2019 World Champs Preview: Cate Campbell A Looming 50 Free Threat for Sjostrom


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Women’s 50m Freestyle

The title for sprint queen in the pool will be a stacked all-star race with past World and Olympic champions. Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Pernille Blume have both held the title of 50 free Olympic champion while Sarah Sjostrom currently holds the title as current defending World champion and world record-holder. On the other hand, Simone Manuel is the defending Olympic champion in the 100 free while Cate Campbell has won Worlds in the 100 free alongside many relay golds. Among all these names in different positions at every international meet, it could be hard to tell who will win this year.

Looking at the number of sub-24 swims among this group, Sjostrom has the most with a dominating 17 swims under the mark.

Swimmer/Country Total Sub-24 Swims
Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) 17
Cate Campbell (AUS) 7
Pernille Blume (DEN) 4
Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) 1
Simone Manuel (USA) 1

Sarah Sjöström prelims of the 200 free at the Arena Pro Swim Series in Austin

With a whopping 4 world records under her name (50/100 FR, 50/100 FL), Swede sprint-star Sjostrom looks to be the strongest contender in this event. Known particularly for her butterfly, the 50 free did not become a regular strong discipline in her repertoire until her 2017 World title. In 2013, Sjostrom finished in 4th place but then bumped herself up to winning the 2015 bronze medal before coming a force to be reckoned with in the 50 splash-and-dash.

Aussie Cate Campbell often came short during her Olympics/Worlds appearances. During the 2013 World Championships, Campbell won gold in the 100 free while taking silver in the 50 free. Later in 2015, Campbell only won an individual bronze medal in the 100 free. During all three of her Olympic appearances, Campbell has only won one individual medal from her 50 free bronze earned in 2008.

After taking a hiatus after an underwhelming Rio Olympics, where she only won relay medals, Campbell has burst back on the scene to solve some unfinished business. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Campbell won the 50 free in a lifetime best of 23.78. Later at the 2018 Pan Pacs, Campbell walked away with 4 golds, 2 earned from the 50/100 free. This year, Campbell is the second-fastest swimmer in the event with a 24.00, not to mention holding the world #1 time in the 100 free (52.12).

Pernille Blume 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

Stepping up to the stage at the 2016 Olympics, Danish native Pernille Blume surprised everyone with her Olympic title in the 50 free. Since then, she has skyrocketed to the top of the women’s 50 free scene. Before Rio, Blume had only advanced to semi-finals in 2013 and 2015. After Rio, she placed 4th in the 2017 World final. More recently, Blume swam just 0.01s off her Olympic winning-time of 24.07 after undergoing heart surgery earlier in the year. Post-surgery, Blume has shown she is still a threat and gladly comes in as the defending Olympic champion.

Yet known very well for the 50 free is Dutch powerhouse Ranomi Kromowidjojo, who was the 2012 Olympic champion in both the 50/100 free. Kromowidjojo won the 2013 world title in this event and followed up with two silvers in 2015 and 2017. She has shown more dominance during the SC World Championships series, earning golds in 2010, 2014, 2016, and 2018. While she has only broken 24 seconds once (at the 2017 final), Kromowidjojo certainly does not show any signs of slowing down.

Simone Manuel USA Swimming Winter Nationals Greensboro, North Carolina (photo: Mike Lewis)

American record-holder Simone Manuel has begun to step up in the 50 free internationally. Before Rio, Manuel has made the final in the 50 free in 2013 and 2015, but finished 7th and 8th respectively. After winning the Olympic title in the 100 free, Manuel earned a bronze in the 50 free while staying at the top of the 100 free. At the 2018 Pan Pacs meet, however, Manuel earned 4 silvers all behind Aussie counter-part Cate Campbell. This year, Manuel is #8 in the world with a 24.34. Yet, aside from being a powerful relay asset, Manuel is also a powerful sprinter and will certainly swim strong with her new professional career.

Speaking of the Campbells, when there’s a Cate, there’s a Bronte. The younger sister of Cate, Bronte Campbell has also built up a sprint name for herself. At the 2015 World Championships, Bronte won two individual golds in both the 50 and 100 free. Much like her sister, Bronte has shown more success in relays rather individual events.

However, Bronte is certainly not someone to forget. At the 2017 Worlds meet, Bronte finished in a three-way tie for 6th in the 50 free. Later at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Bronte won silver in the 50 free behind sister Cate. Bronte did sit out the Pan Pacific Championships when her sister swam to gold, however. Bronte is currently the 4th-fastest swimmer in the world with a 24.17, just 0.05s off her 2015 World title time of 24.12.

Marlia Kameneva of Russia at the FINA Short Course Worlds Windsor, Canada (photo: Mike Lewis)

Much like the race for a medal, there are many swimmers who have potential to reach the top 8. Among them are Russian Maria Kameneva, who at 20 years old earned two relay bronzes at the 2018 SC World Championships. Kameneva finished 4th at the 2018 European Championships in the 50 free behind Kromowidjojo, Blume, and Sjostrom. This year, Kameneva is ranked 6th in the world with a 24.32.

Asian Games runner-up Liu Xiang of China is also a swimmer to re-appear in the top 8. In 2017, Liu was part of the 3-way tie for 6th in the 50 free. At the 2018 Asian Games, Liu finished in second place behind Rikako Ikee of Japan, who is currently battling leukemia but not to be forgotten. Liu is only ranked 14th in the world with a 24.70, but has a strong lifetime best of 24.04.

It would be hard not to mention American Abbey Weitzeil, who although finished 15th at the 2017 Worlds meet is still one of the fastest American women. Defending world champion in the 50 back Etiene Medeiros of Brazil can also become a top 8 threat regardless if not on her back. Dutch relay asset Femke Heemskerk is also another strong contender for the Netherlands behind Kromowidjojo.

Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Country Season-Best Lifetime-Best
1 Sarah Sjostrom Sweden 23.77 23.67
2 Cate Campbell Australia 24.00 23.78
3 Pernille Blume Denmark 24.08 23.75
4 Simone Manuel USA 24.34 23.97
5 Ranomi Kromowidjojo Netherlands 24.47 23.85
6 Bronte Campbell Australia 24.17 24.12
7 Maria Kameneva Russia 24.32 24.21
8 Liu Xiang China 24.70 24.04

Darkhorse: South African sprinter Erin Gallagher has been building up a name for herself in the sprint realm, holding 4 South African records and 2 African records to her name. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Gallagher finished 5th in the 50 free final behind the Campbell sisters. With a very strong 50/100 fly and a lifetime 50 free best of 25.03, we will definitely be seeing more of Gallagher in the coming years.

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1 year ago

1. Sarah Sjostrom 23.62 WR
2. Pernille Blume 23.76
3. Cate Campbell 23.84
4. Simone Manuel 23.96 AR
5. Ranomi Kromo 24.12
6. Bronte Campbell 24.19
7. Maria Kameneva 24.26
8. Etiene Medeiros 24.43

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  Seans
1 year ago

Good calls, though not sure they all go that fast in the final. Thinking 2-4 really crowded at 23.9.

Reply to  Seans
1 year ago

If we see a WR, it will be in the semifinals. A 23.7 will win the final.

1 year ago

Simone never has the top in season times, but ALWAYS seems to medal. I’ll pick her for bronze.

Reply to  Scribble
1 year ago

It’s certainly possible. It’s 50/50 in my head. She’s one of the best racers in the world in terms of showing up when it counts. Still, there are four women with better lifetime bests and 5 who have been faster this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she just misses the podium.

1 year ago

1. Sjöström
2. Cate Campbell
3. Manuel

Blume a huge threat if she is at her best, which she looks poised to be, but who knows after interruptions in her season. Fancy Hopkin to scrape into the final – Nationals off the back of NCCAs was tough for her, but I think she’s due a good PB.

Reply to  Dee
1 year ago

Blume for second.

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

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