Day 3 finals will be the busiest yet. Here’s the three things I’ll be watching for:
1. Young Swimmers Looking for First Medals: I love watching young swimmers at huge meets, because it’s always very interesting to see how they react to the pressure. Two of the youngest finalists, USA’s Missy Frankin (15) and Australia’s Kotuku Ngawati (16) should get their first taste during this session.
2. Women’s 400 Free: We’ve only seen Katie Hoff in a relay swim so far, but she looked really good there. Federica Pellegrini, who was widely expected to have a great meet, has not. Along with the French and Chloe Sutton, this might be one of the most intriguing races of the race.
3. Lochte Record Watch: Ok, I know this isn’t very deep, but look out for Lochte to break another World Record. His time from the Manchester meet, most of which haven’t held up this year, is only .01 off of the world mark. With how he’s been swimming, there’s no way that record survives.
Women’s 100 freestyle
1. Ranomi Kromowidjojo (The Netherlands)
2. Natalie Coughlin (USA)
3. Frederike Heemskerk (The Netherlands)
“Four” Good Measure: Dana Vollmer (USA)
Rationale: These four women represent the top 15 times in the country in this event so far this season, and seem to be prohibitively favored to take the top 4 spots in this race. The order, however, is a whole different issue. Ranomi Kromowidjojo seems to be mentally refreshed after missing a ton of training time with viral meningitis, and I think she’s got the spring back in her step to take it. Coughlin was excellent underwater to win the 100 back, but after that race looked worn out from some rough travel, so I don’t know if she’ll have what it takes to get the win again here. She put up the best time of the meet in prelims, however, before easing off a little in semi-finals due to her 100 back final, so she might still have another gear to find. Heemskerk looked great in the first two rounds and should be on the medal stand ahead of Vollmer, who has looked good but not lights out so far in Dubai.
Women’s 200 backstroke
1. Alexianne Castel (France)
2. Missy Franklin (USA)
3. Sharon van Rouwendaal (The Netherlands)
In An Open Field: Dayna Zevina
Rationale: In a complete 180 from the women’s 100 free, this race features only one of the top 5 swimmers in the world (Castel) and it could become a runaway for her. In fact, there are only 4 of the world’s top 15 200 short course backstrokers from this season who will be swimming this race. The wildcard in this is Franklin, who has not swum a short course meters 200 back on any significant level. She’s young, but has the size to take advantage of the extra walls and sneak in to a medal in a weakened field. After how she’s been swimming, I’m confident that she can win her first career World Championship medal in this event. Van Rouwendall, like Franklin, is young, and is the next best swimmer (on paper). Zevina is the other swimmer who is in the top 10, so she could make the podium as well.
Men’s 200 breaststroke
1. Naoya Tomita (Japan)
2. Daniel Gyurta (Hungary)
3. Felipe Silva
Guilty Pleasure: Brenton Rickard (Australia)
Rationale: Tomita has the best SCM time in the world this year by over a second and a half, and at 21 years old he’s at that perfect age to jump from one taper meet to the next without losing much, if anything. Gyurta was the long course European Champion in this event, and thus far the Euro LC Champs have scored a lot of silver medals. Alexandrov didn’t swim poorly in the 100 breaststroke on day 2. In fact, he swam quite well until the final, where he swam a good time but just got beat by three swimmers who had near-perfect races. The best American yards breaststroker ever, Mike Alexandrov, won’t swim this event, which leaves the bronze wide open. Silva almost defaults into the spot, though like most Brazilians he’s better in the shorter races. Germany’s Marco Koch will also be in the mix. As far as Rickard, I keep picking him to medal, but he keeps letting me down. I’ve still got confidence in him though, and think he’ll get a top 4 finish.
Women’s 50 fly
1. Therese Alshammar (Sweden)
2. Felicity Galvez (Australia)
3. Inge Dekker (The Netherlands)
Off the Blocks: Triin Alljand (Estonia) and Christine Magnuson (USA)
Rationale: This race is going to be broken into two different parts. Felicity Galvez and Therese Alshammar will be battling for the gold, and the rest of the field will be fighting it out for bronze. I give Alshammar the slight mental edge over Galvez because the Swede has been the top seed in both rounds so far, including two Championship efforts. For the bronze, I like Dekker’s consistency to carry ahead of the likes of Ying Lu for a medal. Alljand and Magnuson are two to watch as they had the two fastest starts in the semi-finals, which often translates to big things in short course 50’s.
Men’s 400 freestyle
1. Ous Mellouli (Tunisia)
2. Paul Biedermann (Germany)
3. Yannick Agnel (France)
Rationale: Mellouli has looked really good in this meet so far, and of the three events he’s swum so far (400 free, 400 IM, 200 free) this is his best. He cruises to a win here. Biedermann is the current world record holder in this event, and though he hasn’t been the same since the rubber suit era, he’s been better short course in the 400 than the 200 (though his 200 has gotten him more publicity). His big struggle in this race has been consistency, as in the month of November he swam a 3:39, a 3:41, and a 3:42 in the World Cup series. Agnel got off to a rocky start when he didn’t final in the 200, but his nerves seemed to settle down greatly after anchoring the French 400 free relay to a victory.
Women’s 400 free
1. Kate Hoff (USA)
2. Coralie Balmy (France)
3. Chloe Sutton (USA)
Needs to Turn the Meet Around: Federica Pellegrini
Rationale: I originally liked Pellegrini to win this race, but after seeing her swim the women’s 800 free relay, I’ve lost a lot of confidence in her training. Hoff, on the other hand, has showed enough early to jump to the gold medal spot in my predictions. The French women are very, very good at this event, and without Camille Muffat being entered Balmy is the best of the bunch who will be swimming. Sutton is developing into a very nice 400 freestyler, and I think this will be a good race for her, though with her open water background she hasn’t spent as much time working on turns as some of the other pool swimmers have, which costs her in short course.
Men’s 50 freestyle
1. Cesar Cielo (Brazil)
2. Fred Bosquet (France)
3. Sergey Fesikov (Russia)
Los Italianos: Marco Orsi (Italy) and Luca Dotto (Italy)
Rationale: Cielo looked like a men amongst boys in the prelims with a fantastic textile 20.61, and with the swims that Bosquet has been putting up, it appears that Brett Hawke has recaptured his sprinting magic down at Auburn. I like the teammates to go 1-2 well clear of the rest of the field. The third spot is a little more open, but I think Fesikov is a strong candidate, along with Steffen Deibler of Germany. The Italian men overall have been well outperforming expectations and reputations at this meet, so don’t sleep on Orsi and Dotto. With a lot of big names failing to final (Adrian, Schoeman the World Record holder) a lot of things could happen with this race, and it should be exciting. Josh Schneider won the swimoff to give the Americans an A finalist.
Women’s 100 IM
1. Ariana Kukors (USA)
2. Hinkelein Schreuder (The Netherlands)
3. Kotuku Ngawati (Australia)
Outside Smoke: Theresa Michalak (Germany)
Rationale: Kukors was the only swimmer under the old Championship Record in the semis, and looks to be the class of the field in the sprint IM. Schreuder still hasn’t gone even close to her best time of the season, and the veteran seems to be biding her energy for a big finals swim. Ngawati is a young, 16-year old Australian who is going to get her big international exposure in this meet. The shorter the race, the better she is, and the 100 IM is her best event. Michalak will be in lane 8 for the final, but her time was right in the thick of the race through 50 meters and was likely a victim of being in the slower heat. She’ll be up in the lead group throughout this race.
Men’s 200 IM
1. Ryan Lochte (USA)
2. Markus Rogan (Austria)
3. Markus Deibler (Germany)
Rationale: I’ve got this race following the psych sheets. Lochte already has two Championship Records, and one World Record to his name. He holds the CR from 2008, and based on his performances so far, I’ve gotta believe that he’s better than he was in 2008 even taking out the suit factor. Of note, the Championship Record is only .01 slower than the World Record. Behind Lochte, I like two short course stars Markus Rogan (who was second to Lochte at US Nationals) and Markus Deibler. Absent Pereira, these three are the best short course 20o IM’ers in the world, and every indication is that they’ve shown up at this meet ready to swim. All they have to do is what they’re capable of, and this will be an easy top 3.
Women’s 400 Medley Relay
2. The Netherlands
One Swimmer Shy: Sweden
Rationale: Broken down leg-by-leg, amongst the contenders, Team USA will have the best of the first two legs in Coughlin and Soni. Sweden will have the best on the butterfly in Alshammar. The Netherlands will have the best freestyler in…whoever they enter in that leg. This makes the Americans the easy pick, as they will get a sizeable lead and should be able to hang on at the end like they did at Pan Pacs. The Netherlands is having a great meet, and though they are freestyle heavy, each of their sprinters has a secondary stroke that they’re also very good at. The Chinese are very strong, but are a little unpredictable. If they show up, they could easily win this race. If they don’t, they could easily fall out of the medals. The Swedes are a sprint backstroker away from being competitive with the top 3, but should finish 4th.