By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, July 2, 2018
The final installment of the 2018 TYR Pro Swim Series gets underway this week in Columbus, Ohio. As most the nation commences on a week-long celebratory patriotic endeavor of hot dogs and fireworks, the real fireworks could be in the pool.
This week is likely the final tune-up before this summer’s championship races. So, expect swimmers competing this weekend in Columbus to take each race with a touch more seriousness than a mid-season meet during, say, the month of May. Compound this with the fact that this week’s meet happens during this important year between Olympics, and many interesting stories could emerge from this weekend.
As always, here are your 5 Storylines...
Can Michael Andrew reach the next level?
Perhaps no other swimmer in the past decade has attracted more predictions and prognostications than Michael Andrew. The swimmer turned professional at such a young age, and gathered so many headlines before earned accolades, it seemed as though every swim fan, coach, and sports writer had an opinion about him. Now, these next two years, Michael Andrew is finally reaching an age to catch up with all those predictions. This week, he’s got the opportunity to earn a few victories, gather some momentum, and head into this important championship season with some swagger. Look for him to make a statement in the 50 freestyle, where he’s the favorite to win.
Could Leah Smith catch Katie Ledecky?
For many years, breaking the four-minute mark in track’s mile was viewed as being the ultimate achievement. The same might be said for the 400 freestyle and women’s swimming. Katie Ledecky has broken boundaries, but another swimmer isn’t too far behind. Leah Smith could very well be the greatest freestyler in the world, if Ledecky had chosen to participate in softball instead of swimming. But alas, Ledecky is here, and Smith chases from behind. Could Smith one day catch Ledecky? It seems as though Smith and Ledecky are virtual locks for the Olympic roster spot in the 400 freestyle, and we will get a good look at Smith competing in the 400 freestyle this weekend in Columbus. I don’t think that four-minute barrier will be broken this week, but expect Smith to chase it, and possibly breakthrough this summer.
Lilly King vs Katie Meili in the 200 breast.
I’m not sure there’s a more exciting length in competitive swimming than the final length of a championship final of the 200m breaststroke. The legs go. The arms hurt. Each swimmer churning for home. Some with more energy than others. Some just trying to hold on. This week’s race in the women’s 200 breaststroke sets up a duel between Olympic gold medalist Lilly King, and a veteran competitor and Olympic medalist Katie Meili, both yearning to make a statement this summer and two summers in the future. Expect King to take the victory this week, but don’t discount Meili. As we have seen so many times before, anything can happen in swimming‘s most exciting final length.
Reece Whitley in the breaststroke
Looking ahead, one of the more exciting strokes on the men’s competitive side is the breaststroke. Reece Whitley is one of those teenagers who could be a force both this summer and in 2020. We will get a good look at Reece this weekend, and Columbus will be able to see just where he’s at with a few weeks to go until the championship summer swim season.
Chase Kalisz chases greatness
For many years, since Michael Phelps touched the wall in the 400 IM in under 4:04 and solidified what I consider to be the greatest swim in history, that time in that event has been seen as invincible. There’s one swimmer who could challenge it. Chase Kalisz. The question is: Will he? A few seconds still stand between Kalisz and Phelps’ greatness, so breaking that WR may be a tall order. But the chase is on.