World Championships Predictions: Katie Ledecky Gold, Sun Yang Passes Test For Historical Sweeps

Sun Yang
Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

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Each week leading up to the start of the swimming competition at the FINA world championships, Swimming World will offer medal predictions for the 42 events set to be contested in Kazan, Russia.

Coverage of the World Championships is sponsored by Wylas Timing

By Jeff Commings, Swimming World Senior Writer

Katie Ledecky and Sun Yang are going for history in August at the FINA world championships. No one has won the 400, 800 and 1500 freestyles at consecutive world championships since the 800 was introduced to the program in 2011, but these two have the chance to do it.

Perhaps I shouldn’t delay the inevitable, and say outright that Katie Ledecky will achieve that record. It’s a foregone conclusion that she’ll win all three distance freestyle events (and might add the 200 free to that tally), with no one able to challenge her for more than one-fourth of any of the given races. The clock will be her rival, but as we have seen in the past three years, the clock rarely wins.

Women’s distance freestyle at the 2015 world championships

400 freestyle

With Ledecky assured of another swim under four minutes, can she bring someone along with her? None of her competition has been faster than 4:02 in a textile suit, but with Ledecky setting the pace, anything is possible. The battle for silver and bronze will be just as thrilling as finding out how fast Ledecky can go. Four ladies could be in the heat of the battle.

Lauren Boyle of New Zealand nipped Jazz Carlin of Great Britain for the 400 free bronze medal in 2013, with Carlin charging from sixth at the 200 to fourth just 100 meters later. Her surge came too late, as she finished .14 behind Boyle. The two renewed that great race again in 2014 at the Commonwealth Games, where Boyle won gold by six tenths of a second as Carlin’s surge couldn’t get her past Boyle. Though the two excel at the longer distances, Boyle clearly has the early speed needed in the 400 freestyle these days.

Joining Carlin and Boyle in the race could be Mireia Belmonte of Spain. The only issue lies in the fact that Belmonte is a strong medal contender in the 200 IM, and the semifinals of that event fall in the same session as the 400 freestyle final. With less than 20 minutes between the last heat of the 200 IM semfinal and the start of the 400 free final, Belmonte might decide to skip it. That would be a bummer, because she would be a great addition to the championship final. She’s currently ranked fourth in the world and could get on the podium with her great closing speed.

Women’s 400 freestyle medal predictions

Gold: Katie Ledecky
Silver: Lauren Boyle
Bronze: Jazz Carlin

Katie Ledecky

Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr

Wylas Timing

800 freestyle

When will Ledecky break 8:10 in the 800 freestyle? Will it be this August in Kazan, or next year in Rio de Janeiro? Ledecky will surely give the barrier a shot in Russia. She nearly broke her world record of 8:11.00 last summer at the Pan Pacific championships, and though she denied it, I think the adverse weather conditions played a small factor. Ledecky went after that record again last January at the Arena Pro Swim Series, missing it by a couple of tenths. Though it’s difficult to tell when Ledecky is broken down or on a full rest, it’s very likely that she was not tapered in January. So, be prepared for 8:09 or better this year.

Way back in second place could be her 2013 challenger Lotte Friis. Friis hasn’t shown much since that exciting 2013 race that she’ll be able to approach the 8:16 range, but she must be that fast to take silver again. Boyle has been stuck at 8:18 for a couple of years, and Carlin is the wild card. The Brit is capable of going under 8:20, if she can get into the final. Carlin was in line to win a medal in the 800 in Barcelona in 2013, but finished ninth in prelims. Look for Carlin to avenge that misstep from two years ago, and look for her and Boyle to once again play cat and mouse. Carlin got the edge over Boyle at the Commonwealth Games in 2014, and the two could push each other to get under 8:18 for the first time in their careers. Belmonte was the Olympic silver medalist in 2012 but faltered in 2013. She hasn’t performed spectacularly yet in 2015, perhaps waiting to play her hand in Russia.

Women’s 800 freestyle medal predictions

Gold: Katie Ledecky
Silver: Jazz Carlin
Bronze: Lauren Boyle

Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

Women’s 1500 freestyle

Ledecky broke her own world record in the mile by six seconds last summer at the Pan Pacific championships. It was one of the most impressive world record swims in history. Something tells me more is in the tank this summer, as Ledecky will look to put up a great time in this event that will be so far ahead of the rest of the field.

In 2013, Ledecky and Friis broke the world record at the time, engaging in a great race for 15-plus minutes. It was perhaps not a surprising swim for Ledecky, but many were shocked that Friis had the stamina to hang with Ledecky for the entire race. If Friis is on form in Kazan, she will easily get silver. But Friis hasn’t been on form since those 2013 worlds, which makes me want to count her out of the medal picture.

Once again, that leaves the race for silver up to Carlin and Boyle. For about three minutes during the mile at worlds in 2013, Boyle was under world record pace. Carlin might have been right there if she had made the final. Belmonte and Chile’s Kristel Kobrich are the only other swimmers with the potential to get into the 15:45 range.

Women’s 1500 freestyle medal predictions

Gold: Katie Ledecky
Silver: Lauren Boyle
Bronze: Jazz Carlin

Jun 18, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Lauren Boyle of New Zealand reacts in the women's 1500M freestyle championship final during day one of the Arena Pro Series at Santa Clara at the George F. Haines International Swim Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Robert Stanton/USA Today Sports Images

Men’s distance freestyle at the 2015 world championships

400 freestyle

Updated July 3
As was the case in 2013, Sun Yang will go into this world championships with his out-of-the-pool headlines trumping anything he’s done in the pool. Sun tested positive for a banned substance in May 2014 and served a three-month suspension that allowed him to compete at the Asian Games last fall. He was unable to return to Australia for some coaching by Denis Cotterell this year, but he put up some decent times this spring to rank in the top five in the world in the 400 and 800 freestyle. Though Sun only put up a 3:44.53 at Chinese nationals this spring, he’s bound to get back into the 3:41 range and defend his world title.

With the shocking news that Kosuke Hagino is out of the world championships with a broken elbow, Mack Horton appears to be the biggest challenger to Sun in the 400 free. Horton posted a lifetime best 3:42.84 in April and has the potential to get in the 3:41 range, or possibly faster if the pace in the final allows it. If Horton wins, he’ll bring the gold medal back to Australia, which has won this event five times at the world championships. American Connor Jaeger was the bronze medalist in 2013, and will also need to be more aggressive in the opening half of the race. Great Britain’s James Guy and Australia’s David McKeon could also be in the mix, if they swim faster than their tapered times from this past spring.

Men’s 400 freestyle medal predictions

Gold: Sun Yang
Silver: Mack Horton
Bronze: Connor Jaeger

kosuke-hagino-pan-pacs-2014 (3)

Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr

Men’s 800 freestyle

Sun toyed with the field in the 800 free at the 2013 worlds, holding back on the pace until the final 100 meters to win by almost two seconds. The final in Kazan might be a cat-and-mouse game, with the eight swimmers hoping for someone to set a fast pace, but no one willing to be that person. If Sun is leading the field at 500 meters, he will win. If someone else takes out the pace through the first two-thirds of the swim, he might be able to hold of Sun.

Jaeger and American teammate Michael McBroom are capable of doing that, as are Horton and Ryan Cochrane. In a race that lasts a little less than eight minutes, this could be one of the closest finishes of the meet from top to bottom. Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri and Pal Joensen of the Faroe Islands are also bound to be in the final and are on the cusp of getting on the podium.

Men’s 800 freestyle medal predictions

Gold: Sun Yang
Silver: Mack Horton
Bronze: Michael McBroom

Mack Horton

Photo Courtesy: Swimming Australia

Men’s 1500 freestyle

Sun could make history with Ledecky as the only two people to sweep the distance events at consecutive world championships. Sun’s easiest race will be his last in Kazan. The 1500 freestyle to Sun is what the 200 butterfly was to Michael Phelps from 2003 to 2012. Many will challenge him, but Sun is too strong in this event. Ryan Cochrane, in what will be his final world championships swim, will put everything on the line to break Sun’s streak.

Right there with him will be Horton, looking to officially take the mantel of Australia’s best distance swimmer. Horton made a big push forward last year, nearly taking down Cochrane at the Commonwealth Games, and continues to show that a swim under 14:40 is possible for him in 2015. Paltrinieri is the reigning short course world champion and collected the bronze medal in 2013. He will go into the meet as the top-ranked swimmer in the world, which could give him a major boost of confidence … or a serious case of nerves.

Jaeger upset Cochrane last year at the Pan Pacific championships to give the United States hope to get on the medal podium in the mile for the first time in 10 years. Swimming a fast 1500 freestyle twice in two days is a foreign concept to Americans, but Jaeger and McBroom will need to do that in Kazan to get in the final and fight for medals.

Men’s 1500 freestyle medal predictions

Gold: Sun Yang
Silver: Mack Horton
Bronze: Ryan Cochrane

Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

5 comments

  1. avatar
    Marco Poltronieri

    I do not agree with the prediction of 1500 men, by thinking that the Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri will win one of the medals, maybe even the good ..
    Maybe I am wrong .. we will see ..

    • avatar
      Jeff Commings

      Gregorio Paltrinieri should be in the race in the 1500 free for the medals. It will be close at the finish, but we will see how swimming a relatively fast 1500 prelim the day before will affect everyone in the final.

      • avatar
        Marco

        The matter of the 2x 1500 in 2 days was also my thought Jeff.
        Shouldn’t be the fact that Gregorio is less brawny then the rest of the group be an advantage to him ?
        Anyway some weeks and we will have the answer.
        I bet for a medal, I bet … Silver.
        Best
        Marco

  2. avatar
    Leander

    Ms. Ledecky is as least as assured to win as the West Germans were in the 4 x 200 in the 1984 games, the Aussies in the same race in the 2004 games, Tim Shaw to win the 200, 400 and 1500 at the 1976 games, Mark Spitz to win 7 gold medals at the 1968 games, Susie O’Neil to win the 200 fly at the 2000 games, Michael Phelps to win the same race in 2012 . . . . . . .

    I hope she does, but no one is ever assured of winning any race.

  3. avatar
    Ger

    Carlin went 8:15:54 at the European champs. last year….would be favourite for silver I would say.