By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Thursday, June 1, 2017At this weekend’s arena Pro Swim Series at Santa Clara, one event in particular stands out from the crowd: The men’s 100-meter freestyle. As per usual for this two-length sprint, the event shapes up to be a veritable “who’s who” in competitive swimming.
Spectators seeking some star power, look no further.
Here are a few of the recognizable names scheduled to compete in this weekend’s 100-meter freestyle: Nathan Adrian. Caeleb Dressel. Anthony Ervin. Matt Grevers. Jack Conger. Conor Dwyer. Tom Shields. Cullen Jones. Ryan Murphy. Maxime Rooney. Michael Andrew. And more.
That enough star power for you?
Name recognizability has long been a feature of any sprint event. Perhaps it is the nature of the sprint itself: The margin for error is smaller, and victories often come down to the final stroke. As such, podiums often feature different names, which produces a multitude of name recognizability.
In other words, sprint events produce a plethora of swim stars.
The 100 freestyle in particular has long been an event that attracts the biggest names in the sport. Michael Phelps famously placed importance on the 100-freestyle in order to solidify his role on the 400 freestyle relay. But star power isn’t, of course, the only trend within the 100-meter freestyle.
Through the ages, many of the Team USA’s leaders and captains have been 100 freestylers, from Nathan Adrian to Tom Jager and all the way back to Johnny Weissmuller. The correlation often makes sense: The 100 freestyler is the anchor leg of the two most high-profile relays in international competition, the 400 free and 400 medley relays. The anchor has final say. The final leg of any relay is a team’s last chance, often the last person standing between victory or defeat. Any relay squad wants and demands leadership from that final anchor leg. More often than not, that leadership is exuded in a kind of swagger or confidence, which in itself is a kind of star power.
And, more often than not, that confidence (re: star power) can give a sprinter the needed mental advantage.
This weekend’s race should not only be a battle of confidence and stars, but should also be a showdown of ages and experience levels.
On the one hand, elite, consistent veterans are slated to do what they normally do: win. Nathan Adrian, Anthony Ervin, Matt Grevers, and Cullen Jones have the racing and international Olympic experience. They’ve all notched important victories in their illustrious careers. They’re all eyeing this summer as a stepping-stone towards continued success.
On the other hand, younger swimmers look to carry the sprint torch and formulate their own star power. Caeleb Dressel promises to be a major factor this Olympiad. Jack Conger, Maxime Rooney, and Michael Andrew have all shown incredible performance ability, too.
This weekend provides an opportunity for a younger swimmer to score an important victory leading up to this summer’s national championships. A victory that can add to confidence. A victory that can lead to more victories.
Could we witness a new star emerging? A new future Olympic champion? A new Team USA leader? Or will we see a veteran once again assume his rightful throne?
This weekend, we’ll see…