2017 Worlds Previews: Historic 51 on Notice in Women’s 100 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 Championships

Sarah Sjostrom (photo: Tim Binning)

We’re just weeks away from the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary and the women’s 100 free could be a historic event. No woman has ever broken 52 seconds in the 100 meter free, though Australia’s Cate Cambpell nearly did so when she set the World Record at 52.06 last summer. Campbell will be absent from this summer’s Worlds, but Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom is up to the challenge. Sjostrom was narrowly off the World Record with her 52.08 at the Mare Nostrum.

In Budapest, we’ll get a chance to see what Sjostrom can do with a full taper. The big challenge concerning most swimming fans is that the 100 free comes on day 5 of the meet. However, Sjostrom will skip out on the 200 free this summer, meaning she’ll only be swimming the 100 fly ahead of the 100 free and will be significantly fresher than she was in Rio. After the 100 fly final on day 2, she’ll have 2 whole days to recharge before prelims of the 100 free on day 5.

Though Cate Campbell won’t be in Budapest to challenge Sjostrom, her sister, Bronte Campbell, will be in the mix for a medal. Bronte Campbell is the defending World Champion in this event after she won the race in Kazan with her personal best 52.52. She’s already been 52.89 this year, which is almost 2 tenths faster than she was when she placed 4th in the Olympic final and just a few tenths shy of her best. The Aussies will also send out Emma McKeon, who boasts a season best 53.12. McKeon has been under 53 before with her 52.80 form last April, so she definitely has the speed for a top 5 finish.

Manuel and Oleksiak (photo: Simone Castrovillari)

Olympic co-champions Simone Manuel (USA) and Penny Oleksiak (CAN) will go head-to-head in the long course pool for the first time since they tied for gold in Rio. Neither seems to have shown too many of their cards yet this season, as they haven’t dipped under 53 yet, but both were able to qualify for their respective worlds teams relatively easily without a full taper.

Things could get interesting in the race for the American Record between Manuel and Nationals winner Mallory Comerford. In Indianapolis, Comerford became just the 2nd American woman to ever break 53 seconds, taking down Sjostrom’s U.S. Open Record with a 52.81. The American Record currently stands at a 52.70 done by Manuel in last summer’s Olympic final, but with Comerford only a tenth off the mark, we could see the record change hands at some point during the meet.

Dutch sprint star Ranomi Kromowidjojo has already been faster in-season this year than she was in the Olympic final last summer. Her 53.07 is also the fastest she’s been since December of 2012 when she set her personal best 52.75 at the Swim Cup Eindhoven. If she breaks 53 in Budapest, that’ll mark her first sub-53 swim in almost 5 years.

Japanese youngster Rikako Ikee has been crushing Junior World Records over the last couple of seasons. In February, she showed the world that she was only getting faster, as she set the Junior World Record at 24.48 in the 50 free. She set a personal best 53.83 in the 100 free at the 2017 Japan Swim, and seems to have the speed and endurance to move up into the top 8 with a few tenths of improvement. A handful of women will be fighting for those final few spots in the final, though, and Sweden’s Michelle Coleman is looking great this season with her 53.36 from the Mare Nostrum. China’s Zhu Menghui (53.42), Denmark’s Olympic 50 free champ Pernille Blume (53.52), and France’s Charlotte Bonnet (53.65) should also be up there fighting for a finals spot.


Place Swimmer Country Season Best Predicted Time
1 Sarah Sjostrom SWE 52.08 51.9* WR
2 Simone Manuel USA 53.05 52.5
3 Penny Oleksiak CAN 53.64 52.5
4 Mallory Comerford USA 52.81 52.7
5 Bronte Campbell AUS 52.85 52.7
6 Ranomi Kromowidjojo NED 53.07 52.9
7 Emma McKeon AUS 53.12 53.1
8 Rikako Ikee JPN 53.83 53.5

DARKHORSE: Dutch Record holder Femke Heemskerk wasn’t at her best when she swam this event in Rio, as she failed to qualify for the semifinals with a 54.63 in prelims. She’s been significantly faster than that already this year with a 53.75 from the Swim Cup Eindhoven, and she’s been as fast as a 52.69 in 2015.

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This race is going to be Sjo much fun to watch. Even the Semis could be tense… one misstep and you’re out. Deep field. I wouldn’t be shocked to see One Cent and/or Manuel out of the medals altogether, even with a good swim.


One Cent– took me a while to catch that. Lol! KUDOS!


Struggle to see an Oleksiak PB, and don’t see 52.5 being the standard to medal.

1. Sjostrom
2. Manuel
3. Kromowidjojo

Darkhorse: Zhu Menghui. Looks to have a lovely, long stroke & her kick looked powerful & high in the water in Indianapolis where Comerford had a real battle to beat her. 53.42 at Nats and one of the few young Chinese ladies with a consistent improvement curve that has played out in front of us, not hidden away in China.


Comerford will be fast!!! 52.81 is no joke! She’ll be 52.5 or better.


That would be wonderful, but I fully expect Manuel as top American. I suspect she was sure of Worlds qualification and left some in the tank. Comerford is/was rather unexposed LCM, so I would say she went full guns, full taper. It would be brave if she had not. It’ll be quite hard to hold that to Worlds – So, while I expect her super fast again, I am not sure about yet another time drop. Another 52.8-52.9 would be hugely impressive. If that happens, it nay still nip bronze.


I have to agree with this, she will do well to final and stay under 53. But also remember she tied Ledecky in a 200 which tells me she is a racer and I like her ability to get her hand on the wall


Comerford will have to swim a semifinal too.


She is on fire , full of confidence and doesn’t fear serious field at all . She will be around 52.5


The upside for Comerford is her relative lack of LCM racing experience at this level. You could make the case that she’ll get better with every competition, so better at Worlds than at Trials.


I don’t know about this, I hope she will get the world record but… I just want to be realistic.

Lauren Neidigh

She just missed it by .02 at an in-season meet and given the amount of rest she’ll potentially have before the event it doesn’t seem entirely unrealistic. The 400 free relay is on day 1 so I’ll have to go back and mention that (forgot the relays) and the mixed 400 medley (will have to see if they final) is on day 4 I think. But it still seems possible for someone who went 52.0 to come up with a 51.99 in a big moment. Have to wait and see though.


Well, I don’t see a swedish mixed relay team having the slightest chance of anything


As two of the guys are both breaststrokers and the third longdistance…

Lauren Neidigh

Good point on the mixed team. So probably means more rest for her


In WC 2 years ago in Kazan, Sweden didnt even use sjostrom to swim the mixed 400 medley relay because they knew that the chance of getting a medal was very low. Instead sjostrom got some days of.



About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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