By Phillip Whitten
FUKUOKA, Japan, July 26. THIS is our preview of the events to be contested tomorrow, Saturday, July 28, at the World Championships in Fukuoka.
As usual, there are some relatively easy calls, some toughies, and at least one toss-up.
Women's 100 meter butterfly
With WR-holder Inge De Bruijn taking a bye, and Slovakia's Martina Moravcova passing this event up as well – a big mistake for her – this field would appear wide open. But the top three women held their places in both prelims and semis. It's a good bet they'll do it again.
Australia's Petria Thomas adds the 100 meter crown to her 200m title. Poland's Otylia Jedrzejczak, who did not swim the 200, is runner-up, and Japan's Junko Onishi beats out the USA's Mary descenza for bronze.
1. Petria Thomas (AUS)
2. Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL)
3. Junko Onishi (JPN)
Could sneak in: Mary Descenza (USA)
Women's 100 meter backstroke
The Olympic champion, Romania's Diana Mocanu is in this one, but the USA's Natalie Coughlin is just too fast for her – or anyone else. Coughlin wins, sets the American record and, if all goes perfectly, becomes the first woman under a minute.
The battle for third features Nina Zhivanevskaya, Antje Buschschulte and Mai Nakamura, all of whom have been off their games here in Fukuoka. Third is a toss-up.
1. Natalie Coughlin (USA)
2. Diana Mocanu (ROM)
3. Mai Nakamura (JPN)
Could beat Nakamura for bronze: Nina Zhivanevskaya (ESP), Antje Buschschulte (GER)
Women's 1500 meter freestyle
The world's fastest woman in this event, Brooke Bennett, is not here due to an illness that kept her out of the US Trials. That leaves the door wide open to anyone who wants this first-ever 1500 at the World Champs.
Germany's Hannah Stockbauer won the 800. She's better at 800 than 400, so it's likely she's better still at 1500. Ditto Switzerland's Flavia Rigamonti.
The US pair of Diana Munz and Kaitlin Sandeno are definite contenders, with Munz a bits stronger over the long course mile. Japan's Sachiko Yamada has the ability to medal, buts he has never come through in a big meet.
1. Hannah Stockbauer (GER)
2. Flavia Rigamonti (SUI)
3. Diana Munz (USA)
Could medal; Kaitlin Sandeno (USA), Sachiko Yamada (JPN)
Men's 50 meter butterfly
Australia's Geoff Huegill lowered the WR in semis and he is a very tough finals swimmer. 100 meter champ, Lars Frolander could make it close, but probably doesn't quite have teh raw speed it would take to beat the Aussie.
Third place will be a battle between South Africa's Roland Schoeman, Britain's Mark Foster, and the USA's Ian Crocker. Foster should have the edge – in fact, he should be fighting for gold – but he notoriously underperforms in the big ones.
1. Geoff Huegill (AUS)
2. Lars Frolander (SWE)
3. Roland Schoeman (RSA)
Capable of medaling; Mark Foster (GBR), Ian Crocker (USA)
Men's 4 x 100m Medley Relay
At the last World championships in Perth, Australia beat the USA in a nail-biting thriller, marking the first time the US had ever lost the race in international competition.
This time around, it looks like a replay: another nail-biter, same result. Australia has the edge in the backstroke and fly, the US has the edge in the breaststroke (though that's shaky) and free. But even though Anthony Ervin won the 100 free, never underestimate Ian Thorpe at the end of the relay.
Germany and Russia will slug it out for third, with Germany fielding a more balanced team. Without the Czar, even Sludnov's breaststroke will not be enough for the Russkies.
Could surprise: Russia