By Phillip Whitten
FUKUOKA, Japan, July 25. THIS is our preview of the events to be contested tomorrow, Thursday, July 26, at the World Championships in Fukuoka.
Five finals are being contested with three featuring races that leave it difficult to divine the winner. Still, that's the purpose of this daily preview, so we're going to brave some very tricky waters.
Men's 100 meter Butterfly
Australia's Michael Klim should be the favorite – he's the WR-holder, the defending world champion, and he's thirsting for revenge after being upset by Sweden's Lars Frolander in Sydney last year. But despite Aussie assurances that Klim is recovered from his ankle accident, he appears to be only at about 95% strength. In a field like this, that will be fatal for the guy his teammates call "Lumpy."
Unfortunately, we think Lumpy will take his lumps again this year. And, once again, the deliverer of those lumps will be the quiet Swede, Frolander, who has looked strong and controlled in prelims and semis.
The USA's Ian Crocker has been steadily advancing to the front ranks of the world's flyers, and he's ready to challenge Fro, and almost certainly lower the American record he set last year in Sydney when he placed fourth.
Thqe bronze will go to Klim's Aussie teammate, Geoff Huegill, with Klim a close fourth.
1. Lars Frolander (SWE)
2. Ian Crocker (USA)
3. Geoff Huegill (AUS)
Could take any medal: Michael Klim (AUS)
Men's 200 meter Breaststroke
Before this meet began, we would have picked the USA's Ed Moses to win and, perhaps, break Mike Barrowman's nine year-old WR. Not anymore. For whatever reason, Moses's supreme confidence seems frayed and his ability to come home strong the final lap appears lost.
The American who has looked impressive is Univ. of Texas sophomore, Brendan Hansen, who broke Barrowman's 200 yard breaststroke mark at NCAAs. This is the deepest 200 breaststroke field ever assembled, but we're going to go out on a limb and predict an upset victory for the 19 year-old from Pennsylvania, though not in WR time.
The battle for the other two medals will feature Moses, Olympic champ Domenico Fioravanti of Italy, Austria's surprising Maxim Prodoprigora, who leads through the first two rounds, and Japan's fast-improving Kotsuke Kitajima, who was fourth in the 100.
Fioravanti was on the rubber pasta circuit a bit too much this year, which showed in the 100. It'll show more in the 200.
We like the Japanese teenager for second, with the fast-rising Austrian sticking his hand on the wall for third. The Aussie, Regan Harrison, probably can't improve on his 2:12 from semis.
1. Brendan Hansen (USA)
2. Kotsuke Kitajima (JPN)
3. Maxim Prodoprigora (AUT)
Could sneak in there: Ed Moses (USA), Domenico Fioravanti (ITA)
Women's 50 meter Butterfly
This is the easiest race to pick, though I write those words with some trepidation as anything can happen over a one-lap sprint.
Still, I have to go with Inky De Bruijn of Holland, the WR-holder, to win. Sweden's Therese Alshammar will push her, but wind up second. Third has to go to Sweden's Anna-Karin Kammerling.
No one else in the field has a reasonable chance of medaling.
1. Inge De Bruijn (NED)
2. Therese Alshammar (SWE)
3. Anna-Karin Kammerling (SWE)
Long shot: Natalie Coughlin (USA)
Women's 200 meter Backstroke
One of the pre-meet favorites, Spain's Nina Zhivanevskaya, mysteriously didn't even come close to making the semis, opening up this event even more than it already was.
The choice for gold is easy: the Olympic champ, Diana Mocanu, from Romania, who turned 17 last week. After that, it's anybody's guess.
We're going to go with Britain's fast-improving Joanna Fargus for second and German veteran Antje Buschschulte, a perennial fourth-place finisher, to step up for third. The dark horse in this race is Russia's 14 year-old Stanislava Komarova, who may be the Beth Botsford of 2001. The USA was shut out of the finals.
1. Diana Mocanu (ROM)
2. Joanna Fargus (GBR)
3. Antje Buschschulte (GER)
Could easily sneak in: Stanislava Komarova (RUS)
Men's 200 meter Individual Medley
This race features a combination of the old and the new, swimming superpowers and swimming pipsqueaks. The Olympic champ and the unknown kid from Trinidad.
The sentimental fav is George Bovell of the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, who led the field in prelims. He's our fav too, but he's unlikely to beat out the grizzled veterans in this field this year. Next time around, he could be The Man.
We have to go with Olympic champion, Massi Rosolino – he of the sky-high hGH levels – though he shouldn't challenge the Olympic record he set last year. The only guy who can give Roso a real race is the USA's gutsy Tom Wilkens. But Wilkens doesn't have the raw speed he'll need to turn the trick.
We're going to indulge our feminine side here and pick Bovell for the bronze, but it's more likely he'll fade to fourth or fifth.
1. Massi Rosolino (ITA)
2. Tom Wilkens (USA)
3. George Bovell (TRI)
Could medal: Justin Norris (AUS)