The following article is provided for entertainment purposes only. Please check the laws in your locality before wagering, and please consider the possible legal or ethical repercussions if you choose to bet on swimming.
The European oddsmakers have released their lines for the swimming portion of the 2015 FINA World Championships. While we here at SwimSwam do not bet on swimming, nor do we endorse said practice, we do find it to be an interesting prognostic exercise in a theoretical sense. If we were betting types — and we’re not — here’s what we’d consider the five best bets and the five worse bets of the championship.
Before you start excoriating us in the comments section, this is not about who we think it is likely to win or lose. Rather, our “best” and “worse” ratings have to do with betting smart (hypothetically, we can’t stress this enough) and playing the odds to make the most (hypothetical) money.
Five Best Bets
1. Cameron van der Burgh (7/1) 100 breast.
We are well aware that Adam Peaty shattered the world record last year, and that there have been some disputes about the legality of van der Burgh’s stroke, to put it mildly. But he’s an experienced competitor with a history of success at the highest levels, and while we feel like he’s probably more likely to pick up silver here, we like these odds for him.
2. Missy Franklin (9/4) in 100 back.
2014 was a bit of down year for Franklin, with back spasms causing her to perform at not quite the otherworldly level we’ve become accustomed to seeing from her. We can only assume that last year’s travails, the unsettled situation of going pro and going back to her old coach, Todd Schmidt, and Emily Seebohm’s success this year, have the oddsmakers thinking that Seebohm is the favorite (to the tune of 11/8 odds). And she may very well be the favorite, but we think Missy has been putting in the training, and we’d definitely be willing to take these odds on Missy winning the gold here and silencing the naysayers.
3. Women’s 4×100 free: either USA (7/1) or Netherlands (9/1).
Let’s say you don’t want to play it safe — you want to win, and win big — your chances of an upset on a relay can be relatively good.
Yes, Australia has the Campbell sisters and looked unstoppable last year. Yes, Australia women currently occupy four of the top six world rankings in the individual 100 free. Yes, Australia is the clear the favorite, with 1/16 odds. But, the history of international swimming is replete with examples of teams that went into events as the favorites to win relays and failed to do so. A bad swim here, or a false start there, and the outcome can look much different than expected. Sure, we’d be daft not to pick Australia if our lives were to depend on the outcome of this race, but the odds for both the USA and the Netherlands seem reasonable enough to throw down a “just in case” wager.
4. Mitchell Larkin (12/1) in the 100 back.
Last summer at Pan Pacs, Larkin was only .01 out of a bronze medal, only .19 behind Matt Grever’s silver-winning time, and only .26 behind gold medalist Ryosuke Irie. He also has third-fastest time in the world this year, behind Irie and Great Britain’s Christopher Walker-Heborn. While all three of the aforementioned men are definitely more likely to win gold here, we really like the 12/1 odds on Larkin if you were to feel like taking a moderate risk. If you want to put some money on the favorites, Irie and Grevers are the co-favorites, both listed at 5/2.
5. Ryan Lochte (4/11) in the 200 IM.
This is the ultimate play-it-safe-but-can-still-make-some-money bet. The only swimmers who seem more likely to win a particular individual event are Katie Ledecky and Cate Campbell, and the sprint freestyles are never certain. Unlike Ledecky (see below), the odds for Lochte are pretty reasonable. If you’re looking for a bet that has a very good chance of paying off without leaving you exposed for lots of money, Lochte is the way to go.
Honorable mention: Cate Campbell in the 100 free. As we said, anything can happen in the 100 free, but given her dominance over the past few years, 5/6 odds seem pretty reasonable.
Five Worst Bets
1. Adam Peaty (1/7) in the 100 breast.
As we’ve already admitted, Peaty shattered the world record in this event just a few months. However, he’s yet to win a medal on a stage this big. He is in all likelihood going to win, but this is fairly high risk compared to payout.
2. Katie Ledecky (1/50) in the 400 free.
Don’t do it. Sure, Ledecky has been dominant in the women’s 400 free, though of the three distance races it was the last one where she broke the World Record. She’s shattered world records, and as her speed continues to improve, she’ll probably win this event by a few seconds. But there’s just no reason to risk so much for so little here. Things happen in swimming. It’s tough to get disqualified in freestyle, so that’s not a huge risk, but swimmers get sick, conserve energy for a grueling schedule, or suddenly get out swum by some 15 year-old who came out of “nowhere.” None of that is particularly likely here, but still 1/50 odds just don’t seem worth it (if you bet $100, you get $102 in return. Ouch). At the very least, go with Ledecky in the 1500 (1/33 odds) or the 800 (1/25 odds). On a practical level, she’s just as likely to win each of those, and you won’t be quite as exposed should something go horribly wrong.
3. World record (8/13) in the women’s 4×200 free.
Not this year. We’re not saying that it can’t go down, but the likely USA foursome of Ledecky, Franklin, Shannon Vreeland, and Leah Smith have a combined time of 7:44.30 if you add up their best flat starts, which is about 2.2 seconds Ledecky and Franklin are going to be in the middle of intense schedules. If the odds were something closer to 3/2, we’d say definitely go for it. But 8/13 odds means that the oddsmakers are thinking it’s about 60% more likely to happen than not, and you just can’t be that certain.
4. Katinka Hosszu (5/2) in the 200 back.
Maybe you’re riding high on the Iron Lady’s chances of success here in Kazan, and you’re tempted to place a bet on her in every event. Leave this one off your list. Not only does this come at the end of a grueling seven-event schedule, but Hosszu would also have to get through both Franklin and Seebohm to take the gold here. It would be quite the legendary achievement, but the chances are so slim that it’s not worth even these odds.
5. USA (13/2) in the men’s 4×100 free relay.
This hurts to write, but there is almost no way that the USA can take gold in this relay. Nathan Adrian is a stud, but even he has seemed off his game a little bit last year and into this year. After that…lots of questions. Can Jimmy Feigen get back under 48 seconds? Can Ryan Lochte? Who out of Grevers, Anthony Ervin, and Conor Dwyer will end up swimming in the evening? Will this be the oldest relay team ever in international competition?
Meanwhile, France has dominated this relay for the past few years, and has plenty of depth, even without Yannick Agnel. Russia also a ton of experience and a record of impressive performances. Almost certainly one of those two teams will take the gold here. Australia is still dangerous, even without James Magnussen, and could even pick up a bronze here, knocking the USA off the podium.
USA fans — if you’re feeling really patriotic — and want to put your (hypothetical) money where your mouth is, be our guests to lay it down on the USA winning this race, but when you have to (hypothetically) pay out, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Okay, so maybe things aren’t quite as dire for the USA as we make them out to be. Like we say, anything can happen in a relay. But if any of the USA relay swimmers want to use what we’ve written above for a little extra motivation, be our guests.