Daniel Gyurta at the 2012 Olympics
Courtesy of: Rob Schumacher - USA Today Sports
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PHOENIX, Arizona, July 19. THE men's 200 breaststroke world record is in jeopardy. An American chased it for 150 meters recently, a Brit put it on notice and the reigning Olympic champion might need to break the world record in order to defend his world title. As for the women's race, Rebecca Soni's absence will be felt, but a couple of women could make a run at joining her in the 2:19 club.

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 200 breaststroke

Wilkinson-Minks
Gold:
Daniel Gyurta
Silver: Michael Jamieson
Bronze: Kevin Cordes
Dark horse: Andrew Willis

Even though reigning Olympic champion Daniel Gyurta is ranked eighth in the world so far this year, I think he will repeat his championship performance in Barcelona. Although sometimes I am hesitant to choose the Olympic champion to win again the following year because of how difficult it is to maintain the necessary physical and mental dedication, Gyurta had the luxury of having an automatic selection for this team based on his Olympic performance. Because of this, I don't think he has played his cards yet this season. Michael Jamieson is the reigning Olympic silver medalist in this event, and owns the fastest time in the world this year by half a second. Kevin Cordes ranks second in the world, and seems to be on an upward trajectory this entire season. If Andrew Willis can improve on his performance from British Trials, he too could be a podium threat. He has experience in the Olympic final, although the rich standards at British Trials could mean that we have already seen his peak performance this season.

Commings
Gold:
Michael Jamieson
Silver: Daniel Gyurta
Bronze: Akihiro Yamaguchi
Dark horse: Kevin Cordes

This is the event I'm most excited to watch in Barcelona, despite my personal fear and hatred of the event. We could see four swimmers break Akihiro Yamaguchi's world record of 2:07.01, including Yamaguchi himself. Also in the mix will be reigning Olympic champion Daniel Gyurta, who won this title in 2009; Olympic silver medalist Michael Jamieson, who appears to be fully healed from a torn bicep tendon after going 2:07.7 at British trials; and Kevin Cordes, who was under record pace for 150 meters at the U.S. nationals. Cordes could be the rabbit, with everyone else tracking him down in the final 50 meters. If Gyurta is to win his third-straight world title, he will need to have a faster opening 100 than usual to fight off Jamieson and especially Yamaguchi. Germany's Christian von Lehm and Russia's Viacheslav Sinkevich might be in the medal hunt as well, but not be able to crack into the 2:07 club this year.

Rieder
Gold:
Akihiro Yamaguchi
Silver: Michael Jamieson
Bronze: Daniel Gyurta
Darkhorse: Melquiades Alvarez Caraballo

Yamaguchi set the world standard in this event with a 2:07.01 late last year, and I have him coming through here with his first world title. He broke the mark of 2:07.28 that Gyurta swam in out-dueling Jamieson in the Olympic final in London. These three have by far the best credentials in the field. American fans hope to see Kevin Cordes on the podium, and while I think he will be extremely close to a top-three spot, I'm not sure he has the finishing speed to hold off the top three. It won't surprise me to see him finish there, though. Vyacheslav Sinkevich currently ranks fourth in the world and should be a factor, and I expect 2011 bronze medalist Christian Vom Lehn to factor as well. Meanwhile, Alvarez Caraballo will look for his international breakthrough swimming in front of his home country's crowd.


Women 200 breaststroke

Wilkinson-Minks
Gold:
Rikke Moeller Pedersen
Silver: Breeja Larson
Bronze: Yuliya Efimova
Dark horses: Sally Foster

Rikke Moeller Pedersen looks like she has come back from her fourth-place finish at the London Games with a vengeance. She ranks first in the world so far this year by two-and-a-half seconds: her current time would have earned her the silver medal last summer in a very fast 200 breaststroke field. It doesn't hurt that she posted this time all the way back in March, and so there is no double-taper factor that will come into play. Breeja Larson exploded onto the scene last season, and I feel pretty certain that Aggie head coach Steve Bultman left a little extra reserve in her tank for World Championships when he was tapering her for trials. Yuliya Efimova is no stranger to success in this event either: a bronze medal last summer, and the silver medalist from 2011 World Championships. She was throwing down some impressive times in Kazan, which could be indicators of either side of the spectrum: she is primed to dominate the field, or she might be ready a bit too early. Past success would indicate that she knows what she is doing when it comes to preparing for international competition, and I only hope that she did not overdo her preparation for World University Games. Rie Kaneto, a 2008 Olympian for Japan, is back on the scene with the second-fastest time in the world this year. After not swimming at the Olympic Games last summer, this is probably not a fluke, and she will be one to watch in Barcelona.

Commings
Gold:
Rikke Moeller Pedersen
Silver: Yuliya Efimova
Bronze: Breeja Larson
Dark horse: Satomi Suzuki

I didn't think we would see anyone approach a 2:20 this year in the women's 200 breaststroke, but Denmark's Rikke Pedersen wants to fill the gap left this year by the incomparable Rebecca Soni. Pedersen's 2:20.53 from the Danish Open in March was a stunner and all she will need to do is replicate that time for a safe victory. Satomi Suzuki and Yulia Efimova, the Olympic silver and bronze medalists, broke 2:21 last year at the Olympics, and might be able to go that fast again this year, if they have someone like Pedersen setting the pace. Could the competition bring another swimmer into the rarefied air of the 2:19 club that only includes Soni? As Vizzini says in The Princess Bride: Inconceivable!

Rieder
Gold:
Rikke Moeller Pedersen
Silver: Yuliya Efimova
Bronze: Satomi Suzuki
Darkhorses: Martha McCabe and Micah Lawrence

Pederson has had a breakthrough season after finishing a disappointing fourth place in the Olympic final. She leads the world rankings with 2:20.53, which would have finished second to Rebecca Soni in the Olympic final. While I don't think she will track down Soni's world record of 2:19.59, I think Pederson can come out on top of a final slightly slower than the one in London last year. In that final, both Suzuki and Efimova posted times in the 2:20-high range, but neither, particularly Suzuki, has shown this year the capabilities of challenging Pederson. Also watch for Rie Kaneto and Breeja Larson in the medal chase, while both McCabe and Lawrence, who took fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Olympic final, can use their experience to chase down a medal here.

Tomorrow: 200 backstroke

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 ---- 50 butterfly

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