Swedish superstar Sarah Sjostrom will focus her efforts on the sprint events at the upcoming FINA World Aquatics Championships in Kazan, Russia, after she told Swedish paper Goteborgs-Posten that she was withdrawing from the 200 free.
That leaves Sjostrom to race the 50 and 100 fly, plus the 50 and 100 free, individually at the meet whose swimming portion runs from August 2nd-9th.
According to the paper, Sjostrom said she wasn’t looking forward to the 200 free, and thinks that dropping the longest race on her schedule will help her improve her outcome in the 200 free.
Sjostrom recently finished competition at the Swedish National Championships with a new Meet Record in the 100 free in 52.97 (she said afterward that the first 50 “felt slow,”), and among her six gold medals was also a win in the 200 free – swimming 1:55.94 and dominating the field.
Sjostrom swam a lifetime best in the 200 free in May (1:54.77) that ranks her 2nd in the world. That time would’ve been enough to win gold at the 2013 World Championships ahead of Missy Franklin.
The 21-year old Swede has never medaled in the individual 200 free internationally, though she’s the defending World Short Course Champion in the event. She finished 4th in 2013, and was slower in the finals than she was in the semi-finals, demonstrating the possible fatigue that three rounds puts upon her while focusing on sprints.
Sjostrom has not yet committed to her relay swims; Sweden has strong medal chances in the 400 free and 400 medley relays, and despite being silver medalists last year at the European 800 free relay, didn’t enter the race at worlds in 2013. That would be the longest shot to medal among the three for them, but with Sjostrom as their ace, it wouldn’t be completely out of reach either.
Sjostrom’s absence will leave Missy Franklin, Femke Heemskerk, and a resurgent Federica Pellegrini as the primary medal contenders, with Hungarian Katinka Hosszu an unpredictable threat. Young Australian Emma McKeon is the least heralded of the above crowd, who could also wind up on a podium in this 200 free if she reacts well to a recent coaching change in May.