Review: FINA World Championships

FINA Worlds Kazan

For the past eight days, the best swimmers in the world gathered in Kazan for the FINA World Championships.  Outside of Katie Ledecky, the Americans didn’t fare all that well.  You may say that they still had the most medals and most golds (thanks to Ledecky), but this meet was not good for the Americans.  How bad was it?  1) The American men failed to even make the finals in the 4x100m Free Relay – an event they have failed to medal in just once – in 2001 when they were disqualified.  2) The Americans lost events they have dominated for a decade (the backstroke events and the Men’s 4x200m Free Relay).  3) The 2015 American team won the fewest medals Worlds in 30 years.  What happened?

A number of things:

  1. The Americans did not send their best team. The team was selected in 2014, a year ago.  A lot can happen in a year.
    1. Other swimmers can emerge such as Katie Meili and Kelsi Worrell, in breaststroke and butterfly. The Americans didn’t even make it into the finals in those events at worlds.
    2. Swimmers get injured – hampering their training. Nathan Adrian, the defending Olympic champion in the 100m Freestyle, didn’t swim up to his potential at worlds – he’s been fighting a shoulder injury.  Missy Franklin and Elizabeth Beisel also injured.
    3. You could have an off year. Missy Franklin wasn’t at her best in these world championships.  She was one to two seconds off her best times in the backstroke.  Teri McKeever, the head coach of Cal, is a great coach, but Missy’s time in college didn’t seem to make her any better.  If anything, it made it worse.  (Clearly, she should have gone to the University of Michigan).  This summer, I watched Missy at the end of her practices and she didn’t look as sharp as she has in the past.  Plus, like Adrian, she is coming off an injury which could have hampered her training.  A year training under her old coach and she should hopefully be back to her old self in time for the Rio Games
    4. You could be an idiot. Michael Phelps was arrested for another DUI.  USA Swimming left him off the team.  Phelps has vowed to clean himself up and has swam the fastest times in the world in the 100 and 200 Fly and the 200 IM at the 2015 Phillips 66 Nationals.  If he can stay clean, he might be better than his 22-Olympic-medalist self.
  2. Great Britain finally realized that they are an island and should be able to swim. They ended up 3rd in the medal count led by the new world record holder in the 50 and 100m breaststroke, Adam Peaty.  He probably should have been the Male Swimmer of the Meet.
  3. Missed tapers? Pressure? – This is pure speculation, but it seemed like a number of swimmers missed their taper.  A lot of them faded at the end of races or swam faster in prelims/semifinals than they did in the semifinals/finals (e.g. Tyler Clary and Michael McBroom).  This could be the missed taper or they could have felt the pressure of the poor start to the meet and used all their adrenaline and ran out of gas early in the race or earlier round.  (Matt Grevers was on that 4×100 Free Relay that failed to make the finals – I think he pressed and made mistakes)

Should we be worried about Rio in 2016?  No.  And Yes.  The Olympic trials will be held 3-4 weeks before the Olympic Games assuring that the US will select the best team possible, any new up and comers will make the team.  No one will be out of shape.  Injuries can still happen but 3 weeks is a lot less time than 1 year.  Great Britain will still be a force – James Guy and Adam Peaty are very young and should lead the charge for a very good GB team.  Australia will always be Australia.

What new faces could emerge by 2016?

On the Men’s side: Caeleb Dressel, Maxime Rooney, Jack Conger all are 20 years or younger and could make the leap by next year.  Michael Andrew and Reese Whitley are both under 17 years old right now.  They will get better by next year – will they get better enough?  Michael Andrew has been breaking age group records set by some guy named Michael Phelps.  On the Women’s side: The aforementioned Kelsi Worrell and Katie Meili should make the team if they continue to swim as well as they did this year.  Ella Eastin won three gold medals at Junior Nationals, but she still needs to drop some time to become competitive at the world level.

Bold Prediction Time, Who will make Rio for the US team

50 Free

Men – Nathan Adrian is still top dog here.  I predict Caeleb Dressel is the second guy, double gold in the sprint events at the US Nationals, I only expect him to get better.  Dark Horse – Anthony Ervin, this guy has been around a long time and knows how to get his hand on the wall.

Women – Simone Manuel is still the best American sprinter.  Lia Neal is an excellent sprinter and still young.  Dark Horse – Natalie Coughlin, like Ervin, has been around a long time.  Never EVER discount her chances

100 Free

Men – Adrian and Dressel again.  Relay – Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Jack Conger, Maxime Rooney.  Dark Horse – Anthony Ervin (see above).  Michael Andrew – depends on his development.

Women – Manuel and Neal.  Sprinters are sprinters.  Relay – Missy Franklin, Margo Geer, Alison Schmitt, Natalie Hinds.  Dark Horse – Coughlin.

200 Free

Men – Phelps, Lochte.  Relay – Rooney, Connor Jaeger, Connor Dwyer, Dressel.  Dark Horse – Zane Grothe, distance guy out of the Badger club dropping down to the 200

Women – Katie Ledecky, Franklin.  Relay – Katie McLaughlin (the 18 year old had a solid world championships and should get better), Schmitt, Neal, Leah Smith Dark Horse – Hannah Cox, only 17, finished fifth at Nationals this year.

400 Free

Men – Jaeger, Michael McBroom.  Dark Horse – Clark Smith, 2015 NCAA champion in the 500 freestyle

Women – Ledecky.  Huge gap.  Cierra Runge.  Dark Horse – Lindsay Vrooman Hali Flickinger.  They were 1-2 at Nationals within a few hundredths of Runge’s time at Worlds.

800 Free

Men – NA

Women – Ledecky.  Runge.  Dark Horse – Becca Mann – she just missed qualifying for the open water event, so she will likely focus her attention on the 800.

1500 Free

Men – Jaeger, McBroom.  Dark Horse – Jordan Wilimovsky, already a 2016 Olympian by winning the open water 10K in Kazan, could challenge for the one of the 2 slots in what would be a sprint for him.  PJ Ransford – Michigan has a history of cranking out distance freestylers, Ransford is only a Sophomore next year, he’s only going to get better.

Women – The IOC are sexist pigs.  Women are “too delicate” to compete in this distance, never mind that Katie Ledecky would have finished 28th in the world.  On the Men’s side.

100 Backstroke

Men – Ryan Murphy – turned in the fastest split of the Worlds meet (never duplicated it), Matt Grevers (defending champion won’t go away easily).  Dark Horse – Conger

Women – Franklin, Claire Adams winner at Nationals, and is only 17 years old.  Dark Horse – Coughlin, if she decides to swim it.

200 Backstroke

Men – Grevers, Lochte.  Dark Horse – Murphy

Women – Franklin, Adams. Dark Horse – Elizabeth Beisel, if she can recover from her injury

100 Breaststroke

Men – Kevin Cordes (keeps getting better at long course), Michael Andrew (very bold, but a semi weak event for the US, he could definitely get much better in one year).  Dark Horse –Reese Whitley

Women – Katie Meili, Jessica Hardy  Dark Horse – Rebecca Soni (if she comes out of her hiatus), Laura Sogar

200 Breaststroke

Men – Cordes, Andrew Wilson (won the 100m Breast at Nationals, and is the top seed in the 200m) Dark Horse – Will Licon

Women – Micah Lawrence, Sogar Dark Horse – Breeja Larson

100 Butterfly

Men – Phelps, Conger Dark Horse – Tom Shields, mercurial talent, could win Nationals or could fail to make the finals in possibly the deepest event for the Americans

Women – Kelsi Worrell, Dana Vollmer.  Dark Horse – Kendyl Stewart

200 Butterfly

Men – Phelps, Conger Dark Horse – Lochte

Women – McClaughlin, Cammile Adams.  Dark Horse –Worrell (she scratched as top seed at Nationals)

200 Individual Medley

Men – Phelps, Lochte.  Dark Horse – Michael Andrew

Women – Maya DiRado (one of the few bright spots at worlds), Caitlin Leverenz.  Dark Horse – Ella Eastin

400 Individual Medley

Men – Chase Kalisz, “Gunner” Bentz – winner of Nationals at only 19 years old.  Dark Horse – Tyler Clary, one of the most versatile swimmers, but always overshadowed by some of the greatest swimmers of all time.

Women – DiRado, Leverenz.  Dark Horse – Eastin

There’s your team.  It should improve drastically on the medal haul from the World Championships, despite the fewer events.  Though, I hope they add the Mixed Relays in soon, those were super fun to watch (and looked like, to swim).

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