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Sogar Steps Up; Lochte In Line For 7 Golds

Dec 16, 2012  - Craig Lord

Istanbul, World Short-Course Championships, Day 5 heats:

The last day of morning heats are done, with Laura Sogar (USA) stepping up big time to the ranks of world-title contenders with a 2:17.85 blast in the 200m breaststroke and Ryan Lochte in place to take gold Nos 6 and 7 as the star of Istanbul 2012 two years after topping the bill at Dubai 2010.

Women's 200m breaststroke

The lack of short-course metres events in the US makes comparison with what has gone before a littler difficult from time to time. Suffice it to say that American Laura Sogar, 21, stepped up big time this morning with a 2:17.85 effort in the third of 5 heats. 

She was entered with a 2:23.56, an apt conversion from her long-course best of 2:25.15, set this year as she stepped up from a 2:28.04 best in 2011. A 2:17.85 places Sogar in a different realm: in textile suit, she is now 4th best ever, after these efforts: 2:16.39 Soni;  2:17.26 Pedersen; 2:17.75 Jones.

Jones has retired, Soni, the Olympic champion, back home in the US. Pedersen was next through to the final this morning in 2:18.65, all others over 2:20: Maria Temnikova (RUS), Andrea Kropp (USA), Alia Atkinson (JAM), Tera Van Beilen and Martha McCabe (CAN) and Kanako Watanabe (JPN), closing the door at 2:21.99.

Men's 200m backstroke

Ryan Lochte (USA) produced the sole 1:50 of the morning, on 1:49.71, his teammate Ryan Murphy closest, on 1:50.60, all the rest through the door to the final between 1:50.92 and 1:52.25, in this order: Radoslaw Kawecki (POL), Ashley Delaney (AUS), Peter Bernek (HUN), Kosuke Hagino (JPN), Travis Mahoney (AUS) and Christian Diener (GER). 

Men's 4x100m medley

After the 200m backstroke Lochte will race for what could be gold No 7 at Istanbul 2012 (each of those medals given away to kids in the crowd) courtesy of the USA morning crew of Ryan Murphy, Mihail Alexandrov, Thomas Shields and Anthony Ervin booking lane 4 for the Americans in the final in 3:25.60. Next through, Russia, Australia, followed by Brazil, Hungary, Italy, China and Japan.

Lochte may leave with 7 gold (100 and 200IM, each in a world record, 200 free, 4x100m and 4x200m free, two world , 

On the eve of battle out there in the Twittersphere, there was talk of Lochte "embarrassing" himself. How wrong (wildly so, in Lochte's case) folk can be sometimes as they view the swimming orbit from afar in a digital age. In part, that is the fault of organisers and how things are done: circumstance, low attendance, costs and a host of other factors play a part but no-one should be happy that a world championship should go ahead without a single international press agency there and even the likes of Swimming World and other dedicated portals for swimming covering all things remotely, never once putting a pertinent question to the protagonists before or after races. 

Those in situ, including the biggest of sports papers on the planet, such as L'Equipe and Gazzetta, struggled to do that too, the distance between media stands and mixed zone (as is often the case) and the fast-flowing number of events, making the task almost impossible. Speak to a swimmer and miss the next two finals; or watch the finals and leave the swimmer without a voice - a Hobson's Choice if you want to provide the best of coverage for a world championship.

There is often talk of the sport fitting into the "new age" of social media and much else. Of course, it must - but it must do so without being blinded to the broader world that places swimming in the wider frame that counts for so much when those with big broadcast and sponsorship money make their choices.

Long has there been a complaint that swimming is a sport that does not reach the wider world because personality is hidden behind cap, goggles and breathlessness. There is much that can be done about that. 

Should world swimming be unhappy that a world championship struggles to put 1000 paying folk in the seats, cannot attract many important news, international and domestic, outlets to its event when over at US Olympic trials earlier this year, 13,000 seats were filled every evening for eight days - the heats often packed too. Yes, the word Olympic is there; yes, you are talking about the world's superpower of the pool but then you are also talking "world" championship, with the superpower below full throttle but still firing on enough world-class cylinders to light up the show - and provide us with a glimpse of the next wave on the move. 

The question is an awkward one for many in the sport but must be asked: what point in boasting of 162 nations if the bulk of them are at the meet with a couple of people who comprise just about the entire national programmes of their countries? A great deal of development work has gone on for years, decades have gone by with the ruling Bureau of FINA stacked with representation from all around the world, regardless of whether they also represent world-class swimming back home; two world swim conventions targeting a bigger, brighter future have been staged in recent years with big names from the worlds of media, PR, merchandising, explaining how  it all works and how swimming can tap into it all; events, structures, voting systems, the entire world of elite swimming is founded on growing the sport through worldwide involvement. 

Was any of the above reflected in events in Istanbul? Not nearly as much as it ought to have been. More than ever, the Olympic Games and the World Long-Course Championships, the next of those to be staged in Barcelona 2013, the US Olympic Trials, the continental long-course championships and Games, remain the only showcases for swimming that attract a wider world beyond the realms of people who need no persuading. 

Istanbul 2012 provided valuable lessons on bids, hosts, locations, capabilities, how to make an event so attractive that you get folk to attend and not simply peer in - media included - from a very remote distance in a digital age (which has brought high benefits and challenges) that requires no-one to get off their backside and engage. The downside was there for all to hear in the mixed zone in Istanbul "so, what, you only swim backstroke?", as Matt Grevers looked on a little puzzled.   

Swimming can do much better - including working on conditions and calendars that ensure the top line is "best in the world at championships" instead of "162 nations at championships" for the former is what the world media and a world beyond swimming fans expect when you call an event a 'world" championship - but will only do so by acknowledging the things that are holding it back, including sending out a false message that "all is well, great crowd in tonight" and other such pacifiers a mined at stroking the diplomatic ego. 

There was not a single moment in Turkey when you could, hand anywhere close to heart, have described the attendance as great. Poor was a generous description.

In the water, on the deck, excellence prevailed, every final worth tuning in for.

Women's 200m freestyle

Zsuzanna Jakabos (HUN) led the way on 1:55.24 in a heat 6 battle with Veronika Popova (RUS), on 1:55.28 for lane 5 in the find, Haruka Uede (JPN) third in that heat and overall, on 1:55.32. Next up, 800m champion Lauren Boyle (NZL) and 400m champion Melanie Costa (ESP) went 1:55.40 and 1:55.42 in heat 7, Olympic champion Allison Schmitt (USA) on 1:55.77, before Katinka Hosszu (HUN) and Angie Bainbridge (AUS) completed the final in 1:55.52 and 1:56.09 respectively.

Men's 200m butterfly

The pity of it all was the DNS next to Olympic champion Chad Le Clos's name, the South African 100m champion in Istanbul off on other duty. In his absence, Nikolay Skvortsov (RUS), booked lane 4 in 1:52.64, Kazuya Kaneda (JPN) next through in 1:53.14, followed by Laszlo Cseh (HUN) on 1:53.26. Also through: Grant Irvine (AUS), Michal Poprawa (POL), Yuki Kobori (JPN), Robert Bollier (USA) and Joeri Verlinden (NED), on 1:53.91, all on 1:54 plus locked out.

Men's 1500m freestyle

The future swam in the morning: Matthew Levings (AUS), 18, on 14:40.05, with Ryan Feely (USA) on 14:40.06, Kohei Yamamoto (JPN) on 14:43.98 and Michael McBroom (USA) on 14:44.11.

Finals start at 7pm local time: 12 titles up for grabs as the curtain closes on the 11th world champs in the little pool this evening.