By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, February 28, 2018
The 200m breaststroke is, arguably, swimming’s most painful event. It’s sort of like drinking that third cup of coffee: At first, you feel okay. By the time you finish, though, you’re twitching, your body is freaking out, and you’re just hanging on.
Which is also why the 200m breaststroke could be swimming’s most exciting event. Think back to memories of epic, unthinkable “last lengths” in swimming: Many of them occurred in the 200m breaststroke. Amanda Beard and her amazing final 50m comebacks come to mind. There have been so many epic final lengths at previous Olympic Trials as well, an entire arena coming to its feet, hollering those finalists home. But often, that final length of the 200m breaststroke is a mixed-heat of swimmers charging to the wall and swimmers struggling to hang on. The pain is real. The lactic acid buildup suddenly hits, while others use that incredible leg propulsion to launch home.
This weekend’s men’s 200m breaststroke at the 2018 TYR Pro Swim Series in Atlanta could produce a similar array of comebacks and an epic final length of racing. This weekend’s scheduled competitors feature several swimmers from the 2016 Olympic Trials, including the top two Olympic qualifiers, Josh Prenot and Kevin Cordes. Two swimmers who ultimately could re-qualify in 2020. Two swimmers who know the trials and tribulations of that final length well. Two swimmers who will be battling an assortment of others this weekend, in what could be the best race of the 2018 TYR Pro Swim Series in Atlanta.
A short review of this weekend’s favorites: Prenot, of course, went on to win an Olympic silver medal at the 2016 Games. He barely missed out on gold — only missing the world’s top podium spot by seven hundredths of a second. The American record holder in the event, Prenot has been a steady presence in the distance breaststroke event. Now that he’s older and has a ton of international experience, expect Prenot to be the person to beat — both now, and in 2020.
Cordes is more known for his sprint prowess. A finalist in this event at the 2016 Olympics, Cordes has so much experience and talent, expect him to be a major presence in the coming seasons and years. Though when all swimmers are shaved and tapered, it might be tough to catch Prenot, in an event like the 200m breaststroke, you never know.
Though most fans will be focused on Prenot and Cordes, don’t forget about the other scheduled competitors in this event. Will Licon, Andrew Wilson, and Nic Fink are all vying to take that top podium spot. They are also all Olympic Trials finalists — and Licon in particular just missed that Olympic roster spot by less than two tenths of a second. And Cody Miller, 2016 bronze medalist in the 100m breaststroke, finished 5th in this event at the Trials. So, you know he’ll be in the running, too.
In many ways, this weekend’s 200m breaststroke is a reunion, of sorts, of the 2016 Olympic Trials — an event that saw an American record go down, and an event where the second roster spot came down to a finger length. Six of the eight 2016 Trials finalists will compete this weekend: Prenot, Cordes, Licon, Wilson, Miller, and Fink.
While this weekend’s race might not feature quite as intense of fireworks, all these competitors are familiar with each other. They are familiar with each other’s racing strategies, strengths, and weaknesses. Like so many other 200m breaststrokes before, expect this one to come down to that last, painful, epic final length.
Who has the grit? Who wants this mid-season first-place? Who can overcome the pain and endure through?
Don’t miss it.