WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
The South Florida Aquatic Club will have momentum on its side for the second stop of the 2010 Mare Nostrum Tour this week in Barcelona, Spain.
The new Nike-sponsored club made its presence known on the world-class stage led by two-time Olympian Vlad Polyakov of Kazakhstan.
On Day Two of the series-opener in Monaco, Polyakov, 26, looked impressive in both the 50- and 100-meter breaststroke events.
Coming off a 2:12.55 swim in the 200-meter breaststroke, Polykov finished ahead of U.S. Olympian Eric Shanteau in the 100-meter breaststroke to place fifth in 1:01.89. His 50-meter split was 28.98.
Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta won the 100 breaststroke in 1:01.58. The top five finishers including Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima (1:01.63), Russia’s Grigory Falko (1:01.79), Russia’s Stanislav Lakhtyukhov (1:01.88) and Polyakov all broke 1:02 to push Gyurta in the exciting race.
Polyakov came back and sprinted to a second-place finish in the 50-meter breaststroke. Germany’s Hendrik Feldwehr beat Polyakov to the wall in 27.92 to 28.06.
Both Polyakov and six-time Olympic coach Michael Lohberg were pleased with his swims.
“This meet was absolutely crucial for Vlad, a real test to see if he can still do it,” Lohberg said. “It was also a test of his training methods since he is six years older than he was at the 2004 Olympics which was by far his best meet ever.
“We changed his dryland training and we changed the approach in the water but we had no clue whether it would work. Interestingly enough, he posted good results in all three events. Against a world-class field, his 200 time was probably his best swim. He got his confidence back in all three events. He was up with those world-class swimmers again and that hasn’t happened for a while.”
Lohberg said he had a good time on the pool deck watching Polyakov swim.
“It was fun,” said the SOFLO coach. “I am especially happy for him since he trains incredibly hard and he is determined. Unfortunately, that’s not a guarantee for good results. All I wanted is to see Vlad back up with the best and that definitely was the case here.”
The Mare Nostrum meet comes at a good time for some of SOFLO’s elite swimmers.
“The good thing about these kind of meets is that a lot of world-class swimmers come here,” Lohberg said. “Since it is fun there is no pressure unless they put it on themselves. With two more meets coming up and racing against the same people and maybe some more, Vlad is back on track and should have some fun as well as fast races.”
In other SOFLO swims, Venezuela’s Arlene Semeco finished in the Top 8 of the 50-meter freestyle which Lohberg called “a success.” Marco Camargo of Ecuador swam 59.57 in the 100-meter butterfly prelims. His 50-meter split was 27.70.
“For our other swimmers it was the first of three meets where they can show that they belong here,” Lohberg said. “Arlene finishing in the Top 8 is a success. For Marco and Leo Andara this is more like testing where they are in comparison to the best ones in the world. In the next two meets, they have to step up and do it again. That’s how you learn racing.”
After only one meet, Lohberg is glad SOFLO is competing overseas.
“Meets like this are a great opportunity to swim without pressure with the best of the best,” Lohberg said. “It also takes our swimmers out of the routine and comfort zone of South Florida.
“Over the course of 25 years I have seen our top people step up and race successfully and our young talent taking the first step on the international scene. These meets are very valuable for various reasons. That’s why we are here. It’s an important part of the preparation for the summer meets and the future.”
The second stop of the world’s largest swimming tournament will take SOFLO to Barcelona, Spain, site of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, on June 9-10.
The USA Youth National Team will also compete among the world-class field in Barcelona.
SOFLO’s Lindsey McKnight, 16, will make her international debut when she competes in six events against some of the best swimmers in the world. McKnight will compete in Spain with the U.S. team and then join her SOFLO teammates for the final Mare Nostrum leg in Canet en Roussillon, France.
“It’s the highest international meet she has ever swum,” Lohberg said. “The competition for her is incredibly tough since there is a lot of talent entered in all the meets.
“This will be her first peak over the fence into the real world of swimming,” Lohberg said. “I hope she learns from this experience and comes home with a new understanding what it means to become and to be a world-class swimmer, which is her dream. 2012 is not that far away any more.”
In other Mare Nostrum second day events, no one country dominated.
American Rebecca Soni broke the women’s 200-meter breaststroke meet record in 2:24.45, off her season-best time of 2:22.21.
France’s Camille Muffat set a meet record in the women’s 200-meter individual medley in 2:11.55.
Germany’s Paul Biedermann won the men’s 200-meter freestyle in 1:46.82 to move him from seventh to second in the world this year.
Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands won the women’s 100-meter freestyle in 54.14. American Dana Vollmer was second in 54.78.
Ous Mellouli of Tunisia won the men’s 400-meter individual medley in 4:15.57.
Blair Evans of Australia won the women’s 400-meter freestyle in 4:07.39. Another Aussie, Samantha Hamill won the 200-meter butterfly in 2:09.19.
Russia’s Nikolay Skvortsov won the 100-meter butterfly in 52.80.
Austria’s Markus Rogan won the 200-meter backstroke in 1:58.71.
China’s Zhao Jing took the women’s 100 backstroke in 1:00.86 and 50-meter backstroke in 27.94. Sweden’s Therese Alshammer won the women’s 50 freestyle in 24.94 and the 50-meter butterfly in 25.64.
Fred Bousquet of France won the men’s 50 freestyle in 21.84. France’s Camille Lacourt won the men’s 50 backstroke in a meet record 24.81. Russia’s Yuliya Efimova won the women’s 50 breaststroke in 30.35.
Australia’s Geoff Huegill won the 50-meter butterfly in 23.85 over Germany’s Steffen Deibler (23.86).
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org