Matthew Grevers reacts after winning the Men's 50 yard freestyle during the U.S. Winter National Championships at the Texas Swimming Center.
Courtesy of: Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE
Swimming World's predictions of the FINA world championships is proudly sponsored by Speedo USA

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 8. ON July 29, the women's and men's 100 backstroke final will take place at the world championships. Will 2011 co-champions Jeremy Stravius and Camille Lacourt be able to keep the title in French hands in the men's event? Will Missy Franklin back up her Olympic title with a world championship gold medal against a heavy field of rivals?

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


Commings

Women 100 back:
Gold:
Missy Franklin
Silver: Aya Terakawa
Bronze: Emily Seebohm
Dark horse: Elizabeth Pelton

Like her male counterpart Ryosuke Irie, Terakawa is the model of consistency, posting multiple swims that were among the top 10 performances of 2013. But she will need to be better than the 58.84 she swam in April to beat Franklin, who will have Gemma Spofforth's world record of 58.12 in her sights. If Terakawa is to beat Franklin in Barcelona, she will need a perfect start, and be more than a half second ahead at the turn, because Franklin will have a much stronger second 50. Seebohm could factor into the gold medal race as well, but hasn't shown that she will be as fast as she was in London, where she won silver behind Franklin and ahead of Terakawa. Seebohm's race strategy in the first 50 meters will determine the outcome. Pelton is finally racing the best in the world in this event, and after her poised performance next to Franklin at nationals, shows she has the ability to focus on her own lane and challenge the top swimmers.

Men 100 back:
Gold:
Matt Grevers
Silver: Jeremy Stravius
Bronze: Ryosuke Irie

This is just one of many races that will come down to the touch, and when a race will be decided by hundredths, it is wise to choose Grevers. The extra four to five inches he'll have on the rest of the field will make a big difference, but he'll have to race tough. The times in the final in Barcelona will be separated by less than a second, and most of the potential finalists are known to specialize in back-half speed. Grevers tends to be an even splitter, which served him well in London. But with a decreased training regiment in the past year, it will be tough for him to get to the wall first. If there is to be a spoiler for gold, it could be Stravius, who is having a stellar year and is hungry to keep the world title in French hands after tying with Camille Lacourt in 2011. Irie has improved steadily in the 100 backstroke over the years, and might not appear to be in the race at 50 meters, but will be among the top three at the final stroke.

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Rieder

Women 100 back:
Gold:
Missy Franklin
Silver: Emily Seebohm
Bronze: Aya Terakawa
Darkhorse: Georgia Davies

I have this one going the way of the Olympic final. Missy Franklin continues to rise to any new challenge the world's backstrokers throw at her. The 100 back will be tougher for Franklin to defend her Olympic title than the 200 will be, but she has never lost in a major 100 back final. Seebohm had the top time at the Olympics through the first two rounds, but Franklin kept her composure and used her signature blazing finish to earn the gold. Seebohm has the speed, but can she hang with Franklin at the finish? Moreover, can Franklin challenge Gemma Spofforth's world record of 58.12? Meanwhile, Terakawa has been very consistent the past two years, but I'm not sure she has the firepower to get into the 58-low range. Davies, meanwhile, has more pure speed than any of the top contenders, so if she can get into the final, she will at the very least help set the pace.

Men's 100 Back:
Gold:
Matt Grevers
Silver: Ryosuke Irie
Bronze: Jeremy Stravius
Darkhorse: Vladimir Morozov

In what should be an extremely tight race, the edge has to go to the Olympic champion. He looked rusty at U.S. nationals, losing on the finish to a charging David Plummer, himself a major medal contender, but Grevers has the major meet credentials to pull out this type of finish on the big stage. After several years of coming up short in the spotlight, Irie has managed bronze medal-finishes at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics, and he has a chance to move up one spot here. Stravius, the lesser-known of the two Frenchmen who tied for the 2011 world title, currently leads the world with a 53.09 (while Camille Lacourt is barely in the top ten), and he also could be a threat. Morozov has been best-known for his sprint free fireworks all year, but he consistently swims a fast 100 back as well, having already posted a 53.70 this year.

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Wilkinson-Minks

Women 100 back:
Gold:
Missy Franklin
Silver: Aya Terakawa
Bronze: Emily Seebohm
Dark horse: Elizabeth Pelton

This is the first "gold medal" that felt obvious to me so far in this predictions series. No one will forget any time soon how Franklin won gold in this event less than fift15een minutes after her 200 freestyle semifinal at the Olympics, and this summer her 200 free semifinal is after the 100 back final. Not only will she take gold, but there is good chance she could add another world record to her resume, and maybe even flirt with 57 seconds. Aya Terakawa is the only other woman in the world with a sub-59 second swim this year, and that time (which is only a hundredth slower than her bronze-medal winning swim from the Olympics) was set all the way back in April. I toyed between Seebohm and Pelton for third, simply because I think they are both capable of amazing swims but are hard to predict. Pelton has definitely found her groove this year under Teri McKeever, and McKeever obviously knows how to prepare swimmers for the international stage. Seebohm is sitting third in the world this year, even though she took a decent vacation after the Olympics. And let's not forget that, although she did not win a gold medal, Seebohm swam the fastest 100 back of 2012.

Men 100 back
Gold:
Jeremy Stravius
Silver: David Plummer
Bronze: Matt Grevers
Dark horse: Ryosuke Irie

There is no great motivator like disappointment. After tying with his teammate Camille Lacourt for the gold medal at the 2011 world championships, Stravius failed to qualify for this event for the 2012 Olympic Games when he placed third at French trials. David Plummer felt a similar sting, missing the U.S. Olympic team by less than two tenths in this event in 2012. Plummer is tied for second in the world this year, only 0.01 behind Stravius. Grevers is not the heavy favorite that he was last summer, but, after winning the race by almost a body length (which is a lot when you are 6-foot-8) at the Olympics, it feels insane to count him out as a medal contender.

Tomorrow: 200 freestyle

Missed our previous previews? Click the links below.
400 freestyle ---- 400 freestyle relay ---- 100 butterfly

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