<
>

Ryan Lochte leads Americans' big night

2/10/2011

IRVINE, Calif. -- All week long, swimmers have said the Pan Pacific Championships are simply a gauge of who sits where smack in the middle of the four-year Olympic cycle. If Thursday night is any indication, the Americans are sitting quite well.

The U.S. won seven of the 10 events here on the second day of the meet, highlighted by a sweep in the men's and women's 800-meter freestyle relay. Rebecca Soni swam the 100 breaststroke in a blistering 1:04.93, beating the Pan Pac record she set in the morning and turning in the fastest time in the world this year. Nathan Adrian continued his climb toward the world elite, upsetting world-record holder Cesar Cielo from Brazil in the 100 freestyle. Natalie Coughlin (100 back), Elizabeth Beisel (400 IM) and Ryan Lochte (400 IM) were also victorious.

"It's fun to hear all the screams and to have a night like this in front of your home fans," said Dana Vollmer, part of the women's 800 free team. "We can hear them the entire way, so it's great to do this for them."

At no point were the cheers louder than during the relays, which the American women pulled out in the last 50 meters and the men dominated.

"We've put up that time and now hopefully we can take the next two years to continue to build on that," Michael Phelps said of the men's performance.

Lochte's "mistake" doesn't catch up with him

One-hundred and fifty meters into his 400 individual medley Thursday night, Lochte was on pace to set a new world record. It wasn't by design.

"That was my fault," he said. "My coach told me, 'Whatever you do, go smooth on the first 50.' And I kind of just did not listen to him at all. I went out fast. I dove in and it felt good, so I just kept going. Definitely a mistake."

A mistake that caught up with him fairly quickly.

"Yeah, after the first 100, I felt it on the breaststroke and I was like, 'Man, I shouldn't have done that.' But you learn from your mistakes, so hopefully I will fix it later."

With Michael Phelps looking on from the front row of the pool deck, Lochte won the race in 4:07.59, breaking Phelps' Pan Pac record from four years ago. An hour later, he and Phelps teamed up on the men's 800 freestyle relay team that also won gold.

"Before that race, I told all the guys you better give me a 10-second lead because I'm going to need it," he said. "But it wasn't that bad. That 4-IM took a lot out of me, but I was able to recover and still put up a decent time. We did what we had to do."

Surprise in men's 100 freestyle

After a disappointing morning swim, Cielo snuck into the final of the 100 free thanks to a Pan Pac rule that allows only two representatives from each country to swim in the final. Though the world-record holder and Olympic bronze medalist was the favorite, Adrian, the 21-year-old American sprinter, came from behind to beat the Brazilian in the final 25 meters. His time of 48.15 set a Pan Pac record.

"It's huge," Adrian said after the race. "The goal all season was to step up internationally and I think that's a little bit of what happened here. I'm pretty fortunate, let's be honest. It's just the Pan Pacs. But hopefully next year at worlds we can do something special that leads up to the Olympics."

Cielo, who won the 200 freestyle Wednesday, finished third.

"I honestly didn't feel like I deserved to be there," he said. "I'm glad I got the chance, but the finish line wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting three golds, but now that isn't possible, so I just have to focus on the 50 now."

A matter of time ...

The question of how long it will take for one of the suit-aided world records from last summer to fall may have been answered Thursday night by Rebecca Soni.

Soni's time of 1:04.93 in Thursday night's 100 breaststroke was less than a half second off the world record set by teammate Jessica Hardy in 2009, providing a bit of motivation for the rest of the swimmers in attendance here this week.

"It's one of those things where you are racing and you touch the wall and look up and see 1:04 and you're like, 'What the ... ?'" said teammate Amanda Beard, who finished fifth in the race. "You have to be impressed. She's a sweet girl. But at the same time, you can take that to the pool in training. Now you know -- it's not impossible to go 1:04, it's not impossible for anyone else to do that. We just have to figure out what to do to get there."

Soni said she believes she's been helped by the fact that she ever spent much time focusing on the special speed-enhancing suits and how they could help her. Now that they've been banned, it hasn't been much of an adjustment.

"We're all chasing those records now, so to see 1:04 is awesome," she said. "I was always pushing for 1:04, but I didn't know if I was ready to see it on the clock. So I was very happy."