orlandogp Jeanette Ottesen
Courtesy of: Jim Dostie
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PHOENIX, Arizona, July 18. THE 50 butterfly, like the 50 freestyle, takes speed, power and precision. Does Cesar Cielo, the reigning world champion, have all three in the wake of knee surgery? Can Ranomi Kromowidjojo use her sprint freestyle prowess to pull off a butterfly victory ahead of world leader Jeanette Ottesen Gray?

Swimming World correspondents Jeff Commings, David Rieder and Julia Wilkinson-Minks are offering their medal predictions for each event throughout this series and a brief analysis of their top-three selections.


Men 50 butterfly

Rieder
Gold:
Cesar Cielo
Silver: Florent Manaudou
Bronze: Nicholas Santos
Darkhorses: Rafael Munoz Perez and Steffen Deibler

In the men's 50 fly, pure speed often beats fly ability, and I see that happening here as freestylers who moonlight in butterfly take the top two spots. Even though Cesar Cielo has not been his previous unbeatable self in the 50 free, he has enough power to beat this field here, while Florent Manaudou made the 50 fly final two years ago prior to his big breakthrough in the 50 free final at the London Olympics. Nicholas Santos has also been successful throughout his career in the 50 fly, and he holds the number two time in the world this year. Meanwhile, world-leader Fred Bousquet should be a factor, as should Roland Schoeman and Matt Targett. Rafael Munoz set the world record in the event in 2009 and won bronze at Worlds, and he has returned to the world top-ten after not qualifying for Worlds in 2011. Steffen Deibler, meanwhile, usually shows some speed in the 100 fly, where he is the top swimmer in the world this year, so I expect him to be a factor here.

Wilkinson-Minks
Gold:
Fred Bousquet
Silver: Cesar Cielo
Bronze: Nicholas Santos
Dark horse: Matt Targett

Fred Bousquet leads the world currently in this event, but not by much. The top ten in the world are separated by less than three tenths, and with swimmers showing their cards at different times in the season, predicting the outcome feels impossible. However, Bousquet has had lots of success in the past, but did not make the French Olympic team last summer: and you know how much I love my comeback stories. Cesar Cielo is the reigning world champion in this event, and his teammate, Nicholas Santos, is currently in second in this event behind Bousquet. I think Cielo's experience will put him ahead of Santos come World Championships, but Santos is a good bet to win a medal as well. The 32-year old Brazilian has never been on the podium at a meet this competitive. He won gold in this event at short course worlds in Dubai, however, so will have that confidence to back him up in the ready room. Matt Targett, the reigning silver medalist in this event from 2011, is ranked seventh in the world and only two tenths behind Bousquet, and he too could make a run for not just the podium, but the gold medal.

Commings
Gold:
Cesar Cielo
Silver: Florent Manaudou
Bronze: Steffen Deibler

Cesar Cielo has something to prove after the drama surrounding his win in the 50 butterfly in 2011. He had just come off a positive drug test that was overturned, and many thought the Brazilian didn't deserve to be in that race. Now, Cielo is coming off knee surgeries, and will that affect the ever-crucial start? If so, expect Florent Manaudou to take the gold medal in what will be a race decided by hundredths. The tricky part about butterfly races is timing that finish. As we remember from the 100 fly at the 2008 Olympics, a misjudged finish can be the difference between gold and silver. Steffen Deibler is primed to do well in the 100 fly, and this ultra-sprint could let his competition know he will be the serious contender I predict he will be in the 100 fly five days later.



Women 50 butterfly

Rieder
Gold:
Jeanette Ottesen Gray
Silver: Sarah Sjostrom
Bronze: Inge Dekker
Darkhorse: Dana Vollmer

Ottesen Gray has been a finalist in numerous sprint free and fly races at Worlds and Olympics over the past five years, but this may be her first chance to break into medal contention, maybe even gold. She currently leads the world rankings at 25.56, faster than the time Dekker swam to win the 2011 World title. Therese Alshammar, for many years the premier 50 flyer in the world, won't swim at Worlds this year. Dekker has put up a sub-26 time this year; while her other events have fallen off as she has gotten older, her 50 fly has remained strong. Sjostrom, a former world record-holder in the 100 fly, has the speed to burn here. Fran Halsall and Alicia Coutts, too, should be strong at the end. Vollmer, meanwhile, has never shown premium 50 speed, but if she can show off the form from the Olympic final of the 100 fly, she will be a huge factor here.

Wilkinson-Minks
Gold:
Jeanette Ottesen Gray
Silver: Ranomi Kromowidjojo
Bronze: Sarah Sjostrom
Dark horse: Inge Dekker

Jeanette Ottesen has two tenths on the world right now in this event, in a time she posted at the Mare Nostrum Tour in France last month. One would think that she would not have been rested for that swim, and will only be better come World Championships. Ranomi Kromowidjojo will have a leg-up on the competition by not necessarily being the best butterflyer, but being the best "sprinter" in the world last year. To win Olympic gold in the 50 freestyle, you have to have to be able to execute the details perfectly over a very short distance. This is going to be a huge advantage for her against these other women, especially the ones who are more inclined to the 100 butterfly. Sarah Sjostrom was fourth last summer at the Olympic Games in the 100 butterfly, and is no doubt looking to earn her place on the podium. Inge Dekker won this event two years ago, and is sitting in seventh in the world right now, so she cannot be ignored from the mix.

Commings
Gold:
Jeanette Ottesen Gray
Silver: Alicia Coutts
Bronze: Sarah Sjostrom

Ottesen Gray placed 13th in the 50 butterfly at the 2011 world championships, and now she's primed to win the gold medal in 2013. What helps her chances is the fact that the silver and bronze medalists from 2011 aren't in the meet, and reigning champion Inge Dekker hasn't shown that she will be able to defend that crown. The Dane takes her 100-meter races out fast and tries to hang on for a medal. She should be able to win this race if she doesn't rush her stroke and just swim her own race. Alicia Coutts is swimming this event for the first time, and unlike her schedule earlier in the meet, she will only have this final to swim on August 3. Sarah Sjostrom hasn't won a world championship medal since 2009, and I really hope she's able to pull through and find herself in the top three.


Tomorrow: 200 breaststroke

Missed our previous previews? Click the links below.
400 freestyle ---- 400 freestyle relay ---- 100 butterfly ---- 100 backstroke ---- 200 freestyle ---- 100 breaststroke ---- 800 freestyle ---- 200 butterfly ---- 50 breaststroke ---- 200 individual medley ---- 50 backstroke ---- 100 freestyle ---- 800 freestyle relay

Agree or disagree with our world championship medal predictions? Sound off below in our comments section.