The United States topped the men’s medal table at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona despite the glaring absence of Michael Phelps, but it seems as though this time around, the task might prove to be more of a challenge. Even in 2013, things were close, as the French actually tied the Americans in the number of gold medals won. Each country took home four golds. The American men’s total medal tally is what ultimately put them ahead of the French.
Once again, if the Americans want to come out on top they’re likely going to have to do so without Phelps. The Olympic icon was bumped off the World Champs roster after his DUI last year, and though there’s been rumblings that the North Baltimore swimmer could find his way back onto the roster, so far it hasn’t progressed beyond speculation. Not including Phelps, the American men didn’t have any single swimmer ranked first in the world in an event from last year, which poses the question of whether or not they’ll be able to come out on top again.
The breaststrokes are without a doubt one of the weakest spots on the American program right now. British swimmers are currently dominating those respective races with Adam Peaty setting the world record in both the 50 and 100, and Ross Murdoch establishing himself as one of the best 200 swimmers on the planet.
The freestyle events aren’t going to be a cakewalk either for the American men. The Australians are currently very competitive in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyles. Nathan Adrian proves to be a great 100 swimmer, however he was beaten at last year’s Pan Pacific Championships by Cameron McEvoy in the 100. The 50 has swimmers like Florent Manaudou, Cesar Cielo and Vlad Morozov standing in the way of American medal hopes.
Arguably the 200 freestyle doesn’t have a clear favorite. There’s Thomas Fraser-Holmes of Australia who was the top ranked male swimmer last season among many. Without a distinct favorite, this event is open to Ryan Lochte. Lochte won the 200 free in 2011 and is entered in the race now. He hasn’t put up any fantastic times
recently, but with only two events to focus on he could emerge victorious. Kosuke Hagino is a great 200 freestyler and could very well be in the mix.
The 400 through 1500 freestyles for the American men aren’t events where a gold medal is a sound prediction. Sun Yang will be back in full force at these World Championships and has been the most dominant force in distance swimming since his breakthrough year in 2011. Yang has the talent to win the 4oo-800-1500. Maybe Mack Horton, Ryan Cochrane, or Connor Jaeger could step up and de-thrown him from an event, but he is undoubtedly the unprecedented favorite if he’s in good form.
Backstroke and fly swimming are the American’s bread and butter. Ryan Murphy and Tyler Clary will be swimming the 200 back. Clary is the defending Olympic gold medallist in the event and can surely win. As for the 100, there are so many great competitors that nothing is a lock. Matt Grevers is the favorite.
Fly is a tricky one without Michael Phelps. There are so many top-notch fly swimmers in the States, and Tom Shields could be in the spotlight big-time. Shields has talent, but there are guys like Chad Le Clos that he’ll be up against. Le Clos is the defending world champion in both the 100 and 200 flys.
Kosuke Hagino of Japan is likely the one to take the medley races. In the absence of Phelps, Hagino is probably the most ‘Phelpsian’ athlete in the pool in terms of his versatility and range. Tyler Clary and Ryan Lochte are the Americans’ best chances in the IM events. In the 400, Hagino is so consistant and successful, as is his Japanese teammate Daiya Seto. The 200 is Lochte’s realm. Hagino just narrowly got the better of Lochte last summer and that bad taste has to be sitting in the back of Lochte’s mouth.
As for the relays, there’s no denying that without Phelps the Americans take a big hit. The 4×100 freestyle relay looks to be between either France, Australia, or Russia. Last year, the Americans weren’t even ranked top three in the world rankings in that relay. They would have placed fourth behind the Italians at the European Championships, and that was without Australia in the mix. The Chinese were within two tenths of a second off the American’s combined time, as were the Brazilians. The French look to be the most dominant, and the Americans will need to push it if they want to earn a medal.
In the 4×200 free relay the Americans should win barring a very strong performance from the Japanese. They just barely beat them at Pan Pacs and that was with Michael Phelps on the team. Without him, there’s a chance they could lose. Conor Dwyer will need to be faster on the relay, and with Lochte’s smaller schedule he should be much faster in the 200 free. It won’t be a landslide victory like it usually is, however the Americans are still the favorites.
As for the 4x100m medley relay, once again the Americans look to be the driving force in this race. The British swimmers should put up a big fight, but even without Phelps off the roster they should be able to win it. The British are stronger in the breaststroke by a long-shot. The Americans, slightly faster in the back, definitely faster in the fly, and Nathan Adrian is for sure faster in the freestyle. Britain’s hopes all lie in the possibility a ridiculous monster-split from world record-holding Adam Peaty that will need to give them a sizable lead heading into the free.
PREDICTED WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS RESULTS
**All picks were made based on results from the last few seasons and world rankings, they are not our official picks for this summer’s World Championships
Note: Any events with a second or third swimmer in brackets indicates an event where there isn’t a huge favorite in the event.
- 50m Freestyle – Florent Manaudou (France) [Cesar Cielo – Brazil]
- 100m Freestyle – James Magnussen (Australia) [Nathan Adrian- USA] [Cameron McEvoy – Australia]
- 200m Freestyle – Thomas Fraser-Holmes (Australia) [Kosuke Hagino – Japan] [Ryan Lochte- USA]
- 400m Freestyle – Sun Yang (China) [Kosuke Hagino – Japan]
- 800m Freestyle – Sun Yang (China)
- 1500m Freestyle – Sun Yang (China)
- 50m Backstroke – Camille Lacourt (France)
- 100m Backstroke – Matt Grevers (USA) [Camille Lacourt – France]
- 200m Backstroke – Tyler Clary (USA) [Ryosuke Irie – Japan]
- 50m Breaststroke – Adam Peaty (GBR)
- 100m Breaststroke – Adam Peaty (GBR)
- 200m Breaststroke – Adam Peaty (GBR) [Ross Murdoch – GBR]
- 50m Fly – Cesar Cielo (Brazil)
- 100m Fly – Chad Le Clos (South Africa) [Tom Shields- USA]
- 200m Fly – Chad Le Clos (South Africa) [Tom Shields – USA] [Daiya Seto – Japan]
- 200m IM – Ryan Lochte (USA) [Kosuke Hagino – Japan]
- 400m IM – Kosuke Hagino (Japan) [Tyler Clary – USA] [Daiya Seto – Japan]
- 4×100 Free Relay – France [Australia] [Russia]
- 4×200 Free Relay – USA [Japan]
- 4×100 Medley Relay- USA [GBR]
With this outcome, the Americans would once again top the medal tables. There biggest concerns would have to be the relays, the 200m IM, and the 200m backstroke. If Kosuke Hagino wins the 200m IM, and then the Japanese beat the Americans on the 4×200 freestyle relay, the Americans would be tied once again for the total number of gold medals. This time, the tie would be between Japan, France, the USA, and China.
Ryosuke Irie is the current world leader in the 200m backstroke, and he and Hagino topped the world rankings last season. If one of them can get past Tyler Clary then the Japanese could very will win the men’s rankings or tie them up.
In this current scenario, the Americans do win. They’re not miles ahead of the field in any of the events they’re racing however, so there truly isn’t any lock. Their safest events appears to be the 4x100m medley relay, but if a repeat of the 2013 disqualification appears they could be in even more trouble than before.
As for total rankings, the Chinese came very close to the total USA medal tally of 15 golds due to their dominance in diving. The Americans will once again need to dominate the pool in order to hold-off the Chinese from passing them due to their diving excellence. The American women’s team is very sound. With Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin, a whole pool of top-notch young swimmers, and some of the best relays in the world they should be able to win enough to hold off the Chinese.
Without Michael Phelps, things aren’t set in stone, but it’s looking as though there is a good chance that the Americans could top the men’s medal tally, the overall swimming medal tally, and the overall competition medal tally.