By John Lohn
CRANBURY, New Jersey, July 15. FOUR to go in SwimmingWorldMagazine.com's 32-week Olympic Preview Series. We'll tackle the 100 butterfly races this week and next, then close things out with the 400 freestyles relays. At that point, it will be time for the Beijing Games and plenty of fireworks in China.
Defending Champion: Petria Thomas (Australia) – 57.72.
World-Record Holder: Inge deBruijn (The Netherlands) – 56.61.
Most Titles: United States (Five) – Shelley Mann (1956); Carolyn Schuler (1960); Sharon Stouder (1964); Mary T. Meagher (1984); Amy Van Dyken (1996).
Notable: While she was light years ahead of her time in the 200 butterfly, Mary T. Meagher was also ahead of the curve in the 100 fly. Her winning time of 59.26 at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles was a world record and chopped more than a second from the Olympic record.
Here's a look at the medal contenders.
The two-lap butterfly is one of three individual events Trickett hopes to win in Beijing. She is the reigning world champion and scared the world record earlier this year with a clocking of 56.81. Her biggest competition for the gold, especially with American-record holder Natalie Coughlin deciding to bypass the event, figures to be countrywoman Jessicah Schipper.
Look for Trickett to challenge the world record and to be one of the outstanding female performers of the competition, battling for headlines with American Katie Hoff. Not only is Trickett the favorite to win the 100 fly, she's the No. 1 choice in the 50 and 100 freestyles. Trickett is also a member of Australia's favored 400 free relay and 400 medley relay.
While her best performances have arrived in the 200 fly, Schipper is no stranger to major success in the shorter distance. She is the reigning silver medalist from the World Champs and has been 57-low during her career, with a 2008 best of 57.31. She'll play a big role in the gold-medal chase and in Australia's attempt to occupy the top-two positions.
Through all three rounds at the United States Trials, Magnuson was the dominant performer in the 100 fly, taking control of her races and not allowing her rivals to chase her down. She had a superb college season at the University of Tennessee and clocked a best time of 57.50 during Trials. A similar outing will have the first-time Olympian knocking on the door to a medal.
Great Britain has received a spark in a number of events and one of those lighting a match has been Lowe. At the British Trials, she dipped below the 58-second barrier, turning in a time of 57.78. She'll need to dig deep and cut a few more tenths if she plans on having a medal draped around her neck.
One of a handful of American athletes to have a breakout showing at the United States Trials, Breeden is qualified in the 100 and 200 fly events. She might be better suited for a medal run in the longer distance, but with a best of 58.03, dropping into 57-range is possible. If she can do that, maybe the Stanford standout can uncork a surprise medal run.
Their exploits in the sprint-freestyle events have made them household names, but Marleen Veldhuis and Inge Dekker have some versatility. Veldhuis has been 58.13 this year while Dekker has also gone that time and was the fourth-place finisher at the 2007 World Championships.
It's worth keeping track of France's Alena Popchanka, sixth at last year's World Champs. Also watch Great Britain's Francesca Halsall, the ever-evolving teenager who has been 58.16 this year. From Japan, Yuko Nakanishi and Yuka Kato have the ability to advance to the championship final. Poland's Otylia Jedrzejczak was the silver medalist at the 2004 Games in Athens, though she hasn't put much emphasis on the 100 fly this year.