2013santaclara Ryan Lochte
Courtesy of: JD Lasica
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PHOENIX, Arizona, July 14. At the 2011 world championships, Ryan Lochte set the first long course world record in the post-techsuit era in the 200 IM final. It was a battle for the ages between Lochte and Michael Phelps, and though Phelps won't be in the pool in Barcelona, Lochte could find himself staring eye-to-eye with a rising star in the final 50 meters. As for Ye Shiwen, will she have any competition on her quest to defend her world title.

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


Women's 200 individual medley

Commings
Gold:
Ye Shiwen
Silver: Alicia Coutts
Bronze: Katinka Hosszu

Alicia Coutts will be about an hour removed from the final of the 100 butterfly, and just as she did in 2011, she will pick up a minor medal behind Ye Shiwen's powerful freestyle. Coutts is probably the only swimmer in the world who can present a challenge to Ye in this event, but we won't see that happen in 2013, unless Coutts can recover well and pace herself in the opening half of the race. Caitlin Leverenz, the Olympic bronze medalist, will put herself into the race on the breaststroke leg, but doesn't appear to have the training background this year to be a serious threat, based on how she swam at nationals. Hosszu will need to push the pace on the front half to be a serious medal contender, but more importantly, not panic on the breaststroke leg, her weakest stroke. No one will have the lead for more than two strokes in this event, which is why the 200 IM is so thrilling to watch at the ultra-elite level.

Rieder
Gold:
Ye Shiwen
Silver: Alicia Coutts
Bronze: Caitlin Leverenz
Darkhorse: Elizabeth Beisel

For only the second time in this series, I am picking the exact same top three as in the Olympic final. Alicia Coutts has been faster than Ye Shiwen so far this year, with a top time of 2:08.63, but the Chinese star has blown off the doors at both the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics, and I expect more of the same in Barcelona. I think Ariana Kukors' world record of 2:06.15 remains out of reach, but both Coutts and/or Ye could drop into the 2:07-mid range that it took to win Olympic gold. I decided to go with Leverenz over Katinka Hosszu for bronze in a tight race, with Leverenz bouncing back from a rough U.S. Nationals where she waited until the last day to make the team. Hannah Miley, Mireia Belmonte and Zsuzanna Jakobos all will be in the mix, while Beisel, who snuck onto the U.S. team at Nationals, actually has a best time of 2:10.75 from 2011, and she should have a lot to drop from her swims last month.

Wilkinson-Minks
Gold:
Ye Shiwen
Silver: Alicia Coutts
Bronze: Katinka Hosszu
Dark horse: Caitlin Leverenz

After Ye Shiwen walked through heats, semi-finals and even the final of the 200 IM fairly easily last summer at the Olympics, it is hard not to choose her as the favorite. She does not have the fastest time in the world so far this year, but she did win by a fairly sizable margin last summer, showing the world a freestyle leg that we'd never seen from an IMer before. Alicia Coutts may have to settle for silver again, although based on her 2:08.63 from Australian trials, it would appear that she has not let up at all after being passed by Ye on that final 50 of the 200 IM last summer. Katinka Hosszu wasn't much of a factor in the 200 IM final last summer, finishing well behind in eighth after attempting to do a treacherous double: 200 fly semi-finals were right before the 200 IM final. She has a much easier schedule this time around, and will likely shake up the podium from last summer. Caitlin Leverenz has been improving steadily over the last 4 years, and improved significantly last season in between Olympic trials and her Olympic debut. She may not be the favorite to win, but if she can get far enough ahead using her stellar breaststroke leg, she has a good chance of making another podium appearance.



Men 200 individual medley

Commings
Gold:
Ryan Lochte
Silver: Kosuke Hagino
Bronze: Thiago Pereira

Kosuke Hagino nearly broke into the all-time top 10 in this event with his 1:55.74 from the Japanese world trials, a list that contains only two names: Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. Lochte will put up a 1:54 in his gold-medal swim, and Hagino will need to be mentally strong in all four legs to make this a race. Lochte has no serious weakness in this event, but his diminished training this year means the final 15 meters of freestyle will be his Achilles' heel. With Hagino also training for the 400 IM, he will have more endurance. As it has been for the past five years, the race for bronze will be exciting, and I see Thiago Pereira as the only one to break through and get on the podium. Laszlo Cseh, Conor Dwyer and Henrique Rodrigues could also be in that scrum for bronze.

Rieder
Gold:
Ryan Lochte
Silver: Kosuke Hagino
Bronze: Thiago Pereira
Darkhorse: Chad Le Clos

This race should be all about Ryan Lochte. Although Kosuke Hagino has swum an impressive 1:55.74 already this year, Lochte can swim in the 1:54-range and maybe even challenge his world record of 1:54.00 from the 2011 Worlds. He won't have the dreaded 200 back-200 IM double he faced at the Olympics, and he will swim this race fresh. Meanwhile, Hagino has been on fire this year, and he enters as the favorite for the silver medal, while Thiago Pereira can get on the podium here after so many fourth-place finishes, twice in the Olympics and twice at Worlds. Olympic bronze medalist Laszlo Cseh will be in the mix, while China's Shun Wang and American Conor Dwyer will be new adds to this event internationally. Le Clos, meanwhile, qualified for the Olympic final but pulled out to focus on the 100 fly. This event falls on an otherwise-free day for Le Clos, so maybe he will show his cards in this final.

Wilkinson-Minks
Gold:
Ryan Lochte
Silver: Kosuke Hagino
Bronze: Thiago Pereira
Dark horse: Henrique Rodrigues

The event schedule worked out in Ryan Lochte's favor for the 200 IM: his 200 backstroke semi-final is at the end of the night on August 1, the 200 IM final at the beginning. For the guy who is no stranger to doubling up on events, throw him a bone like this and he is practically a shoe-in for the win. Kosuke Hagino, however, has already had some huge international success at a young age, and has shown a Lochte-esque versatility to boot. Hagino is bursting with potential, and could be a serious threat to Lochte for that gold medal. Thiago Pereira has been around the block, and the 27-year-old picked up a silver medal in the 400 IM last year at the Olympics, and just missed out on the podium in the 200, finishing fourth. Although his teammate Henrique Rodrigues is seeded ahead of him going into the meet, Rodrigues has yet to reach the final in this event at a long-course World Championships or Olympics; even though his time is seeded third in the world, I am hesitant to predict he will be on the podium. Simply making the final in Barcelona would be a major milestone for him.

Tomorrow: 50 backstroke

Missed our previous previews? Click the links below.
400 freestyle ---- 400 freestyle relay ---- 100 butterfly ---- 100 backstroke ---- 200 freestyle ---- 100 breaststroke ---- 800 freestyle ---- 200 butterfly ---- 50 breaststroke

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