What a fantastic week of swimming in Berlin from the British team. They may not have been at full strength (10 of our Commonwealth medallists weren’t present) but nearly everyone who went along either got a medal or nabbed a PB*. Considering that this wasn’t the main season goal for most of the swimmers, they’ve held their taper pretty damn well. The numbers don’t lie - 24 medals and 9 golds is just brilliant. If I’ve counted up right, I make that only 5 races where GB had a finalist that didn’t get a medal (3 of those were 4th place finishes).
I was particularly impressed with the younger dudes’ technical aspects: starts, turns, underwaters. Ben Proud, Max Litchfield, Jay Lelliott and Adam Peaty all gained ground on their competitors off every wall. ‘Old’ hands Fran Halsall and Georgia Davies have noticeably improved their starts and underwaters as well - all the fine tuned sprint work they’re doing with James Gibson is clearly clicking.
My top British swims of the week:
- Adam Peaty’s 50 breast world record and its TERRIBLE finish (he’s great coming OFF the wall but not so great going into it maybe?)
- Adam Barrett’s staggering 50.69 fly split in the medley relay. Suck on that, France! For comparison, over in Australia Michael Phelps split 50.60 for USA at Pan-Pacs.
- Fran Halsall’s 50 back win. It wasn’t particularly fast, but she got her hand to the wall first and that’s what counts. That’s a bit of a wake up call for Europe’s full-time backstrokers.
- Jazz’s 400 free. Her 800 was dominant in the end but the 400 was really gutsy. She didn’t panic when Mireia Belmonte gained ground on every turn, but just dug in at 300 and held off Mireia and Sharon at the end. Throughout the meet Jazz can’t have been unaware of what Katie Ledecky was up to in Australia, but she kept her focus.
Realistically, if Ledecky had been swimming in Berlin she would have obliterated everyone in the distance races (she would have gained twice as much over Jazz on every turn as Mireia did and swum just as fast as Jazz in between). But Ledecky wasn’t there, and there’s no guaranteeing that her form in Kazan 2015 will be as spectacular as in 2013/2014. By then she’ll have switched coaches and be adapting to college life (recommend reading Amanda Beard’s autobiography for what that can entail). Missy Franklin looked unbeatable for three years, then after a long season of NCAAs and US Nationals, she ended up with a back twinge at Pan Pacs, coming 4th in her best event. If Ledecky is at her peak, she is unbeatable. If she’s off the boil even a little (remember Duel In The Pool, anyone?), Jazz absolutely has the ability and the guts to challenge her.
*Poor old Andrew Willis was 0.2 away from a medal on the 200 breaststroke and did a seasons best in the 100 heats, only failing to get through to semis because of the 2-per-nation rule. He’s drawn the short straw at the last few majors now. At least he’s not getting DQed, eh Kevin Cordes?