By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, March 1, 2017
In the year-after-the-Olympics, anything goes. Olympic veterans (who haven’t retired) try new events, new training regimes, new routines. Younger swimmers and swimmers who just missed the Rio roster attempt to make their mark this Olympiad, scratching, clawing, and racing to top podium spots. It’s a new era. The beginning of a grueling, four-year cycle leading to Tokyo 2020. While we watch the long road ahead, more urgently, 2017 beckons.
This weekend, the arena Pro Swim Series hits Indianapolis. This year’s Pro Swim Series is an opportunity not only to reset and get ready for another exciting swim season, but also for age groupers across the Midwest to witness elite swimming up-close and personal. A chance to witness Rio Olympians perform. Watching elite swimming on TV certainly is certainly enjoyable, but there’s nothing like seeing fast swimming live. Being mere feet away… sitting so close you can smell the chlorine.As always, here are your 5 Storylines…
1. Nathan Adrian, Team USA leader, seeks 50 & 100m freestyle victories.
Relays are all about leadership. In every relay, you need one guy to gather other swimmers and set the tone and mission of the relay. You could argue that Team USA’s relay success has been because of great leadership throughout the decades of competitive swimming. Dating back to the 1970s, American freestyle relays have featured some of our nation’s best swim veterans and leaders, from Rowdy Gaines to Nathan Adrian. Fortunately for us, Adrian still competes. He brings to the table an amount of unparalleled experience and leadership to any relay, and to any international squad. Adrian was a Rio Olympics Team USA co-captain. When a co-captain, Olympic gold medalist keeps competing, that’s a win for all of Team USA. This weekend, Adrian faces an international field in both sprint freestyle events. He’ll have his hands full with Vlad Morozov. Should be a great battle.
2. Josh Prenot, silver medalist in 200m breaststroke, continues on.
Leading to Rio, a major question for the men’s roster was the breaststroke events. Could Team USA find breaststrokers ready to take on an increasingly competitive international field? Josh Prenot was one of those bright stars who surprised many this past summer, and reached the Rio podium. Olympic silver medalist in the 200m distance, Prenot looks to continue on in 2017. The sky is seemingly the limit for the Cal Bear veteran. He’ll compete this weekend against Rio teammates Kevin Cordes and Cody Miller. All three have been outstanding in the past few years, and it’ll be exciting to watch them progress this new Olympiad. What was once a weak stroke for Team USA could now be a strength.
3. Penny Oleksiak vs Kelsi Worrell
Sprint freestyle and butterfly fans may want to tune into this weekend. Particularly to watch the potential battle between Rio gold medalist and uber-talented Canadian teen Penny Oleksiak vs American sprinter Kelsi Worrell. Oleksiak, Rio gold medalist in the 100 freestyle and silver medalist in the 100 butterfly this past summer, should be the favorite in both sprint free and butterfly 100m events. But this weekend could be a stepping stone of confidence for Kelsi Worrell. When an opportunity to race a teenage gold medalist comes, expect the rest of the field to be ready.
4. Who will take Michael Phelps’ spot in 100m fly?
While the men’s breaststroke questions have been answered, now we look at the butterfly event. No one can “replace” Michael Phelps, the Greatest of All-Time. But who can step in and fill some of those large Phelpsian flippers? Tim Phillips? Seth Stubblefield? Teenage phenom Michael Andrew? This weekend, all three will race in the men’s sprint butterfly. This could shape up to be the most exciting event over the next four years, at least on the men’s side. Team USA has had the luxury of having the greatest Olympian of all-time continuously bring it in the men’s 100m butterfly. Now, we’ll see who’s next.
5. How fast can Katie Meili go?
One of the best stories from the Rio Olympics was Katie Meili. In 2012, Meili broke her arm before the Olympic Trials. As a Columbia graduate, Meili kept training, kept improving, and in 2016, qualified for her first Olympic team. Last summer, Meili scored a bronze medal in the 100m breaststroke, surprising many. This weekend, Meili continues her amazing journey — she’s now one of the favorites wherever she competes. How fast can she ultimately go? How far can her times drop? Her time progression has steadily improved season by season. It’ll be exciting to see where she’s at with her training now, and what 2017 holds…
Tune in this weekend to USASwimming.org to catch all the arena Pro Swim Series action.