Olympic Swimming Preview: Our Picks for Gold, Silver and Bronze -- September 7, 2000
How Will The US Swim Team Fare in Sydney?
The U.S. Olympic Trials are over and the US team has made the long trans-Pacific trek.
How will the Americans fare at the Olympic Games in Sydney against the world's best? Swimming World has a pretty good idea and offers its predictions for gold, silver and bronze. Here's the way we call it in the September issue of Swimming World.
By Phillip Whitten
As the Sydney Olympic Games draw ever closer, excitement is growing in anticipation of what the Aussies are calling "The Mother of All Swim Meets."
Down Under, the rivalry between the evenly matched U.S. and Aussie men's teams is the biggest news. All the media are predicting a tough battle in which the men from Oz will finally dethrone the Yanks as the world's leading men's power.
The women's competition will be different. The U.S. women still enjoy a decided edge over the sheilas from Down Under. Still, swimmers from Holland, Sweden, Japan, Ukraine and elsewhere should result in the American women winning fewer medals than the U.S. men.
But the U.S.-Aussie team rivalry is far from the only story. Here are just a few of the others:
• Can Alex Popov win both the 50 and 100 free for the third straight Olympiad? Or will Gary Hall avenge his 1996 defeat?
• Will the great Ian Thorpe win four gold?
• Who will take the women's sprints: the USA's Jenny Thompson or Dara Torres, Holland's Inky de Bruijn or Sweden's Therese Alshammar?
• Will the Aussies crack the USA's never-beaten streak in the men's 400 free and 400 medley relays?
• Will Megan Quann make good on her promise to win the women's 100 breast and set a WR?
• Can Kieren Perkins win his third consecutive Olympic 1500? With teen teammate Grant Hackett in the race, it would be a major upset.
• Will Kristy Kowal, the Georgia peach, come up roses in the women's 200 breast?
• Will Lenny Krayzelburg remain king of the backstroke?
• Can anyone beat Inky in the women's 100 fly?
• Who will break a minute in the men's 100 breast—Ed Moses or Russia's Roman Sludnov?
• Will 15-year-old Michael Phelps become the youngest male Olympic medal winner?
These questions presage just some of the highlights of the swimming competition at the 2000 Olympic Games. What follows are our predictions, event by-event.
Saturday, Sept. 16: Day 1
Women’s 400 Meter IM
Americans Kaitlin Sandeno (4:40.91) and Maddy Crippen (4:42.81) are potential medal contenders, but both will have to improve to turn that potential into reality. Ukraine’s Yana Klochkova (4:39.78) has been the most consistent performer, winning virtually every major event she’s entered. Japan’s Yasuko Tajima has the world’s fastest time this year (4:39.13). Romania’s Beatrice Coada Caslaru, Germany’s Nicole Hetzer and Canada’s Joanne Malar have all swum 4:41s.
Gold: Klochkova, UKR; Silver: Malar, CAN; Bronze: Sandeno, USA.
Men’s 400 Free
This event marks the beginning of Australia's bid to dominate the men's freestyle events. The Thorpedo—WR-holder Ian Thorpe (3:41.33)—and Grant Hackett, who swam 3:45.59 last year, should go 1-2. The battle for bronze features America's Klete Keller (3:47.18) and Chad Carvin (3:47.50), South Africa's Ryk Neethling (3:48.74), Italy's Emiliano Brembilla (3:48.56), Romania's Dragos Coman (3:48.69) and Britain's Paul Palmer (3:49.61).
Gold: Thorpe, AUS; Silver: Hackett, AUS; Bronze: Keller, USA.
Women's 4 x 100 Free Relay
With China off the juice, the United States has far too much power and depth for any other country to mount a challenge. Jenny Thompson (54.07 AR), Ashley Tappin (55.28), Amy Van Dyken (55.30) and Dara Torres (54.47 in July) will swim to gold and finally crack the world record (3:37.91) set by China in 1994. Holland, Sweden, Germany and Australia will battle for the silver.
Gold: USA; Silver: Germany; Bronze: Australia.
Men's 4 x 100 Free Relay
The USA has never lost this event in Olympic competition, but the men from Oz are taking dead aim at that streak. If the Aussies win, the momentum could carry them to a repeat of the slaughter of 1956, where they won every men's and women's freestyle event. Gary Hall Jr. and Michael Klim will take it down to the wire. Look for both teams to swim about 3:13—two seconds under the world record.
Gold: USA; Silver: Australia; Bronze: Russia.
Sunday, Sept. 17: Day 2
Women’s 100 Fly
Jenny Thompson (57.59), Inky De Bruijn (56.64) and 33-year-old Wonder Woman Dara Torres (57.58) have all done what was once unthinkable: swim faster than Mary T. Meagher's 18-year-old WR (57.93). De Bruijn's the favorite; Thompson has poise and experience; Torres has raw speed. Four others with 58s will be in the medal hunt: Australia's Petria Thomas and Susie O'Neill, Slovakia's Martina Moravcova and Polish 16-year-old Otilia Jedrzejczak.
Gold: De Bruijn, NED; Silver: Thompson, USA; Bronze: Torres, USA.
Men’s 100 Breast
Ed Moses (1:00.44) has promised to emulate his Biblical namesake and part the waters, breaking the one-minute barrier in the process. Standing in the way is WR-holder Roman Sludnov (1:00.36). Nine others have swum 1:01s this year: USA's Pat Calhoun, Finland's Jarno Pihlava, Japan's Kosuke Kitajima and Akira Hayashi, South Africa's Brett Petersen, Canada's Morgan Knabe, Germany's Mark Warnecke, Britain's Darren Mew and Russia's Dmitri Komornikov.
Gold: Moses, USA; Silver: Sludnov, RUS; Bronze: Calhoun, USA.
Women’s 400 Free
Hannah Stockbauer is the favorite with a world-leading 4:06.55, two seconds faster than Diana Munz (4:08.56) and Brooke Bennett (4:08.76), second and third globally. Costa Rica's Claudia Poll, better at 200, has a 4:09.04 this summer, while Germany's Kerstin Kielgass clocked 4:08.82. Making the race competitive will be Japan's Sachiko Yamada, Ukraine's Yana Klochkova and Romania's Camelia Potec—all 4:10-low or better.
Gold: Stockbauer, GER; Silver: Bennett, USA; Bronze: Potec (ROM).
Men’s 400 IM
Defending Olympic champion Tom Dolan leads the world at 4:13.72, followed by teammate Erik Vendt (4:13.89). The Aussies will counter with Justin Norris (4:16.23) and veteran Matthew Dunn (4:16.50). Also in the hunt are last year's top IMer, Curtis Myden of Canada (4:15.52 in 1999), Japan's Susumu Tabuchi (4:16.04), Israel's Mickey Halika (4:17.49 in 1999) and six other sub-4:20 swimmers.
Gold: Dolan, USA; Silver: Dunn, AUS; Bronze: Myden, CAN.
Monday, Sept. 18: Day 3
Women’s 100 Back
This is a wide open event, but the U.S. duo of B.J. Bedford (1:01.57 in June) and Courtney Shealy (1:02.05) will have to drop a second or more to be in the medal picture. Japan's Mai Nakamura and Noriko Inada, Germany's Antje Buschschulte and Sandra Volker, Spain's Nina Zhivanevskaya, Romania's Diana Mocanu and Australia's Dyana Calub all have a legitimate shot of hearing their national anthem played.
Gold: Nakamura, JPN; Silver: Zhivanevskaya, ESP; Bronze: Buschschulte, GER.
Men's 200 Free
Can anyone beat The Thorpedo? We think not—not before 19 million rabid, adoring, nationalistic fans; in fact, not anywhere. The field will be the fastest in history, but Thorpe (1:45.51) will win his second gold in world record time. Teammate and former WR-holder Grant Hackett, Holland's Pieter van den Hoogenband, Italy's Massi Rosolino, USA's Josh Davis and Brazil's Gustavo Borges will be battling for silver and bronze.
Gold: Thorpe, AUS; Silver: van den Hoogenband, NED; Bronze: Davis, USA.
Men's 100 Back
Lenny the K is to the 100 back as the Thorpedo is to middle distance freestyle—he's head and shoulders above a terrific field. Lenny (53.60 WR) should break his own world record in Sydney. Australia's Matt Welsh and teammate Josh Watson, along with USA's versatile Neil Walker—all with 54s this year—will do battle with the Cuban duo of Rodolfo Falcon and Neisser Bent in pursuit of silver and bronze.
Gold: Krayzelburg, USA; Silver: Welsh, AUS; Bronze: Walker, USA.
Women's 100 Breast
Defending Olympic champion Penny Heyns—with 11 WRs last year—should be the odds-on favorite. But Megan Quann has made believers of us. We agree that the supremely confident 16-year-old has a rendezvous with destiny in Sydney—and she just may do that 1:05.49 she's been telling us about. Japan's Masami Tanaka, Hungary's Agnes Kovacs and Australia's own 15-year-old phenom, Leisl Jones, will all contend.
Gold: Quann, USA; Silver: Jones, AUS; Bronze: Heyns, RSA.
Tuesday, Sept. 19: Day 4
Women’s 200 Free
It will take under two minutes just to make the finals in this event. The field is very tightly bunched with WR-holder Franzi van Almsick (1:59.25), defending Olympic champion Claudia Poll (1:58.02) and No. 1-ranked Susie O'Neill (1:57.47) going for gold. Last year's European champ, Romania's Camelia Potec (1:59.06); and Slovakia's Martina Moravcova (1:59.28) will also be in the fray. The USA’s Lindsay Benko looks to get back to her 1999 form (1:58.86) while Rada Owen needs a two-second drop to be in the picture.
Gold: Poll, CRC; Silver: O'Neill, AUS; Bronze: Potec, ROM.
Men's 200 Fly
This field is unparalleled in the history of swimming. Look for WR-holder Tom Malchow to take the record down to 1:54. Besides Malchow, France's Franck Esposito has also gone 1:55. Other contenders include Ukraine's Denis Silantiev, Australia's Heath Ramsay and Justin Norris, Britain's Stephen Parry and James Hickman, Russia's Anatoli Poliakov and Germany's Thomas Rupprath. The big surprise could be 15-year-old American Wonder Kid, Michael Phelps—he’s incredibly tough in the second half of the race.
Gold: Malchow, USA; Silver: Esposito, FRA; Bronze: Silantiev, UKR.
Women's 200 IM
In the absence of China’s WR-holder, Wu Yanyan, who was suspended for four years for doping, any of a dozen women could step up to claim gold. Romania's Beatrice Coada-Caslaru (2:12.57), Ukraine's Yana Klochkova (also 2:12.57) and Japan's Tomiko Hagiwara (2:12.84) appear to be a stroke or two ahead of the field. USA's Cristina Teuscher (2:13.36) leads the next wave of hopefuls—all at 2:14—including Australia's Elli Overton and the Canadian duo of Joanne Malar and Marianne Limpert. Slovakia's Martina Moravcova, a definite medal possibility, has decided to pass this event up in favor of the 200 free, also swum this day.
Gold: Klochkova, UKR; Silver: Overton, AUS; Bronze: Coada-Caslaru, ROM.
Men's 800 Free Relay
Only an act of God will prevent the men of Oz from claiming gold in this race. With a cast of WR-holder Ian Thorpe, 1998 world champ Michael Klim, former WR-holder Grant Hackett and 1996 bronze medalist Daniel Kowalski, look for the Aussies to drop the WR to 7:05. The U.S. is looking strong for the silver and a new American record. The Brits should hold off Holland for bronze.
Gold: Australia; Silver: USA; Bronze: Great Britain.
Wednesday, Sept. 20: Day 5
Men's 200 Breast
This race is a toss-up, with eight men at 2:12 and 2:13. Yohan Bernard (2:12.48) of France could take it all, but the Russian duo of Roman Sloudnov (2:12.86) and Dmitri Komornikov (No. 1 last year at 2:12.18) will be right there. Also in the hunt are USA's Kyle Salyards and Tom Wilkens (No. 1 in 1998 at 2:12.39), along with Japan's two 2:13 swimmers.
Gold: Komornikov, RUS; Silver: Bernard, FRA; Bronze: Salyards, USA.
Women's 200 Fly
Little kids in Australia now call the butterfly "the Susie Stroke," in honor of WR-holder Susie O'Neill (2:05.81), who should lower her own WR in a 1-2 Aussie sweep with Petria Thomas (2:07.21). The battle for third will pit veterans Mette Jacobsen of Denmark (2:08.12) and USA's Misty Hyman (2:09.27) against youngsters Maki Mita (2:08.13) of Japan and Otilia Jedrzejczak (2:08.63) of Poland.
Gold: O'Neill, AUS; Silver: Thomas, AUS; Bronze: Hyman, USA.
Men's 100 Free
Russia's Alex Popov already is the first man in history to win the 50 and 100 free in back-to-back Olympics. Now, he'll try for an historic triple-double. He comes into the meet No. 1 in the world, 6-hundredths off his WR. But the competition will be fierce, featuring Holland's "Hoogie," Australia's Michael Klim and Chris Fydler plus the USA's Neil Walker and Gary Hall Jr.—all with 48s.
Gold: Popov, RUS; Silver: van den Hoogenband, NED; Bronze: Klim, AUS.
Women's 800 Free Relay
In 1996, this race was a two-team struggle between the USA and Germany, with the Yanks winning the battle. Sydney will be a rematch, but with Australia thrown into the mix and Sweden looking for a medal as well. Lindsay Benko, Rada Owen, Samantha Arsenault and Julia Stowers were the top U.S. qualifiers, but look for Coach Richard Quick to substitute Jenny Thompson, Dara Torres and, possibly, Cristina Teuscher onto the American squad.
Gold: Germany; Silver: Australia; Bronze: USA.
Thursday, Sept. 21: Day 6
Women's 200 Breast
Four years ago, Penny Heyns won in 2:25.41. This year, there are four women at 2:24 or better—WR-holder Heyns (2:23.64), Japan's Masami Tanaka (2:24.12), USA's Kristy Kowal (2:24.75) and Hungary's world champ, Agnes Kovacs (2:24.90). Don’t count out Australia’s former WR-holder, Rebecca Brown, who swam a 2:24 in 1994. There are also several challengers at 2:25 and 2:26, including China's Qi Hui, Russia's Olga Bakaldina, USA's Amanda Beard and Euro champ Beatrice Coada-Caslaru of Romania.
Gold: Kowal, USA; Silver: Tanaka, JPN; Bronze: Heyns, RSA.
Men's 200 Back
World record holder Lenny Krayzelburg (1:55.87) is the clear favorite, but he will be challenged by 17-year-old Aaron Peirsol, giving the U.S. a 1-2 sweep. The real battle will be for third, where it should take a 1:57+ to make the podium. Germany's Ralf Braun, Australia's Matt Welsh, Croatia's Gordan Kozulj, Russia's Sergie Optapchuk and Israel's Yoav Gath should be among the challengers.
Gold: Krayzelburg, USA; Silver: Peirsol, USA; Bronze: Kozulj, CRO.
Women's 100 Free
This will be a monster event, pitting six of the nine fastest women in history: Holland's WR-holder Inky De Bruijn (53.80), the USA's dynamic duo of Jenny Thompson (AR 54.07)—still searching for that elusive individual Olympic gold medal—and Dara Torres (54.47), Germany's Antje Buschschulte (54.39), Sweden's Therese Alshammar (54.41) and Slovakia's Martina Moravcova (54.45). Whichever speedster can stay most focused and keep her race together will win.
Gold: Alshammar, SWE; Silver: Thompson, USA; Bronze: De Bruijn, NED.
Men's 200 IM
Italy's Massi Rosolino comes in with this year's fastest time (2:00.62), followed closely by USA's Tom Wilkens (2:00.67) and Tom Dolan (2:00.81). Aussies Matthew Dunn (2:01.28) and Robert Van Der Zant (2:01.47) will be spurred on by the raucous home crowd. Take note, too, of past heroes: Holland's Marcel Wouda, Canada's Curtis Myden, Hungary's Attila Czene (defending Olympic champ) and even WR-holder Jani Sievinen.
Gold: Czene, HUN; Silver: Rosolino, ITA; Bronze: Wilkens, USA.
Friday, Sept. 22: Day 7
Women's 200 Back
Nina Zhivanevskaya's coach is in the pokey after being busted for dealing the drug, Ecstasy. But the Russian-turned-Spaniard (2:09.53) may manufacture her own ecstasy in Sydney, edging out Japan's Miki Nakao (2:10.40) and Tomoko Hagiwara (2:10.91) plus Germany's Antje Buschschulte (2:11.12). At 2:12.97 and 2:13.19, respectively, the U.S. duo of Amanda Adkins and Lindsay Benko need a big drop to be competitive.
Gold: Zhivanevskaya, ESP; Silver: Nakao, JPN; Bronze: Hagiwara, JPN.
Men’s 100 Fly
In this year's world rankings, only 4-hundredths separates the three fastest 100 flyers ever. Australia's Geoff Huegill (52.19) and Michael Klim (52.20) plus Sweden's Lars Frolander (52.23) are in for a battle royal in which it should take a sub-53 effort to make finals. Klim set the WR of 51.81 last December. America's Ian Crocker (52.78) and Tommy Hannan (52.81) have showed vast improvement and could figure in the fight. Gold: Klim, AUS; Silver: Huegill, AUS; Bronze: Frolander, SWE.
Women’s 800 Free
Brooke Bennett (8:23.92) has confirmed her title as queen of distance swimming. Not only is she almost five seconds faster than anyone else this year, but she also has never lost this race internationally since winning Olympic gold in 1996. In the battle for second, USA's iron-woman Kaitlin Sandeno (8:28.61) takes on Switzerland's Flavia Rigamonti (8:29.16) and Germany's Hannah Stockbauer (8:29.84)—the only swimmers under 8:31. Don’t overlook Jamaica’s Janelle Atkinson.
Gold: Bennett, USA; Silver: Sandeno, USA; Bronze: Rigamonti, SUI.
Men’s 50 Free
Since the 1996 Games in Atlanta, Alex Popov was almost fatally stabbed. Gary Hall Jr. was injured when his car's radiator blew up in his face; he had to spend thousands defending himself against charges from FINA after testing positive for marijuana and USA Swimming for alleged minor infractions (which proved not to be true) in 1998; and he recently was diagnosed with diabetes. Still, after four years of tribulation, Popov and Hall return for a rematch as the two fastest men in history, followed closely by Hall’s Phoenix teammate, Anthony Ervin, No. 3 all-time.
Gold: Popov, RUS; Silver: Hall, USA; Bronze: Ervin, USA.
Saturday, Sept. 23: Day 8
Women’s 50 Free
The U.S. has two big guns in Dara Torres (24.73), the American record holder, and Amy Van Dyken (24.99), the defending Olympic champion. They come to the dance as the third and fourth fastest 50 freestylers in the world, but they are going to be hard-pressed to stay with Europe's super sprinters, Holland's Inky De Bruijn (WR 24.39) and Sweden's Therese Alshammar (24.44).
Gold: Alshammar, SWE; Silver: De Bruijn, NED; Bronze: Torres, USA.
Men’s 1500 Free
Twenty years after Russia’s Vladimir Salnikov became the first man under 15 minutes, Erik Vendt became the first American to perform the prodigious feat. Still, he'll have to go much faster to stay with the touted Aussie duo: world champion Grant Hackett (14:45.60 in 1999) and two-time defending Olympic champion Kieren Perkins (14:41.66 WR in 1994). South Africa's Ryk Neethling should duel with Vendt for the bronze. Gold: Hackett, AUS; Silver: Perkins, AUS; Bronze: Vendt, USA.
Women’s 400 Medley Relay
The U.S. is simply too strong and too deep for the rest of the world to mount a challenge. The Yanks—whichever combination of swimmers they choose—should become the first women's medley relay team to break four minutes. Germany and Australia will battle for the silver. Japan's outrageous—and inexplicable--decision not to include Suzu Chiba on its Olympic squad will cost that country a medal.
Gold: USA; Silver: Australia; Bronze: Germany.
Men’s 400 Medley Relay
At the 1998 World Championships, Australia beat the Americans for the first time ever in international competition. At the 1999 Pan Pacs, the U.S. exacted its revenge by mere hundredths of a second. In Olympic competition, America has won this event all nine times, each time setting a world record. The Aussies may be upset-minded, but the U.S. will build an insurmountable lead in the first 200 meters, then hang on for its 10th straight win and 10th straight world record.
Gold: USA; Silver: Australia; Bronze: Russia.