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


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?!


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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5 years ago

Time predictions seem about right. Personally I think Ottesen takes bronze.

King in da norf
Reply to  Joe
5 years ago

I agree. Especially since Ottesen is back training with Rollason since January in Australia and Denmark.

5 years ago

Ottesen makes the podium, perhaps even silver.

5 years ago

Sarah Sjostrom and Dana Vollmer’s countries are not right.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  E GAMBLE
5 years ago

I’d make that trade, though.

5 years ago

AHHH so hard to pick silver and bronze.
-Oleksiak, Worrell, and Ikee are all fairly new to the scene and can be quite unpredictable
-It’s hard to bet against the reigning champion Vollmer, but then again I said the same thing about Grevers before American OT’s
-I don’t know very much about McKeon or Chen
-Ottesen has the international experience, but she seem to do better at WC’s considering she won gold medals in both 2011 and 2013 but 6th was the highest she got in 2012.

1. Sjostrom
2. Worrell
3. Vollmer (unless she has a slow finish like she did in 2012. If she does, I say McKeon out touches her)

King in da norf
5 years ago

The Fly Queen inda Norff
America’s fastest college swimmer

5 years ago

Sweden has a 100 flyer? SJO WHAT?

5 years ago

Glad to see that Sjostrom has joined the US, probably to get more medals on relays. Wait, Sweden’s medley relay beat the US, oh. And Vollmer has become an Aussie, cool I guess, the need more butterflies so, fine by me.

bobo gigi
5 years ago

Time for Sjöström to finally win her first olympic gold medal.
Then anything is possible.
4-woman battle in my opinion for 2 medals between Vollmer, Ottesen, Worrell and Oleksiak.

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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