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.
The top of this race features the world’s two best women’s sprint backstrokers: American Missy Franklin and Australian Emily Seebohm. With Aya Terakawa’s retirement, those two should be the real contenders in the event.
The trick is that neither of them has been all that convincing this summer, and there’s a gaggle of swimmers behind them who, if they hit their tapers perfectly, could take the gold.
That includes two of Franklin’s teammates – and not just her Team USA teammates, but her training partners at Cal, Liz Pelton and Rachel Bootsma.
That “if they hit their tapers” is still a big question-mark though, as neither swimmer has been better than 1:00.5 this season, whereas Franklin has been 59.38 – and this was probably her best swim at Nationals.
With the fact that those three are training together, and that Franklin was at least a full second faster at Nationals than either, it would be hard to predict Franklin to miss her taper so badly with the other two hitting it so well.
The Australians’ second star is Belinda Hocking, who was a bronze medalist (59.93) behind Seebohm’s gold (59.37) at the Commonwealth Games.
Neither Hocking or Seebohm swam best times at that meet, and while the debate rages on as to how much Australia was focused on the Commonwealth Games versus Pan Pacs, that will be a deciding factor in the podiums here.
Given what Franklin did at U.S. Nationals, though, despite not being great in her other races, gives us hope that she will beat out Seebohm for gold for the third-straight year (2012 Olympics, 2013 Worlds).
Other contenders for medals from outside of Australian in the United States include Canada’a Brooklynn Snodgrass, though she’s got a better chance in the 200 at winding up at the podium. Her country mate Sinead Russell has been the better of the two in the sprint so far this year, and swam under a minute at the Commonwealth Games, but won’t be at Pan Pacs.
Japan’s two contributions to the final should be Sayaka Akase and Shiho Sakai. Sakai won this race at the Japan Open in June, but Akase swam very well at the BHP Billiton Super Sport Series in January in Australia, and at only 19 is on track to be the next big thing in Japanese backstroking – filling a massive void after Terakawa’s departure from the sport.
From outside of the four host countries, the most likely finalist is Brazilian 23-year old Etiene Medeiros. She swam a lifetime best of 1:00.77 at Maria Lenk in April, and has been making consistent improvements every year since medaling at the 2008 Youth World Swimming Championships.
Medeiros isn’t the tallest backstroker in this field at only 5’6″, but she has one thing working in her favor: the first is that she still hasn’t yet hit a wall; she has improved slowly-but-surely every year, and that’s a consistency that a lot of the young backstrokers in this field who can’t say that. Whether or not Medeiros can make that best swim at this meet this year, rather than Maria Lenk, will make-or-break her finish.
Pick-6: My Top Six Predictions (With Season-Bests)
- Missy Franklin, USA, 59.38
- Emily Seebohm, Australia, 58.92
- Belinda Hocking, Australia – 59.78
- Liz Pelton, USA, 1:00.57
- Brooklynn Snodgrass, Canada, 1:00.23
- Sayaka Akase, Japan, 1:00.48
If Franklin is the favorite in the 100, she should be an even bigger favorite in the 200, based on her own history. But as much as she’s had a tough go this summer in the 200 (she was a 2:08.38 at U.S. Nationals), Hocking has been right on her target.
She swam a 2:06.40 in February, and though she was just 2:07.2 at the Commonwealth Games, we expect her to be back in the 2:06-mid range, at least, for Pan Pacs.
The absence of Meagen Nay will be felt in this race, but that doesn’t make it a two-swimmer race. Elizabeth Beisel is only the third-seeded American in the event, but a bad slip on the start in finals in Nationals negated what looked like a really fast swim for the last 180 meters once she got up to speed. She and Liz Pelton should fight for a spot in finals.
Brooklynn Snodgrass is the defending NCAA Champion in the event, and even she isn’t necessarily going to final – three of her country mates, including Hilary Caldwell, are seeded ahead of her. The Canadians, if they were tapered for the Commonwealth Games, didn’t show it, so while they’ll have to deal with a very hard month of travel, they should be full-bore at Pan Pacs.
This race will almost certainly have an A-Final made up of two each from Canada, Japan, the U.S., and Australia. On the surface, that sounds like it would make for boring preliminary sessions, but each of those countries has three, four, or even five swimmers who could grab their two slots.
We’re taking the World Record holder Franklin, just because, but it’s not a high-confidence pick. This could be an opportunity for Hocking to score the biggest upset of this meet.
Pick-6: My Top Six Predictions (With Season-Bests)
- Missy Franklin, USA, 2:08.38
- Belinda Hocking, Australia, 2:06.40
- Elizabeth Beisel, USA, 2:09.11
- Hilary Caldwell, Canada, 2:08.55
- Brooklynn Snodgrass, Canada, 2:10.68
- Sarayaka Akase, Japan, 2:08.76