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2012 Olympic Trials Preview: Day Three<br /> Men's 200 free, 100 back; Women's 100 back, 100 breast

By Bryan Flaherty and Michael Ledecky

With Olympic Trials fast approaching, we’re taking a look at each of the eight days of competition, which will begin June 25 and conclude July 2. We break down who we see as the favorites entering the meet, preview each event, make our our picks for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, and give you a list of current and former local area competitors. Read our Day One and Day Two Previews here.

Day Three’s finals begin with Lochte-Phelps: Part II. The best two all-around swimmers in the world will compete once again for the top spots, this time in the men’s 200-meter freestyle. It will be the first of two Wednesday night finals for Lochte, who may be considering attempting to best Phelps’ historic eight gold medal performance in 2008.

Also in the water will be 11-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin, who will match up against three of the best teenage swimmers in the world in the 100 backstroke.

Ryan Lochte (2nd from right) and Michael Phelps (far right) compete in the final of the men's 200-metre freestyle at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

Day Three– June 27

Men’s 200 freestyle

Favorites:

Ryan Lochte took his first world championship individual gold in this event at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai, where he edged Michael Phelps by .35 seconds — Phelps is the reigning Olympic champion in the event. Since last summer, Lochte has dropped few hints about the speed at which he is capable of swimming, training hard through every meet during the 2011-2012 season. Either way, expect an even closer race between Phelps and Lochte this time around.

Ricky Berens, who beat both Phelps and Lochte at the Charlotte Grand Prix last month, has a chance to pull off an upset and sneak into the top two at Omaha, which would amount to one of the biggest coup d’état in recent Trials history. 2011 U.S. Nationals gold medalist Peter Vanderkaay will also be in the mix, but is better known as a distance freestyler. Lochte, Phelps, Vanderkaay and Berens should all place in the top six in Omaha to earn spots on the 4×200 freestyle relay in London, but it will be a dogfight for the final two bids.

2008 Olympic Champion: Michael Phelps (United States) 1:42.96.

World Record: Paul Biederman (Germany) 1:42.00, set in 2009.
American Record: Michael Phelps (Club Wolverine) 1:42.96, set in 2008.

Predicted Final heat:


*Times in parentheses reflect swimmer’s meet entry time posted by USA Swimming

1. Ryan Lochte — 2011 World Championships gold medalist (1:44.44)

2. Michael Phelps — 2008 Olympic gold medalist (1:44.79)

3. Peter Vanderkaay — 2011 U.S. Nationals gold medalist (1:46.45)

4. Ricky Berens — 2012 Charlotte Grand Prix champion (1:47.09)

5. Conor Dwyer — 2011 World Championships gold medalist, 4×200 freestyle relay (1:47.35)

6. Matt McLean — 2012 U.S. Nationals silver medalist (1:47.44)

7. Dave Walters — 2008 Olympic gold medalist, 4×200 freestyle relay (1:47.78)

8. Dax Hill — 2012 NCAA runner-up (1:48.38)

Local competitors: Matt McLean (FAST/SNOW/U-Va.) will be among the swimmers battling it out for a relay spot. McLean placed second behind Vanderkaay in this event at the U.S. National Championships last summer, and we picked him to punch his ticket to London in the 400 free on Day One in Omaha, which should take the pressure off for his second event. Just outside of the top-30 sits Michael Flach (South Carolina/FISH/O’Connell), who will use this event as a warm-up for his signature event, the 200 butterfly. The only other Potomac Valley qualifier for this event is John Hauser of U-Md., who is seeded 120th.

Picks for London:  Lochte, Phelps. Lochte and Phelps will be untouchable if they display the same speed that they did in Shanghai. Look for our relay previews later this month for our relay team picks.

Women’s 100 backstroke

Favorites:

At the top of this event stands the Queen of Swimming, Natalie Coughlin. Coughlin is the only female swimmer to win the 100 backstroke in consecutive Olympic Games, making her an easy favorite to make the event, and her third straight Olympic team, at age 29.

MissyFranklin won five medals at the 2011 FINA World Championships and is preparing for the London Olympic games. (Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

But it may not be as easy as it was in the past for the veteran. The last several years have seen the landscape of the women’s 100 backstroke change quite a bit, with upstarts popping up all over the globe, including in Coughlin’s own backyard. Missy Franklin, the 16-year-old Colorado sensational, lit up the swimming world when she won the World Championship title in the 200 backstroke last summer in Shanghai. Just behind her sits two more teenage stars, Rachel Bootsma and Elizabeth Pelton, both of which have international experience in this event and won’t shy from the big stage. Franklin and Pelton are better at the 200 distance, but can go sub-1 minute easily in the sprint event. The speed demon in this race is Bootsma, who may try to stick it to the field with a gutsy swim from the front.

Rounding out the top five is University of Tennessee’s star, Jennifer Connolly, who is coming off an impressive NCAA season.

2008 Olympic Champion: Natalie Coughlin (United States) 58.96.

World Record: Gemma Spofforth (Germany) 58.12, set in 2009.
American Record: Natalie Coughlin (Cal Aquatics) 58.94, set in 2008.

Predicted Final heat:


*Times in parentheses reflect swimmer’s meet entry time posted by USA Swimming

1. Natalie Coughlin — 2004 & 2008 Olympic gold medalist (59.12)

2. Missy Franklin — World Record Holder (short-course meters) in 200 backstroke (59.18)

3. Rachel Bootsma — 2011 Pan American Champion (59.65)

4. Elizabeth Pelton — 201 Pan Pacific silver medalist in 200 backstroke (59.99)

5. Jennifer Connolly — 2012 NCAA bronze medalist in 100-yard backstroke (1:00.21)

6.  Elizabeth Beisel — 2011 FINA World Champion in 400 IM (1:00.77)

7. Megan Romano — 2012 NCAA silver medalist in 100-yard backstroke (1:00.87)

8. Cindy Tran — 2012 NCAA Champion in 100-yard backstroke (1:01.35)

Local competitors: Another day, another event for Janet Hu (Curl-Burke/Oakton HS), who qualified in eight events. Just behind her is teammate Hellen Moffitt (Curl-Burke/West Potomac HS). The pair are ranked 71st and 83rd, respectively. Also swimming will be Ginny Glover (U-Md./Catonsville YMCA/Wilde Lake HS), seeded 160th, and Catherine Mulquin (RMSC/Good Counsel HS), seeded 171st.

Picks for London: Coughlin, Franklin. This one is going to be closer than a lot of people expect. Bootsma has startling speed and will push the pace early in this race, but in the end, Coughlin’s legendary underwaters and Franklin’s closing speed will get the best of Bootsma.

Men’s 100 backstroke

Favorites:

Day Three will be the biggest challenge for Ryan Lochte, who will attempt to pull off a difficult 200 free-100 back double. In 2008, Lochte attempted the same double in Omaha and fell just short, placing third in both events. This time, Lochte should be solid in the 200 free, but the 100 back is wide open. The top three seeds – Nick Thoman, David Plummer and Matt Grevers – are within .05 of a second of one another.  The retirement of world record-holder Aaron Peirsol last February moved Lochte into the fourth spot for Omaha, but the question remains: how tired will Lochte be for the 100 back?

2008 Olympic Champion: Aaron Peirsol (United States) 52.54.

World Record: Aaron Peirsol (United States) 51.94, set in 2009.
American Record: Aaron Peirsol (Longhorn Aquatics) 51.94, set in 2009.

Predicted Final heat:


*Times in parentheses reflect swimmer’s meet entry time posted by USA Swimming

1. Nick Thoman — World Record Holder (short-course meters) (53.01)

2. David Plummer — 2011 World Championships gold medalist in 4×100 medley relay (53.04)

3. Matt Grevers — 2008 Olympic silver medalist (53.05)

4. Ryan Lochte — Former World Record Holder (short course meters) (53.69)

5. Ben Hensen — 2008 NCAA Champion in 100-yard backstroke (54.19)

6. Eugene Godsoe — 2010 NCAA Champion in 100-yard backstroke (54.22)

7. Ryan Murphy — 15-16 NAG record-holder (54.96)

8. Tom Shields — 2011 and 2012 NCAA Champion (57.41)

Local competitors: RMSC’s Jack Conger will look to crack the semifinal by placing top-16 in this event. It will be interesting to see if he can challenge fellow 18-and-under rival Ryan Murphy of Jacksonville, Fl. Brady Fox (RMSC/U-Va.) is Potomac Valley’s only other men’s 100 back Trials qualifier, but Josh Hafkin (Unattached) will attempt to qualify at this weekend’s Swimvitational.

Picks for London: Grevers, Thoman.  A rested, focused field should be too fast for Lochte. Grevers has looked strong all year while Thoman and Plummer have been nearly identical. A coin flip will decide the final spot. 


Matt Grevers, Olympic favorite in 100 backstroke, proposes to Annie Chandler (who will swim in the women’s 100 breaststroke at Trials) at Missouri Grand Prix, February 11, 2012.

Women’s 100 breaststroke

Favorites:

Outside of the men’s 400 IM, this may be the most prosaic event at Trials. The top spots are all but locked up by 2008 Olympic silver medalist, Rebecca Soni, and world record holder, Jessica Hardy. Interestingly enough, it was Hardy who qualified second in the 100 breaststroke four years ago, not Soni, but Hardy was forced to withdraw from the team after testing positive for the banned substance clenbuterol. Soni had been fourth at Trials, but the deadline to add an athlete to the U.S. delegation had passed, so the event passed to Soni who was already on the team for the 200 breaststroke.

Rebecca Soni (L) and Jessica Hardy (R) share a hug after racing in the women's 100-meter breaststroke finals during the USA Swimming Grand Prix Charlotte Ultra Swim in Charlotte (Chris Keane/Reuters)

Hardy is ready for redemption. With her two-year ban well behind her, she has dominated the world over the last three years in the sprint breaststroke events and is heavily favored to podium in London. Her main competition will be Soni, who holds the top time in the world over the last two years.

Each swimmer brings a completely different style to the race. Hardy, the 50 and 100 breaststroke world record holder, will be out fast and explosive. Soni, who is most dominant in the 200 breaststroke, will charge down Hardy on the second lap to make this race close as they head into the final 10 meters. Who touches first is anyone’s guess and largely doesn’t matter as both are expected to compete for gold in London.

Also in the event will be the familiar face of Amanda Beard who will try to make her fifth consecutive Olympic games in the breaststroke events.

2008 Olympic Champion: Leisel Jones (Australia) 1:05.17.

World Record: Jessica Hardy (United States) 1:04.45 , set in 2009.
American Record: Jessica Hardy (Trojan Swim Club) 1:04.45 , set in 2009.

Predicted Final heat:


*Times in parentheses reflect swimmer’s meet entry time posted by USA Swimming

1. Rebecca Soni —  2008 Olympic gold medalist in 200 breaststroke, silver medalist in 100 breaststroke (1:04.91)

2. Jessica Hardy — World Record Holder (1:05.90)

3. Annie Chandler — 2010 U.S. Nationals silver medalist (1:07.17)

4. Amanda Beard — seven-time Olympic medalist (1:07.49)

5. Micah Lawrence — 2011 U.S. National Champion in 200 breaststroke (1:07.62)

6. Ellyn Baumgardner — 2010 NCAA bronze medalist in 100-yard breaststroke (1:08.20)

7. Breeja Larson — 2012 NCAA Champion in 100-yard breaststroke — NCAA record (1:08.29)

8. Ashley Wanland — 2009 U.S. Nationals bronze medalist in 200 breaststroke (1:08.33)

Local competitors: Ellyn Baumgardner (Arizona/Curl-Burke/Fairfax HS) should cruise into the semifinals, but then she has her work cut out for her. There are a lot of great professional and collegiate swimmers vying for a spot in the top heat. I’d expect it to take a sub-1:08 to make it to Wednesday night’s final. Also with a shot at the semis are George Mason’s Ashley Danner (Mason Makos/Lake Braddock HS) and RMSC’s Sarah Haase (Good Counsel HS). Despite their youth, cipro dosage both swimmers competed in Omaha in 2008 at Trials and have been swimming on the national stage ever since.

Also watch for swims in the heats from Jenna Van Camp (Herndon Aquatic/Herndon HS), Jenny Wilson (Northwestern/Curl-Burke/Sidwell Friends School),  and Shinhye Won (James Madison/Sea Devils/West Springfield HS).

Picks for London: Soni, Hardy. This race will be over before it even begins. Despite their starkly different styles, both swimmers will find themselves alone in the final 10-meters vying for first. Soni will do just enough to get herself to the Olympics, where the real race will take place against the likes of Leisel Jones (Australia) and Liping Ji (China), and Hardy will flex her muscles enough to show the world she is still the one to beat.

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2 Responses to “2012 Olympic Trials Preview: Day Three<br /> Men's 200 free, 100 back; Women's 100 back, 100 breast”

  1. Former swimmer says:

    These previews are great, keep it coming!

  2. cynthia curran says:

    Tran probably will not go to the olympics but she probably will do her best time. Tran tends to do well at big meets if she makes it to the semi-final. A time below 1:01 or 1:00 in the back. Maybe Tran and Megan R will go to the world unveresity games instead of olympics.

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