With both Michael Phelps and Michael (Milorad) Cavic (two halves of a great rivalry that accounted for drama, intrigue, and some serious hardware) now retired, there is a big opportunity for someone to set the standard for the upcoming Olympiad. Chad le Clos is widely considered to be a top contender, but he’ll have to catch Steffen Deibler (#1 in the world in 2013), and stave off a tightly-bunched group of swimmers just behind, including Olympic silver medalist Evgeny Korotyshkin, defending Worlds silver medalist Konrad Czerniak, and someone named Ryan Lochte.
Although Phelps is out of the picture, the Olympic co-silver medalists—Russian veteran Evgeny Korotyshkin and the upstart South African Chad le Clos—will be competing in Barcelona. Korotyshkin and le Clos tied for second place in London, touching simultaneously in 51.44. While the first year in a new Olympic cycle can sometimes yield underwhelming results from top-end swimmers, these two have showed no signs of slowing down since London; Korotyshkin (51.53) and le Clos (51.64) have turned in the second and third fastest times in the world, respectively.
The ever-improving le Clos is in a different position than last summer, when the young South African won a pair of individual medals, including his massive upset victory over Michael Phelps in the 200 fly. It will be interesting to see how le Clos responds now that he has a target on his back. He already won the 2012 Short Course Worlds title last December, but with the additional pressure that goes along with the summer long course stage, how will he respond to expectations?
The top seed in Barcelona isn’t le Clos or Korotyshkin, but actually Steffen Deibler of Germany. His 51.19 from Germany Nationals at the end of April is the world’s top time in 2013, making him the third fastest performer since the supersuit ban in October of 2009 (behind Phelps and Czerniak). Although he’s a six-time European Short Course Championship gold medalist, he has never won a medal at a major long course competition.
Poland’s Konrad Czerniak, the eighth fastest performer this year, will look to rebound to prime form after falling back a bit in 2012. Back at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai, he dropped a 51.15 to claim a silver medal (his highest finish ever in a major international competition), the fastest non-Phelps swim since super suits were banned in October of 2009. In 2012, however, he was just the 13th fastest performer overall, swimming over a half second slower than his 2011 effort. He managed just an eighth place finish in London, despite coming into the meet as the second overall seed.
Don’t sleep on Czerniak’s countrymate Pawel Korzeniowski, either. Although he’s made his mark in the 200 fly, Korzenioswki has showed some big time speed in 2013, breaking 52 seconds for the first time in his career at the Polish Championships last month.
For the first time in more than a decade, the 100 fly representatives for the U.S. will not include Michael Phelps, with Eugene Godsoe and Ryan Lochte taking the top spots in Indianapolis. Godsoe was a pleasant surprise at World Championship Trials two weeks ago, decisively winning the 50 butterfly, then returning 48 hours later to out-touch Lochte in the 100. His 51.66 put him fourth overall in the world in 2013, and was his best time by nearly a second. From an international perspective, Godsoe is a lesser known commodity; he represented the U.S. at the 2009 World University Games, but only competed in the backstroke events. This is his first crack at making a mark on the [really] big stage.
This is also a new event on the long course scene for Lochte, who has never competed in the 100 fly at Worlds, the Olympics, or Pan Pacs. He has made major progress in developing his butterfly in recent years, though, evidenced by his consistently improving IM fly splits and his sub-52 effort last two summer in his first true attempt at a tapered 100 fly. Lochte will be the sixth seed in Barcelona, but with a lighter schedule than he usually does, don’t be surprised if he contends for gold.
One lesser known name near the top of the psych sheet worth keeping an eye on: Matteo Rivolta of Italy. Rivolta will be the fifth overall seed in Barcelona, after turning in an impressive 51.70 at Italian Nationals in April (the fastest time of 2013 at that point), smashing the old super-suit-aided national record of 52.14 by Joseph Natullo in 2009. If Rivolta matches his time in prelims and semis, he will [likely] be the first ever Italian 100 fly finalist in World Championship history.
After struggling with a back injury in 2011, Chris Wright of Australia returned to the scene a year ago, rocketing all the way up to eighth in the world with his 51.67 at Australian Olympic Trials. He was a bit slower in London, narrowly missing the Olympic final. But Wright has rebounded again in 2013, winning Australian Nationals in April in 51.77 good for top 8 in the world this year.
Three more quick hits:
- Fellow Commonwealth member Michael Rock of Great Britain will also be looking to contend; he turned in a 51.91 last month at the British Gas Championships, good for tenth in the world.
- Even though Joeri Verlinden hasn’t done much in the long course pool since London (his 2013 best is just 53.38 in March), the (literally) [butter]flying Dutchman finaled in this event at 2011 Worlds and the Olympics last summer.
- Bolles has been on fire, so we should probably bring up Joe Schooling. The Singapore national was 52.33 at the Charlotte UltraSwim in May. If he wasn’t fully tapered, look out.
1. Chad le Clos, South Africa – 51.42
2. Steffen Deibler, Germany – 51.19
3. Evgeny Korotyshkin, Russia – 51.44
4. Ryan Lochte, United States – 51.65
5. Chris Wright, Australia – 51.67
6. Eugene Godsoe, United States – 51.66
7. Konrad Czerniak, Poland – 51.15
8. Matteo Rivolta, Italy – 51.70
Darkhorse: Joe Schooling, Singapore – 52.33