WRITTEN BY SHARON ROBB
May 29, 2012
Two-time Olympians Alia Atkinson and Vlad Polyakov and teenager Marcella Marinheiro of the South Florida Aquatic Club will be among a star-studded field at the Santa Clara International Grand Prix that begins Thursday at the George F. Haines International Swim Center.
Atkinson and Polyakov are both going after their FINA qualifying times for the 2012 London Olympics.
Atkinson, who represents Jamaica, will swim the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke and 50-meter freestyle.
Polyakov, who represents Kazakhstan, is entered in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke.
Marinheiro, 17, is entered in the 100-meter backstroke, 200-meter backstroke and 100-meter freestyle.
The meet is the seventh and final stop of the USA Swimming Grand Prix Series. For many U.S. and international swimmers it will serve as a final tune-up before the U.S. Olympic trials in June and London Olympics.
Olympic medalists Natalie Coughlin, Dana Vollmer and Nathan Adrian head the field. Other national team members competing include Jessica Hardy, Caitlin Leverenz, Madison Kennedy, Mike Alexandrov, Kim Vandenberg, Emily Brunemann and Tyler Clary.
Other Americans entered are Olympian Cullen Jones and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Anthony Ervin.
The international field features Japan’s top breaststroker Kosuke Kitajima, South Africa’s Sebastien Rousseau, Canada’s Ryan Cochrane, Korea’s Taehwan Park and Libby Trickett, Leisel Jones and triple Olympic gold medalist Stephanie Rice of Australia. Australia is sending a 25-swimmer contingent.
“This meet has always been well-attended by Australian swimmers and with Queensland sending some 20 swimmers alone, 16 of whom will be heading to London, this is a very important part of the preparation,” Swimming Australia head coach Leigh Nugent said.
“To be able to race the top U.S. swimmers as they finalize their own preparation is important and our coaches will have penciled this meet into their plans from a long way back.”
One of the most anticipated head-to-head matchup is Jones, the 2008 Olympic breaststroke champion against Hardy.
Timed finals are on Thursday at 4 p.m. Prelims and finals will be Friday through Sunday. The meet will be live webcast at usaswimming.org.
Speedo Grand Challenge
Janet Evans finished sixth in the 800-meter freestyle at the meet held at William Woollett Jr. Aquatics Center in Irvine, Calif.
It was the Olympic champion’s final tune-up before the trials where she will try and make the U.S. team at age 40. Evans finished in 8:49.36. Evans was among the early leaders but faded in the second half of the race.
“It was a little disappointing but I think she’s tired from training,” said her longtime coach, Mark Schubert. Haley Anderson, 20, won the event in 8:33.65. Anderson will try and make the open water team at the June 9 qualifier in Portugal.
Also at the meet, three-time Olympian Jason Lezak won the 100-meter freestyle in 49.96.
Brit Ellen Gandy won the 200-meter butterfly in 2:09.83 in her first U.S. meet and Aussie Nick D’Arcy won the men’s 200-meter butterfly in 1:57.16.
Vlad Morozov won the 100-meter backstroke in 54.67.
The 31st LEN European Swimming Championships came to a successful close in Debrecen, Hungary with several name swimmers turning in outstanding swims nine weeks out from the Olympic Games in London.
Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh, 26, and his Hungarian teammates won a total of 26 medals. Cseh won six medals including three gold in the 200- and 400-meter individual medley and 200-meter butterfly. Teammate Daniel Gyurta won the 200-meter breaststroke.
Hungarian Katinka Hosszu also won three gold medals in the 200- and 400-meter individual medley and 200-meter butterfly.
German two-time Olympic gold medalist Britta Steffen, won three gold and one silver medal after failing to medal at last summer’s World Championships.
Serbia’s Milorad Cavic swam a world best time of 51.45 in the 100-meter butterfly.
Spain’s Mireia Belmonte swam a world best of 16:05.34 in the 1500-meter freestyle.
Hungary finished at the top of the medal table with 9 gold, 10 silver and 7 bronze followed by Germany with 8 gold and six silver, Italy with 6 gold and 8 silver and France with 4 gold and 4 silver.
Israel had its finest showing at the meet with five medals and reaching 11 finals. Two years ago Israel won its first medal in 10 years. Nineteen-year-old Yakov Toumarkin won two bronze medals in the backstroke events, both in national records, to earn $50,000 from the Olympic Committee of Israel.
Norway’s swim team was awarded the International Fair Play Award in recognition for its strength shown during trying times and being able to compete after the death of their beloved national hero Alex Dale Oen, who died during a recent training camp in Arizona.
Tampa Olympian Brooke Bennett, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, made it official Tuesday on Twitter. She is returning to competitive swimming. “Officially registered two events (400 and 1500 freestyle) at the U.S. Masters Summer Nationals in Omaha following the U.S. Olympic Trials,” she tweeted. Before that she will be racing in the June 8 Sarasota Bumpy Jones Classic in the 800 freestyle. Bennett used to train in South Florida at the Pine Island Pool with Peter Banks.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com