For the last few days, Canadian and American swimmers aiming to compete in Rome in a few weeks have been going hard at their respective national trials, and producing some wicked impressive times.
Overnight, fifteen-year-old Amanda Reason, out of Etobicoke, Ontario broke the world record in the 50m breaststroke - the first long course record to be held by a Canadian since 1988. The 50m events of all strokes besides freestyle aren't contested at Olympic Games, so they tend to get broken at seemingly random intervals in the years in between. Amanda's time of 30.23s is pretty quick - I challenge you to go faster swimming freestyle.
This is a record of particular interest to New Zealanders, as it was held in the early 2000s by the Christchurch-based Briton hardass, Zoe Baker. She won the event at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, proceeded to switch nationalities to become one of us, then faded into the background somewhere. Zoe, who was really on her last legs in Manchester, had a reputation at the QE2 pool in Christchurch for refusing to share lanes, barking insults at those who didn't fall in line with her demands, and other bitchy behaviour, but man she was good at breaststroke!
So congratulations, Amanda! I don't know how long that time is going to remain the world's fastest, but you're a world record holder now!
More world record honours have been earnt by my old favourite, Aaron Peirsol. The Californian babe recorded a 51.94 100m backstroke earlier in the week. Seriously! Sub-52 is not messing around. In Melbourne two years ago at the World Championships, he stunned everyone with a 52.98 swim. We were all, "wow, sub 53!" - and look at him now. Aaron, possibly the most laidback guy in the sport, grew up in Irvine and later moved to Austin, Texas to further nurture his incredible backstroke skills. He's lost the stronghold he once had over the 100-200 double, but has become more dominant in the shorter event. Aaron has held this particular world record since 2004 (before then it was held for five years by the equally amazing Lenny Krayzelburg), except for one hot week - last week, actually - where it briefly belonged to the oddly named Spaniard, Aschwin Wildboer. Aaron will no doubt be looking to continue this dominance at Worlds.
There's been other fast times - American Mark Gangloff pulled out a 59.01 (disturbingly close to my Kitajima's 58.91) in the 100m breaststroke final. Gangloff, along with Mark Shanteau, has long lived in the undeserved shadow of Texan Brendan Hansen's shadow, but this time cements him as one of the world's best. Still, we'll see. I'm backing Kitajima for the double in Rome.
Le Tour: Cancellara still leads from Armstrong! Not many guys wear that yellow jersey for six consecutive days (actually, to be fair, not many guys wear the yellow jersey at all), so you can bet he's soaking it up. And Vande Velde has cracked the top ten! He now sits in eighth for the General Classification, after placing 36th in stage six overnight. Let's go kiddo.