Commonwealth Countdown: Aussie Vets, Newcomers Favored in Women’s Fly

2018 COMMONWEALTH GAMES

  • Thursday, April 5th – Tuesday, April 10th (swimming)
  • Optus Aquatic Centre, Gold Coast, Australia
  • Prelims at 10:30am local (8:30pm previous night EDT)
  • Finals at 7:30pm local (5:30am EDT)
  • Official Commonwealth Games website
  • Entries

The women’s butterfly races are loaded with domestic (Australian) and foreign talent, which has made determining who will come out on top in each race rather difficult.

The 50 fly is loaded with talented swimmers that have proven themselves as butterfliers, but also a couple wild card sprinters who specialize in different strokes, such as Cate Campbell and Alia Atkinson.

The 100 fly, on the other hand, boasts 2016 Olympic silver medalist Penny Oleksiak as well as 2017 world championship silver medalist Emma McKeon; but let’s not forget the 2016 Olympic silver medalist in the 200 fly, Madeline Groves, who stands a very real shot at making the podium in this shallower field.

The 200 fly, perhaps the most difficult to call of the three, pits McKeon against 2016 Olympic finalist in the 200 fly Brianna Throssel; however, both finished over a second behind up-and-comer and top-seed Laura Taylor at Australian Trials little over a month ago. Taylor, despite her stellar performance at trials, not only faces her compatriots but also a flurry of talent from the British Isles and their various Commonwealths.

Women’s 50 Butterfly

  • Commonwealth Record: 25.20, Francesca Halsall (ENG)
  • Commonwealth Games Record: 25.20, Francesca Halsall (ENG)
  • 2014 Commonwealth Champion: 25.20, Francesca Halsall (ENG)

With none of the 2014 medalists in the 50 butterfly returning to defend their titles this year, the podium is wide open for a fresh champion. In fact, none of the top 8 finishers in the women’s 50 fly from 2014 are returning to the race this year.

The new top 8 is almost certain to include three Australians (Cate Campbell, Holly Barratt, and Madeline Groves) and two Canadians (Penny Oleksiak and Rebecca Smith), but after that it’s anybody’s guess. However, the medals are most likely to be won by the Australians and Canadians.

Though better known for her sprint freestyle prowess, Cate Campbell ought to be in the mix for the 50 fly title. Whether she can hold off Canadian star Penny Oleksiak is another story. Oleksiak is a butterfly and mid-distance freestyle specialist, whereas Campbell is a sprint freestyle phenom. While we’ve seen sprint freestylers such as Florent Manaudou and Cesar Cielo win world titles in 50s of stroke–the 50 fly in particular–Cate Campbell has been very up-and-down since a scorching 2015 season. Right now, however, Campbell seems to be on an upswing, considering her 52.37 effort to win the 100 free at Aussie trials and her 23.79 to take the 50 free.

Holly Barratt should also be in the mix for a spot on the podium. Barratt finished 9th in the 50 fly in Budapest; the only Commonwealth swimmer ahead of her was Oleksiak who finished 5th. Madeline Groves will also put up a fight, but she is more of a 200 flier and likely won’t be able to “get going” as quickly as the other women.

Canada’s Rebecca Smith could also make things interesting. She comes in with a seed time of 26.22. Smith, alongside Oleksiak, earned two relay medals (a silver and a bronze) at last summer’s FINA World Junior Championships.

Jamaican sprint breaststroker Alia Atkinson is also entered in the 50 fly and will likely make an appearance in the top 8. Atkinson’s seed time stands at a 26.82 and only ranks her 10th, but given her experience in international competition and her prowess in breaststroke, she ought to be able to make the championship final.

50 Butterfly Podium Predictions

Women’s 100 Butterfly

  • Commonwealth Record: 56.18, Emma McKeon (AUS)
  • Commonwealth Games Record: 57.40, Katherine Savard (CAN)
  • 2014 Commonwealth Champion: Katherine Savard (CAN), 57.40

Emma McKeon and Penny Oleksiak both did well in the summer of 2017, though McKeon’s spark shown brightest at the FINA World Championships in Budapest.

McKeon had a fantastic performance at Worlds, most notably for nabbing silver in the 100 fly to set the current Commonwealth record at 56.18, and by tying Katie Ledecky for the silver in the 200 freestyle in 1:55.18. She also helped Australia win two silvers in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay (anchor, 52.29) and mixed 4 x 100 medley relay (fly, 56.51), as well as two bronze in the 4 x 200 freestyle relay (1:56.26) and the 4 x 100 medley relay (fly, 56.78).

Oleksiak, who was not as fast as she was in Rio (56.64) where she won silver, placed 5th in the 100 fly in 56.94. Oleksiak, however, out-split McKeon on the mixed 4 x 100 medley relay with a blistering 56.18 (tying McKeon’s individual time), to help the Canadians tie for bronze with China. Oleksiak contributed to other Canadian relays in Budapest, though the only one of them to earn a medal was the mixed 4 x 100 freestyle relay which she anchored with a 53.11.

Though it is easy to favor McKeon, the other Aussies in the field–Brianna Throssell and Madeline Groves–are established butterfly stars on Team Australia and did not qualify to race this event on pure happenstance. Groves raced the 100 fly alongside McKeon in Rio, but both of them placed out of the medals with McKeon in 6th and Groves in 17th in 58.17. Throssell took over for Groves in the 100 fly in Budapest, though she did not advance to the championship final, tying for 12th in a 58.21 with the British–or rather, WelshAlys Thomas.

Of the seven British swimmers entered in the women’s 100 butterfly, Alys Thomas of Wales is one of only two with a legitimate shot at making the podium. Charlotte Atkinson of the Isle of Man could also surprise and get herslef on the podium. Though Atkinson only placed 23rd-place ranking at last year’s world championships (59.04), she blasted a 58.18 at the 2018 BUCS Long Course Championships in February, which makes her dangerous.

McKeon is the only 2014 medalist returning to the 100 fly this year, leaving the podium wide open for two new swimmers. Though reigning champions Katherine Savard of Canada will not defend her title, Oleksiak is as good of a successor as she could have hoped for. Bronze is unlikely to go to another English swimmer in Siobhan-Marie O’Connor‘s absence, leaving the door open for yet another Aussie–unless Alys Thomas of Wales or Charlotte Atkinson of Isle of Man have something to say about it. Given where the meet is taking place and what it means to Australia, it will likely be two Aussies and one Canadian on the podium in the 100 fly this year.

100 Butterfly Podium Predictions

Women’s 200 Butterfly

  • Commonwealth Record: 2:03.41, Jessicah Schipper (AUS)
  • Commonwealth Games Record: 2:06.09, Jessicah Schipper (AUS)
  • 2014 Commonwealth Champion: Audrey Lacroix (CAN), 2:07.61

If any Commonwealth record is safe, it’s this one.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Australia’s Madeline Groves narrowly missed becoming an Olympic gold medalist, touching just 3/100ths behind Spain’s Mireia Belmonte. Groves will not contest the 200 fly at this year’s Commonwealth Games, however, as she placed 5th at Australian Trials in March. Instead, newcomer Laura Taylor will take the top seed and represent Australia alongside teammates Brianna Throssell, who placed 8th in Rio in the 200 fly, and Emma McKeon, Rio bronze medalist in the 100 fly.

Taylor enters the meet as the top seed with a 2:06.80, but Isle of Man’s Charlotte Atkinson is close behind at 2:07.10. Last summer in Budapest Atkinson placed 21st in the 200 fly at a 2:10.68, but was as fast as 2:07.06 at the April 2017 British Championships. Though 21st is not a particularly good placing, Throssell and Wales’s Alys Thomas were the only Commonwealth swimmers ahead of her. Ultimately, Thomas placed 13th and Throssell 16th.

England’s Emily Large was the 2017 FINA World Junior Champion last summer in Indianapolis and enters the meet seeded 4th at 2:07.74. Large’s time from Junior Worlds was faster than either of her British teammates’ performances in Budapest–Wales’s Alys Thomas and Isle of Man’s Charlotte Atkinson–so there’s no reason to doubt the 17-year-old this time around.

While Atkinson, Thomas, Throssell, and 3rd-seed Emma McKeon all have 5 or more events to manage, the 18-year-old Taylor only has the 200 fly. Though McKeon had a stellar 2017 and Throssell has been an international force for the Aussie women in the 200 fly since the 2015 world championships where she took 4th in 2:06.78, the young newcomers may prove too strong in this event.

200 Butterfly Podium Predictions

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Ben

I’d be willing to give Emma Mckeon the advantage in the 100m fly, but Oleksiak could potentially win it. I’d be surprised if she doesn’t at least near her national record. it’s hard to predict how fast Oleksiak will go when she was actually faster in February than she was in March, apparently due to being sick in March.

On a side note, apparently one of Oleksiak’s grandmothers died today. I hope that if she still decides to compete, that will motivate her to perform even better if anything.

Dee

The 200 fly podium took me by surprise, I’d be shocked if McKeon was on it – She’ll drop a lot of time from Trials.

50: Campbell/Oleksiak/Barratt
100: McKeon/Oleksiak/Thomas
200: McKeon/Thomas/Throssell

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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