As with the women’s 50m freestyle race predicted for this summer in Rio, the 100m freestyle looks to potentially have an American-less podium as well. With powerhouses such as the Campbell sisters from Australia and a dynamic duo from the Netherlands, there isn’t much room for anyone to slide into the final not holding at least a 53-low from semi’s.
In fact, the last time the United States saw a gold medalist in the women’s 100m freestyle was back in 1984 when Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseifer tied for the top prize. The last American to earn a medal of any color was Natalie Coughlin, who came away with Bronze in Beijing at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Headed into Rio, Cate Campbell of Australia is on top of the world in this event, literally, as she cracked a shiny new world record in the Brisbane Grand Prix earlier this month. Running concurrent with the U.S. Olympic Trials, Cate’s admittedly unexpected 52.06 world record put the American sprinters’ times in perspective, as the top two Americans, Abbey Weitzeil and Simone Manuel, earned times in Omaha of 53.28 and 53.52, respectively. Although speedy in the midst of the stars n’ stripes field, only Weitzeil dipped into the world’s top 10 with her time checking in as the 8th-fastest.
‘C1’, as Cate Campbell is often abbreviated, wound up 3rd in Kazan, touching in 52.82 to claim bronze at the 2015 World Championships. At that meet Bronte Campbell (‘C2’) upstaged her sister, doubling up on sprint world titles by winning both the 100m and 50m freestyle events. Bronte slammed down a 52.52 for the win in Russia, a mark which still sits 2nd in the world, only surpassed by C1’s World Record. The two sisters keep pushing each other to new heights and will look for a very possible 1-2 finish in both this event and the 50m freestyle at the Games.
Also lurking in the top tier of talent, however, are two Dutch teammates in Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Femke Heemskerk. For Kromowidjojo, the 25-year-old is the defending Olympic gold medalist in both this event, as well as the 50m freestyle, so big-stage experience is on her side. She also equaled her own 50m short course freestyle world record at last December’s Duel in the Pool (23.24), proving her fast-twitch muscles are still at the top of their game and ready to take on the field in Rio.
Although Heemskerk put up a 5th place time of 53.58 in Kazan, she has previously cranked up the heat by scoring a marks of 52.69 and 52.79 at the Eindhoven cup in April of last year. Those two outings represent her first venture into sub-53-second territory, not too shabby months out from an Olympic Games. For her to approach the podium in Rio, however, she’ll most certainly need to dip even further into the 52-second range to keep up with the likes of the aforementioned competitors, including teammate ‘Kromo’.
Current world record holder in the 50m and 100m butterfly events, Sarah Sjostrom from Sweden has proven on multiple occasions that she is a mighty force when it comes to sprint freestyle as well. Claiming the silver in Kazan in a time of 52.70, the Swede has registered 52-point times on 10 separate occasions throughout her career. Her quickest of the Rio-qualifying period 52.70 from Kazan sits just 2nd to her personal best of 52.67 scored in 2014. With the 100m freestyle event taking place on day 5, Sjostrom will have already competed in the 100m butterfly and 200m freestyle events, which may come into play in terms of fatigue when competing against fresh swimmers in the lanes next to her.
Also doubling up on the 100m and 200m free events is Italy’s ever-present Federica Pellegrini. The current world record holder in the 200m race, Pellegrini carries a new 100m free personal best of 53.18 she just clocked this summer in Rome, ranking 27-year-old 7th in the world. She has the honor of carrying her nation’s flag in the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony and may be out to prove she can shine on the sport’s biggest stage, coming away medal-less in London after earning an individual silver in Athens and gold in Beijing.
On the other end of the age spectrum is teenager Penny Oleksiak from Canada. At just 15 years of age, Oleksiak crushed a new World Junior Record in the 100m freestyle event, stopping the clock at a remarkable time of 53.31 this past April. That time broke China’s Shen Duo’s world junior record of 53.84 and took down Chantal Van Landeghem‘s Canadian record of 53.83. In the prime time age that can render significant time drops with each swim, Oleksiak is certainly one to watch in Rio and beyond.
|Place||Swimmer||Country||Best Time Since 2012 Olympics||Predicted Time In Rio|
|1||Cate Campbell||Australia||52.06* WR||51.9 * WR|
|7||Penny Oleksiak||Canada||53.31* WJR||53.2|
Update: We originally had 3 Australians swimming in the final. It has been corrected.