2013LCNationalsMissy Franklin and Ryan Lochte take the hi-point honors.
Courtesy of: Peter H. Bick
Swimming World's previews of the FINA world championships are proudly sponsored by Speedo USA

PHOENIX, Arizona, July 9. THE next entry in Swimming World's daily predictions of swimming races at the FINA world championships features the 200 freestyle, which should be an exciting preview of how the 800 freestyle relay will shake out later in the week in Barcelona. The Americans haven't won the women's and men's 200 free in the same meet since 1978. Could a USA sweep of the 200 free be in the cards in 2013?

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.


Women's 200 freestyle picks:

Rieder
Gold:
Camille Muffat
Silver: Missy Franklin
Bronze: Federica Pellegrini
Darkhorse: Katinka Hosszu

I have this one going off without any major surprises. Muffat took silver behind Allison Schmitt at the Olympics last year, and without Schmitt, she enters as the favorite. She leads the world this year with a 1:55.48, but Franklin swam within a tenth of a second of that at U.S. Nationals. Franklin did not swim well in the 200 free in Olympic final, fading at the finish to touch fourth, just one one-hundredth of a second behind the bronze medal, but she showed more of her potential in the event in Indianapolis. Pellegrini, meanwhile, will have to bounce back from her disastrous Olympic performance, but she has to fend off Olympic bronze medalist Bronte Barratt, Sarah Sjostrom, and others. Hosszu, meanwhile, has already swum a 1:57.14 this year in the 200 free, an event she has never focused on. Since the event falls between her signature IMs and 200 fly, she could make a push for a finals spot and perhaps a medal.

Wilkinson-Minks
Gold:
Missy Franklin
Silver: Camille Muffat
Bronze: Bronte Barratt
Dark horse: Federica Pelligrini

As scary as it might sound, I think Missy Franklin has merely scratched the surface of her potential. Her success last summer in London and dominance at the U.S. Trials in Omaha is only foreshadowing the swimmer she is going to be. Franklin was on pace to break the world record at Trials last month, but that's a hard race to finish when you win by over two seconds, and history has shown that she gets better as the competition grows fiercer. Camille Muffat has the fastest time in the world this year, a tenth faster than her silver medal performance in London. Although Franklin is a force, the absence of Allison Schmitt must only bolster Muffat's confidence, and she is, hands down, the biggest threat to Franklin. Bronte Barratt's Olympic success has carried through into this season, and I don't think a world record holder can ever be counted out of the race. Federica Pelligrini has won this event at the last two World Championships, and won't go down without a fight.

Commings
Gold:
Missy Franklin
Silver: Camille Muffat
Bronze: Bronte Barratt

The 200 free is one of two women's events which will not feature the reigning Olympic champion (200 breast is the other), and Allison Schmitt's inability to qualify for the United States will be felt in this event and the 800 free relay later in the meet. That leaves the door open for a dogfight between Camille Muffat and Missy Franklin, who are ranked first and second going into worlds. I've been most anxious to see Franklin in this event at the world championships since she posted a time on her 800 free relay leadoff leg in 2011 that would have won the actual event in Shanghai. I was giving the gold to Muffat before Franklin posted that 1:55.56 at nationals, and now it's almost come to a coin toss to pick my winner. I'm giving it to Franklin, based on the momentum she's building in this event. As was the case with the 400 free, Bronte Barratt could also be a gold medal contender, but she'll need to improve on her time from the Australian world trials.

--------------------------------------------------
Men's 200 freestyle picks:

Rieder
Gold:
Ryan Lochte
Silver: Thomas Fraser-Holmes
Bronze: Jeremy Stravius
Darkhorse: Pawel Korzeniowski

It would be hard to deny Yannick Agnel a world title one year after his stunning performance in the Olympic final, but after a strange year that included changing training venues and moving to Baltimore to train with Bob Bowman, he will reportedly not swim the race. If he changes his mind, as rumors indicate he might, he would be the big favorite and my pick for gold. Sun Yang, too, won't swim the race, focusing instead on the longer distances. That opens the door for defending world champion Ryan Lochte, who has a lifetime best of 1:44.44 from two years ago. Certainly, a performance in that range will beat out the rest of this field. Other legitimate threats include France's Jeremy Stravius, rising Australian star Thomas Fraser-Holmes, Russians Danila Izotov and Nikita Lobintsev, and American Conor Dwyer. Korzeniowski has been mostly known as a flyer over his long career, but he does have a 1:46.87 to his credit this year, and he could definitely sneak into an outside lane in the final.

Wilkinson-Minks
Gold:
Ryan Lochte
Silver: Jeremy Stravius
Bronze: Thomas Fraser-Holmes
Dark horse: Kosuke Hagino

If Yannick Agnel were to swim this event, he would be my heavy favorite, but with recent reports indicating he will not be backing up his Olympic title this summer, Ryan Lochte is the best bet for the gold medal. Lochte won this event two years ago in Shanghai, has a lot less on his plate now that he has dropped the 400 IM, and no doubt wants to improve on his fourth-place finish in this event from last summer. Jeremy Stravius was my favorite to win the 100 backstroke, and will have to balance his preparation since these events overlap. In his Olympic debut last summer, Thomas Fraser-Holmes qualified for two Olympic finals, finishing seventh in the 200 freestyle. Three years ago he won a bronze medal in this event at the Commonwealth Games, and the natural progression would be to then aim for a podium performance at a World Championships. Kosuke Hagino won a bronze medal in the 400 IM last summer, and at only 18 years of age, is already showing his world-class versatility. He will have several other events to focus on, but if he is on his game in Barcelona, he could be a threat to the podium.

Commings
Gold:
Ryan Lochte
Silver: Jeremy Stravius
Bronze: Conor Dwyer

Sun Yang was my prohibitive favorite before he decided to withdraw from this event recently. And then there is the rumor that Yannick Agnel is thinking about re-entering the 200 freestyle after taking it off his schedule a couple of months ago. If Agnel returns to the event, the move to the United States and an adjustment to Bob Bowman's training might have an effect on him, and he'll be fighting for a minor medal. Coincidentally, Agnel's new training partner, Conor Dwyer, has been showing signs of improvement and will be in the hunt for a medal. Stravius will carry the flag for France in Agnel's presumed absence, but will either have to take the race out hard to match Lochte's pace or hold back and hope to pass him at the finish. Lochte won this event in 2011 with a 1:44.44, and the others who posted times in the 1:44 range that year are not racing in 2013.

Tomorrow: 100 breaststroke

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

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