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.

In This Story


  1. 75M FREE says:

    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.

  2. Dee says:

    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.

    • Hswimmer says:

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

      • Dee says:

        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.

        • Taa says:

          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

      • Swimmer? says:

        Comerford will have to swim a semifinal too.

      • ERVINFORTHEWIN says:

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

      • Schoolingswimsbreastintokyo says:

        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.

  3. Swimmer? says:

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

    • Lauren Neidigh says:

      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.

      • SwimJon says:

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

      • SwimJon says:

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

      • Liam says:

        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.

    • Frequentflyer says:


  4. commonwombat says:

    SS is not C1, and barring illness or injury, its hard to see her being threatened. As for WR, they happen …. when they happen. It would come as no surprise but nor is it a done deal.

    Minors look an open book.
    – Oleksiak has yet to show anything like the form of 2016; she has to be seen as a real contender but nor is she a particularly sure bet.
    – Comerford swam a stormer time at US Nats but this is her senior team debut … that can go either way.
    – Manuel has to be respected but was her Rio performance more due to the individual circumstances of that race ? These Worlds will tell us more
    – C2 will most likely be more competitive in this event than the 50 but its debatable that she can match her Kazan time given she is still dealing with the same shoulder issues that plagued her 2016.
    – McKeon is capable of a sub53 and if she can deliver one then she’s most likely close to the medals. She is however an uneven performer even at the same meet so more an outside bet.
    – Am thinking Kromowidjojo is more likely to contend over 50 than the 100 but she is a member of the sub53 club, albeit some years ago. Since then, she has often teased us with 53lows without actually delivering

    Am thinking one of the Americans will be on the podium. Both ?? Possible but they’d both need to be at their best and/or the other potential contenders fizzle

  5. Hater of swimvortex says:

    World Record! World Record!

  6. Joe says:

    I don’t think Oleksiak is going to smash a 1.1 second season’s best to be quite honest. I’m not expecting her to beat her times from last summer seeing that she seems to have had issues along the way. But there is still a chance she can sniff around her Rio times and sneak onto the podium anyway. Beyond Sjostrom, I think Bronte and Manuel have the most time gains to be made. Bronte because she’s been there before, and Manuel because she seems to be a good taper swimmer and I don’t think she showed us all her cards at trials.

    Dark horse for me is Blume. Blume has not been going for the 100 much before, but being strong at the 50 and showing improved endurance you gotta think a sub 53 is a possibility. If she can get into the final and get an outside lane, she could just go for it and make the race uncomfortable for others with her opening speed.

  7. MichaelTran says:

    My picks:
    1. Sarah Sjostrom 51.9
    2. Simone Manuel 52.5
    3. Bronte Campbell 52.6
    4. Penny Oleksiak 52.7
    5. Emma Mckeon 52.8
    6. Ranomi Komowidijojo 52.8
    7. Mallory Comerford 52.8
    8. Zhu 53.1

  8. SwimJon says:

    I will be so nervous when the final starts. Sjöström has ha such a phenomenal season after the long rest after Rio. And yeah her starts, underwater, turns have improved but… And yeah she has been a star for 8 years – but to be such a heavy favourite and it is not fly is a new situation…

  9. Swimmerfromoverseas says:

    I am sorry, just cant help myself.

    Have you spooken to Mel about the predictions in 50/100 free?

  10. Prickle says:

    Thanks to Cate Campbell and Sarah Sjostrom the 52 sec interval became the must to be called an elite swimmer. We look at 53 sec now as a result that our grandmas used to swim. The swimmer who makes 53 something is not considered a sprinter any more but somebody who cannot swim anything longer than 100 meters.

    • commonwombat says:

      Think that’s still somewhat of an exagerration. The sub 53 club still has a somewhat limited membership, esp amongst current swimmers …. and how many amongst them have “repeat performances’ in this range as against one-offs ?

      When it comes to W4X100, just how many countries actually have the depth to field 4 sub 54sec flat start swimmers ?? Its still the case that you can podium in that event without such a quartet.

      The 52sec barrier is only realistically within range, at this point, of 2 current competitors …… and with C1’s future debateable beyond next April, we can probably narrow that down to one … SS. Maybe someone or others may make a forward leap in the near future/next year or so but at this point, the rest of the field is currently well north of 52.5

      • Prickle says:

        Of course it is “somewhat of an exagerration”. But look, not that far ago Missy Franklin was a superstar with world record at 200 back and …. The best sprinter America ever had in freestyle. Who will look at her 53.36 as something special now.

        • Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel says:

          Active female swimmers who has posted times below 52.70 in the 100 m freestyle:

          C. Campbell – 11
          Sjöström – 5
          B. Campbell – 2
          Heemskerk – 1

        • Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel says:

          All time top US female performers in the 100 m freestyle (textile era):

          Manuel – 52.70
          Comerford – 52.81
          Weitzeil – 53.28
          Franklin – 53.36

          2016 Summer Olympics
          100 m freestyle
          Simone Manuel
          Heats – 53.32
          Semifinals – 53.11
          Final – 52.70

          2016 Olympic Team Trials
          100 m freestyle
          Simone Manuel
          Heats – 53.84
          Semifinals – 53.64
          Final – 53.52

  11. S L says:

    Kromowidjojo isn’t going under 53

  12. S L says:

    1. Sjöström 52.00 WR
    2. Manuel 52.6
    3. Campbell 52.8

    • Swim-Fan says:

      This seems plausible. SS wins this for sure. The race for silver will be the most interesting. I don’t think SS runs away with it though.

  13. Uberfan says:

    Simone will get best off the podium by Comerford and subtweet about it

  14. marklewis says:

    The women are going to have swim all-out in the semis to make the final. Except for possibly Sjostrom.

    So the semis will be worth watching. I am curious if Bronte Campbell will get the heebie-jeebies again. She does have the injury excuse to fall back on.

    • G.I.N.A says:

      Since when has C2 got the heebie- jeebies? Bronte has never used the injury excuse . Sprinters get injured & that’s a fact but imo she always does the max her training has allowed. She was 53.7 on the mare nostrum so should/ could go sub 53. If not , I still know she did her best .

      • commonwombat says:

        GINA is correct. A number of AUS women imploded under pressure in Rio with C1 being the most obvious but C2 was not one of them. Her injury issues were very legit ones as she scarcely raced in the lead-in to the Games. Her 4×100 split indicated that 52high/53flat was “where she was at” and thats what she swam. Her 50free had been “off” all year …. and she swam accordingly. She is NOT as talented as her big sister, and doesn’t have her record breaking potential, but it would be fair to suggest that she is the stronger mentally

        • Prickle says:

          G.I.N.A and COMMONWOMBAT you know so much about Australian swimming affairs. Then you may know why coaches deprived Bronte Campbell of a medal in 400 Medley relay not choosing her to swim in preliminary competition. She was great at 4×100 free. Her sister competed in final race despite of disastrous individual competitions. Why not Bronte. She was #2 at trials and that is who usually swims preliminary relay races where pressure isn’t that high.

          • G.I.N.A says:

            Actually I know very little these days , I just use logic & have a bit of fun .Why C1& not C2 – I presume they used McKeon in the pre lims , so they wanted to keep the handover identical . As it turned out , it was the correct thing to do because the margin over Canada was small .

          • Prickle says:

            I think it was Madison Wilson who swam freestyle lag in prelim 400 Medley.

          • commonwombat says:

            Wilson swam the backstroke leg in the W4XMED heats. AUS heats line-up was Wilson, McKeown, Groves & Elmslie

          • G.I.N.A says:

            That’s what you get when you go jungle to avoid watching the Olympics – I still know only 1/4 of the results .

          • commonwombat says:

            None of us have any “inside line” into the decision making process of the AUS coaching staff so how WOULD we know ? My surmisal is that they swam Elmslie in the 4XMED heats due to both C1&C2 still having the 50free final whereas Elmslie had no individual races and she was still capable of a 53low split which would see them into a centre lane for the final.

            Why C1 over C2 in the final ? One can only think that it came down to the fact that they knew that C2’s shoulder issues were impacting her performances to the extent that she was not capable of anywhere near her best times. This was borne out by her performances in Rio where her best swim was on the first day (4×100) then fell away as the meet progressed. Lets face it, she finished behind big sister in the 50free

            They took a gamble that C1 would lift for the medley relay final …. and she did with a split that got them onto the podium. A fit C2 would’ve almost certainly have been able to match that ….. but that was not the C2 who was in Rio.

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About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona and the University of Florida. She got her M.S. in Criminology from Florida State and seems exceptionally confused about which team she should cheer for during the college football season. Lauren is currently working on her M.A. in …

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