Picks: Finishing the Races

  12 Braden Keith | July 27th, 2012 | Featured, London 2012 Olympics, News

Sometimes, you just run out of pool. You’re swimming a 200 and need 202 meters to pull off the victory.

We’ve hit that wall. To make sure that everyone has enough information to finish filling out their predictions, we’re going to sprint through the rest of the individual events in one post.

Check out our full listing of race-by-race previews here.

Men’s 200 Free

Breakdown: The defending champ Michael Phelps has dropped the race to focus on the 400 free relay – by most accounts a wise move. Based on 2011 alone, Ryan Lochte would be a big favorite. But many things have transgressed this year. France’s Yannick Agnel has switched his focus to the shorter freestyles with great success, and more importantly is healthy. His 1:44.42 already this year is faster than Lochte’s winning time from Worlds.

 Sun Yang is also entered in the event, and Park Tae-Hwan just generally is swimming extremely well. Paul Biedermann could get squeezed out of the podium even with a great swim, though he’s the World Record holder. That seems to be the 5 on deck, though someone like Russia’s Danila Izotov has been waiting for a breakout. He came up alongside Agnel, and though both are huge swimmers the Frenchman has done a lot more internationally.

2011 finalist Nikita Lobintsev won’t swim the 200 this year.

Top 8, with seeds:

1. Yannick Agnel (France)
2. Ryan Lochte (USA)
3. Park Tae Hwan (South Korea)
4. Paul Biedermann (Germany)
5. Sun Yang (China)
6. Danila Izotov (Russia)
7. Robbie Renwick (Great Britain)
8. Dominik Meichtry (Switzerland)
Darkhorse: Shaune Fraser (Cayman Islands)

Men’s 400 IM

Breakdown: The first battle of Phelps versus Lochte. Lochte had a slight edge at the Olympic Trials, but in this race (as compared to the 200 IM), Phelps looked a little bit more in cruise control. Of course, being about 4 inches taller than Lochte might make him look easier even if he’s not. After Lochte ran away from the field at the World Championships in 2011, we can expect a much tighter battle this year, but still nobody will challenge the two Americans.

The two favorites for bronze have to be Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh and Brazil’s Thiago Pereira, even though neither so much as finaled in this race at Worlds. Pereira scratched the race altogether, and Cseh was 22nd, in a 4:22, in the morning heats. Both were struggling to adapt to the thick Beijing air, and neither felt healthy at that meet.

The two young Japanese swimmers, Yuya Horihata (the defending bronze medalist) and Kosuke Hagino have both been 4:10’s this year to set the bar for the podium. Suffice it to say, it’s going to take a 4:09 to medal – something nobody outside of the US did in all of 2011. Others who could get there are the two Chinese swimmers, and Australia’s Thomas Fraser-Holmes who stunned his country by breaking a National Record in the race at Trials. It would seem as though the 4:16’s that final’ed last year will be left out in London.

South Africa’s Chadle Clos could also final in this race.

1. Ryan Lochte (USA) –
2. Michael Phelps (USA)
3. Thiago Pereira (Brazil)
4. Laszlo Cseh (Hungary)
5. Yuya Horihata (Japan)
6. Thomas Fraser-Holmes (Australia)
7. Chengxiang Wang (China)
8. Kosuke Hagino (Japan)
Darkhorse: Luca Marin (Italy)

Men’s 400 Free

Breakdown: Between the two southeast Asians Tae-Hwan Park and Sun Yang, both trained in Australia, Park is the better 200 freestyler and Yang is the better 1500 freestyler (though, both will be looking to disprove the other’s dominance this summer).

Where does the pendulum land when the race is midpoint betwixt the two? It has to be with Park, the defending Olympic Champion in the race.

Two of the three medalists from Beijing aren’t swimming at these Games, so there will be some new blood on the podium. Yang has to be there – he seems to have put some work into his speed this year: at least enough to get to a 3:42. Paul Biedermann is more recognized for his 200, but he’s consistently medaled in this 400. This would leave the same top three as we had at World’s last year.

Peter Vanderkaay would have had to do some serious work from Trials if he wants to get there. We don’t really know what Ryan Cochrane is doing right now, except probably wearing a cap, and France’s Yannick Agnel has dropped the race. I feel comfortable picking a Worlds repeat in the race.

Don’t sleep on Ryan Napoleon. He didn’t have a great Worlds, but clearly has 3:44 ability in this race.

1. Partk Tae Hwan (South Korea)
2. Sun Yang (China)
3. Paul Biedermann (Germany)
4. Ryan Cochrane (Canada)
5. Peter Vanderkaay (USA)
6. Ryan Napoleon (Australia)
7. Ous Mellouli (Tunisia)
8. Gergo Kis (Hungary)
Darkhorse: Heerden Herman (South Africa)

Men’s 1500 Free

Breakdown: There are more swimmers in the 1500 than there are in the 400, which is mildly surprising Sun Yang is the World Record holder, but Park Tae Hwan has made himself a third head-to-head battle against a man with whom he is fighting for dominance of the sporting attention of the entire Asian continent. We haven’t seen Park’s best in the 1500, but still he’s already the 5th seed.

Honestly, I don’t think that Yang gets back to his World Record of 14:34.14. It wouldn’t be the first time that a gold medalist failed to break their own World Record at the Olympics. But the Olympic Record, held by Grant Hackett at 14:38.92, should be smashed.

If Yang comes back to the field, even a second or two, this race gets opened wide. Ryan Cochrane can do that. Gergo Kis from Hungary can do that. Pal Joensen can do that. Italy’s Paltrinieri can do that.

The Americans probably miss the podium; the lone swimmer they had who seemed to have the goods for a 14:45 didn’t make the team. Andrew Gemmell continues to surprise, though, so maybe he has another gear.

1. Sun Yang (China)
2. Ryan Cochrane (Canada)
3. Park Tae-Hwan (S. Korea)
4. Ous Mellouli (Tunisia)
5. Pal Joensen (Denmark)
6. Gergo Kis (Hungary)
7. Andrew Gemmell (USA)
8. Gergorio Paltrinieri (Italy)
Darkhorse: Gergeley Gyurta (Hungary)

Women’s 200 Free

Breakdown: Allison Schmitt was outstanding in the 200 free at the US Olympic Trials, and now comes in with the top seed. We saw what happened last year, where she had a bad swim in finals and missed a sure-thing medal, though. Alternatively, Federica Pellegrini always seems to get the job done when it counts. And, of course, there’s Camille Muffat from France. She’s just been out of her mind all year long, and appears to be so dialed-in that she can swim this race however she wants and post a 1:54. Go out in a minute? Come back in 54. Go out in 53, come back in a 1:01? It’s hard to bet against her.

The Netherlands’ Femke Heemskerk fell out of the conversation in the last 12 months as swimmers like Muffat has moved in, but remember that through the first two rounds of the World Championships last year, she was locked-and-loaded. If she can conserve some energy for the final this year (though with more depth, that will be harder to do), she can be on the podium as well.

Keep in mind that between Heemskerk and the USA’s Missy Franklin, the two fastest swimmers in the world in this event didn’t medal last year, so despite being the champion of the world, Pellegrini must feel far-from-comfortable in this race.

And we can’t forget about the amazing swims that Sarah Sjostrom from Sweden has been having, either. This is going to be an amazing race.

1. Camille Muffat (France)
2. Allison Schmitt (USA)
3. Femke Heemskerk (Nethelrands)
4. Missy Franklin (USA)
5. Federica Pellegrini (Italy)
6.  Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden)
7. Bronte Barratt (Australia)
8. Kylie Palmer (Australia)

Women’s 400 IM

Breakdown: Elizabeth Beisel from the United States started off her Olympic Trials meet in this race on-fire. The rest of her meet probably didn’t go as well as hoped, but early on, in her first event, she was incredible. She is flying under the radar as one of the heaviest favorites of this entire meet.

In the battle for 2nd, Stephanie Rice is the defending champion, but every tweak of her shoulder makes this 400 IM feel like a longer-and-longer shot to place on the podium. That’s especially as depth around the world, including swimmers like Britain’s Hannah Miley and Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, have incredible years. Hosszu this year was far-and-away faster than anybody has ever been in yards. Yards don’t always directly correlate to long course, but she’s a very good long course swimmer. When someone is so far ahead of the field in short course, they have to be in the conversation for a podium in long course. Even a few weeks after her taper, she went a 4:32 in this 400 IM, so we know she can probably do a 4:31 if things go to plan.

Spain’s Mireia Belmonte has tinkered with her pacing on this 400 IM more than anybody else in the world this year. The good news is, though, that all of the swims have been generally pretty good. This race comes early in her tough schedule, so she should still be feeling good. Good enough to make the top 5. We can’t forget the other American, Caitlin Leverenz. She wasn’t at her best at Trials overall, but still went a 4:34 in this race. She should be able to shave at least a second off of that swim, especially under the uninterrupted supervision of Teri McKeever. The two Chinese swimmers should round out the top 8.

1. Elizabeth Beisel (USA)
2. Hannah Miley (Great Britain)
3. Katinka Hosszu (Hungary)
4. Caitlin Leverenz (USA)
5. Mireia Belmonte Garcia (Spain)
6. Stephanie Rice (Australia)
7. Ye Siwen (China)
8. Xuanxu Li (China)
Darkhorse: Zsu Jakabos (Hungary)

Women’s 400 Free

Breakdown: The 400 free has become a bit insane this year. Muffat has been out of her mind, Pellegrini is a superstar in the race, Adlington has been generally just crazy-good this year, especially in the longer 800. Here’s what we’ll see in this race: Schmitt is going to go out like a banshee. She might turn halfway with a 4-5 second lead over Muffat and Pellegrini.

Adlington will probably swim it pretty fair. She’ll be slower than Schmitt in the first 200 meters, but better than her European competitors.

And somehow, at the end, they’re all going to converge right upon a 4:00. Get your spine-tingles ready for Sunday, because you’re going to be going nuts watching this race. It will be dramatic. It will be nail-biting. It will have highs and lows, digging, and ultimately, the winner will be the swimmer with the must guts. Either the most guts to hit the gas coming off of the blocks, or the swimmer with the guts to wait and swim a final 150 that would make most of the world’s swimmers envious in its own right.

1. Rebecca Adlington (Great Britain)
2. Federica Pellegrini (Italy)
3. Camille Muffat (France)
4. Allison Schmitt (USA)
5. Lotte Friis (Denmark)
6. Kylie Palmer (Australia)
7. Chloe Sutton (USA)
8. Melanie Costa-Schmid (Spain)
Darkhorse: Shao Yiwen (China)

Women’s 800 Free

Breakdown: This swim will be Rebecca Adlington’s to lose. As the race gets longer, Lotte Friis moves from being “in the conversation” for a medal to “being a favorite” for a medal; she’s the defending Worlds silver medalist in the 800. Adlington is the defending Olympic and World Champion, and with how she’s swimming it looks impossible for her to get beat.

In 3rd is the stunning 15-year old Katie Ledecky, who just plowed her way to a sub 8:20 at Trials. She went out hard and just didn’t give up. But Kate Ziegler, her teammate and fellow DC-area swimmer, sits just behind her. I have to like Ziegler to put up more of a fight at the end of this race than she did in Omaha, where she clearly had the top two spot.

Another upstart is China’s Xin Xin, who at only barely 16 looked like the next-coming until Ledecky’s massive swim. It’s been longer since she did her 8:22, though, so those two should be in a battle.

Mireia Belmonte-Garcia is an interesting case. One would have to guess she’ll be worn out by the time this 800 rolls around, but she should still have a better race than last year.

1. Rebecca Adlington (Great Britain)
2. Lotte Friis (Denmark)
3. Kate Ziegler (USA)
4. Yiwen Shao (China)
5. Katie Ledecky (USA)
6. Xin Xin (China)
7. Wendy Trott (South Africa)
8. Mireia Bemlonte-Garcia (Spain)
Darkhorse: Kristel Kobrich (Chile)

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12 Comments on "Picks: Finishing the Races"

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4 years 2 months ago

Sun Yang was 3.41 at Chinese nationals in the spring of 2011. If he doesn’t do a tactical bomb like in the Shanghai final, he should at least be 3.41 again and seriously challenge for the gold. Only reason I’m not putting him as the favorite is because Park has been swimming so well this year

4 years 2 months ago

He was 3:40 low.. he will probably go for WR.

4 years 2 months ago

Let the fastest swimmer win. I don’t really care what country they represent just so long there is no drug cheating going on.

If the competition is drug free, I’m happy.

4 years 2 months ago


4 years 2 months ago

“The defending champ Michael Phelps has dropped the race to focus on the 400 free relay – by most accounts a wise move”

Say what? Phelps didn’t want to lose again to Ryan. There is a great chance that he has lost the chance to medal for the US, all for self pride…lame

4 years 2 months ago


4 years 2 months ago

I think is was not just for Locthe… 200 free is a race phelps could not medal at all..

4 years 2 months ago

I found hard to believe in putting Pereira for Bronze in 400IM, he is training with all focus in 200IM, but i will be happy with that result.Pereira is too much emotional, and sometimes that got him(in a bad sense).In another way. if he get a medal, Brazil will be ON FIRE in medley relay, you can be sure about that.

4 years 2 months ago

I agree.
I think Kosuke Hagino is going to get bronze, him, or his japanese teammate, Horihota. Even Tom Fraser-Holmes is I think will finish higher than Pereira.

4 years 2 months ago

I will not be surprised even if he dont make the final.I will pick Hagino too(or even Cseh) for bronze.

4 years 2 months ago

Chesh is going to get 3rd, I can put money on it. This guy, if not for Phelps, would have been the man in the Medleys in Beijing. I put him down for a 4.06 low, 4.05 high. He will not make it easy for Ryan or Phelps at all and I believe he is one of the greatest IMers of all time.

4 years 2 months ago

Park is going to dominatate freestyle, i think. At a Grand Prix this year (and last year too? Santa clara?) he swept 1-2-4-800 free. Although, sun yang may be doing even better this year time wise. I predict that biedermanns 400 record (the rubber suit made his speed look comical) will be easily broken, because thorpe’s textile record is 0.01s behind, so it definitely can be done.


About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

The most common question asked about Braden Keith is "when does he sleep?" That's because Braden has, in two years in the game, become one of the most prolific writers in swimming at a level that has earned him the nickname "the machine" in some circles. He first got his feet …

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