Roadmaps 2.0 – Mapping International Swim Stars: Women’s 50 Free

In our new series, Roadmaps – Mapping the Journey of US Swimming Stars, we will explore how modern-day Olympians climbed their way to the top, starting from as early as 8 years old all the way to their elite level today. In Roadmaps 2.0, we are expanding to international swim stars.

Since 2013, Swede Sarah Sjostrom, Aussie Cate Campbell, Dutch Ranomi Kromowidjojo, American Simone Manuel, and Aussie Bronte Campbell have been tearing up the international women’s 50 free scene. Over the years, the group would be expanded with Danish Pernille Blume, Chinese Liu Xiang, and Russian Maria Kameneva. However, only six of these eight women have won the Olympic or World 50 free title in their career. Who has found the most success in this event, both past and recent? Who shows the most promise towards the 2021 Olympics? Read on to answer these questions and more about this sprint octuplet.

2016-2021 Olympic Cycle: International Women’s 50 FR LCM

Rank Swimmer Country Time Meet
1 Sarah Sjostrom SWE 23.67 2017 World Championships
2 Pernille Blume DEN 23.75 2018 European Championships
3 Cate Campbell AUS 23.78 2018 Commonwealth Games
4 Ranomi Kromowidjojo NED 23.85 2017 World Championships
5 Simone Manuel USA 23.97 2017 World Championships
6 Liu Xiang CHN 24.03 2020 Champions Series – Beijing
7 Bronte Campbell AUS 24.17 2019 AUS World Championship Trials
8 Maria Kameneva RUS 24.21 2018 European Championships

When Did They Hit 24?

The first swimmer to break 25 seconds in the 50-meter free was Cate Campbell, who swam 24.48 at the 2008 Japan Open at 15 years old. She later followed that performance up with a 24.17 at the 2008 Olympics, good enough for bronze at age 16. That time is roughly a half-second faster than the current US 15-16 NAG, swam by Gretchen Walsh (24.71) in August 2019. Simone Manuel and Maria Kameneva were the only other swimmers of this group to reach 24-point in the 15-16 age group.  Manuel also currently reigns as the US 17-18 NAG holder at 24.56, who is just one of five 18&U American women who have broken 25 seconds.

The next crucial competitive barrier for this group to is 24.39, which is what it would take to enter the top 25 performers list. C. Campbell has been apart of the list since 2008 after reaching 24.17. The next youngest swimmer to reach the mark was Kameneva, who swam her lifetime best of 24.21 at 19 years old. Manuel, Sarah Sjostrom, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, and Bronte Campbell all reached the mark one year later at 20. Liu Xiang, who is more known for her 50 back expertise, was 21 when she reached 24.39 while Pernille Blume went from 24.47 to 24.07 when she was 22 years old.

Women’s 50 FR LCM: Milestone Ages

Name 24.99 24.39
Cate Campbell 15 16
Maria Kameneva 16 19
Simone Manuel 16 20
Sarah Sjostrom 18 20
Ranomi Kromowidjojo 18 20
Bronte Campbell 19 20
Liu Xiang 18 21
Pernille Blume 19 22

What About 23-Point?

Ten women in history have broken 24 seconds, including Sarah Sjostrom, Pernille Blume, Cate Campbell, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, and Simone Manuel. However, Sjostrom was the only swimmer of this group to win a major international 50 free title with a swim under 24 seconds. She accomplished this at the 2017 World Championships, which was the fastest women’s 50 free final since 2008. While it only took 24.58 to place 6th into the final, the entire top three all swam under 24 seconds. Sjostrom won the title in 23.69, just 0.02 seconds off her semifinals world record. Kromowidjojo (23.85) and Manuel (23.97) both set personal bests and national records to place second and third, respectively.

The only other major 50 free final to feature a sub-24 winner was at the 2009 World Championships, where German Britta Steffen set her then-world record of 23.73 while C. Campbell broke 24 seconds for the first time to take bronze (23.99).

Rank Meet Semis QT Top 6 Medal
1 2017 Worlds 24.59 24.58 23.97
2 2009 Worlds 24.43 24.19 23.99
3 2019 Worlds 24.46 24.35 24.11
4 2016 Olympics 24.53 24.19 24.11
5 2008 Olympics 24.72 24.63 24.17

Predicting 2021

So, which off these 8 swimmers looks the best to hold the 2021 Olympic title? Reflecting off the past table, it shows that time is not of utmost importance in the 50 free, but simply racing. Looking at the last four World championships, no woman has one this event twice. The next best indicator is consistency, scoping out who has the most medals from this event. The clear winner is Sarah Sjostrom, who hasn’t lost a medal in the 50 free at Worlds since 2015. Ranomi Kromowidjojo also has three medals in the 50 free, including her 2013 World title, yet placed 6th in 2019.

Interestingly, Cate Campbell has never won the 50 free at a long course World Championships. Despite this, she also has 2013 silver and 2019 bronze alongside her 2009 event bronze medal. Pernille Blume, who is the reigning Olympic champion, has also never won a World medal in this event. Her best finish was 4th, which she repeated in 2017 and 2019. Bronte Campbell was the surprise sprints winner in 2015, however, has not been able to replicate her 50 free title since.

While Simone Manuel is only at 23.97, she was the 2019 title winner, affirming the importance of racing in the 50 free. However, racing is certainly not the only factor that supplements the 50 free. Liu Xiang is the current world record-holder in the 50-meter back, which she set at the 2018 Asian Games. Yet recently, Xiang showed promise in the 50 free when she hit 24.03 at the Beijing stop of the 2020 FINA Champions Series, which can easily earn her a major 50 free medal. Maria Kameneva is the youngest swimmer of the group at 20 years old, however, shows much promise with her 4th-place finish at the 2018 European Championships and 5th-place finish at the most recent Worlds final.

2019 Worlds 2017 Worlds 2015 Worlds
2013 Worlds
Simone Manuel 1st 3rd 8th 7th
Sarah Sjostrom 2nd 1st 3rd 4th
Cate Campbell 3rd N/A 4th 2nd
Pernille Blume 4th 4th 14th 10th
Maria Kameneva 5th N/A 15th N/A
Ranomi Kromowidjojo 6th 2nd 2nd 1st
Bronte Campbell 8th 6th 1st 5th
Liu Xiang 9th 6th 12th N/A

 

Single Age Progression: International Women’s 50 FR LCM (Ages 11-26)

Name Country 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26
Sarah Sjostrom SWE 29.79 28.17 26.47 25.87 25.65 25.60 25.01 24.75 24.45 23.98 24.20 24.17 23.67 23.74 23.78 24.14
Pernille Blume DEN 30.37 27.57 27.01 26.65 25.57 25.09 25.42 24.59 24.73 24.47 24.07 24.00 23.75 24.08
Cate Campbell AUS 24.48 24.17 23.99 25.23 24.43 24.35 24.13 24.03 23.84 24.04 23.78 24.02
Ranomi Kromowidjojo NED 26.18 25.74 25.47 25.01 24.76 24.40 24.27 24.05 24.05 24.20 24.22 24.07 23.85
Simone Manuel USA 28.28 27.10 26.72 26.27 25.63 24.80 25.27 24.56 24.33 23.97 24.10 24.04 24.43
Liu Xiang CHN 24.78 24.75 24.56 24.04 24.46 24.03
Bronte Campbell AUS 25.92 25.85 25.56 25.18 24.58 24.19 24.12 24.42 24.22 24.51 24.17
Maria Kameneva RUS 30.15 26.09 25.01 24.97 25.02 24.61 24.21 24.31

___________________________________________________________________

2016-2021 Olympic Cycle: US Women’s 50 FR LCM

Rank Swimmer World Rank Time Meet
1 Simone Manuel 5 23.97 2017 World Championships
2 Abbey Weitzeil 16 24.47 2019 World Championships
3 Erika Brown 20 24.57 2020 Pro Swim Series – Knoxville
4 Gretchen Walsh 31 24.71 2019 World Junior Championships
5 Margo Geer 32 24.72 2018 Pro Swim Series – Indianapolis
6 Maxine Parker 35 24.75 2019 World Junior Championships
7 Lia Neal 36 24.77 2017 Summer U.S. Nationals
8 Kelsi Dahlia 38 24.79 2017 Summer U.S. Nationals

 

Single Age Progression: US Women’s 50 FR LCM (Ages 9-26)

Name 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26
Simone Manuel 32.06 29.65 28.28 27.10 26.72 26.27 25.63 24.80 25.27 24.56 24.33 23.97 24.10 24.04 24.43
Abbey Weitzeil 29.21 26.66 26.26 25.27 24.80 25.07 24.28 24.74 24.58 24.47 24.70
Erika Brown 33.47 30.91 28.32 28.08 26.98 26.48 26.41 26.01 25.17 24.71 24.57
Gretchen Walsh 34.52 31.94 28.59 26.96 25.96 25.57 25.03 24.71
Margo Geer 30.77 29.94 28.38 27.33 27.11 26.45 26.03 25.88 26.00 25.42 25.05 25.06 24.95 25.17 25.45 24.78 24.72
Maxine Parker 31.87 31.08 29.82 28.01 27.17 26.08 25.82 25.28 24.75
Lia Neal 31.24 28.59 27.59 26.53 25.82 25.38 25.51 25.30 25.52 25.40 25.56 25.25 24.85 24.77 25.00 25.45 25.82
Kelsi Dahlia 37.10 32.57 29.88 28.08 27.90 27.69 26.89 27.28 26.49 25.84 26.61 25.12 24.98 24.79 24.99 25.01 25.00

Single Age Progression: US Women’s 50 FR SCY (Ages 8-23)

Name 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Simone Manuel 29.29 26.57 25.15 24.16 23.26 22.75 22.33 22.04 21.70 21.32 21.17 21.18
Abbey Weitzeil 28.84 27.00 25.42 24.00 23.07 22.25 21.98 21.49 21.12 21.40 21.41 21.02 20.90
Erika Brown 38.16 31.32 27.31 25.06 23.84 23.54 23.27 22.95 22.84 22.33 21.39 21.15 21.03
Gretchen Walsh 30.77 29.42 26.62 24.92 23.44 22.85 22.00 21.82 21.82 21.50
Margo Geer 28.46 26.40 25.38 24.97 23.84 23.50 23.25 22.40 22.35 22.16 21.64 21.78 21.71 21.53
Maxine Parker 31.29 28.64 26.66 25.61 24.44 23.56 23.35 22.46 22.00 22.50
Lia Neal 32.31 27.59 24.90 24.20 23.58 23.59 22.62 22.56 23.11 22.54 22.33 21.98 22.14 21.78 21.65
Kelsi Dahlia 33.45 29.73 26.83 25.19 24.35 23.98 23.92 23.44 23.67 22.53 22.27 21.62 21.57 21.73

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Nswim
8 months ago

What was Simone’s time in 2019 when she won?

Admin
Reply to  Nswim
8 months ago

24.05.

S L
Reply to  Nswim
8 months ago

24.07

Torchbearer
8 months ago

reciprocate…should be replicate…

Pvdh
8 months ago

Wow I forgot Blume dropped a 23.7. Impressive.

Dee
Reply to  Pvdh
8 months ago

She’ll be hard to beat if she gets back healthy. Sjostrom is often tired by the time the 50 comes around and the woman with the best temperament (Manuel) has a lot of time to make up on a fit & healthy Blume.

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  Dee
8 months ago

Blume did not even medal in the women’s 50m freestyle at the 2017 FINA World Aquatics Championships or the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships.

Dee
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
8 months ago

2016-2018 she was hugely progressive; 24.07 NR to become Olympic Champ in 2016. Then set another NR of 24.00 in the 2017 World final to finish 4th. 2018 Euros she set another NR (23.75) in the final. She then had heart surgery and a few minor problems in early 2019 that disrupted her. She is with Sjostrom on PB and with Manuel on temperament; Imo if she gets to Tokyo in peak form she’ll defend her title.

Troyy
Reply to  Dee
8 months ago

If she skips the 200 free she might be okay but will she? Another problem for her is if Sweden enters relay teams she has to swim the heats and often at full pace too. It’s kind of unfair. Ive often wondered how things would turn out if relay teams were required to be the same in the heats and finals.

Ragnar
Reply to  Troyy
8 months ago

Relays are normally a sign of a nations national team strength and size, the 2004 South Africans 4×100 free being the outlier. Individual medals matter far more to a swimmers legacy. Imagine if Phelps had had to swim two extra 100s and a 200 in 2008(and 2004, 2012, 2016), would he have had the juice to get all those golds? Probably, because Phelps, but we’ll never know.

frug
Reply to  Troyy
8 months ago

FWIW, unlike 2016, Sweden is not planning to race the 4×200 FR in Tokyo (they are also not planning to compete in the mix medley either). That knocks 2 swims off SS’ program compared to Rio.

Also, while I doubt she would do it, Sjostrom could (in theory) tell the coaches that she will swim in the relay finals if the team can qualify without her. Given Sweden’s relative lack of depth that would probably be the same as saying she won’t swim them at all, but it could be a way for her to avoid being forced to expend energy in relays Sweden has no chance at medaling in without just flat out refusing to participate in them,

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  Dee
8 months ago

Yet somehow Simone Manuel still ends up on the medal podium in the women’s 50m freestyle:

2016 – silver
2017 – bronze
2019 – gold

Dee
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
8 months ago

As I said, Manuel has the best temperament, I wouldn’t even begin to dispute that.

Pvdh
Reply to  Dee
8 months ago

Volume of training and being used to tons of races at a meet helps as well

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro has had a huge passion for swimming since his first dive in the pool, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing, but still uses the sport as his go-to cardio. SwimSwam has become an outlet for him to continue showing his …

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