2019 FINA World Championships Predictions: Can Caeleb Dressel Repeat in 100 Fly at Worlds?

Can Caeleb Dressel replicate his iconic triple from 2017? Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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On the seventh night of the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, USA’s Caeleb Dressel became a superstar by winning three gold medals. He started by winning the 50 free gold medal, then followed that up with the fastest 100 fly ever by anyone not named Michael Phelps. He concluded his night with a gold in the mixed 4×100 free relay. It was a legendary triple that had never been attempted before, mostly because the mixed relays were introduced in 2015. But no man had ever won the 50 free and the 100 fly in the same World Championships – until Dressel did in 2017.

Dressel will have the opportunity to attempt that triple again in 2019. The 50 free might be the tougher event to win gold, but no event at Worlds is easy. Dressel has the top time in the world this year from his 50.36 at the Swim Meet of Champions in June. It was an incredible swim, which was faster than what he swam at US Nationals last summer, and was the fourth fastest swim of his life. Dressel’s previous in-season best before this year was a 52.20 from last year in Santa Clara. He blew that out of the water at Mission Viejo and that could be doomsday for the rest of the world in Gwangju – and even the world record, held by Mr. Phelps.

Dressel and Phelps, along with Serbia’s Milorad Cavic, are the only swimmers to break 50 seconds in the 100 fly in long course. If Dressel can go 50.36 in-season, then can he go under the 49.82 world record? It’s certainly possible. It’s just a matter of can he pull off the triple again?

If anyone can take down Dressel, it might be France’s Mehdy Metella. He was eighth in Budapest last time around, but he has been a 50.85 this year. For a while, he was the only swimmer to break 51 in 2019. That swim put him 13th all-time and he is looking to win a medal for France this year. He won the bronze medal in the 100 free in Budapest two years ago and has won two medals in relays for France. Metella is in good form this year and if Dressel is slightly off, then he might be able to slip in for gold.

South Africa’s Chad Le Clos won two World titles in this event before Dressel, taking the golds in 2013 and 2015. Le Clos, 27, has revealed he might have to undergo surgery for a hernia after the World Championships, which might hinder his medal hopes.

“I’ve been pushing off the wall at 70 percent, 80 percent max in training,” he said, according to the Times. “It’s only [sore] when I push off the wall, not actually when I kick.”

If Le Clos is able to push through the pain, then he should not be counted out for a medal considering he claims it does not hurt when he kicks.

Le Clos failed to make the final in Budapest after misjudging his pace in the semifinals and falling to 12th. Revenge might be on his mind as he looks to get another crack at taking down Dressel. He won the Commonwealth Games gold medal last year with a 50.65, the second fastest time out of the four major meets last year. As long as he is healthy, he is a major player for a medal.

In 2018, the fastest time from the four major meets (Commonwealth Games, Europeans, Pan Pacs, Asian Games) came from Italy’s Piero Codia at the European Championships. Codia surprised everyone in that field in Glasgow as he won that gold medal from lane eight. Codia was a 50.64 last summer, putting him ninth all-time. This year, Codia has been a 51.75 from April. Was last year a fluke? Probably not. He missed the final in Budapest, placing 10th in the semifinals after putting up the second-fastest time in the prelims. He just does not have the consistency that Le Clos and Dressel have shown the last couple years. Codia is a bit of an unknown, but if he is in the shape he was in at Europeans last summer, then he could win a medal.

Germany’s Marius Kusch, who had a successful Division II career at Queens, is ranked highly in the world with a 51.35 from the TYR Pro Swim Series in March. Kusch swam that a week before he swam a 44.32 at Division II NCAAs, which was faster than the winning time at Division I NCAAs. Kusch has been on fire this year, but does not have as much international experience as his peers. He didn’t make it out of the semifinals in Budapest, placing 22nd. He was 11th at Europeans last summer so he doesn’t have any big final experience at the world level in long course. But he was fifth at the Short Course Worlds in December in this event, which shows that he has some experience.

Hungary’s Kristof Milak is another one that can make an impact on the medals. He won the silver medal surprisingly two years ago in front of the Hungarian crowd in Budapest with a massive 50.62, which still stands as the world junior record. Milak hasn’t been that quick since, but has been much better at the 200 fly. He is one of the heavy favorites to win the 200 fly in Gwangju, but can he replicate that in the shorter distance. He has only been a 51.67 from the FINA Champions Series this year and he was a 51.50 at Europeans last summer. He hasn’t shown the speed that he did in Budapest two years ago, but he is two years older and more mature now. He could be waiting to unleash another sub-51, and that should see him on the podium.

Not to be forgotten, reigning Worlds bronze medalists James Guy of Great Britain and Joseph Schooling of Singapore have good chances at medals. Both of them have underperformed this year with Guy’s best coming at the Mare Nostrum in June at 51.86. But Guy has always been known to get stronger as a meet goes on, and with no more 400 free to worry about the first day, he could be on point in the 100 fly.

The Olympic Champion Schooling has a 52.70 for a season best this year. He won the bronze in Budapest with a 50.83 so he is capable of going much, much quicker. He hasn’t needed to swim fully rested this year, thus explaining his presence outside the top 50 in the world rankings. Schooling should be able to go under 51 again this summer if he is on form.

Current Records:

World Record: 49.82, Michael Phelps, USA – 2009
Championships Record: 49.82, Michael Phelps, USA – 2009
American Record: 49.82, Michael Phelps – 2009

2017 World Champion: Caeleb Dressel, USA – 49.86
2018 Virtual World Champion: Piero Codia, ITA – 50.64 (Europeans)
2019 Fastest Times:

  1. 50.36, Caeleb Dressel, USA
  2. 50.85, Mehdy Metella, FRA
  3. 51.25, Chad Le Clos, RSA
  4. 51.34, Szebasztian Szabo, HUN
  5. 51.35, Marius Kusch, GER
  6. 51.43, Naoki Mizunuma, JPN
  7. 51.44, Andrei Minakov, RUS
  8. 51.47, David Morgan, AUS
  9. 51.47, Matthew Temple, AUS

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

Andy’s Picks:

  1. Caeleb Dressel
  2. Chad Le Clos
  3. Mehdy Metella

Dan’s Picks:

  1. Caeleb Dressel
  2. Marius Kusch
  3. Chad Le Clos

David’s Picks:

  1. Caeleb Dressel
  2. Kristof Milak
  3. Chad Le Clos

Diana’s Picks:

  1. Caeleb Dressel
  2. Kristof Milak
  3. Chad Le Clos

Taylor’s Picks:

  1. Caeleb Dressel
  2. Chad Le Clos
  3. Piero Codia

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