By Sharon Robb
August 21, 2014–The opening night of the Pan Pacific Championships was a mixed bag of results Thursday at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre in Southport, Australia.
Ryan Murphy, a Pan Pacs U.S. national team rookie and Bolles alum won his first medal in the 100-meter backstroke, taking bronze in 53.27.
It was the Cal-Berkeley sophomore’s fifth international medal. He took a bronze medal at the 2011 Pan American Games, gold and bronze medals at the 2012 FINA Short Course World Championships and bronze at 2011 Junior World Championships.
With Missy Franklin still nursing back spasms, Olympic silver medalist Emily Seebohm of Australia avenged her loss to Franklin at the 2012 Olympics by winning the 100-meter backstroke in a Pan Pacs record of 58.84, fastest time in the world this year.
Aussie teammate Belinda Hocking was second in 59.78 and Franklin was third in 1:00.30. Franklin had won the event at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships, beating Seebohm each time.
“I felt pretty comfortable in the first 50 meters,” Seebohm said. “Seeing where Missy was out of the corner of my eye, it definitely gave me a bit more on the back 50 which was exactly what I needed.
“I haven’t beaten Franklin and that gives me confidence going through,” Seebohm said. “A win is a win and sometimes you don’t feel fantastic and have to get out there and do your best.”
Franklin struggled through morning prelims. She failed to qualify for the 200-meter freestyle final but made it to the backstroke championship final.
“I was able to get out there and race which is what I wanted to do,” Franklin said. “There’s definitely some discomfort still, but it’s getting much, much better day by day. I’m definitely keeping my head high.”
Despite a miserable weather night at the new outdoor pool at Southport, (cold, windy and scattered showers), it was a great opening night for host Australia.
World-ranked Thomas Fraser-Holmes of Australia topped an impressive field in the 200-meter freestyle to win gold in 1:45.98 ahead of Japan’s Kosuke Hagino in 1:46.08. Aussie Cameron McEvoy took the bronze in 1:46.36.
Americans Connor Dwyer (1:46.45) and Ryan Lochte (1:46.75) were shut out of medals.
“I definitely wanted to go faster, I am still learning to swim this,” Lochte said.
American teenager Katie Ledecky lived up to expectations winning the 200- and 800-meter freestyles in meet record times while again flirting with her own world record in the 800.
Ledecky opened the night winning the 200-meter freestyle by nearly two seconds in 1:55.74. She broke Franklin’s Pan Pac record of 1:56.04 Franklin had just swam to win the “B” final. Aussie Bronte Barratt was second in 1:57.22 and American Shannon Vreeland was third in 1:57.38.
The 17-year-old then won the 800-meter freestyle in 8:11.35, breaking Janet Evans’ meet record of 8:16.22, set in 1989.
New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle took the silver in 8:18.87 and Canadian Brittany Maclean was third in 8:20.02. Former Clearwater swimmer Becca Mann was fourth in 8:22.45. Venezuela’s Andreina Pinto of Gator Swim Club was sixth in 8:30.66.
Cammile Adams won Team USA’s second gold medal of the night in the 200-meter butterfly in 2:06.61. Japan’s Natsumi Hoshi was second in 2:06.78 and American Katie McLaughlin was third in 2:07.08.
Matt Grevers came through for the American men. After breaking the Pan Pacs record in the 100-meter backstroke during prelims, Grevers took a silver in 53.09, just getting out-touched by Japan’s Ryosuke Irie in 53.02.
With American Tom Shields not in the final after being disqualified in prelims, Japan’s Daiya Seto won the gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly in 1:54.92. Brazilian Leonardo de Deus was second in 1:55.28 and American Tyler Clary was third in 1:55.42. Japan had four of the top six finishers in morning prelims.
In an exciting distance race, American Connor Jaeger won the men’s team’s first gold medal, winning the 1500-meter freestyle just out-touching Canadian Ryan Cochrane, 14:51.79-14:51.97. Aussie Mack Horton was third in 14:52.78.
For those following the Pan Pacs on the East Coast, prelims are 8 p.m. and finals 5 a.m.
NBC will broadcast highlight races from the Pan Pacs on Saturday and Sunday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. each day. In Australia the four-day meet is being televised live.
Swimming Australia is live streaming the meet on its website (www.swimming.org.au).
Sharon Robb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org