Swimming

Five Storylines To Watch At the Second FINA World Cup Stop in Toronto

2022 FINA WORLD CUP – TORONTO

Entries for the second leg of the 2022 FINA World Cup have been released. You can look at the full psych sheet using the link above, and here we’ll be talking about some of the biggest storylines in play for this stop in Toronto. This is the first time in over 20 years that Canada has hosted a World Cup event, and it looks like it’s going to be an action-packed weekend.

TORONTO WORLD CUP START TIMES

LOCATION
PRELIMS
FINALS

Toronto, Canada (local)
9:30 am
6:00 pm

Berlin, Germany
3:30 pm
12:00 am (next day)

Los Angeles, USA
6:30 am
3:00 pm

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
10:30 am
7:00 pm

Tokyo, Japan
10:30 pm
7:00 am (next day)

Sydney, Australia
12:30 am (next day)
9:00 am (next day)

Katie Ledecky‘s First SCM Race Since 2019

Katie Ledecky (photo: Jack Spitser)

Katie Ledecky surprised many people when her name turned up on the entry lists for the FINA World Cup. For as much as she’s excelled for over a decade in both long course meters and short course yards, the superstar hasn’t raced much in short course meters. In fact, she’s only ever raced in the SCM pool twice—an October 2019 ISL match in what was her first and only appearance for the DC Trident, and the 2013 Duel In The Pool in Glasgow.

A lot has happened for Ledecky in the interim; she’s completed an Olympic cycle, and she switched her training base from Stanford to Florida. That move has worked out well for her so far–this summer she put up some of the fastest times of her career–and now it’s time to see what kind of speed she can bring to short course meters.

She’s entered five events: the 200, 400 and 1500 freestyle, and the 200 and 400 IM. At U.S Nationals post-Worlds, Ledecky opted to swim ‘fun’ races, which for her meant the 400 IM and time-trialing the 200 fly. She seems to be taking a similar approach to this meet, entering both IMs along with her bread-and-butter freestyle races. If she swims both of them it will be fascinating to see what kind of times she can put up; she’s never raced either of them in SCM, and the 4:35.77 she put up to win a thrilling race against Leah Smith at U.S Nationals was a lifetime best.

This weekend will mark Ledecky’s SCM debut in the 1500 free. The world record stands at 15:18.01, courtesy of Sarah Wellbrock (née Kohler) at the 2019 German Championships. There are multiple opportunities for world records to go down at this meet, and this event is certainly one of them. More on that later, but with Ledecky in attendance, the likelihood of at least one world record going down went up dramatically.

Does Siobhan Haughey Opt For The 50 or 400 Free?

Siobhan Haughey (photo: Jack Spitser)

Siobhan Haughey looked great in Berlin after a summer spent recovering from an ankle injury. She topped the women’s leaderboard with 58.8 points after winning the 100, 200, and 400 freestyles (51.59/1:51.36/3:56.52). She’ll look to keep her spot at the top of the rankings in Toronto, but it’s going to get a little tricky. As more Canadians and Americans join the fray, Haughey’s path only gets trickier, while someone like Beata Nelson, who is challenging her for the overall series title, has a much clearer path.

Haughey is entered in the 50/100/200/400 free in Toronto. Swimmers earn points based both on where they finish and how many FINA points they earned in the swim. There’s no restriction on how many events an athlete can enter, but only their top three performances from each meet count toward their point total. That means that Haughey is facing a tough decision: she excels in meters but she has to choose whether the 50 or 400 free will earn her more points.

Ultimately, it’s a toss-up, but there are lots of little factors that point towards opting for the 400. In the 50 free, she’ll go up against Kasia Wasick; is she confident that she can beat a pure sprinter? In the 400, she’ll face tough competition in Ledecky and Summer McIntosh.  Haughey does have more experience in World Cups than either of them, is in a groove, and Ledecky and McIntosh both have busy schedules that could potentially lead to a scratch (though with the 400 free being the first event of the meet, that seems unlikely). And winning the 400 ahead of those two powerhouses would be a nice feather in her cap on an international stage.

Then, there’s the math. 23.76 in the 50 free is 890 FINA points, which scores 8.9 World Cup points. The +8 points for a second-place finish (behind Wasick, hypothetically) works out to 16.9 points. In the 400, she’ll score over 900 points for any time under 4:02, which is an easy mark for her to hit. However, if she finishes third, it’s only six points. Third place in 3:56 (what she went in Berlin) is 6+9.6, which is 15.6.

In the 50, it’ll be hard to earn more than 16.9 points. In the 400, the lowest she’ll score is 15.6. That means there’s a higher scoring potential, but a much bigger risk factor.

If Haughey does choose the 400 free, then we’ve got our next big storyline of the meet…

Ledecky v. McIntosh v. Haughey in the 400 Freestyle

Summer McIntosh (photo: Jack Spitser)

If this comes together, it could easily be the race of the meet.

Ledecky needs no introduction. She’s proven herself over and over again at this race in meters, and now she’ll show us for the first time in a long time what she’s capable of in the short course meters pool. Her lifetime best stands at 3:54.06 from the 2019 ISL season,  which was just .14 seconds off Ariarne Titmus‘ world record of 3:53.92. However, at the Chinese Swimming Championships, Li Bingjie negative split her way to a new world record of 3:51.30.

Summer McIntosh fully arrived in meters this summer, impressing both at the World Championships and Commonwealth Games. She posted her lifetime best of 3:57.75 in fall 2021 at an ISL meet but after the summer she had, it’s easy to see her making a big drop.

Then, there’s Haughey, who’s riding a hot hand right now and is excellent in meters. She’s the 2021 SC Worlds bronze medalist in this event, and the 3:56.52 she posted to win in Berlin was a lifetime best. The 400 free is her upper distance limit–where she shines is in the 100 and 200 free–but she’s proven herself capable of being competitive at this race, especially in a 25-meter pool. You can make the argument that she’s the underdog in a race against Ledecky and McIntosh, but if she is, it’s not really by much.

World Record Watch in the Women’s 50 Breaststroke

Ruta Meilutyte courtesy of Fabio Cetti

Ruta Meilutyte scared Alia Atkinson‘s 50 breaststroke world record in Berlin. She ripped a 28.60, shattering her old European record and touching just .04 seconds away from Atkinson’s all-time mark of 28.56. Meilutyte has made a remarkable comeback to the sport this year: she earned gold in the 50 breast and bronze in the 100 at both the World and European Championships (LCM).

She showed in Berlin that she’s ready to keep rolling in the 25-meter pool. Not only did she win the 50 breast in record time, but she also touched first in the 100 with a sizzling 1:03.07. After setting her new European record, the sideline reporter asked her if she expected to be that fast. “Yes,” she replied. You’ll definitely want to tune in to see if she can go even faster in Toronto.

NCAA Swimmers Arrive On The Scene

Maggie Macneil (photo: Jack Spitser)

There’s a bevy of NCAA swimmers traveling to Toronto to spend the weekend racing in meters. Plenty of them are Olympians as well: Maggie MacNeilBrooks CurryAnna Elendt, and Caspar Corbeau are some of the many making the trip. It’s still early in the NCAA season, but we’ve already seen plenty of fast swimming in yards. How will that early-season yards speed translate into meters? It’s not as big as the jump American college swimmers had to do in the spring from NCAAs to International Team Trials, but it’s not insignificant.

Outside of the pool length, these college athletes have the power to shake up the World Cup standings. There’s a bonus for anyone who wins the same event at all three World Cup stops. With the college athletes descending on Toronto, they seem like prime candidates to spoil the party for the Berlin winners.

Out of all the NCAA athletes racing, one in particular that’s worth highlighting is MacNeil. Now reunited with Rick Bishop at LSU for her fifth year of eligibility, she’s spent the fall rewriting the school record book and putting up some blistering times. That includes briefly holding the record for the fastest unsuited 100 fly of all-time at 50.84, until Gretchen Walsh went 50.53 last weekend. Given that the move to LSU has paid off for her in yards, what kind of times will she be able to throw down suited in SCM? Don’t forget, she’s the world record holder in the 50 back–how close can she get to her mark of 25.27?

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