Sun Yang (CHN) celebrates after winning his men's 200m freestyle semifinal during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Aquatics Centre.
Courtesy of: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
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PHOENIX, Arizona, July 21. SINCE the women's 1500 freestyle is not an Olympic event, we rarely see a field as impressive in the race as we will at the world championships in Barcelona. Katie Ledecky is bound to lead the fastest field in history, and could break Kate Ziegler's world record. As for Olympic champion Sun Yang, his lack of serious training means there will be an opportunity for any of the other seven finalists to chase him through 30 lengths of the pool.

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


Women's 1500 freestyle

Rieder
Gold:
Katie Ledecky
Silver: Jazmin Carlin
Bronze: Lotte Friis
Darkhorse: Eva Risztov

I see this one going according to the books in terms of placing. Katie Ledecky leads the world rankings with a 15:47.15, after an impressive swim at U.S. Nationals edged her ahead of Jazmin Carlin's previous mark. She has the potential to, with some competition, make a run at Kate Ziegler's world record of 15:42.54. Lotte Friis, the defending champion and silver medalist four years ago, should be in the medal hunt, but Ledecky and Carlin have been the class of this event in 2013. Several other medal contenders -- Chloe Sutton, Kristel Kobrich, and Chinese risers Pang Wen Xian and Xu Danlu -- will be in the mix, but I'm watching Eva Risztov, who retired after consistently contending in the IMs and distance events through 2004 and then returned a year ago to win the 10k gold medal in London. If she sticks around for the pool events, she could be an interesting medal possibility. In this race, recovery from prelims will be critical; with only one day between the event's two rounds, the medals could come down to who gets in using the least amount of energy.

Wilkinson-Minks
Gold: Katie Ledecky
Silver: Jazmin Carlin
Bronze: Lotte Friis

When I looked at the top three women in the world in this event, my first thought was "Yup. That looks about right." It is going to be a battle between Katie Ledecky and Jazmin Carlin, who essentially went tit-for-tat during American and British Trials. Both women kept posting impressive distance freestyle times, and no doubt were fully aware of what the other was doing. I am going to pick Ledecky for gold, however, because of her experience. She won the 800 last year, and that will give her a leg up mentally over Carlin, who has yet to have an Olympic berth. Of course, there is still the question of how both these young women will handle their double taper situation: last summer Ledecky only got better at the Olympics, but what about Carlin? Will she be able to repeat her impressive performances from Trials? Lotte Friis is the reigning World Champion in this event, and even though her best time this year is not under the 16-minute barrier, I doubt she has played her cards yet this season.

Commings
Gold:
Katie Ledecky
Silver: Jazmin Carlin
Bronze: Lotte Friis

Katie Ledecky will break Kate Ziegler's world record in the 1500 freestyle on July 30. It is a certainty. She was a mere five seconds behind the world record at nationals, and in a 1500 freestyle, that's not much time to drop (about 3.5 tenths per 100 meters). The only concern is her pacing. If she attacks the front part of the race too hard, she'll fall off world record pace quickly, though it's likely the crowd will try to keep her on pace. Jazmin Carlin could also break the world record, if she can stick to her own game plan and not swim Ledecky's race. It will be a major breakthrough for Carlin, who had been pegged for international success two years ago but wasn't able to follow through at the Olympic Trials. Lotte Friis' biggest concern is holding off any challengers for the bronze medal, and that could include Chloe Sutton or Lauren Boyle.


Men 1500 freestyle

Rieder
Gold
: Sun Yang
Silver: Ryan Cochrane
Bronze: Jordan Harrison
Darkhorse: Mateusz Sawrymowicz

Sun Yang should cruise to a gold medal here, completing the sweep of the 400, 800, and 1500 that he fell just short of in Shanghai two years ago. Ryan Cochrane provided his closest competition at the Olympics last year, but the Chinese sensation beat him by more than 8.5 seconds. I'm not sure if Sun can approach his world record of 14:31.02 from London, but any time in the mid-14:30s should get the job done. Meanwhile, I have 2008 Olympic champ Ous Mellouli finishing just outside of the medals, as Australia returns to prominence in this event through Harrison, who ranks second in the world with a 14:51.02 from April. Connor Jaeger will be right in the mix, as will Italy's Gregorio Paltrineri, while Mack Horton, Michael McBroom and Daniel Fogg rank among those outside medal chances. Although Mateusz Sawrymowicz has not swum any especially fast miles this year -- he has barely cleared the FINA "A" cut -- he made the Olympic final in London and has a world title to his credit from 2007.

Wilkinson-Minks
Gold:
Sun Yang
Silver: Ryan Cochrane
Bronze: Jordan Harrison

This was my hardest event to make a prediction for, because I spent the last two years training one lane over from one of the best in the world in this event. I truly believe that if anyone can beat Sun Yang, it will be Ryan Cochrane. He is the most consistent distance freestyler over the past five years, although he has yet to win a gold medal in this event at a World Championships. Cochrane is ranked only ninth in the world this year, but has no competition within Canada, and did not need to fully taper to qualify for Barcelona. Sun Yang is not only the reigning Olympic gold medalist, he is also the world record holder and owns the fastest time in the world this year. That is an undeniably stacked deck right there, and his advantage into Barcelona cannot be ignored. Jordan Harrison surprised the world, and himself, when he became the second-fastest 17-year old in this event of all time. At Australian Trials, he was hoping to break the 15-minute barrier, and not only surpassed that but posted the second fastest time in the world this year.

Commings
Gold:
Sun Yang
Silver: Ryan Cochrane
Bronze: Connor Jaeger
Dark horses: Jordan Harrison and Gregorio Paltrinieri

Sun Yang hasn't trained hard enough to chase his world record, but that won't matter. As long as he still has that furious final 50 meters and consistent splitting, he will win easily. That continues to be bad news for Ryan Cochrane, who still waits for the opportunity to stand at the top of the medal stand. Cochrane can't rest on grabbing silver comfortably. Connor Jaeger is improving rapidly in the event, and could find himself in the 14:45 range if he races smart. Cochrane will need to keep an eye on Jaeger in the final 750 meters, since Jaeger tends to negative split his races while Cochrane has a more typical even pacing. Jordan Harrison broke 15 minutes for the first time earlier this year and will face some of the best in the event history in Barcelona. How will that affect his nerves? Paltrinieri has the experience but needs to also swim his own race in order to challenge for a medal.

Tomorrow: 50 freestyle

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 ---- 200 individual medley ---- 50 backstroke ---- 100 freestyle ---- 800 freestyle relay ---- 50 butterfly ---- 200 breaststroke ---- 200 backstroke

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