2019 World Champs Preview: Tight Race for 50 Fly Silver Behind Sarah Sjostrom


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Women’s 50m Butterfly

Sarah Sjostrom 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

One of the most dominant female sprinters, Sarah Sjostrom, is on track to adding more world titles the seven under her belt. Her and Katie Ledecky are tied for the 2nd-most LC world medals at 11, just two behind Katinka Hosszu.

In the 50 fly, Sjostrom comes in as the 2-time defending world champion and world record holder. Looking at her European Championships performances, Sjostrom has been undefeated in the 50 fly since 2012. At the FINA Champions Series, Sjostrom swept the 50 fly along with the 100 free and 100 fly.

Not intimidating enough? Sjostrom also is the only woman in history to break the 25-second barrier, holding the top 16 performances of all-time including her 24.43 world record. This year, Sjostrom is at #1 in the 50 fly with a 25.32 from the Budapest FINA Champions Series.

FINA Champions Swim Series – Budapest – photo by Rafael Domeyko

The race for the silver and bronze medals, on the other hand, is a tight group of talent. The second-fastest swimmer this year is Egypt’s Farida Osman, who swam her season best of 25.65 at the Richmond PSS. The former NCAA butterfly champ finalled in the event in the two previous editions, placing 5th in 2015 and 7th in 2013.

Osman then won the bronze medal in 2017, becoming the first Egyptian swimmer to medal at the world championships. Osman also swam her lifetime best in that performance with a 25.39, ranking #9 all-time in the event. Osman currently trains at Virginia Tech with Sergio Lopez and looks more poised than ever to earn another world medal.

Last edition’s runner-up, 2012 Olympic champ Ranomi Kromowidjojo, is a very strong contender for any one of her sprint disciplines. While the 50 fly is not her main event, her lifetime best of 25.38, the 8th-fastest time in history, certainly shows it’s not a weak event for her either. Currently, the Dutch national record holder sits 10th in the world with a 25.98.

Another fly/free sprinter to mention is Canadian Olympic champ Penny Oleksiak. Her lifetime best of 25.62 was set at the 2017 World meet, which was good enough to place 5th in the final. This year, Oleksiak is ranked 11th in the world with a 26.00, right behind Kromowidjojo, from the Knoxville PSS. While staying relatively quiet after her 2016 Olympic performances, Oleksiak is still a very strong force in the sprint events.

American Kelsi Dahlia is an all-around butterflier who is respectable in the 50, 100, and 200 events. Better known for the 100 fly, Dahlia has showed promising success in the 50 fly. At the 2016 SC Worlds, Dahlia snagged the silver medal. In 2018, Dahlia settled for bronze in the event but was world champion in the SCM 100 fly. At the 2017 Worlds meet, Dahlia just missed the podium by 0.09s with her American record of 25.48. This year, Dahlia ranks 8th in the world with a 25.87 from the Des Moines PSS. With her recent successes in the short course Worlds meets, Dahlia looks hopeful to translate that long course.

Jeanette Ottesen Gray, 50 butterfly final, 2013 FINA World Championships (Photo Credit: Victor Puig)

Danish teammates Emilie Beckmann and Jeanette Ottesen will most certainly be contenders for the top 8. During the last Worlds edition, Beckmann just missed the top 8 with her semi-final time of 25.77, good enough for 10th place. At the 2018 European Championships, Beckmann was the runner-up behind Sjostrom with her lifetime best of 25.72. This year, Beckmann is 7th in the world with a 25.85.

Ottesen, on the other hand, has much experience with the event at the summer Worlds meet. In 2013, Ottesen won the title with her still-standing lifetime best of 25.24. Later in 2015, Ottesen finished with a silver medal in a 25.24 behind Sjostrom. Recently, Ottesen has swam a 26.04 at the 2019 Danish Nationals. However, looking at her 2013 world title proves she is more than capable of returning to the final.

It would be hard to mention the other Swede butterfly star Louise Hansson, who has racked up lots of success in the NCAA with the USC Trojans. At the 2017 Worlds meet, Hansson finished outside of the top 16. This year, Hansson is ranked 5th in the world with a lifetime best of 25.84. With her recent NCAA sucesses in butterfly, Hansson has a great opportunity to better her 20th place finish in 2017.

Place Swimmer Country Season-Best Lifetime-Best
1 Sarah Sjostrom Sweden 25.32 24.43
2 Farida Osman Egypt 25.65 25.39
3 Ranomi Kromowidjojo Netherlands 25.98 25.38
4 Kelsi Dahlia USA 25.87 25.48
5 Penny Oleksiak Canada 26.00 25.62
6 Emilie Beckmann Denmark 25.85 25.72
7 Louise Hansson Sweden 25.84 25.84
8 Jeanette Ottesen Denmark 26.04 25.24

Darkhorse: Canadian Maggie MacNeil had a breakout NCAA freshman season with Michigan, finishing in second place in the 100 fly behind Louise Hansson. Now a world contender for butterfly, MacNeil is more poised to step up her mark to the international level. With a season and lifetime best of 26.15, MacNeil is certainly in the shape to go sub-26.

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1 year ago

1. Sarah Sjostrom 24.79
2. Farida Osman 25.44
3. Kelsi Dahlia 25.47 AR
4. Louise Hansson 25.60
5. Ranomi Kromo 25.68
6. Emilie Beckmann 25.77
7. Yichun Wang 26.00
8. Maggie MacNeil 26.03

Reply to  SeanSwim
1 year ago

Hansson could have a big drop here

Reply to  Heyitsme
1 year ago

Hansson is a short course swimmer, so I dont belive she will have a big drop. Is hard to belive that Sweden is so great att butterfly. Sarah has the WR in 50/100 fly lcm and scm. Hansson has the 100 yards NCCA and US open record. Would love to see them race in scm and yards. Think Hansson could win

Reply to  Per
1 year ago

Sweden really do have incredible history in women’s sprint fly. Only twice since 2000 have Sweden not won the women’s 50 fly at the European Championships.

Northern SwimParent
1 year ago

Go Maggie!!!!!!!

1 year ago

I think that Ottesen Gray still has the experience and grit to come in and medal here. Will be an interesting battle of experience versus some of the new, younger sprinters.

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro has had a huge passion for swimming since his first dive in the pool, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing, but still uses the sport as his go-to cardio. SwimSwam has become an outlet for him to continue showing his …

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