Commonwealth Countdown: Brits & Aussies Clash In Men’s Sprint Free

2018 Commonwealth Games

The sprint freestyle events (including the 200) were dominated by the Australians four years ago at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, as they won 7 of the 9 available medals, including a 1-2-3 podium sweep in the 100 free. Four years later and they’ve certainly got the talented names to pull it off again, but it won’t be easy.

The Brits, who separate into their respective countries England, Scotland and Wales for this competition, are bringing the heat, including the likes of Ben ProudDuncan Scott and James Guy. Along with them, there are many other big names set to challenge the Australians including South African Chad Le Clos and Canadian Yuri Kisil. Let’s take a closer look at the events below:

Men’s 50m Freestyle

  • Commonwealth Record: 21.19, Ashley Callus (AUS), 2009
  • Commonwealth Games Record: 21.76, Ben Proud (ENG), 2014
  • 2014 Commonwealth Champion: Ben Proud (ENG)

England’s Proud comes in with the best pedigree in the 50 free, swimming the fastest time in the field over the last year by over two tenths in 21.32. After swimming that at the British Championships just under a year ago, Proud went on to win bronze at the World Championships in 21.43. The defending champion looks good for a repeat, with perhaps only one man standing in his way.

That is Australian Cameron McEvoy, the 2014 silver medalist, who has been as fast as 21.44 in 2016. He’s been known to perform better at the Australian Trials than at the big international meets in the summer, but with these Games taking place in April in his homeland, perhaps it’s the perfect storm for the 23-year-old. After that 21.44 at Olympic Trials his best swim in Rio was 21.80, then last year a 21.55 at Trials was followed with a 21.81 at the World Championships. Markedly slower at Aussie Nationals this year (21.87 prelim, 22.02 final), perhaps we’ll see him get back down to 21-mid and challenge Proud for the gold.

Behind those two there are three more men who have gone sub-22 in the last year, with Australians James Magnussen and James Roberts and South African Brad Tandy. It’s a little unknown what the capabilities of Magnussen and Roberts are now, as neither man has returned to their 2012 peak when they posted the fastest two textile 100 frees in history at the Olympic Trials. With both missing qualification in the 100, this is their only shot for individual hardware, but either doing much better than 21.9 seems unlikely.

After visa issues kept Tandy out of the 2017 World Championships, he’s ready for a return to the international scene after making the final at the 2016 Olympics. After going a career best of 21.79 to tie for 6th in Rio, the South African went even better (21.70) at the U.S. Open last summer. He’s a good bet for bronze and could move up a spot if McEvoy is off.

Others who will be in the mix include Canada’s Yuri Kisil and Ruslan Gaziev, England’s David Cumberlidge and Thomas Fannon, Scotland’s Jack Thorpe, and New Zealand’s Daniel Hunter and Sam Perry.

TOP 8 PREDICTIONS

Place Swimmer Country 2017 Best All-Time Best
1 Ben Proud England 21.32 21.32
2 Cameron McEvoy Australia 21.55 21.44
3 Brad Tandy South Africa 21.70 21.70
4 James Magnussen Australia 21.98 21.52
5 James Roberts Australia 21.91 21.91
6 Yuri Kisil Canada 22.11 22.11
7 David Cumberlidge England 22.03 22.03
8 Thomas Fannon England 22.10 22.10

Men’s 100m Freestyle

  • Commonwealth Record: 47.04, Cameron McEvoy (AUS), 2016
  • Commonwealth Games Record: 47.98, Brent Hayden (CAN), 2010
  • 2014 Commonwealth Champion: James Magnussen (AUS)

The 100m freestyle may very well be the most intriguing men’s race of the Commonwealth Games. The field is spearheaded by three World Championship finalists from a year ago in Duncan ScottJack Cartwright and McEvoy, all three of whom were 47.9 at some point in the year. Then there’s reigning Olympic gold medalist Kyle Chalmers, who sat out those Worlds to heart surgery, and South African Chad Le Clos, who won Olympic silver in the 200 free. Add in Yuri Kisil of Canada and Dylan Carter of Trinidad and Tobago and we’ve got a stacked event that is bound to be exciting.

It’s hard to select a favorite from that bunch, but then again it’s hard to bet against Chalmers who won Australian Trials in a very impressive 48.16, just a tenth slower than he was prior to winning Olympic gold. His ability on the second 50 may just set him apart from everyone else in the field.

McEvoy, Cartwright and Scott hovered around the 47-high/48-lows last year, so it’s tough to differentiate between the three. Cartwright was the only one to swim his fastest of the year at the World Championships, but was beat out by the other two in the final in Budapest. McEvoy’s big meet experience and his ability to perform in Australia set him apart, but he’ll be in tough to take out Chalmers.

Le Clos is kind of a darkhorse in this race, simply because he doesn’t swim it that often. He’s been 48.1 once and 48.3 twice at non-Championship meets, and there’s an untapped potential in this event that we’ve yet to really see. In Rio, when he was taking out his 200s with ridiculous speed (including 23.3 in the final), it seemed clear he was capable of a time that could contend with Chalmers’ gold medal winning 47.58. He’ll get his chance here.

Kisil was 4th in this event four years ago in 49.27, but has evolved leaps and bounds since then and will challenge the big names for a medal if he’s in top form. He’s had back-to-back 10th place finishes at the Olympics and World Championships, and has split sub-48 on relays on five different occasions. Carter is coming off a solid NCAA Championship performance, though he was a little off of his swims from a year ago. He should be able to get into the final, but will need a big drop to contend for a medal.

Behind these men who have all been 48 or better in the last year, there are a slew of men in the 49-second range. They include Markus Thormeyer of Canada, Jordan Sloan of Northern Ireland, Singapore’s Darren Lim, Wales’ Calum Jarvis, Scotland’s Kieran McGuckin, and New Zealand’s Matthew Stanley, along with some of the 50 contenders such as Cumberlidge, Stanley, Perry and Thorpe.

TOP 8 PREDICTIONS

Place Swimmer Country 2017 Best All-Time Best
1 Kyle Chalmers Australia 48.20 47.58
2 Cameron McEvoy Australia 47.91 47.04
3 Chad Le Clos South Africa 48.38 48.16
4 Duncan Scott Scotland 47.90 47.90
5 Jack Cartwright Australia 47.97 47.97
6 Yuri Kisil Canada 48.50 48.28
7 Dylan Carter Trinidad & Tobago 48.87 48.80
8 Markus Thormeyer Canada 49.13 49.13

200m Freestyle

  • Commonwealth Record: 1:44.06, Ian Thorpe (AUS), 2001
  • Commonwealth Games Record: 1:44.71, Ian Thorpe (AUS), 2002
  • 2014 Commonwealth Champion: Thomas Fraser-Holmes (AUS)

After swimming alongside one another as teammates at the Olympics and World Championships, Scotland’s Scott and England’s James Guy come in as rivals in the 200 freestyle. The two posted 1:45.1s in the World semi-finals for the top two spots last year, only to fall short of the medals with Scott finishing 4th and Guy 5th. The two not only swam near identical times last year, but have done so once again this season as they went 1:47.8 and 1:47.9 at the Euro Meet in Luxembourg. It’s no doubt going to be a close one, but with Scott edging the 2015 world champion in the last few matchups, we’ll give him the nod.

Chad Le Clos once again needs to be considered a serious threat to win it all in this race. The Olympic silver medalist opted not to swim this event at the 2017 World Championships, but has a best (1:45.20) nearly identical to Guy and Scott. There’s a chance he drops out with the 50 fly final scheduled about 20 minutes prior to this one, but in all likelihood he’ll do both. If he decides to take it out like we saw him do at the Olympics, he may be able to hold off the Brits and snag gold. If he switches up his strategy and opts to just hang with them for the first 150, he may be able to out-sprint them at the end. Either way he’s a big threat.

The Australians will also be dangerous here, with Chalmers, Mack Horton and Alexander Graham all going 1:46 at their Trials in March. They’ve got the 100 guy, the 400+ guy, and then the pure 200 swimmer, but will any of them be able to challenge for the top spot? Horton will be able to close like a monster, but doesn’t have the opening speed to stay with the leaders for the first 150, and Graham has only broken 1:47 once, so he has a lot to prove. Chalmers looks to be the only one who has a shot, but he’ll still need to be almost a second and a half under his lifetime best.

Scotland’s Stephen Milne has swam on the last two British 4×200 free relays at both the Olympics and World Championships, and figures into the finals picture with a best of 1:46.70. 100m contenders Jarvis, Carter, Stanley and Sloan will be joined by England’s Nicholas Grainger and Malaysia’s Welson Sim in the battle for a finals berth.

TOP 8 PREDICTIONS

Place Swimmer Country 2017 Best All-Time Best
1 Duncan Scott Scotland 1:45.16 1:45.16
2 James Guy England 1:45.18 1:45.14
3 Chad Le Clos South Africa 1:46.84 1:45.20
4 Kyle Chalmers Australia 1:46.87 1:46.49
5 Mack Horton Australia 1:46.81 1:46.76
6 Stephen Milne Scotland 1:46.78 1:46.70
7 Alexander Graham Australia 1:47.39 1:46.72
8 Nicholas Grainger England 1:47.28 1:47.10

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Drama King
4 years ago

How the Cartwright’s health conditions working out now ? ?

KeithM
4 years ago

I like Scott in the 200. He’s younger than his main rivals and you could tell he was still working out how to pace this race last year.

STRAIGHTBLACKLINE
4 years ago

He was never going to be a factor in this race but didn’t Mack Horton say he would pull out of the 200? I think this race will be between James Guy and Duncan Scott but Kyle Chalmers will put in a strong challenge to announce himself as a future contender in this event.

Sum Ting Wong
4 years ago

Spare a thought for Cape Town which is under a severe severe water shortage . Water is obtained only via civic pumps in parts of the city .

In droughts many Australian towns have had to decide to fill their pools although they ususally do for health & rec reasons . However swimming in SA is a White dominated sport & feelings of anger towards swimmers could easily erupt . Hopefully nothing like the hatred Chad gets on SwSw however .

Dee
4 years ago

Honestly struggle to see Scott beating Le Clos in the 200 if he is behind him in the 100.

50
GOLD: Ben Proud
SILVER: Brad Tandy
BRONZE: Cam McEvoy

100
GOLD: Kyle Chalmers
SILVER: Cam McEvoy
BRONZE: Duncan Scott

200
GOLD: Chad Le Clos
SILVER: James Guy
BRONZE: Duncan Scott

Pvdh
Reply to  Dee
4 years ago

Guy is a 1:43 split swimmer, looks in good form! Why would you pick le clos ahead of him? Unless you think guy is more focused on improving fly which is possible.

Dee
Reply to  Pvdh
4 years ago

James is really hard to gauge this year – Hasnt had to taper so has swam very heavy all year. I suspect he will turn up very fast, but he has had a tendency in recent meets (Olys/Worlds) to swim into meets – 200 on day 2 might be a tad early for his best if that trend continues. Hope I am wrong!

commonwombat
Reply to  Dee
4 years ago

Think that, barring injury or illness, Proud would need to break or not turn up on the night not to win the 50free comfortably. Minor coin is anyone’s bet. The Australians are all capable of a fast time but none of them have a record of consistency at this distance. Tandy, as the only other sub22 man, has to be rated a medal chance

The 100free frankly looks a lottery. Whilst all 3 Australians are sub48 men, none of them have been there this season or even looked particularly sharp. IF its a fast race, then realistically they and Scott should fight out the podium (with Chalmers probably being my pick of which AUS is most likely). However, if its… Read more »

Dee
Reply to  commonwombat
4 years ago

Agree with most of what you say as usual!

I think I am being a tad conservative on predicting the Brit swimmers as our big names havent had a taper since last summer – This has the same vibe as going into spring nationals, and you always get a few surpises there.

dfgdfg
4 years ago

I’m so excited for this meet. Can’t wait to see what the Canadian women have in store, with Taylor Ruck, Kylie Mass, Hillary Caldwell, Kierra Smith, and hopefully a very fast, returned to form, Penny Oleksiak

dfgdfg
4 years ago

I have a feeling this article is underestimating chad le clos

E+Gamble
Reply to  dfgdfg
4 years ago

Chad always does better absent the USA swimmers. That would not be surprising at all.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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