2022 FINA World Championships Diary by Gary Francis "Gaz" - Competition Day One
Competition Day One
Well the first day of racing is done and it’s been a long day – which is good because we had finals interest in two events – Erika in the 400 free and Lewis in the 400IM. Both athletes backing up last year’s Olympic performances with a strong World Championship effort, and both improving on last year’s placings.
Erika’s main job in the morning was to ensure she qualified into the final, as she swam in the second to last heat. So having seen the previous heats not produce any threatening times her number one objective was to win the heat which would almost certainly get her into that final. She did win the heat and was able to step up another two seconds in the evening with 4:04.73 after really attacking the first 200. The race was always going to be fast and Erika gave herself every chance to be in the shakeup.
Lewis has been part of one of the great races of all time tonight. Leon Marchand became the first man to swim 4:04 in the 400IM. Not a world record because Michael Phelps swam 4:03 in 2008, but still a remarkable time that squeezes him between Phelps and Ryan Lochte on the all-time list. Lewis has not been well, we kept the news hidden from you all last week, but showed remarkable strength of character and ability to get up for 4th place. In his radio interview tonight he joked about spending more time out of the water than in it over the last month due to covid and then the stomach bug that saw him going to A and E last week in camp in Slovakia. However, as Lewis commented to me in the taxi on the way back to the hotel tonight after going through drug testing, Marchand is now 6 seconds faster than him, and 5.5 seconds of that is in the breaststroke leg! So that’s where the work will begin again when this is all over!
Our other performances today were a mixed bag. Helena was first up and it was one of those days when it all goes wrong, unfortunately. She had prepared really well and all the signs were that she would swim well, but she just couldn’t find any rhythm or feel in the water. Her and her coach Michael just can’t work out what went wrong and my debrief with them certainly didn’t shed much light on things. So for now that performance has to be parked and she must move on to the next one. Her attitude has impressed me. A day like today could have crushed her for the rest of the competition but she is already focusing on her next event, Tuesday’s 200m Butterfly.
Eve Thomas was reasonably pleased with her 400m free which was the fastest time she has swum in heats, and her second best time overall. It should set her up well for the 800m, her favoured event.
Cameron Gray (50m Butterfly) had his first taste of World Championship swimming and in his words, “It was unreal!”. Cameron has good skills but they have never been tested under extreme pressure such they were today. His breakout wasn’t executed as well as normal which probably cost him a PB and he found himself not ahead of the field as he would normally be into his first stroke. It was a striking reminder to me that we have to give our younger swimmers as many high level competitive experiences possible. At this level a small mistake is equivalent to a howling blunder at NZ level!
First observations from the coaching team are that Breaststroke is really dominating the medleys again after a few years of not standing out so much. Also, the women’s butterfly is very much decided on start, turn and finish. The American girls seem to be controlling the race by nailing the dive and break-out then reinforcing it on the turn wall.
Tomorrow we see Andrew Jeffcoat compete for the first time along with Caitlin Deans, and Cameron gets another chance to get things right in his 200m Free. Everyone else will be training in the morning and several will back in again in the afternoon.
Day Two Athlete Schedule
Mens 100m Backstroke
19th June - 7:15pm NZT
Mens 200m Freestyle
19th June - 7:51pm NZT