By Phillip Whitten (with a little help from my friend)
FUKUOKA, Japan, July 28. THIS is our preview for the events to be contested tomorrow, Sunday, July 29, the final day of the 9th FINA World Championships.
MEN's 50m BREASTSTROKE
This is one of the toughest events to pick. Theoretically, the US pair, Ed Moses and Anthony Robinson, should be ranked one-two, as Moses holds the WR and Robinson had the second fastest time coming in. But both men have been off their game here.
The race probably will boil down to two East Europeans: Ukraine's Igor Lisogor, the top qualifier, and Russia's Roman Sloudnov, who won the 100. Germany's Mark Warnecke may have one more good race in him. Don't count out Italy's Fioravanti, Moses or Robinson.
1. Igor Lisogor (UKR)
2. Roman Sloudnov (RUS)
3. Mark Warnecke (GER)
Could medal: Domenico Fioravanti (ITA), Ed Moses (USA), Anthony Robinson (USA)
WOMEN'S 50m FREESTYLE
This race is as easy to pick as the last one was hard. Holland's Inge De Bruijn wins, Sweden's Therese Alshammar is second.
The real battle will be for the bronze. The USA's Tammie Stone has been absolutely consistent in her belated international debut. I think she's done 25.11 three times in a row. She'll need to go sub-25 to medal.
Germany's Sandra Volker has gone under 25 seconds and
Britain's Alison Sheppard has the ability to do so.
1. Inge De Bruijn (NED)
2. Therese Alshammar (SWE)
3. Sandra Volker (GER)
Could get the bronze: Alison sheppard (GBR), Tammie Stone (USA).
MEN'S 1500m FREESTYLE
The men's mile is as easy to pick – places one and two, at least – as the women's 50. But this race should also witness a monumental world record.
Australia's Grant Hackett has been overshadowed by his teammate, Ian Thorpe, but he's been swimming magnificently. In the 1500 he gets to shine. The Olympic champion will break Kieren Perkin's 7 year-old WR of 14:41.66 – a mark that has been well nigh indestructable since 1994. Last year Hackett confided to Swimming World that he was looking to break the WR by a significant amount, hinting that 14;30 was his goal. He had to settle for a 14:48 and Olympic gold.
This year, Hackett is ready. He won't go 14:30, but he won't miss it by much.
A distant second place will go to Britain's rejuvenated Graeme Smith, who may get down to the 14:50-14:55 range.
Third place is a toss-up among the same protagonists who battled for bronze in Sydney last year: the USA's Chris Thompson and Russia's Alex Filipets, but both are not quite at the level they were at last year.
Italy's Massi Rosolino has also been talking about going well under 15 minutes, but I don't think he has the conditioning to do so.
1. Grant Hackett (AUS)
2. Graeme Smith (GBR)
3. Alex Filipets (RUS)
Could get bronze: Chris Thompson (USA), Massi Rosolino (ITA), Igor Chervynsky (UKR)
WOMEN'S 400m FREESTYLE
Pity Brooke Bennett. Had she not gotten sick before the US Trials, the OLympic champ probably would be going for her third distance title of these World Championships.
In Bennett's absence, several women could win the 400, but the likely winner is Ukraine's Yana Klochkova, who forsook the 800 to swim this event.
Germany's Hannah Stockbauer, who won the 800 and 1500, and has gone 4:06, may challenge, but she appears to be better at the olonger distances.
Claudia Poll will try to redeem herself for a disappointing 200. The USA has no finalists.
1. Yana Klochkova (UKR)
2. Hannah Stockbauer (GER)
3. Claudia Poll (CRC)
MEN'S 400m INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY
I'm inclined to pick a one-two US sweep here, but a friend who's swum a few good IMs in his day – Ron Karnaugh – has a different view. So I'm going to indulge Dr. Ron and have him pick this event.
Ron sees Italy's Alessio Boggiatto winning the 400 IM. The Italian was fourth at the Olympics last year after qualifying first in 4:14. He went faster here in his 200 IM than he did last year, so Ron predicts he'll win in 4:12-high to 4:13-low.
He picks Erik Vendt, the Olympic silver medalist, and Tom Wilkens, who was secodn in the 200 IM a few days ago, to go two-three for the USA, with Canada's Curtis Myden having a shot to sneak in.
1. Alessio Boggiatto (ITA)
2. Erik Vendt (USA)
3. Tom Wilkens (USA)
Could medal: Curtis Myden (CAN)
WOMEN'S 4X100m MEDLEY RELAY
This shapes up as another USA vs. Australia battle, with Germany and China having a shot at the gold but more likely battling for bronze.
THE USA's strength is in the first two legs; Australia's is in the two final legs. Barring a DQ, the US should win a very close race.
Third place is a toss-up. Germany or China: You pick 'em.
Could medal: China