Barcelona 2013 World Titles – Men’s Grades
The 15th edition of the World Championships wrapped up a little more than a week ago, which means there has been enough time to digest what took place at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona. As a result, SwimVortex has developed some brief report cards which grade the performances of various countries over the eight days of the World Champs.
The report cards are not based purely on medal count. Instead, they take into consideration expectations heading into the World Championships, where strides were made in comparison to last summer’s Olympic Games in London and how countries did in placing athletes into championship finals. Obviously, this is a subjective review, so feel free to offer your opinions in our commentary section.
And take into consideration the strength of programs, the winners and losers, in our interim Swim League of Nations (World Champs) that compares Barcelona 2003 with Barcelona 2013 World Championships.
The Grades Are In: Men
Country: United States
Positives: As the post-Phelps era began, the United States showed signs of being fine without the presence of the greatest Olympian in history. A major plus was seeing highlights from youngsters such as Chase Kalisz and Jimmy Feigen complement the continued presence of Ryan Lochte and Matt Grevers [photo: Aniko Kovacs]. A total of 15 medals was solid.
Negatives: The disqualification of the 400 medley relay on the final night of action was a sour way to finish the competition and a second straight silver to France in the 400 freestyle relay dotted the early days. The United States also went without a medal in the breaststroke events, magnifying the need for development in that area.
Positives: Winning a pair of gold medals in relay action, including the backup of their Olympic crown in the 400 freestyle relay, was huge for the French. Yannick Agnel [Photo: Aniko Kovacs] reaffirmed his status as the premier 200 freestyle in the world with a dominant victory and Jeremy Stravius was sharp in multiple areas. Stravius medalled in the backstroke on an individual basis, handled the butterfly leg of the winning medley relay and was on the triumphant 400 free relay.
Negatives: The failure of Florent Manaudou to win an individual medal in the 50 freestyle or 50 butterfly was a surprise. Manaudou was expected to – at the very least – contend for gold in the 50 free, but finished fifth as the reigning Olympic champion.
Positives: After all the turmoil which followed James Magnussen [photo: Aniko Kovacs] after last summer’s Olympics, the Aussie sprinter got the job done in the final of the 100 freestyle, retaining the world title he won in 2011 in Shanghai. Meanwhile, Christian Sprenger improved on his Olympic silver medal by prevailing in the 100 breaststroke, defeating Olympic champ Cameron van der Burgh in the process.
Negatives: The relays were a mess for Australia. On the opening night of action, Australia again found itself off the podium in the 400 freestyle relay, its second straight fourth-place finish in major international competition a disappointing start. In the 800 freestyle relay, the backup squad failed to qualify for the championship final, a serious disaster for a country which figured to contend in the event.
Positives: Coming off the World University Games in Kazan, Russia was clearly stretching the limit of its rest in Barcelona. Vladimir Morozov [Photo: Craig Lord] rebounded from a big fade in the 100 freestyle to take silver in the 50 free and Russia earned medals in both the 400 freestyle relay and 800 freestyle relay, an improvement over the London Games.
Negatives: Had the Russian Federation not gotten into a spat with Arkady Vyatchanin, the medley relay would have been even stronger and it could have collected medals in the backstroke events. Less focus on the World University Games also could have been a benefit considering how difficult it is to maintain a high-performance level for several weeks.
Country: South Africa
Positives: Chad Le Clos [photo: Aniko Kovacs] clearly established himself as the heir apparent to Michael Phelps in the butterfly events by winning the 100 and 200 distances and Cameron van der Burgh, despite dealing with injuries in the leadup to the World Champs, won the 50 breaststroke and took silver in the 100 breast, while close friend Giulio Zorzi won bronze in the 50 breaststroke.
Negatives: Although there are some pillars for the future, South Africa could use some development and complementary parts to Chad Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh. The problem with that scenario unfolding is the lack of support provided by South African Swimming, which has the athletes rightfully questioning the higher ups.
Positives: It’s tough to measure the Chinese because so much of their success was provided by one man, Sun Yang [photo: Aniko Kovacs]. By winning the 400, 800 and 1500 freestyles and carrying the 800 freestyle relay to the bronze medal, Sun was phenomenal and certainly lifted the grade for his country. It also helped that veteran Wu Peng picked up bronze in the 200 butterfly.
Negatives: We’ve heard it said that a country of more than one billion people should absolutely produce more success than just a few guys. To a degree, true, but then it is the program that matters not the population and Sun Yang needs to be complemented by other stars as the years unfold on the way to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. As our Swim League of Nations shows, Chinese men have leap-frogged a large number of nations in the past decade but the show beyond Sun and veteran Wu Peng was underwhelming.
Positives: A victory on the last day of the competition by Daiya Seto [photo: Aniko Kovacs] in the 400 individual medley was a pleasant surprise and Kosuke Hagino qualified for the championship final in six individual events, earning a silver medal in the 400 freestyle and 200 individual medley.
Negatives: While Kosuke Hagino was an iron man and there is something to be said for qualifying for six championship finals, he spread himself too thin and it proved costly when Hagino failed to medal in the 400 IM, his best event and where he was the heavy favorite. Ryosuke Irie didn’t follow either of his backstroke medals from the London Games with a podium finish and world-record holder Akihiro Yamaguchi was a non-factor in the 200 breaststroke.
Positives: Daniel Gyurta [photo: Aniko Kovacs] won his third consecutive world championship in the 200 breaststroke, to go with an Olympic title, and Laszlo Cseh won a silver medal in the 100 butterfly, an illustration of his vast range.
Negatives: Gergo Kis didn’t make an impact in the distance freestyles an Daniel Gyurta, although a contender, opted out of the 100 breaststroke while focusing on the longer distance. Meanwhile, Laszlo Cseh couldn’t grab a medal for the fifth straight time in the 200 individual medley.
Positives: Despite surgery on both of his knees, Cesar Cielo [Photo: Aniko Kovacs] rose to the occasion and repeated as the world champion in the 50 freestyle and 50 butterfly. Additionally, Thiago Pereira was the bronze medalist in both medley events, further proving he has gotten past his struggles to medal on the international stage. Felipe Lima checked in with a bronze medal in the 100 breast.
Negatives: Putting together a 400 freestyle relay that finishes higher than seventh on the global stage should be a possibility for Brazil in the years heading to a home Olympiad. There’s no reason for Cesar Cielo to not be on that squad and provide a significant boost.
Positives: The only thing saving Germany from earning a failing grade was Marco Koch, who took the silver medal in the 200 breaststroke behind Hungarian Daniel Gyurta. Steffen Deibler just missed a medal in the 100 butterfly, finishing fourth, but he entered the meet as the top seed.
Negatives: No relay was higher than fifth and outside of Marco Koch and Steffen Deibler, realistic medal hopes couldn’t be found. Germany not only needs Paul Biedermann back in the mix but a new generation that sets its self apart from what has become an underperforming culture. As the SwimVortex Swim League of Nations shows, Germany’s men have slid from 6th to 12th on world-championship points from 2003 to 2013 based on medallists, finalists and top 16 finishes.
Country: Great Britain
Positives: It’s a stretch to find much to discuss in a positive way, but James Guy is someone to watch in the future in the 400 free. But without any medalists, even in the 200 breaststroke, there is a long climb ahead for the British. The difficulty of such exercises can be seen in our league of nations, in which Britain fairs a touch better than Germany when it comes to placing men in finals, Germany managing just six places in all finals, Britain eight, both nations struggling to convert even those numbers to the podium.
Negatives: Heading into the World Championships, Michael Jamieson [photo: Aniko Kovacs] and Andrew Willis were considered strong medal contenders in the 200 breaststroke, but neither found the podium. No 400 freestyle relay competed, the 800 free relay was seventh and the 400 medley relay failed to advance to the final.
Several other countries had medal winners, but their sample was too small to warrant an overall assessment.
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