By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, April 9, 2018
The snow is melting, and the sports world’s eye turns from the 2018 Winter Olympics to Tokyo, home of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. The next two years will feature our sport’s best races—both during championships as well as throughout each season. And if the journey to Tokyo is a road, then perhaps it’s accurate to say that the road to 2020 starts now.
This week, the swim world turns its goggles to Mesa, Arizona, home of the next stop of the TYR Pro Swim Series. This week is an all-important tune-up to the all-important mid-Olympiad summer season, when momentum is harnessed, competition heats up, and future paths to the Olympics are made.
Great races, big names, and close competition highlight this week’s swimming soiree under the sun. A host of familiar names are scheduled to compete. And even though we’re all catching our breath after the always-exciting NCAA Championship season, the long-course season begins now.
As always, here are your 5 Storylines To Watch…
1. Allison Schmitt & Leah Smith in the 200 freestyle
Come 2020, bet that Katie Ledecky will get one of those two 200 freestyle roster spots. Sure, anything can happen between now and then, but I’m guessing Ledecky can’t be stopped en route to Tokyo. Who has the second 200 freestyle roster spot? This weekend could provide some insight: Allison Schmitt, Olympic gold medalist in this event, battles Leah Smith, who continues to impress. I’m looking forward to watching both perform and gauge where each is at right now.
2. Ryan Murphy, Matt Grevers, Jacob Pebley in the 100 backstroke
Under the flags, charging home, arms swinging, there’s no better race finish than the sprint backstroke. This week, three stellar backstrokes face-off: Murphy, Grevers, and Pebley. Anytime you have the two defending Olympic gold medalists in the same event racing, it’s time to pay attention. Add in Jacob Pebley, and you never know what could happen. I’d expect Grevers to come out charging, since the Tucson resident should be racing in front of a very pro-Grevers crowd. Don’t blink.
3. The men’s 100 breaststroke is the screaming-face emoji.
Kevin Cordes, Cody Miller, Andrew Wilson, Nic Fink, Josh Prenot, Michael Andrew — all seeded under :59 in the 100-meter breaststroke — are scheduled to compete this week. Cordes and Miller are the favorites, but in this race, anyone could win. I’m curious to check in with Miller. He had such a breakout swim in 2016, it’ll be interesting to see how he’s doing at this midpoint year.
4. The women’s 100 breaststroke could be as exciting… or more.
Molly Hannis, Breeja Larson, Micah Sumrall, Zoe Bartel, and Annie Lazor are all on the psych sheet. Expect a close race between Hannis and Larson. Bartel, the only teenager in the top seeded group, is a name to watch, especially in the coming summer swimming season. This week’s sprint breaststroke events for both men and women should prove to be two of the most exciting races.
5. A 50-meter freestyle showdown for the ages. (Pun intended.)
Nathan Adrian and Cullen Jones are two of the most experienced, accomplished, veteran athletes still competing today. Michael Andrew is probably the most famous teenage competitive swimmer in the pool. This weekend, Adrian, Jones, and Andrew could all be competing side-by-side… Sixteen years separates Jones and Andrew; eleven years separates Adrian and Andrew. Should be a fun race.