Team USA thrashes European All-Stars in Duel for their fifth consecutive win
By Bryan Flaherty
Missy Franklin anchored the women's 400 medley relay to break the world record in a lop-sided win for Team USA at the 2011 Duel in the Pool held in Atlanta, December 16-17. The American team won the meet convincingly 181.5 to 80.5
Right from the start of the medley relay, Natalie Coughlin, swimming the backstroke leg, was 1.5 seconds under the world-record split. Her teammates Rebecca Soni and Dana Vollmer didn't fall off the pace, allowing Franklin to dive in with the world-record line in her wake.
The 16-year-old dazzled in the anchor spot, with a blistering 51.32 split to break the world record by over two seconds in 3 minutes 45.56 seconds.
Franklin continued to build her international resume, which includes three world championship gold medals, with first-place finishes in the 200 backstroke and 200 freestyle. She was just .11 off her own world record in 2:00.14. Using her final two walls, she broke free from Elizabeth Simmonds (Great Britain) and Elizabeth Pelton (USA) to win the race.
ATLANTA, GA - Jessica Hardy reacts after winning the Women's 100m Breaststroke during the Duel in the Pool at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center on December 17, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The United States commanded the dual meet from start to finish, enjoying a lead of 93.5 to 28.5 after the first day of competition against the European All-Star team that looked tepid at best and unprepared to challenge the American team.
Virginia star, Matt McLean (SNOW/Potomac Falls High School) enjoyed success in the freestyle events, taking third on the Friday night in the 400 freestyle and following up that performance on Saturday by coming from behind to take second in the 200 freestyle.
Former Mount Vernon High School and Curl-Burke swimmer, Markus Rogan (Austria) finished third in the 200 individual medley behind the event's winner, Ryan Lochte, and Hungary's Laszlo Cseh, who took second.
Ryan Lochte of the U.S. (bottom) starts alongside Europe's Radoslaw Kawecki of Poland in the men's 200 meters backstroke race during the Mutual of Omaha Duel in the Pool swimming competition at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center in Atlanta, Georgia December 16, 2011. (Tami Chappell/Reuters)
Swimming un-tapered, Lochte looked like a different person in the water after a disappointing Winter Nationals two weeks ago in this same pool, where his highest finish was fifth in the 400 individual medley. He cruised in the 200 backstroke, torpedoing off every wall and working his underwaters in the short-course format. Winning both individual medley events, he looked like the favorite to win as many as eight gold medals next year in London.
Also looking good this weekend after coming out of retirement, Brendan Hansen pulled off an amazing upset on Friday night, knocking off the world-record holder Daniel Gyurta to win the 200 breaststroke in a personal best time of 2:03.62. The next day the 30-year-old comeback swimmer brought more of the same to win the 100 breaststroke in 57.47.
Caitlin Leverenz was just .3 off the world record in the 200 individual medley in 2:04.91, one of the strongest events for the American women. This will certainly be one of the toughest events to make next year in Omaha at the Olympic Trials, where Duel teammates Pelton, Julia Smit, and Olympian Katie Hoff will challenge for a spot in the event.
To open day two, distance freestylers Lotte Friis (Denmark) and Pal Joensen (Faroe Islands) won the women's and men's 800 freestyle to give the European team some life. But it proved to be too little, as the American team rolled up the meet with several sweeps.
The United States clinched the meet early on Saturday, earning the necessary 131 points to win the meet with nine events to go.
Despite the lopsided score, the Europeans didn't walk away empty handed, winning several events. Katinka Hosszu (Hungary) won the women's individual medley ahead of Leverenz in 4:24.37 and Ranomi Kromowidjojo (Netherlands) won the 100 freestyle in 51.87. Hungary's Laszlo Cseh won the 200 butterfly with a brilliant final 50 meters, against an American field sorely missing superstar Michael Phelps.
To close the meet, the European All-Stars went under world-record time in the women's 400 freestyle relay to win the event. However, the record will not stand because the relay members were from different countries.
Click here for full results and times.
Tags: 2011 Duel in the Pool, Brendan Hansen, Caitlin Leverenz, Dana Vollmer, Daniel Gyurta, Elizabeth Pelton, Elizabeth Simmonds, Katie Hoff, Laszlo Cseh, Lotte Friis, Matt McLean, Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Natalie Coughlin, Pal Joensen, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, Rebecca Soni, Ryan Lochte, Team USA, World Record