By Sharon Robb
August 20, 2014—The Pan Pacific Championships, boasting several top swimmers from Florida including Bolles alum Ryan Murphy, St. Petersburg Aquatics’ Melanie Margalis and former University of Florida swimmers Elizabeth Beisel and Ryan Lochte, begins Thursday at the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre in Southport, Australia (Wednesday in Florida) with several big question marks.
The biggest shocker from Down Under is the status of Missy Franklin.
The U.S. team got a brief scare when the four-time Olympic gold medalist had back spasms during Tuesday’s practice. Team doctors and therapists worked on her and she was feeling better hours later. She has been resting and rehabbing at the team hotel.
On Wednesday afternoon she tested her back in a local pool and had very little discomfort.
“It was very therapeutic and felt great being back in the water,” Franklin said. “I am praying that I will be ready to race tomorrow. I am feeling drastically better every hour.”
Her status for the scheduled 200-meter freestyle and 100-meter backstroke will be determined prior to prelims on Thursday morning.
Michael Phelps, 22-time Olympic medalist will return to international competition after his comeback in the U.S.
The four-day Pan Pacific Championships, created by the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan as an alternative to the European Championships which have already gotten under way, is Phelps first international meet since he won six medals, including four gold, at the London Olympics.
“I’ve really enjoyed competing in Australia,”Phelps said. “The stands and the crowd are always going to be an interesting scene. There’s always so much excitement. I’m looking forward to getting out there and seeing what’s going to happen. The goal for this summer was to make Pan Pacs, and we’ll go from there and see what happens.”
The weather could be a factor since the venue is an outdoor pool and cold and rain is expected.
“I’m used to it,” Lochte said. “Growing up in Florida, I swam outside in the rain, so I don’t really have to worry about that. The biggest thing to overcome is probably the wind especially when you are doing the backstroke in an outside pool. You don’t have the ceiling to really focus on.”
Australia, Canada and the U.S. will duke it out in the Pacific Rim meet in a country that loves its swimming and is considered Australia’s national pastime.
In a poll conducted in Australia after the 2012 London Olympics, swimming and soccer were the most popular participation sports among Aussies ages 5-14.
However, Team USA has dominated the medal count in each of the last 11 Pan Pacs and hope to continue the streak.
Murphy and Margalis are among eight men and 12 women who are National Team rookies.
For those following the Pan Pacs on the East Coast, prelims are 8 p.m. beginning Wednesday on the East Coast 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 entire meet is being televised live.
Swimming Australia will live stream the meet on its website (www.swimming.org.au) beginning 8 p.m. with prelims and 5 a.m. finals (on the East Coast) each day.
Sharon Robb can be reached at email@example.com