year-old triplet Jay Litherland who stormed to victory in the 400 metres Individual Medley. Having already taken the victory in the 200 metre freestyle earlier in the evening (1.48.41), Jay decimated the field in the distance medley event in a noticeable time of 4.13.93. Jay is certainly one to look out for the future, and with nothing to lose at the US trials in 4 weeks’ time, might do something special and cause some upsets in Omaha.