2013LCNationalsDana Vollmer wins the 100 butterfly.
Courtesy of: Peter H. Bick
Swimming World's predictions of the FINA world championships is proudly sponsored by Speedo USA

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 6. A world record holder's attempt to defend her title, and a quest to succeed Michael Phelps are the topics of today's world championship preview, as we look at the medal contenders in the women's and men's 100 butterfly.

Swimming World correspondents Jeff Commings, David Rieder and Julia Wilkinson-Minks are offering their medal predictions for each event throughout this series, with a brief analysis of their top-three selections.


Wilkinson-Minks

Women 100 butterfly:
Gold:
Alicia Coutts
Silver: Dana Vollmer
Bronze: Lu Ying
Dark horse: Katerine Savard

Alicia Coutts has been steadily improving since the 2008 Olympics, making a huge jump late in 2010 when she captured five gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. Coutts won the silver medal in this event behind Dana Vollmer in 2011, and took bronze last summer in London. Unless Dana Vollmer pulls out another sub-56 second swim, I think Coutts is finally going to earn her first individual gold on the World Championship stage. Vollmer is not quite where she was at this time last year, which is understandable coming off an Olympic gold medal and 100 butterfly world record that frightened freestylers, but she is still one of the best butterflyers in the world. Lu Ying is only ranked sixth in the world this year, but the 2012 Olympic silver medalist posted this time back in April, so there is no telling what she will have in the tank come WJuly 29. Savard, in the past, has swum well in Canada but nerves have gotten the better of her at the big summer international meet. However, she has more than enough ammo to keep her nerves at bay in Barcelona: the second fastest time in the world, several in-season national records, and Olympic experience. If she is able to put together the swim she is capable of physically, there is no telling what she might do.

Men 100 butterfly:
Gold:
Steffen Deibler
Silver: Chad Le Clos
Bronze: Evgeny Korotyshkin
Dark horse: Ryan Lochte

When it comes to 100 meters in the pool, half a second is a lot, and that is what is separating Steffen Deibler from the rest of the world in this event so far this year (0.45 if you are going to be picky). Deibler tied for fourth last summer in this event, and fourth can either make or break you: since he is still swimming, and swimming fast, I am going to assume his near-miss of the Olympic podium was a major motivator. Chad Le Clos' fastest time this year from Mare Nostrum puts him third in the world, but since the South African team was announced back in May, I doubt he was rested for this swim. Korotyshkin tied with Le Clos in this event at the Olympics, and has had the last three months to improve on the time that has him sitting second in the world currently. Although it may seem odd to have Ryan Lochte as a dark horse and not a shoe-in for the podium, this event has been on his back burner other years. Freeing himself from the 400-meter IM has no doubt helped him focus on this one, and although he only had a month to tweak it, we can't help but wonder: What Will Ryan Lochte Do?

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Commings

Women 100 fly:
Gold:
Dana Vollmer
Silver: Alicia Coutts
Bronze: Jeanette Ottesen Gray

Vollmer won't need to pull off a sub-56 to win this race, but it would be great to see her break her own world record in defending her world title. Like many Olympic champions, her training wasn't as concentrated as it could have been this season, but with a month to prepare, she should be able to get to the wall first. Will she bring along any others in the 56-second range? Coutts continues to look strong in this event, winning silver in 2011 and bronze in 2012. Lu Ying and Ottesen will be fighting for that bronze medal. Lu will present a strong final 50 meters, while Ottesen will blast the field and be at or near world record pace at the turn. Ottesen has been traveling the world racing some of the best, and that should come to her benefit in the final.

Men 100 fly:
Gold:
Chad Le Clos
Silver: Steffen Deibler
Bronze: Evgeny Korotyshkin
Dark horse: Ryan Lochte

This is an extremely tough race to call. For the first time in 12 years, we don't have Michael Phelps in a 100 fly championship final. Usually, we're trying to figure out who will place second behind Phelps, but now we have to dig deep to find a winner. Chad Le Clos has had a rocky season, but when he swims fast, it's a mind-blowing swim. Plus, this guy has essentially become the next Phelps, taking out the 100 fly in a relative pedestrian pace and checking off each competitor one by one. He could do that in Barcelona, if he doesn't fall too far behind the leaders. Korotyshkin, who tied Le Clos for the silver medal in London, is finally coming around as a long course swimmer, and should win a minor medal. If Steffen Deibler is to pull off a podium spot, he'll have to control himself the first 50 meters. Ryan Lochte is the unknown here, since he's never raced the world in the long course pool in the 100 fly. The 100 fly final will be the only race he swims on August 3, so no worries about attempting a tough double.

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Rieder

Women's 100 fly:
Gold:
Dana Vollmer
Silver: Alicia Coutts
Bronze: Sarah Sjostrom
Darkhorse: Tao Li

Vollmer had one goal in mind when she showed up for U.S. Nationals -- make the team in the 100 fly. She did so, and even though she doesn't have the top time in the world headed into Barcelona, she knows what she needs to do to beat the likes of Coutts, Sjostrom, Lu Ying, Jeanette Ottesen Gray, and others. Coutts should be the biggest threat to Vollmer, as she tends to improve at the big meets and already has a 57.16 to her credit this year. Sjostrom hasn't had things go her way since setting a world record on her way to the world title four years ago, but she could easily be back on the podium here. As for Tao, she has flown under the radar since her fourth-place finish in Beijing in 2008. She took tenth in London, and having not swum in a major qualifying meet yet, she might have a big swim in her to push the top guns.

Men's 100 Fly:
Gold:
Chad Le Clos, South Africa
Silver: Steffen Deibler, Germany
Bronze: Ryan Lochte, USA
Darkhorse: Joseph Schooling, Singapore

When Jeff Commings and I talked on the Morning Swim Show immediately after the Olympics, we agreed upon Le Clos as a name that could establish himself as one of the best swimmers in the world and certainly a top butterflyer in the absence of Michael Phelps. Without Phelps, I like his chances to do one better than the silver medal he won in London. Deibler and Le Clos' co-Olympic silver medalist Evgeny Korotyshkin probably have the best front-half speed, but both sometimes have issues getting home at the end. Not trying to be an American homer picking Lochte for third, but assuming he has a faster meet all-around than Nationals, he will automatically be in the medal hunt. The swim should be his only one on day seven of the meet. Whereas you never know who will step up in a sprint like this, Lochte always comes through in the big races. As for Schooling, he has been a 52.33 this year, and he has been on the rise at Bolles School. He's a huge underdog for a medal, but he could definitely start sneaking up on the big names.

Tomorrow: 100 backstroke

Missed our previous previews? Click the links below.
400 freestyle ---- 400 freestyle relay

Agree or disagree with our world championship medal predictions? Sound off below in our comments section.