SwimSwam Pulse: 50.4% Pick Sjostrom As Most Likely To Reclaim Olympic Gold Over King

SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers which women’s event will see the Rio Olympic champion reclaim gold in Paris after falling short in Tokyo:

Question: Which 2016 gold medalist has the best chance to reclaim their Olympic title in Paris? (Women’s edition)

RESULTS

Note: Katie Ledecky‘s 400 free was omitted from this poll.

All four options in the men’s poll could realistically win gold in Paris—the women’s side, maybe not so much.

When we take a look at the list of individual gold medalists from the Rio Olympics, we see retirees Pernille Blume (50 free), Maya Dirado (200 back), Rie Kaneto (200 breast) and the maybe-not-actually-retired Katinka Hosszu (100 back, 200/400 IM) occupying six of the 13 events raced in 2016.

Note that Hosszu wasn’t included in the poll, given she had previously said she would sit out of the Paris Games after giving birth, but she recently indicated she is taking a run at a sixth Olympic appearance, though a medal of any color would be a longshot.

Katie Ledecky repeated as the Olympic champion in the women’s 800 free in Tokyo, but fell in the 200 and 400 free. Her 400 free was missing from the poll, an error, but it’s fair to estimate that would’ve been the top choice.

The two clear picks to reclaim gold beyond Ledecky were Sarah Sjostrom and Lilly King, with the two swimmers combining for more than 90 percent of votes.

Leading the way was Sjostrom, although it’s possible the decorated Swede garnered some votes for her overall ability to win gold rather than to do so in the 100 fly specifically.

Sjostrom’s world record of 55.48 set in Rio has held up for more than seven years, but her place in the event has shifted. After winning a third straight world title in 2017, she was dethroned by Maggie MacNeil in 2019, and then at the Tokyo Olympics, after breaking her elbow early in the year—which led to her being unsure if she would even race the event at the Games—Sjostrom made the final (with an impressive 56.18 prelim swim) but placed seventh.

Since then, Sjostrom hasn’t raced the 100 fly at either the 2022 or 2023 World Championships and her status for Paris is unknown, though it’s worth noting she was able to produce a time of 56.92 in October at the Athens leg of the World Cup.

But no one would be surprised to see the 30-year-old go all-in on the 50 free, and likely race the 100 free, at what will be her fifth Olympic appearance (she was only pre-selected in the 50 free).

In 2023, she ranked #1 in the 50 free, #3 in the 100 free, and #9 in the 100 fly.

As for King, although she trailed Sjostrom by more than 10 percent in the poll, her prospects of reclaiming her Olympic title in Paris are much better.

King was a force in 2016—she had an unshakeable confidence that led her to steamroll past the controversial Yuliya Efimova and win gold in the women’s 100 breast.

King continued her run with consecutive World Championship titles in 2017 and 2019, but after she was upended by American teammate Lydia Jacoby at the Tokyo Olympics, settling for the bronze medal behind Jacoby and South African Tatjana Schoenmaker, King fell off the podium at the 2022 and 2023 World Championships (fourth in both).

Despite that, her 1:04.75 performance at U.S. Nationals in June was the fourth-fastest swim of her career and the 11th-fastest of all-time, ranking her #2 in the world in 2023 behind world champion Ruta Meilutyte (1:04.62).

Given that King was just over a tenth back of Meilutyte this year, and has a pedigree of coming up clutch in the big moments, her chances in Paris are decent.

Trailing Sjostrom and King, Katie Ledecky‘s 200 free was next up in the poll at 3.4 percent—if you recall, it was actually Sjostrom who Ledecky edged out for gold in 2016.

Especially with the addition of the women’s 1500 to the Olympic program, the 200 has become an afterthought for Ledecky internationally and she may well opt out of it individually as she’s done at the last two World Championships.

Penny Oleksiak and Simone Manuel haven’t been in the flow of competition like Sjostrom or King since tying for gold in the 100 free seven years ago, especially recently, leaving them with just a handful of votes in the poll.

Oleksiak was fourth in the 100 free at both the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 World Championships, but she’s been dealing with injury since last summer and whether or not she can regain her form is unclear. The same goes for Manuel, who joined the Arizona State pro group last year but opted out of vying for a spot at the 2023 World Championships, saying the sacrifice to miss Nationals was “an investment for the future.”

Mireia Belmonte, 33, won the 200 fly in Rio but hasn’t broken 2:10 since 2018. She’s still competing and will be taking aim at a fifth Spanish Olympic team next year.

Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks: Which men’s storyline is most intriguing entering 2024:

Which men's storyline is most interesting heading into the Olympic year?

View Results

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The A3 Performance Poll is courtesy of A3 Performance, a SwimSwam partner.

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23/51/1:52
3 months ago

Next poll is men’s distance easily, both the 400 and 1500 WR’s are set to fall, the number of contenders across the events is unprecedented. And I think the 800 WR will fall in the next 5 years, meanwhile I still think the 200 back and W200 fly are both safe for now. Women’s distance is only going to become interesting by LA at the earliest.
Seeing an event category take a great leap forward is what we are all here for.

Steve Nolan
3 months ago

I was stuck between Dressel and distance, and the poll is currently 33% to 32%.

Edit – The more I think about it, the more they’re kinda different. We know the distance races are gonna be pretty sweet, but we dunno wtf Dressel’s gonna do.

Last edited 3 months ago by Steve Nolan
Emily Se-Bom Lee
Reply to  Steve Nolan
3 months ago

how much do we really know about the distance free races next year? the 1500 in fukuoka was hyped up, but finke was the only established name that stepped up that day, the others missed the final or were significantly slower than their PBs. the race still delivered, but in a very different way than expected

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Emily Se-Bom Lee
3 months ago

Oh I have no idea what will happen, but you can assume they should be pretty good.

Races between 2 big favorites can disappoint when one of them gets smoked, but there are so many Distance Dudes going right now.

My best guess would be a cool dogfight, but even one dude going wild and winning going away would be just as exciting.

Last edited 3 months ago by Steve Nolan
Sub13
3 months ago

I think the article is right when it says people picked Sjostrom as overall “likely to win” rather than the 100 fly specifically. King’s time from trials is faster than the Olympic record and just off what Ruta went at worlds while Sjostrom hasn’t swum a notable 100 fly for like 5 years.

King has been inconsistent lately though and Sjostrom has been consistently killing it.

I still think none of the poll answers repeat but we shall see.

As for the next poll: men’s distance by far

whoisthis
3 months ago

distance only right answer

Marc P
Reply to  whoisthis
3 months ago

The most exciting men’s events right now

Troyy
3 months ago

More people picking Sjostrom than King is a little surprising.

Justhereforfun
3 months ago

What about Ledecky in the 400? I wouldn’t say it’s as likely as King in the 100 breast, but definitely more likely than Sjostrom in the 100 fly and her own chances in the 200 free

Marc P
Reply to  Justhereforfun
3 months ago

Read the article.

Swimswam admitted it was an error on their part for not including it.

frug
Reply to  Marc P
3 months ago

I’m pretty sure the comment was posted before SS updated the article.

snailSpace
3 months ago

I don’t get it. Will Sjostrom even swim the 100 fly individually?

Marc P
Reply to  snailSpace
3 months ago

Doubtful

jeff
3 months ago

I guess a concern for Lilly might be whether she makes it to the Olympics in this event at all. I still think Lilly takes it over Sjostrom though; Meilutyte is the only one who has been faster than either of Lilly’s 2021 or 2023 bests in the past 6 years while there are at least 5 flyers who have been faster than Sjostrom’s post Covid best – Huske, Zhang, MacNeil, McKeon, Wattel

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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