Rio 2016 Olympics Preview: Sarah Sjostrom Looking Like Ledecky In 100 Fly

WOMEN’S 100 BUTTERFLY

Has Katie Ledecky been dominant for long enough to coin the term “Ledecky-esque?” Take a look at the top ten fastest times ever in the women’s 800 free, and the slew of other achievements she’s garnered, and it seems appropriate to define a swimmer who regularly frequents the world’s all-time top performances list as “Ledecky-esque.” Or maybe “Ledeckian.” Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom has certainly become Ledeckian in sprint butterfly.

Sjostrom, the 100 fly world record holder, also holds the five fastest 100 fly times ever, and her name appears eight times in the all-time top 10 list. Well, the all-time list on USA Swimming’s website actually only includes her name seven times, since (as I’m writing this on July 7th) she popped a 55.95 tonight at Swedish Nationals which has yet to make it to that list. But of the 10 fastest female 100 flys of all time, Sjostrom proudly holds numbers 1 through 5, 7, 8, and 10.

Sarah Sjostrom sets world record #2 in the 100 fly at the 2015 FINA world championships Kazan Russia (photo: Mike Lewis, Ola Vista Photography)

Sarah Sjostrom (photo by Mike Lewis)

Then, in the 50 fly, she holds 9 of the top 10 fastest-ever. That’s literally as Ledeckian as one can get without actually holding all 10. Sarah Sjostrom‘s turnover is frighteningly powerful .

What’s even more impressive about the Swedish 22-year-old (besides the fact that she’s ONLY 22) is that she went a staggering 55.68, just four hundredths off of her own world record, at the end of March at the Stockholm Open. What?! .04 off of the WR in the middle of the spring?!

Exactly.

Sjostrom is making sub-56’s, which had never been done before Dana Vollmer did it (barely, by .02)  in the final in London, look pretty darn easy. In 2016, Sjostrom is not the same swimmer who touched off of the podium at the London Games. She is now a very clear favorite for a gold medal and big new world record in Rio, which honestly sounds pretty Ledeckian to me.

Meanwhile, Vollmer is back from her hiatus, and her 56.9 from the Mesa Pro Swim Series was a pretty telling swim. She has gotten back in shape at an alarming rate since her comeback, especially considering she was just 58.94 at Nationals last summer. She’s a veteran who certainly knows what she’s doing and what she’s capable of, so while Kelsi Worrell did blow past her on the last 25 meters at the U.S. Trials, Vollmer’s consistent swims in the 57’s this spring show that she has the potential to get back down to 56-low in Rio, or faster.

Worrell, meanwhile, finally broke through the 57-second barrier at Trials. With experience under her belt after Pan Ams last year and the way she held her composure through the grueling and stressful week that is Trials, Worrell looks good to contend with Vollmer and Denmark’s Jeanette Ottesen for a spot on the podium in Rio.

While Worrell might be somewhat of a question mark, seeing as she’s new to the Olympic stage and relatively new to the international stage, Ottesen, like Sjostrom and Vollmer, has been around for while longer than Worrell has. The Dane will be swimming at her 4th Olympics this summer, and she recently won the silver medal at the 2016 European Championships behind Sjostrom in May with a 56.83.

Three nations will be shoving their way in to grab the remaining slots in what will be a very crowded final. Xinyi Chen and Ying Lu went 1-2 at the 2016 Chinese Nationals, with the former dipping under 57 (56.83) and the latter returning after winning bronze at the Kazan World Championships behind Sjostrom and Ottesen.

Australia has two women who will likely be under 57 in Rio with Emma McKeon and Madeline Groves. McKeon has shown marked improvement recently (especially in the 100 and 200 freestyle races), and won this race at the Aussie Trials in April with a 56.89. Groves is better at the 200, while McKeon could also wind up on the podium with the way she’s been swimming leading up to Rio.

If there’s one swimmer to keep an eye on for an unpredictable drop, it’d be Canadian Penny Oleksiak. After former 100 fly national record holder Katerine Savard was denied an Olympic berth in this event at Canadian Trials by Oleksiak and Noemie Thomas, the 15-year-old Oleksiak emphatically put her name on the map. She became the first Canadian under 57 with a 56.99, and so far this spring, has broken the 50 fly and 100 free World Junior records AND Canadian national records. Her speed in-season is astounding, and it really is difficult to pin down what she can do in this event in Rio; it wouldn’t be surprising, though, to see her challenge for a minor medal here.

Place Swimmer Country Best Time (Since 2012 Olympics) Predicted Time in Rio
1 Sarah Sjostrom Sweden 55.64 55.3 WR
2 Dana Vollmer USA 56.90 56.4
3 Kelsi Worrell USA 56.48 56.5
4 Jeanette Ottesen Denmark 56.51 56.6
5 Emma McKeon Australia 56.89 56.6
6 Penny Oleksiak Canada 56.99 56.8
7 Xinyi Chen China 56.61 57.1
8 Ying Lu China 57.04 57.2

Dark Horse: Japan’s Rikako Ikee. While Oleksiak has been stealing Ikee’s thunder this spring with the sprint fly/free WJR’s, Ikee was the young international sprint sensation just months earlier. She has been 57.56 this season, and, like Oleksiak, has fairly unpredictable performance potential. We could see her blast right past 57.0, or falter and stick near a 57-high. 

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Daza
5 years ago

1. Sjostrom. Huge WR
2. Vollmer
3. McKeon PB

aquajosh
5 years ago

Sjostrom by a landslide. It’ll be by at least a full second, which is utter domination in a sprint event.
Ottesen
Ying Lu (she is China’s most consistent female swimmer and has found herself on every major podium since London)

carlo
5 years ago

ledecky 3 levels above sjostrom?
Nah i don’t think so. When ledecky swims butterfly and backstroke then I,ll agree. Hosszu is several levels above both of them as she swims every stroke at every distance.

tm71
5 years ago

My picks
Sjostrom
Vollmer
Worrell

SwimmerFoxJet
5 years ago

No offense to Sarah but Ledecky is in a whole other three levels above her.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  SwimmerFoxJet
5 years ago

Agreed. And even in the shorter races, messing up a start, turn or finish could have enough of an impact to knock ya down to silver. That kinda thing is way less likely to happen to Ledecky in a 400 or 800 or any other huge favorite in a longer race. (Ledecky isn’t as big a favorite in the 200 as Sjostrom is in this race, IMO.)

SwimmerFoxJet
Reply to  Steve Nolan
5 years ago

Agreed, but she is still the favorite for the gold.

Prickle
Reply to  SwimmerFoxJet
5 years ago

To be able to compete at world class level from 50m through 400m freestyle plus to be a world records holder at Sprint fly is a very rare gift. Sjostrom just got unlucky to f

Prickle
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

to find herself between two millstones of great talents of Cate Campble and Katie Ledecky.

Prickle
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

*Cate Campbell

SwimmerFoxJet
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

I didn’t say she wasn’t gifted, indeed, she is an INCREDIBLE athlete. Best ever for the women’s 100 fly. But Ledecky has had a bigger and longer streak.

Swedish swimfan
Reply to  SwimmerFoxJet
5 years ago

This is literally The funniest ive read in a while, 3 levels above? I would just say that they are equally amazing but in totally different things, and just leave it there. Why the need to hold one above the other? They are both unique

SwimmerFoxJet
Reply to  Swedish swimfan
5 years ago

They are both unique.

But Ledecky has got many many more feats than her. And she’s younger.

Daza
Reply to  Swedish swimfan
5 years ago

Well said. Sometimes the inherent American braggadocio can be not only annoying but nauseating!

robbos
5 years ago

Sjostrom to win this, close to WR time, then a great race for minors, tipping Chinese swimmer Chen to pip Worrall for silver, with 4-5 swimmers who could also get a medal.

Prickle
5 years ago

Actually many of 100fly medal contenders may swim twice 4×100 relay at first day at full capacity. Oleksiak is the youngest one to handle this pressure before 100fly final.

Prickle
5 years ago

After Sjostrom and Worrell there is a group of six swimmers within narrow 0.2sec interval.
Vollmer showed no progress at trials after surprising many in April with her fast time at 100FR and the following talks about targeting 52 seconds . She actually bounced back barely beating Ledecky by 0.07sec for the eighth place. Her 100BU wasn’t convincing neither. If she is going to swim 4x100FR then it will make her chances for podium at fly even lower.
Oleksiak made huge improvement at trials in April. In June she proved that that is her current level. Even more significant move has to be expected from her in Rio.
McKeon Emma made historical PBs in April. 52sec at… Read more »

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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