By John Lohn
CRANBURY, New Jersey, July 22. TODAY marks the final individual-event feature of SwimmingWorldMagazine.com's 32-week Olympic Preview Series. We'll be taking a look at the men's 100 butterfly, highlighted by the showdown between Ian Crocker and Michael Phelps. The men have had numerous battles through the years and another goodie is on the horizon.
Defending Champion: Michael Phelps (United States) – 51.25.
World-Record Holder: Ian Crocker (United States) – 50.40.
Most Titles: United States (Five) – Doug Russell (1968); Mark Spitz (1972); Matt Vogel (1976); Pablo Morales (1992); Michael Phelps (2004).
Notable: During the 1988 Games in Seoul, Suriname's Anthony Nesty won an epic battle with the United States' Matt Biondi. Nesty covered his two-lap effort in 53.00, with Biondi touching in 53.01. Nesty is the only athlete from Suriname to win an Olympic medal.
Here are the leading medal contenders:
The defending Olympic champion prevailed in dramatic fashion four years ago as he furiously rallied on the final lap to touch in 51.25, just ahead of Ian Crocker's time of 51.29. Phelps also defeated Crocker at last year's World Championships and at the U.S. Trials and is the second-fastest man in history, having dipped under the 51-second barrier.
Making his third trip to the Games in this event, Crocker holds the world record at 50.40, set at the 2005 World Championships. Crocker captured world titles in 2003 and 2005 and is expected to duel with Phelps throughout the two laps in Beijing. Crocker will set the early pace, as has been his trademark, and then try to hold off the charge of Phelps. However the race unfolds, a gold-silver sweep for the United States is there for the taking.
The Frenchman is best known for his sprint freestyling, but Bousquet did not qualify to swim either the 50 or 100 free in Beijing. So, his individual medal hopes hinge on the fly, where he holds the third-fastest time in the world this year at 51.50. Bousquet has been solid in his tuneup for the Games and could bump onto the podium.
He held the world record for a brief time in this event, only to be surpassed by Crocker and Phelps. The Ukrainian won the bronze medal in Athens and has been 51-low at his best. Serdinov was timed in 52.11 in June, but must drop that time to take home another Olympic medal.
The sixth-place finisher at last year's World Champs, the Serbian dropped a personal best of 51.65 earlier this year to put himself firmly in the medal equation. The sprint star has a huge upside and a run at the bronze medal would not be startling.
The University of Arizona speedster, who was an NCAA champion in the 100-yard fly, will represent Venezuela in Beijing. Subirats was the bronze medalist at last year's World Champs behind a time of 51.82. There's no reason to believe he won't contend for the third position at the Games.
Masayui Kishida will lead his nation into Beijing, having produced a time of 51.86 earlier this year at the Japanese Nationals. Joining Kishida to make a run at a medal from Japan will be Takuro Fujii, who has registered a 2008 best performance of 52.14.
At the Aussie Olympic Trials, the guys from Down Under were given a lift in this event, once the domain of Michael Klim. Andrew Lauterstein cracked the 52-second mark, going 51.91. While he's his nation's best shot at a medal, Adam Pine has been 52.13 and an improvement could help him break into the medal chase.
The Brazilian duo of Gabe Mangabeira and Kaio Almeida will make a run at spots in the championship final. Also keep an eye on veteran Thomas Rupprath of Germany and Slovenia's Peter Mankoc. Others worth tracking are Spain's Rafael Munoz and Russian Evgeni Korotyshkin, who has been 51.89 this year. South Africa's Lyndon Ferns is another established star in the international circuit.