2017 Worlds Preview: Sjostrom’s Recent Tear Sets Her Apart In 50 Free

You can find links to all of our event-by-event previews and a compilation of our predicted medal-winners here.

2017 FINA World Aquatics Championships

Women’s 50m Freestyle

Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom became a superstar at a very young age. After winning the European Championship title in the 100 butterfly at just 14, she shocked the world one year later when she won the World title at 15 in world record time.

She has been a major player on the world stage ever since in the 50 and 100 fly, but over the last four years her freestyle has really come to fruition, and this year she has established herself as the best sprinter in the world. She joined an elite club when she cracked 24 seconds at the Swedish Championships in 2014, and followed up with a bronze medal in the event at the 2015 World Championships. After a grueling schedule kept her out of the final in Rio, she has shown a remarkable resurgence in the event.

Starting in April, Sjostrom has slammed down six swims under 24 seconds over the last few months. Prior to this explosion, the most ever done by someone in a single season was two, and Australian Cate Campbell had done it the most times total with four. With Sjostrom crashing through those barriers, there’s no doubt she’s the frontrunner in this event at the World Championships.

The 50 free does come at the end of a long eight day schedule, but the 100 fly Olympic champion has dropped the 200 free from her schedule, so she should have more gas left in the tank than she did at the end of the Olympics. She could have a heavy workload with the Swedish relays, especially with the inclusion of the mixed events, but she has a relatively wide margin over the rest of the world in this event and should be able to get the job done. With six swims coming between 23.83 and 23.96 over the last three months, there’s no reason she can’t challenge Britta Steffen‘s world record of 23.73.

The woman who will give Sjostrom the biggest challenge for gold is Denmark’s Pernille Blume, who surprised everyone when she won the Olympic title last summer as a relative unknown. Blume was just 13th at the World Championships one year prior, but rattled off the three fastest swims of her life to ultimately win gold in the final in a time of 24.07. She has continued the momentum this year, posting three 24.1s over the last few months. She’s currently 2nd in the world behind Sjostrom, three tenths back.

The winners of silver and bronze last summer, Simone Manuel and Aliaksandra Herasimenia, will be major factors in the event as well. Included in Manuel’s amazing Rio Games was the 24.09 swim for silver in the 50 free, narrowly missing Dara Torres‘ American Record by two one-hundredths. She’s ranked 3rd in the world with her 24.27 from U.S. Trials, slightly faster than she was at the Olympic Trials, indicating she could be toying with the 24-second mark in Budapest.

Herasimenia hasn’t been a consistent performer on the world stage, but has delivered when it counts. She won the 2011 World title in the 100 free, won a pair of silvers in the sprints in London, and earned a second straight 50 free medal with that bronze in Rio. She hasn’t been nearly as consistent this season as she was in 2016, cracking 25 only once this year, but certainly can’t be counted out given her ability.

2012 Olympic champ Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands has a resume that speaks for itself in this event. Along with the Olympic gold, she also won the 2013 World title, World silvers in both 2011 and 2015, and also has won three World Short Course titles. Though her 6th place in Rio was her lowest finish in the event since she hit the world scene, she was only twelve one-hundredths from gold, and had been the exact gold medal winning time, 24.07, earlier in the year at the European Championships. Currently ranked 4th in the world at 24.29, she’s another who could potentially challenge the 24-second barrier in Budapest.

Defending World champion Bronte Campbell has shown remarkable consistency this season, cracking 25 seconds a total of ten times. She’s a good bet to make the final, but would need to return to her 24-low form of 2015 to contend for a medal. With sister Cate sitting out of Worlds this year, fellow Aussie Shayna Jack will get an opportunity on the big stage. Jack went a lifetime best of 24.66 to take 3rd behind the Campbells at Aussie Trials, and heads into Worlds as the 8th seed.

Another young up-and-comer to watch for is Japan’s Rikako Ikee. Ikee has been known as more of a butterflier in her young career, but shattered the 50 free Junior world record in February in a time of 24.48. Like Sjostrom, she could have a hefty event lineup in Budapest, but is certainly capable of making her way to the final. Ikee and Jack have had a steady progression in this event over the last few years, placing 4th and 5th at the 2014 Junior Pan Pacs before winning silver and bronze at the 2015 World Junior Championships.

Etiene Medeiros had a big swim last summer on her home turf to make the Olympic final, but that’s probably where her potential maxes out in this race, with her best medal chance coming in the 50 back. Tamara Van Vliet added her name to the Dutch roster for Budapest after clocking 24.64 at the Mare Nostrum stop in Canet. She’ll contend for a spot in the final, as will France’s Anna Santamans, the Chinese duo of Liu Xiang and Zhu Menghui, as well as Canadians Sandrine Mainville and Michelle Toro, who have all been sub-25 this season.

The other American entrant, Abbey Weitzeil, admitted she had a tough year transitioning to college life at Cal and her swimming hadn’t been on the same level as it was heading into Rio. Despite being almost half a second slower than Omaha, she earned a ticket to Budapest by placing 2nd at the U.S. Trials in a time of 24.74. She’ll need to be faster than that to final, probably by two or three tenths, but one thing working in her favor is she’ll be well rested compared to the others with only one event on her schedule.


1 Sarah Sjostrom Sweden 23.83 23.7(sub-WR)
2 Pernille Blume Denmark 24.13 23.9
3 Simone Manuel United States 24.27 24.0
4 Ranomi Kromowidjojo Netherlands 24.29 24.1
5 Bronte Campbell Australia 24.56 24.3
6 Aliaksandra Herasimenia Belarus 24.84 24.3
7 Shayna Jack Australia 24.66 24.5
8 Rikako Ikee Japan 24.48 24.5

Darkhorse: Rising Kiwi Gabrielle Fa’Amausili clocked a best of 25.02 at the New Zealand Championships, and is one to keep an eye on in both this event and the 50 back as she continues to progress. This will be her first major international competition after winning medals at the 2015 World Juniors and 2016 Junior Pan Pacs. She’s been right on the verge of a breakthrough at the senior level somewhere, just needs to find one spark to get her over the hump.

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6 years ago

I won’t be surprised by a Campbell comeback (a Campback?).

6 years ago

Great to see Blume being in contention after Olympics upset. It tells you she is not one hit wonder.

phelps swims 200 breast rio
6 years ago

I’m hoping Manuel wins with a world record.

6 years ago

Barring illness or injury between now & Budapest, SS looks a prohibitive favourite. A much reduced race schedule (no 200FR,4X200) plus no MR may most likely see her with more gas in the tank at the end of the meet than previously.A WR is no certainty but most certainly is “in play” and she will most likely be the only sub24.

Blume’s times this year have proven that her Rio gold was no aberration and I’m willing to have her as most likely silver.

Bronze looks to be between Kromowidjojo & Manuel but maybe we may see an outsider enter the equation.

Until she get her shoulder issues “sorted”, 24.4-5 is probably C2’s current “ceiling” and can most likely be… Read more »

IMs for days
6 years ago

I can’t say anything about Sjostrom this season that hasn’t already been said. Barring disaster it will be her vs the World Record. Blume has looked great this season coming of that olympic upset, and has proven how consistent she is. She is also a clutch swimmer as shown last year, and she is a closer. I think Sjostrom could pull her under 24. Manuel and Kromo will fight with Blume for the minor medals, though I’m favoring Manuel, who I think might get under 24 as well.
I say
1. Sjostrom 23.71 WR (I’m slightly biased as I like Britta Steffen, but it’s still a supersuit record (
2. Blume 23.98
3. Manuel 24.01 AM

6 years ago

Do you guys have a central Worlds predictions page like you did for trials and if not should we expect one?

Reply to  Anonymous
6 years ago

Anonymous – we’ll have one set up by tomorrow.

Reply to  Braden Keith
6 years ago


6 years ago

3.Manuel, don’t see blume going under 24, tho it probably won’t be necessary to make the podium

6 years ago

With the exception of Sarah being a clear favorite for gold, there are several others that could easily podium, but here are my picks:

1. Sjostrom; 2. Kromowidjojo; 3. Manuel

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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