By Jeff Commings
PHOENIX, Arizona, June 4. IN 50 days, the best swimmers from countries formerly a part of the British Commonwealth will begin racing at the Commonwealth Games. Some of the fastest times in the world will come from this meet that includes the top Australian, English, Welsh, Scottish, South African and Canadian athletes, just to name a few.
To mark the occasion, let’s take an early look at the way the women’s and men’s 50 freestyles could shake out in Glasgow. The event is always unpredictable, which gets the crowd in attendance even more excited about the results that flash on the scoreboard.
Women’s 50 free
2010 medalists: Gold — Yolane Kukla, Australia (24.86); Silver — Fran Halsall, England (24.98); Bronze — Hayley Palmer, New Zealand (25.01)
Halsall is the only medalist from 2010 returning to the meet, but it doesn’t mean she’s guaranteed to move up to the gold medal spot. That’s currently on hold for Australia’s Cate Campbell, the reigning world champion and world No. 1 in the event with her 24.13 from April’s nationals. Halsall isn’t too far behind with a 24.38. Though I’m calling Campbell the favorite, Halsall shouldn’t be counted out as a worthy challenger. Halsall was third in the 50 free last year at the world championships last year, and could be on a bit of resurgence in 2014.
Could we see the Campbell siblings on the gold and silver medal platforms? Bronte Campbell is third-fastest in the Commonwealth right now in the 50 free (24.58), and the Campbell sisters would love to provide a little history by making the sprint free a family affair.
Another dangerous prospect is Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace. The Bahamas native has been swimming well since moving to the SwimMAC Carolina elite program, and a medal here would be her first in a major long course international championship.
Top five Commonwealth swimmers as of today in the women’s 50 free:
Cate Campbell (24.13)
Fran Halsall (24.38)
Bronte Campbell (24.58)
Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace (24.65)
Melanie Schlanger (24.69)
Men’s 50 free
2010 medalists: Gold — Brent Hayden, Canada (22.01); Silver – Roland Schoeman, South Africa (22.14); Bronze — Gideon Louw, South Africa (22.22)
Watch the 2010 men’s 50 free final:
Hayden is now retired, which means the men’s 50 free will also crown a new champion. Schoeman is looking for his third gold in the 50 free at his fourth Commonwealth Games, having last won in 2006. He has a lot of work to do just to get on the podium, as four Australians and an Englishman have all broken 22 seconds so far this year. Only three swimmers per nation are allowed per event, and Australia has yet to confirm if Eamon Sullivan, the top Commonwealth swimmer so far this year, is physically cleared to swim. Sullivan’s participation depends on the state of his shoulder and his ability to train and race injury-free, but he would love to return to the Games and avenge his sixth-place finish from 2010. That leaves James Magnussen, Matthew Abood and Cameron McEvoy as the top Aussie contenders.
For England, Ben Proud could find himself in a very tight final after breaking the British record with a 21.86, and could give England its first medal in the event since 2002.
South African Brad Tandy, the co-NCAA champion in the 50 free, could be another swimmer to prevent an Aussie overload on the podium in this event. As it stands, though, we could be hearing “Advance Australia Fair” for the man and woman who claim the gold medal in the splash-and-dash extravaganza.
Top five Commonwealth swimmers as of today in the men’s 50 free:
Eamon Sullivan (21.65)
James Magnussen (21.77)
Ben Proud (21.86)
Matt Abood (21.87)
Cameron McEvoy (21.97)
How do you think the women’s and men’s 50 freestyles will shake out at the Commonwealth Games? Leave your predictions in our Reaction Time comments section below!