Disclaimer: BlueSeventy Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week, but rather one Featured Swim to be explored in deeper detail. The BlueSeventy Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many fast swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks as others grabbed the headlines, or a race we didn’t get to examine as closely in the flood of weekly meets.
It’s no secret that Sarah Sjostrom is the world’s best sprint butterflyer by a wide margin. But she’s spent the past week proving that she might just be the best sprint freestyler, too.
Sjostrum has rocked the Mare Nostrum series’ first two stops, culminating in a 52.28 swim in the Barcelona 100 freestyle final that holds up as the fourth-best swim of all-time. Two of the swims ahead of her are supersuit-aided 2009 swims from Germany’s Britta Steffen, and Sjostrom is just .22 seconds off the world record set just under a year ago by Cate Campbell.
Here’s a look at the top 5 swims in history:
- 52.06 Cate Campbell, WR, 2016
- 52.07 Britta Steffen, 2009
- 52.22 Britta Steffen, 2009
- 52.28, Sarah Sjostrom, 2017
- 52.33, Cate Campbell, 2013
With Campbell bowing out of the World Championships this summer, it’s Sjostrom’s event to lose. Only Cate’s sister Bronte has been under 53 seconds this year, and her season-best is 52.85 – a good six tenths back of Sjostrom. Campbell is the defending world champ in the event, but has never been faster than the 52.52 she put up to win that world title in 2015.
Ever remarkably consistent, Sjostrom has been 52-mid multiple times already this season, and was 52.6 on Sunday night in Monaco. She’s now looking like a threat to become one of the most-decorated female swimmers ever at a single World Championships.
Sjostrom holds the world’s #1 rank in the 50 free, 100 free, 50 fly and 100 fly. It would be beyond shocking to see her lose either of the butterflies, and with Cate Campbell out of the way, there aren’t too many key swimmers left with the firepower to challenge her in either freestyle. (Though those events are always a bit of a toss-up; how many of us had Kyle Chalmers, Simone Manuel and Penny Oleksiak winning Olympic 100 free titles last summer?)
Though Sweden didn’t win any Olympic relay medals last year, they were finalists in both free relays and 9th in the medley. Between Sjostrom and Michelle Coleman, the Swedes have two stellar legs on any of the three relays, and with Jennie Johansson swimming as fast as she ever has in breaststroke, the medley might be Sweden’s best shot. They won silver in that race in 2015 with a European record, and all four legs should be back this summer.
That means it’s possible Sjostrom could win 4 individual world titles and a relay medal or two. Four golds in Budapest would push her to 8 career golds and 12 career medals at long course World Championships. Only 5 swimmers (per our research) have won more than a dozen total World Champs medals. Below are the current lists of most-decorated female athletes from long course World Championships in both total medals and gold medals:
Most Total Medals, Women at LC World Champs
- Natalie Coughlin, 20
- Missy Franklin, 16
- Libby Trickett, 15
- Jenny Thompson, 14
- Leisel Jones, 14
Most Gold Medals, Women at LC World Champs
- Missy Franklin, 11
- Katie Ledecky, 9
- Libby Trickett, 8
- Kornelia Ender, 8
- 5-way tie at 7
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