As the summer national championships heat up around the world and we look forward to the big international championships, World Swimmer of the Year isn’t such an easy proposition. With the world splintered into different championship meets, (the big ones are Pan Pacs, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and the European Championships), there’s a lot more qualitative analysis that will go into this year’s Swammy for World Swimmer of the Year than the other three years in the Olympic cycle.
What he has to do: The defending champ from 2013 and three time Pacific Rim Swimmer of the year will have to go to work at the 2014 Asian Games. If he wins the 200, 400 and 1500 freestyles, he’ll have collected a fine swath of medals that would definitely put him in the mix for the title. However the 200 and 400 will not come as easily as expected with Park Tae-Hwan swimming well so far. This also comes coupled with questions about the kind of training he’s getting in. Will being banned from competition and fined somewhat heavily have a material impact on his swimming? In some events he is far ahead of the world, though a matter of a few tenths per 100m could make all the difference in the 200 and possible the 400.
The “X” factor: Setting a world record in the 400 (3:39?) or the 1500 (14:29?) would be a big feather in his cap, especially if he breaks one of the hallowed barriers. Winning the 200 in sub 1:44 would also help guarantee taking the honors.
What he has to do: In 2013 Hagino was probably the only man who had a chance of beating Sun Yang for the Swimmer of the Year. However, despite dominating in early season meets, he seemingly ran out of gas and returned to Japan with two silver medals. Since August, he has been on the top of his game, setting short course Asian records and dropping impressive times in all of his events both at the NSW Championships, and Japanese Nationals. Hagino will have two chances this year to amass large international medal collections, Pan Pacs and Asian Games. If he can win a fistful of medals at both, many gold, then he can take control of the race.
The “X” factor: If Hagino can become the first man to medal in six individual events at an international meet and break 4:07 or 1:55, then he’d give himself a very strong case.
Chad Le Clos
What he has to do: At South African Trials Le Clos showed impressive versatility, winning a whopping seven individual events. However, if he wants the biggest honors, he must develop heavy firepower in the events he can win medals in. So far his times have been inconclusive. With little competition at SA Trials in many of his events, it’s hard to judge how fast he can really go. However, it can be assured that he will be faster in the big meets, and if anyone can handle a tough schedule, it’s probably him. Le Clos has stated his plans for Commonwealth Games, including winning seven or eight medals. Achieving his lofty goals at Commonwealths, or doing similar at Pan Pacs would make him the favorite for SOTY. Winning the 400 IM at Pan Pacs would make him nearly a lock.
The “X” factor: Le Clos is a much more avid World Cup participant than his rivals. Winning his third overall title could boost his case significantly.
What he has to do: At a bare minimum, it would take a sweep of the 50 and 100 freestyles at Pan Pacs. As a sprinter, he’s at a natural event-load disadvantage as compared to guys like Hagino, le Clos, and Sun Yang, but there’s enough sprinters with Cesar Cielo, Bruno Fratus, James Magnussen, and others at Pan Pacs to make those impressive wins. Times may factor in for him as much as gold medals do because of the limited number of events – something around a 47-low and 21-low would put Adrian in a great position to win this award.
The “X” factor: Relays. The American men will be favorites at Pan Pacs in the 400 free relay, if simply because of the Australian men’s struggles at big meets in recent years. However, if the Australian men show up big, and Adrian ‘leads’ team USA to victory with a difference-making split, that will be a big advantage for him over some of the other guys on this list.
What she has to do: The other distance-swimming defending champ has begun her title defense on a torrid run through American records in yards and World Junior “Records,” at Mesa. Pan Pacs will almost certainly result in multiple golds, given that her closest rivals in the longest events will be swimming Europeans. If Ledecky is going for title defense, she needs to medal in everything from 200 on up at Pan Pacs, an outcome that is looking more and more feasible by the week.
The “X” Factor: Breaking one of her own world records, or Pellegrini’s 400 WR, would be a large emotive boost to help her case. Given how well her 200 is coming along, it would seem that her 400 should also be getting faster, making 3:58 not sound all that unreasonable.
What she has to do: Franklin had the hard luck of winning six gold medals the same year as a ridiculous run of distance domination by Katie Ledecky. Missy has since gone to Cal and completed her first run at NCAA swimming. If she wants to win, Missy has to win big at Pan Pacs. Given the revival of Allison Schmitt and the continued surge of Katie Ledecky, coupled with the Australian relays and Emily Seebohm in the 100 backstroke, matching last year’s medal haul of six golds will be a hard to feat to replicate, let alone exceed.
The “X” Factor: Missy’s most impressive NCAA swims came in freestyle events. If Missy can put up 1:54 low and slip under 53.0 then she’ll have strong chances of gold and silver, respectively.
What she has to do: The queen of the marathon schedule will be able to better showcase her talents in the slightly weakened field that regional competitions provide, perhaps accumulating a Phelpsian medal haul. If Hosszu can win her normal medley events and expand her Championship meet schedule with events like the 200 free and 100/200 back, then she stands to threaten the number one status held by the Americans Ledecky and Franklin the past two years.
The “X” Factor: Short course worlds. In 2012 Hosszu took five individual medals. If she can repeat such a performance and re-break some of her short course world records, she stands a chance of becoming the first non-American to win since 2009.
What she has to do: The 2013 world champion in the 100 fly has been on fire so far, going 24.1, 52.7, 1:55.0 and 4:06, all in the world top 10 for the four sprint and middle distance freestyle events. Her fly hasn’t been too shabby either, ranking her second and first in the world in the 100 and 50, respectively. If the European championships were decided by world rankings, she would have five medals, including four golds. Of course, putting such a meet together would be a daunting task, but getting close to that level may not be impossible, making Sjostrom a possible contender for 2014 Female Swimmer of the Year.
The “X” Factor: Dana Vollmer’s 55.98 WR in the 100 fly could be in danger if Sjostrom puts together a perfect race.
Chad Le Clos will win six medals, three golds, at Commonwealth Games, becoming the first man to take six individual medals at an International meet, then go on to drop some fast times at Pan Pacs while picking up a small handful of medals.
Katie Ledecky will light up World Trials with some US Open records, and continue her run at Pan Pacs, setting a plethora of new junior world records, and also breaking an overall World Record on her way to five medals, including four golds.