Note: Pan Pacs rules allow each country to enter as many swimmers as they want in prelims, but only two can swim in the A-final and a third in the B final. Keep that in mind as we will not pick more than two swimmers for a country in our top 6 picks.
Any discussion about the sprint freestyle events at Pan Pacs will center on Australia’s Campbell sisters, and for good reason. Cate Campbell has risen to become one of the world’s most prolific sprinters, and has been red-hot from Australian Nationals all the way through to the Commonwealth Games. Her younger sister Bronte makes this a dynamic duo – Bronte comes in with the 4th-fastest 50 free time in the world for 2014, Cate sits third.
Getting by these two will be a tall order for anyone in the world, but right now the closest contender is one of their teammates. Australian Melanie Schlanger is the third seed into Pan Pacs and currently ranks 7th in the world. Per Pan Pacs rules, she’ll have to get by one of the sisters to take an A final spot, but her 24.39 from Commonwealths was just about two tenths behind bronze medalist Bronte.
Schlanger is far from the only one trying to outdo the Campbells. The United States squad enters a host of fresh faces looking for big breakouts on the international stage. The most experienced among them is also one of the youngest: incoming college freshman Simone Manuel. Manuel is no stranger to international meets, having swum at the 2013 World Championships and earning gold for a prelims relay leg. She’s one of the most talented and exciting sprinters in America right now, but it’s hard to tell if she’s ready at this point to overcome Cate Campbell and the rest of the world’s elite.
Ivy Martin was one of the pleasant surprises of U.S. Nationals, transferring an outstanding short course college career into a big nationals where she took the top seed out of prelims in the 50 and held on for second place at night. Martin’s been 24.62 and would appear to have some tremendous upside as she continues to gain steam in long course.
Abbey Weitzeil, meanwhile, has been tearing up high school swimming in the states, knocking off both sprint freestyle national records. She finished 5th in the 50 at nationals, but qualified for the team in the 100, so she’ll compete here alongside Maddie Locus, a collegiate Georgia star who nabbed the last 50 free qualifying spot ahead of Weitzeil.
Locus’s college teammate Chantal Van Landeghem is another high seed, swimming for her home country of Canada. She holds the fastest time in the nation, though teammate Victoria Poon was its highest finisher at Commonwealths.
Never to be counted out in sprint races, Brazil enters South American record-holder Graciele Hermann, who’s had over four months to retrain and re-taper since tying that record at the Maria Lenk Trophy in April.
Pick-6: My top six predictions (with season-bests)
- Cate Campbell (AUS) – 24.00
- Bronte Campbell (AUS) – 24.20
- Simone Manuel (USA) – 24.56
- Graciele Hermann (BRA) – 24.76
- Ivy Martin (USA) – 24.62
- Chantal Van Landeghem (CAN) – 25.00
As dangerous as they are in the 50, Cate and Bronte Campbell are even more deadly over 100 meters. The two rank #1 and #3 in the world this year and are two of just three women to crack 53 on the year from a flat start. They were the force behind Australia’s 1-2-3 finish at Commonwealths, plus the backbone of their world record-shattering 4×100 free relay.
(The other two on that relay were Emma McKeon, third in the individual 100 free, and Melanie Schlanger. Look for either or both women to contend in the 100 here, though they’d have to beat one of the Campbell’s for an A final spot).
The Americans probably have a little more firepower to answer with here than in the 50, though, as youthful stars Missy Franklin and Simone Manuel are the top two contenders. The two are 5th and 7th in the world this year, respectively, and if anyone can track down the sisters, its this duo. Franklin spent the year focusing on freestyle with the Cal Bears, while Manuel is still clearly on the rise at just 17 years old.
Based on seeds, at least, this one will be very dominated by the Australians and Americans. The top 8 seeds are from those two nations, though only 6 of them can swim finals, 2 each in the A and 1 in the B. Other Americans to watch are Shannon Vreeland and Abbey Weitzeil, while Australia also enters Brittany Elmslie.
Japan has two top-10 seeds in Miki Uchida and Yayori Matsumot. Uchida’s probably the biggest threat, holding a top-25 time in the world this year.
Canada once again enters Victoria Poon, and Sandrine Mainville.
The unique race-within-the-race to watch will be swimmers fighting for entries on their country’s 400 free relay, both in Australia and at next summer’s World Championships in the case of Americans. There are all sorts of names entered into this race, likely trying only to put up a time to put themselves in the conversation for relay spots down the road. For the Americans, watch Katie Ledecky, Elizabeth Pelton, Ivy Martin and Felicia Lee for those type of breakout swims.
China had two women go 54.1 at their nationals this spring, but neither are entered here. With no Yi Tang or Duo Shen, the top Chinese entrant is Jiaqi Zhang, back at 26th.
Pick-6: My top six predictions (with season-bests)
- Cate Campbell (AUS) – 52.68
- Missy Franklin (USA) – 53.43
- Bronte Campbell (AUS) – 52.73
- Simone Manuel (USA) – 53.66
- Miki Uchida (JPN) – 54.28
- Victoria Poon (CAN) – 54.67