2019 FINA World Championships Predictions: Battle of All-Time Greats in Women’s 100 Free

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Cate Campbell is looking for her first World title since 2013. Photo Courtesy: Swimming NSW

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The women’s 100 free has been one of the most stacked races this decade. Eight of the ten best swimmers of all-time are still active and seven of them will by vying for the gold in Gwangju at the World Championships. World Record holder Sarah Sjostrom was a 51.71 leading off Sweden’s 4×100 free relay two years ago at the World Championships, becoming the first – and only – woman to break 52 seconds in the event. Last summer, Cate Campbell swam a 52.03 at Pan Pacs to move up to second all-time.

The gold medal is expected to come down to Campbell and Sjostrom, but it could be anyone’s game. Sjostrom has redefined herself as a sprint freestyler the last couple years. She was always known as a 100 butterflyer but has quickly become one of the best sprint freestylers in the world. She has been a 52.76 this year, but she sits behind Campbell, who was a 52.12 in June at Australia’s World Trials. Campbell was the big favorite heading into Rio before she had an uncharacteristic poor swim, fading to sixth in the final. Since then she took some time off in 2017 to clear her mind after the disappointment after the Olympics and get back to training to compete at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs last year.

Campbell has been reinvigorated and is looking sharp in the 100 free. As dominant and consistent as she has been, she has only one world title to her name, which came in 2013. Campbell seemingly shook off her 2016 demons last summer when she took down Olympic Champion Simone Manuel head to head in Tokyo at the Pan Pacific Championships. Will that win give Campbell the confidence to win in Gwangju?

Manuel should not be counted out for the gold medal. She was a 53.30 in June in Santa Clara. Before this year, her previous in-season best was a 53.66 in 2017 and she has been faster than that six times this season. Manuel has risen to the occasion at the last two major international meets, earning a share of the gold in Rio and out-touching Sjostrom in Budapest. Manuel has always shown up to race day ready to fight and 2019 should be no different.

Australia’s Emma McKeon has had a career year in 2019, posting best times in the 100 and 200 free at the Australian World Trials in June. McKeon was a 52.41 in June as she got the second spot over Bronte Campbell, who had been the number two 100 freestyler in Australia for many years. McKeon swam this event in Budapest in Cate’s absence where she finished eighth. But McKeon, who sits sixth all-time, will be dangerous in this event if she can replicate her swims from June. It might be a little tricky for her since this will be her third individual event of the meet, but she has proven to be a factor.

Sjostrom (1st), Campbell (2nd), Manuel (4th) and McKeon (6th) all sit high on the all-time list, so fourth place will be a tough spot. USA’s Mallory Comerford, who sits seventh all-time, is another medal favorite. She hasn’t had a long course taper meet this year, but she sits eighth in the world at 53.33. That swim came a few weeks after NCAAs at a meet in Brazil, so she might have had a little rest in her still. Comerford’s 53.33 was still her fastest “in-season” swim of her career. She was a 53.90 in Clovis earlier this year, but if she can put together swims like she had at NCAAs, when she won the 100 and 200 free, then she could play spoiler at Worlds.

A couple other NCAA swimmers could be competitive in Gwangju as well. Stanford sophomore Taylor Ruck and Michigan grad Siobhan Haughey both rank in the top eight in the world this year. Ruck was a 53.26 two weeks after NCAAs at Canadian Trials. She has been rapidly improving the last few years as she sits 12th all-time with her 52.72 from last year’s Pan Pacs, so she could factor into the medals if she is on point. Haughey has also been on a roll this year, swimming a 53.32 at the Mare Nostrum in Monaco. She didn’t swim at Asian Games last summer to nurse a foot injury, but she has come back better than ever this year.

France’s Charlotte Bonnet is another outside shot for a medal in this event. Bonnet is probably better suited for the 200 free, but has a 53.29 in the 100 from April. The women’s 100 free is a race that has some of the best swimmers all-time competing, so the athletes may get caught racing each other rather than going a fast time. If that happens, then it could be a perfect opportunity for someone like Bonnet to come up and win a medal.

Current Records:

World Record: 51.71, Sarah Sjostrom, SWE – 2017
Championships Record: 51.71, Sarah Sjostrom, SWE – 2017
American Record: 52.27, Simone Manuel – 2017

2017 World Champion: Simone Manuel, USA – 52.27
2018 Virtual World Champion: Cate Campbell, AUS – 52.03 (Pan Pacs)
2019 Fastest Times:

  1. 52.12, Cate Campbell, AUS
  2. 52.41, Emma McKeon, AUS
  3. 52.76, Sarah Sjostrom SWE
  4. 53.26, Taylor Ruck, CAN
  5. 53.29, Charlotte Bonnet, FRA
  6. 53.30, Simone Manuel, USA
  7. 53.32, Siobhan Haughey, HKG
  8. 53.33, Mallory Comerford, USA

Swimming World’s team of Andy RossDan D’AddonaDavid RiederDiana Pimer and Taylor Covington will be selecting their medalists for the World Championships in each event. Read below who everybody picked.

Andy’s Picks:

  1. Cate Campbell
  2. Sarah Sjostrom
  3. Emma McKeon

Dan’s Picks:

  1. Sarah Sjostrom
  2. Cate Campbell
  3. Simone Manuel

David’s Picks:

  1. Cate Campbell
  2. Sarah Sjostrom
  3. Simone Manuel

Diana’s Picks:

  1. Sarah Sjostrom
  2. Cate Campbell
  3. Simone Manuel

Taylor’s Picks:

  1. Cate Campbell
  2. Sarah Sjostrom
  3. Simone Manuel

2019 FINA World Championships Predictions:

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