Skip to content

Five takeaways from U.S. Swimming Championships

Aug 11, 2014, 3:36 PM EST

Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte AP

IRVINE, Calif. — These U.S. Championships offered a glimpse of what could be in 2016 at the halfway point between Olympics. Here are takeaways from the past week to note as swimmers prepare for the Pan Pacific Championships:

1. The U.S. must go faster in Australia.

Katie Ledecky was sensational, Missy Franklin bagged three titles and Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte showed signs of returning to form. We’ll get to all of them specifically later, but it was surprising to see only two world-leading times set in Irvine — Ledecky’s world record in the 400m freestyle and Phelps’ preliminary clocking in the 100m butterfly.

Pan Pacs, which are in Gold Coast, Australia, from Aug. 21-25, are largely a U.S.-Australia showdown. In individual Olympic events, the U.S. is even, 13-13, in fastest times this year versus the Aussies, who had their Nationals in April and sent their best swimmers to the Commonwealth Games in July.

If Pan Pacs end up being that tight for golds, it will be a big swing from the last few major international meets. Australia sank in London, with one gold medal and 10 overall in the pool (the U.S. had 16 golds with 30 total). The Aussies improved slightly at the 2013 World Championships, but the Americans still bagged way more golds (13 to 3) and total medals (29 to 13).

2. What happens when Katie Ledecky gets challenged?

Janet Evans brought up an interesting point when discussing Ledecky on Sunday. Yes, Ledecky has been spectacular this year, breaking world records in the 400m, 800m and 1500m frees.

The 17-year-old can’t go personal bests and record breakers every time she swims, though. And now her times are targets for every other distance swimmer in the world.

At some point, maybe in the distant future, she will come back to Earth and plateau, at least for a period. Likewise, she will eventually lose an important race.

How will she respond to such adversity, Evans asked. Well, Ledecky has gone through a rough international meet before. She was ill at Duel in the Pool in Glasgow, Scotland, in December, finishing sixth in the 400m free and making one podium, second in the 200m free.

She’s seemed to rebound quiet nicely from that.

That’s a bit different from getting flat-out beat while fit and healthy, and at a major international meet, which Duel in the Pool is not.

Video: Ledecky breaks 400m free world record

3. Ryan Lochte has as much to prove as Michael Phelps.

You could make an argument Phelps was having a better meet than Lochte going into Sunday.

Neither had a victory, but at least Phelps had posted that world-leading 100m fly time before getting out-touched by .01 in the final. He also would have been near (perhaps better than) Lochte’s second-place time in the 100m free if not for that flukey missed turn.

Phelps is coming off a 20-month competitive retirement. Lochte, who is one year older than Phelps, is coming off nine months of knee problems, beginning with that overzealous fan encounter in November, then coming back too early in February and finally a re-tear of an MCL in the spring.

Remember, Phelps and Lochte faced off in three finals in a July meet, Lochte’s first in three months. And Phelps was faster in all of them.

Lochte edges Phelps in 200m IM

4. Missy Franklin’s dominance is being tested.

The bubbly rising Cal sophomore became the first woman to win six gold medals at a single World Championships last year. She goes into Pan Pacs ranking no higher than No. 3 in the world in her four primary individual events — 100m and 200m frees and backstrokes.

Franklin said after Nationals that she was still learning how to taper under a new coach, Teri McKeever in Berkeley. We’ll see if she’s timed it right at Pan Pacs, where she could face women who have been faster than her this year in all of her events.

Those are three Aussies in the 100m free, Ledecky and Aussie Emma McKeon in the 200m free, Aussie Emily Seebohm in the 100m back and three Aussies in the 200m back (though one, Meagen Nay, missed Commonwealths due to injury).

5. New (teen) talent has yet to fully break through.

Here are the U.S. swimmers ranked in the top three in the world in individual Olympic events — Franklin, Lochte, Ledecky, Phelps, Nathan Adrian, Tyler ClaryKevin CordesAnthony Ervin, Matt GreversTom Shields and Melanie Margalis.

Of those 11, eight are individual Olympic champions. A ninth, Cordes, won the 100m and 200m breaststrokes at the 2013 U.S. Championships.

That leaves Shields, who swept the 100m and 200m butterflies, and Margalis, who won the 200m IM, as the major international meet rookies.

Both were born in 1991. It appears as if the U.S. might not have a teen sensation splash on the international scene this year. In 2011, it was Franklin. In 2012, it was Ledecky. Last year, Chase Kalisz won a Worlds silver.

*Correction: An earlier version of this article failed to mention Ervin having one of the three fastest times in the world this year in an event.

U.S. roster for Pan Pacs

Latest Posts
  1. Ronda Rousey says top female fighter Cyborg is ‘a known fraud’

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:34 PM EST

    AP AP

    But the Olympic judo bronze medalist would welcome a fight with Cyborg under certain conditions.

  2. Missy Franklin’s dream to become most decorated female swimmer ever

    Mar 5, 2015, 9:22 AM EST

    AP AP

    Franklin will likely need at least two Olympics to pass three U.S. women who share the Olympic medals record.

  3. Steve Nash: Canada has ‘outside shot’ at Olympic basketball medal

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:39 AM EST

    Steve Nash Getty Images

    But a “50-50″ shot at qualifying for the Olympics this summer.

  4. Joakim Noah unlikely for EuroBasket, in doubt for Olympics

    Mar 4, 2015, 8:56 AM EST

    AP AP

    France may have to qualify for Rio with a team led by Tony Parker.

  5. Michael Phelps may be reinstated for World Championships, report says

    Mar 3, 2015, 10:20 PM EST

    Michael Phelps Getty Images

    Previously, Phelps and USA Swimming agreed he would withdraw from the World Championships team due to his DUI arrest.

  6. David Boudia scraps springboard plan; Nick McCrory retires

    Mar 3, 2015, 4:30 PM EST

    David Boudia Getty Images

    The Olympic champion competes next week for the first time since July.

  7. Pan American Games medals include Braille (photos)

    Mar 3, 2015, 11:07 AM EST

    Pan American Games medal

    How do the versions for Toronto 2015 compare to previous Pan Am Games medals?

  8. Fukushima, site of nuclear disaster, wants to host 2020 Olympic baseball

    Mar 3, 2015, 10:27 AM EST

    Fukushima Getty Images

    Even if baseball is re-added to the Olympics, Fukushima might not be a logical choice to host games.

  9. England FA hopes to qualify soccer teams for Rio Olympics

    Mar 2, 2015, 4:59 PM EST

    Team GB Getty Images

    Team GB’s men and women were ousted in the 2012 Olympic quarterfinals.

  10. Ronda Rousey should scare men’s fighters, Jay Glazer says (video)

    Mar 2, 2015, 2:28 PM EST

    Ronda Rousey Getty Images

    The Olympic judo bronze medalist is compared to a former dominant heavyweight boxer.

  11. Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross confident after defeat in Brazil showdown

    Mar 2, 2015, 11:47 AM EST

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Walsh Jennings also had breakfast with a beach legend in Rio de Janeiro.

  12. South Africa 2024 Olympic bid ‘unrealistic,’ official says

    Mar 2, 2015, 11:11 AM EST

    South Africa flag Getty Images

    IOC member and former South Africa Olympic Committee president previously said the nation was readying to bid.

  13. Brittany Bowe sweeps at World Sprint Championships (video)

    Mar 2, 2015, 10:21 AM EST

    AP AP

    Bowe skated with dominance not seen since 2003.

  14. Lindsey Vonn lost in the fog in Bansko super combined

    Mar 1, 2015, 8:31 AM EST

    AP AP

    Vonn will get another chance on Monday.

  15. Ronda Rousey defends UFC title in 14 seconds

    Mar 1, 2015, 12:05 AM EST

    Ronda Rousey AP

    Rousey is undefeated in 11 pro fights since winning Olympic judo bronze in 2008.

  16. Elana Meyers Taylor wins historic bobsled World Championship (video)

    Feb 28, 2015, 10:03 AM EST

    Elana Meyers Taylor Getty Images

    Meyers Taylor improved from silver medals at the 2013 Worlds and 2014 Olympics.