2019 FINA World Championships: The Race for the Fastest Woman in the World in the 50 Free

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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The women’s 50 free, much like the 100 free, is going to feature some of the best swimmers in history. Five of the 10 best performers in history in this event will fight for the medals in Gwangju, leaving some very talented swimmers off the podium. Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom is the world-record holder in this event and had the fastest time in the world last year. She set the world record in Budapest at the 2017 Worlds and was just off that last summer at Europeans with a 23.74. Her best time this year has been a 23.78 from the Swedish Championships in June as she is the only swimmer to break 24 this year. But the 50 free is on the last day of competition and Sjostrom will have a lot of swims during the meet. That obviously didn’t hinder her in Budapest two years ago and shouldn’t this year either, but it is of note when making predictions for this event.

Sjostrom’s biggest competition should come from the land down under. Australia’s Cate and Bronte Campbell will represent the green and gold for the eighth straight year on the international stage in this event and they haven’t shown any signs of slowing down. Cate sits second in the world at 24.00. In 2018, she had the third-fastest time from the four major meets (Commonwealth Games, Europeans, Pan Pacs, Asian Games), moving herself up to fourth all-time in the event. She has not medaled in the 50 free at Worlds since taking silver in 2013 and also won bronze in 2009 when she was 17.

Cate will be joined by sister Bronte, who ranks fourth in the world this year. She was the 2015 world champion but has not medaled at either the Worlds or Olympics since. She tied for sixth in Budapest and was seventh in Rio. But Bronte was a 24.17 in June, which is her fastest time in four years.

Denmark’s Pernille Blume had the second-fastest time in the world last year with a 23.75, just 0.01 behind Sjostrom at the European Championships. Blume sits third all-time with that swim she had last summer. But Blume has had a rocky start to her 2019, undergoing heart surgery in January. She was able to put that behind her to swim a 24.08 at the FINA Champions Series in Indianapolis to sit third in the world heading in to World Championships. Blume won this event in Rio but was fourth in Budapest. She has shown that the heart surgery did not faze her, and if she can conquer that procedure, then she should be able to conquer the 50 free.

USA’s Simone Manuel, ranked sixth on the psych sheet at 24.34, is the reigning bronze medalist from Budapest. She also won the silver medal in Rio in the 50 free and has always stepped up to fight on race day. Her best time this year came in June, which is the fastest in-season time of her career. Manuel always seems to come through to win a medal when everyone is counting her out. Manuel may not be up with the rest of the world at the moment but she might have a sub-24 up her sleeve. It could take under 24 to get a medal this year.

Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands is another favorite for a medal. She was the world champion in 2013 and won the silver in 2011, 2015 and 2017. She is now 28 and is still among the world’s best in the 50 free. She has shied away from the 100 free over the years but is still a force in this event. She was a 24.47 in April at the FINA Champions Series this year to put her seventh on the psych sheet. Kromowidjojo had the fourth-fastest time last year out of the four major meets so she is still showing she is competitive. She might not be in the same shape she was in when she won the gold at the 2012 Olympic Games but she could definitely win a medal.

Russia’s Mariia Kameneva and Brazil’s Etiene Medeiros are dark horses to win medals. The 50 free is such a short race that anything can happen in the 24 seconds it takes to swim one length of the pool. Kameneva was fourth at Europeans last summer and is fifth in the world. Russia only has one medal in this event at the World Championships with Natalya Meshcheryakova winning the silver in 1994. Russia does not have much of a history in this event but Kameneva could change that.

The other American in this event is Abbey Weitzeil. She has a best time of 24.82 from the Cal-Stanford summer duel meet in June. Weitzeil won the NCAA title in this event in March, almost becoming the first woman to break 21 seconds. She has finally shown the potential that she showed out of high school. She was 12th in Rio and 15th in Budapest. Weitzeil swam her fastest in-season time in three years at that Cal-Stanford duel meet.

Current Records:

World Record: 23.67, Sarah Sjostrom, SWE – 2017
Championships Record: 23.67, Sarah Sjostrom, SWE – 2017
American Record: 23.97, Simone Manuel, USA – 2017

2017 World Champion: Sarah Sjostrom, SWE – 23.69
2018 Virtual World Champion: Sarah Sjostrom, SWE – 23.74 (Europeans)
2019 Fastest Times:

  1. 23.78, Sarah Sjostrom, SWE
  2. 24.00, Cate Campbell, AUS
  3. 24.08, Pernille Blume, DEN
  4. 24.17, Bronte Campbell, AUS
  5. 24.32, Mariia Kameneva, RUS
  6. 24.34, Simone Manuel, USA
  7. 24.47, Ranomi Kromowidjojo, NED
  8. 24.53, Etiene Medeiros, BRA

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. Cate Campbell
  2. Sarah Sjostrom
  3. Bronte Campbell

Dan’s Picks:

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

David’s Picks:

  1. Sarah Sjostrom
  2. Cate Campbell
  3. Pernille Blume

Diana’s Picks:

  1. Sarah Sjostrom
  2. Cate Campbell
  3. Pernille Blume

Taylor’s Picks:

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

2019 FINA World Championships Predictions:

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