By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, August 22, 2018
At the past several Olympic Trials, one of the most exciting, competitive, and edge-of-your-seat events has been the women’s 100 meter backstroke. Each Trials seems to feature several veterans mixed in with up-and-coming swimmers all vying for a chance at Olympic immortality. Sometimes, the United States’ Olympic Trials can be more competitive (and faster) than the Olympics itself. Depends on the event. But sprint backstroke seems to be a specialty for the United States. And for the women’s 100 meter backstroke, (and the men, too) the sprint to the wall often determines not only who qualifies for the limited roster spots, but who leads-off that all-important medley relay. If often comes down to the final few meters.
This Olympic Trials should be as exciting as any other.
Which makes this week’s Junior Pan Pacific Championships that much more interesting. Often, swimmers in the finals at meets like this week’s Jr. Pan Pacs end up racing under the lights at the Trials a few years later. Often, those swimmers competing for top podium spots against teenagers from other countries get so much experience and international racing insight that they quickly grow up and use the experience as a stepping stone to improve their own racing.
This week, the Can’t Miss Race is the women’s 100 meter backstroke.
The competitive depth for the United States in this event is outstanding. Several swimmers this week are all seeded within a second-and-a-half of each other. A few of them will be going for the top podium spot. But, of course, as we all know, there’s only room for one.
This week, Pheobe Bacon looks to not only win, but make a statement. Bacon is seeded at a swift :59.12, a few tenths of a second off the Jr. World record and nearly a second faster than the Jr. Pan Pacs record. Bacon is one of those younger swimmers who could be a force in 2020.
Her toughest competition could be from her own teammates. Katharine Berkoff is the only other swimmer seeded under that one-minute barrier, at :59.77. Berkoff is a little older than Bacon, and it’ll be interesting to see if age or experience plays a factor. Another U.S. teammate who looks to break through that one-minute barrier is Isabelle Stadden, hovering at 1:00.06. Factor in that New Zealand’s Kyla Alexander and the United States’ Lucie Nordmann could also break into the :59s. It’s an event like so many other backstroke sprints we’ve seen, one that could come down to timing, reach, and a fingernail finish.
Anyone wanting to see great racing, fast swimming, and a competitive event should look no further than the women’s 100 meter backstroke. Several United States swimmers could all take the gold, but tough international competition could make that difficult. Whatever the case, whoever makes it onto that podium this week could likely have that momentum needed to launch into this winter and the all-important training year of 2019. Because faster than a blink of an eye, Omaha and the next Trials will be here.
But first, Tokyo and this week’s Junior Pan Pacific Championships.
Don’t miss it. Catch all the action live at https://www.fijione.tv/live-tv/