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5 Storylinesto Watch: LA Invite

7/16/2014

By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent

This weekend, while most of the world recovers from a World Cup hangover, the most popular Olympic sport is back in action with some of the top names in the swimming world. The Los Angeles Invitational kicks off Thursday, and it features Olympic swimmers such as Missy Franklin, Nathan Adrian, Natalie Coughlin and Matt Grevers. A strong contingent from Australia is expected to compete, adding international flavor to this west coast powerhouse of a swim meet. 

As always, here are 5 Storylines to Watch:

Kosuke Kitajima swimming breaststroke. (Small)1. Kitajima versus Another American Breaststroker
Japan’s Olympic breaststroke legend Kosuke Kitajima is like the Energizer Bunny. Seemingly, he will never retire. He keeps going, and going, and going. The Japanese Olympic legend is slated to compete in both breaststroke distances this weekend. And this time, Brendan Hansen is not around to challenge. Instead, Arizona based breaststroker and short course guru Kevin Cordes steps up to the plate to challenge Kitajima. You don’t want to miss these races. While it’s yet to be seen how Kitajima will swim, Cordes is coming off another record-breaking collegiate short course season and should challenge for the top podium. 

Nathan Adrian and Anthony Ervin get ready to race the 50m free at 2012 Trials (Small)2. Cal men sprinters. 
Anthony Ervin and Nathan Adrian are scheduled to battle in swimming’s most exciting event, the 50m freestyle. One length of the pool, anything can happen between these two Cal teammates and Olympic veterans. Ervin, as many now know, has had a resurgence in his swimming career since stepping away from the sport 10 years ago. Adrian is still riding the wave of momentum of a one one-hundredth of a second Olympic victory. Both are favorites for a 2016 Olympic roster spot. But in the Splash ‘n’ Dash event, anything can happen. 

Natalie Coughlin and Missy Franklin at 2012 Trials. (Small)3. Missy Franklin and Natalie Coughlin square off. 
Many comparisons between Missy and Natalie were made two summers ago at the London Olympics. Both are phenomenal swimmers, both are poised and articulate, and both have inherent poolside leadership. This weekend, both battle in the 100m freestyle, one of the most important events for the United States since it determines not just one international competition relay positions, but two. These are two of the most successful and prodigious American female swimmers in history. Comparisons between the two are up to the media, but in the pool, it’s anyone’s race…

Kendyl Stewart at the 2013 Duel in the Pool. (Small)4. New(er) swimmers attempt to take top podium spots. 
Swimming is one of those sports where the “swim crowd” knows the swimmers to watch, but the mainstream audience likely won’t know until 2016. Two names who have been around the swim circuit and experienced success are Tom Shields and Kendyl Stewart. Both are seeded first in the 100m butterfly this weekend, and both could prove to make a big splash this summer among more fair-weather swim followers. While many other names seek upsets over Olympic veterans this weekend, victories for these two swimmers, respectively, could provide momentum heading into next month’s National Championships. 

Matt Grevers, Nick Thoman and Ryan Murphy. (Small)5. 100 backstroke battles!
If you’re a sprint backstroke fan, tune in this weekend. On the women’s side, it’s another showdown between Cal women backstrokes, including Franklin, Rachel Bootsma, and Elizabeth Pelton. On the men’s side, it’s defending Olympic champion Matt Grevers against up-and-comer Ryan Murphy. When you analyze the consistent competition in the United States in the 100m backstroke, it’s no wonder the U.S. dominates this event internationally. Every weekend is another final that compares to any top final in the entire world. This weekend is no different; the world’s best sprint backstrokers yet again converge, this time in Los Angeles. 

Action begins Thursday with timed finals of the women’s 800m freestyle and the men’s 1500m freestyle, and runs through Sunday, July 20. For more information, including live results, visit

socalswim.org