It’s the last day of the meet, and 12 World Championships will be handed out. Lot’s of great racing, but here’s four that we will be watching closely.
1. Can Schoeman Bounce Back? – South Africa’s Roland Schoeman, who is usually a terror in short course, has been sick all week, and his performance has suffered in a big way. He’s finally into a final (50 breaststroke), and I will be curious to see how he comes out and performs.
2. American Sweeps – Though overall, the Americans haven’t won as many medals as they would’ve liked, they still lead the overall medal count (18) headed into the final day. This is thanks in huge part to Ryan Lochte and Rebecca Soni, who will both be aiming for a sweep in their specialty (Lochte’s IMs and Soni’s breaststrokes).
3. Men’s Medley – At the international level, the men’s medley relay is by far my favorite relay to watch. I love seeing the top countries, all who seem to have one weakness, duke it out in relays full of superstars. The Russians are weak in the breaststroke, and the Americans have some serious soul-searching to do when putting together this relay. Should be fun.
4. Men’s 1500 Free – Timed final 1500 frees are always tricky races, especially when arguably the gold medal favorite (Ous Mellouli) swims in the morning. This is a wide-open race, which hopefully makes for 60 lengths of back-and-forth action
Men’s 100 free
1. Cesar Cielo (Brazil)
2. Fabien Gilot (France)
3. Alain Bernard (France)
Rationale: Cielo is just so powerful right now. After seeing his 50, where he exploded out of the water after his breakout, I think he’ll take the lead early on this one and use his power underwater to blow away from the field. Bernard was only the 4th seed after semis, but still won the much slower heat. Gilot has had better swims than his teammate in both the semi-finals and on the relay, and I think he’s good for at least one more in this final.
Women’s 50 backstroke
1. Jing Zhao (China)
2. Aleksandra Gerasimenya (Bulgaria)
3. Rachel Goh (Australia)
Falling Star Gao Chang (China)
Rationale: Coming into this meet, Gao Chang looked poised to dominate the two sprint backstroke events. Even headed into the final of the 100, she looked really solid. Things seem to have begun falling apart for her after taking the bronze in that event, and she qualified only 7th for this final. Of course, anything can happen in a 50 meter race, but I can’t see Chang even finaling.
Men’s 200 backstroke
1. Ryan Lochte (USA)
2. Arkady Vyatchanin (Russia)
3. Tyler Clary (USA)
Beast from the East: Ryosuke Irie (Japan)
Rationale: With how he’s been swimming, Lochte will win this one. I don’t see another World Record coming, because if he gets clear water he’ll probably ease off to save as much as possible for the 100 IM that comes two events later. Vyatchanin is a short course genius, the current world record holder and has the best time in the world this year by over a second. Clary has been solid in this meet and has proven that he’s to be considered amongst the best 5 swimmers in the world, and I think he wins another bronze in this event. Irie is the only other swimmer within 2 seconds of Vyatachnin this year, and will round out the top 4 in some position.
Women’s 200 breaststroke
1. Rebecca Soni (USA)
2. Rikke Moeller Pedersen (Denmark)
3. Rie Kaneto (Japan)
Chinese Sneakers: Liping Ji (China) and Ye Sun (China)
Rationale: Leisel Jones, just like the 50, was not entered in this event, meaning she flew all the way to Dubai from Australia to swim a single individual event? Odd. That leaves the silver and bronze medals wide open. Well, not really. Pedersen has the clear inside track for silver, and the three Asians should duke it out for the bronze. I give the edge to Kaneto, based on her having a better long course time and being seemingly better than the other two short course.
Men’s 100 IM
1. Ryan Lochte (USA)
2. Markus Deibler (Germany)
3. George Bovell III (Trinidad & Tobago)
Rationale: It would be foolish to pick against Ryan Lochte and a World Record, even within 15 minutes after his 200 back final. Markus, the younger Deibler brother, is coming into his own and is a heavy favorite for the honor of “that other guy who swam fast not named Ryan Lochte.” Bovell put up a great time in the semi-finals despite having to chase down The Man, and I think he’ll improve the front half of his race and take bronze. Peter Mankoc, who has won gold or silver in this event at every short course WC since 2002, failed to final in this race, which perhaps marking the end of an era.
Women’s 100 fly
1. Therese Alshammar (Sweden)
2. Felicity Galvez (Australia)
3. Christine Magnuson (USA)
3. Liu Zige (China)
Rationale: Alshammar is a relative newcomer to this event, despite her decade-long domination of the 50 fly, and has looked very good so far. Just like in the 50, this will be a battle between her and Felicity Galvez for the win, with the rest of the field battling for bronze. Galvez was the champion at the last World SC meet in 2008, but I don’t think anyone is beating Alshammar in a butterfly event short course. I’m calling it: Magnuson and Zige will tie for the bronze. Ok, this probably won’t happen, but these two swimmers are going to be very, very, very close. VERY close. If there is an edge, it goes to Magnuson, because she out-touched Zige head-to-head already in the semifinals.
Men’s 50 breaststroke
1. Cameron van der Burgh (South Africa)
2. Felipe Silva (Brazil)
3. Roland Schoeman (South Africa)
Rebound: Mike Alexandrov
Rationale: Van der Burgh sits second headed into the final, behind Felipe Silva. In the 100 breaststroke, the two tied in semi-finals, before the van der Burgh blew everyone away in the final. I think he’s holding back again, and will win this event. I’m picking SILVA for SILVA again. Schoeman has been suffering with bronchitis for a week now, and he seems to be feeling a little better after finally making a final. If he feels better tomorrow, then I like him to get the bronze. If not, I like Alexandrov to power through.
Men’s 200 fly
1. Pawel Korzeniowski (Poland)
2. Kaio Almeida (Brazil)
3. Tyler Clary (USA)
July Heat: Christopher Wright (Australia)
Rationale: Korzeniowski was this summer’s European Champion in the 200 fly by over a second, and was the 4th fastest in the world. Yet hardly anything is ever heard about him in the international conversation. He has swum extremely well this year, and I think he can win this race. Almeida takes silver. I know it’s crazy, but I think Clary can double-medal despite his brutal schedule in the final session. If there’s anyone who’s off his rocker enough to make this work, it’s the man who claims the 400 IM as his all-time favorite event. Him missing the final in the 100 IM was almost a blessing-in-disguise. Christopher Wright has the best time so far this year of anyone entered in the event, but that time was from July. The Australian team has looked worn out after an extremely busy 6-months of international competition, and I’m not sure that time will hold up here.
Men’s 1500 free
1. Federico Colbertado (Italy)
2. Samuel Pizzetti (Italy)
3. Ous Mellouli (Tunisia)
4. Sebastian Roualt (France)
5. Jan Wolfgarten (Germany)
From the Morning Heats: Sergey Bolshakov (Russia)
Rationale: The Italian men have been swimming out of their minds so far at this meet, and with two of the top 3 or 4 distance swimmers in this race, I like Colbertado and Pizzetti to take the top spots. Roualt is the second-best swimmer in the field, and struggled somewhat in the 400. He’s still strong enough to get the bronze. If there’s anyone from the morning heats (this is a timed final) who will swim a time that competes with the big dogs, it’s Sergey Bolshakov from Russia, who is an open water specialist.
It almost feels criminal to not pick Mellouli on the podium, but it’s going to be so hard for him to pace himself in the second of four heats against a field of swimmers that he could easily lap. Germany’s Jan Wolfgarten should be among the top of the final heat as well.
Women’s 200 free
1. Camille Muffat (France)
2. Kylie Palmer (Australia)
3. Frederike Heemskerk (The Netherlands)
4. Katie Hoff (USA)
Rationale: There are four swimmers in this field who have been swimming extremely well this meet—Muffat, Palmer, Heemskerk, and Hoff. Luckily, we got a preview of where everyone stands in the 800 free relay. Muffat had a very light schedule, so I think she gets the advantage and wins. Palmer is the hottest of the group, and had a phenomenal anchor on the relay. Heemskerk has the best time coming into the race from the Berlin World Cup stop, and should grab a silver medal. Hoff won the 400, but I think she’s the odd man out in this race (because someone has to be). Pellegrini, the World Record holder, can’t be counted out either. One thing is certain in this race: the meet record is going to be crushed. It has stood since 2002 at 1:54.04 by Lindsay Benko (there’s a blast from the past), and six swimmers in the world have beaten that mark already this season.
Men’s 400 Medley Relay
In the Mix: Germany, Brazil, Japan
Rationale: Russia has the World Champion in both the backstroke and the fly. They’ve got the champion in the 200 free who is also a beast in the 100. If anyone’s going to beat them in this relay, they’ll have to make up a mile in the breaststroke, where Russia’s highest individual finisher was 13th: almost 2 seconds behind the event winner. Fortunately for the Russians, only one of the contenders in this race had a finalist, and that’s the USA and Mike Alexandrov, who was fourth individually.
The only way the USA has a chance is if Lochte is on this relay, and even that is no sure thing with him having 2 other finals. Original thoughts had the backstroke as the spot for Lochte, but Thoman has been swimming pretty well, and it now seems that Lochte will be more valuable on the free or fly legs. France has a bunch of sprinters, and a very good breaststroker (Duboscq) who’s had a not-so-good meet. If they can put things together, and Bosquet can swim a decent butterfly leg, they could be in the mix.
Other teams that will be in a tight pack for medals include Germany and the Deibler brothers, Brazil with Cielo and Almeida, and Japan, with a solid, well-rounded foursome.