World Championships Day Five Preview and Predictions: Caeleb Dressel Seeking Third 100 Free World Title

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Caeleb Dressel -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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World Championships Day Five Preview and Predictions: Caeleb Dressel Seeking Third 100 Free World Title

At the last World Championships in Gwangju, Caeleb Dressel held off top rival Kyle Chalmers for gold in the men’s 100 freestyle by just 0.12 while coming up a mere five hundredths short of the world record, and that battle was just a preview for their showdown in the Olympic final two years later. Chalmers is skipping the 100 free at this year’s championships, but Dressel will still have a large group of young contenders to fight off if he hopes to capture a third consecutive title.

Day five will also feature China’s Zhang Yufei in pursuit of a world title in the women’s 200 butterfly while Wang Shun and Duncan Scott will square off again in the men’s 200 IM final. Finally, four countries will battle for three medals in the women’s 800 freestyle relay after China pulled off a big upset to win gold in the event in Tokyo.

Women’s 200 Butterfly

Last year, the United States won an Olympic medal in the 200 fly for the first time in more than two decades as both Regan Smith and Hali Flickinger finished in the top-three, but the headliner was China’s Zhang Yufei, who followed up her silver medal in the 100 fly with a mark of 2:03.86, becoming the third-fastest performer in the history as she posted the quickest time ever recorded in a textile suit. If Zhang arrives for the World Championships close to her best form, she will be really difficult to beat.

Flickinger has been the most consistent swimmer in the 200 fly since 2018, although she came up just short of winning a world title in 2019, but she is a good bet to end up on the podium again. Defending world champion Boglarka Kapas has not posted any world-ranked swims this year, so it is unclear if she will compete in Budapest. The top performer so far in 2022 is 15-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh, who swam a time of 2:05.81 in March, but McIntosh will have a busy schedule of racing which may or may not include the 200 fly. Japan’s Kina Hayashi, Great Britain’s Laura Stephens and Australia’s Elizabeth Dekkers are also medal possibilities.

Predictions
Gold: Zhang Yufei, China
Silver: Hali Flickinger, USA
Bronze: Regan Smith, USA


Men’s 100 Freestyle

With Olympic silver medalist Kyle Chalmers and bronze medalist Kliment Kolesnikov both absent, Caeleb Dressel looks like the class of the field in the 100 freestyle. Dressel owns the top time in the world this year at 47.79, but he will need to be back into the 47-low range to ensure he wins his third consecutive world title. The group of challengers that have posted times in the 47.3-47.5 range in their careers include 17-year-old Romanian David Popovici, Italy’s Alessandro Miressi, France’s Maxine Grousset and South Korea’s Hwang Sunwoo. Host nation Hungary could have an outside medal shot with 22-year-old Olympic finalist Nandor Nemeth in the mix.

As for the world record, Cesar Cielo’s mark stands at 46.91, and it dates back to the supersuit era of the 2009 World Championships. Dressel has been close on many occasions, but the mark has been elusive. It is always a possibility that Dressel can do something special when he is in the pool at a major international competition, so we’ll see. Chalmers will race the event at the Commonwealth Games later in the year, so Dressel will surely hope to post a time that stands up as the world’s fastest.

Predictions
Gold: Caeleb Dressel, USA
Silver: David Popovici, Romania
Bronze: Alessandro Miressi, Italy


Women’s 50 Backstroke

In 2019, Olivia Smoliga was the world champion in the 50 backstroke in 27.33, and she matched that time at this year’s U.S. International Team Trials, only to finish third behind Katharine Berkoff and Regan Smith. The always-unpredictable sprint event will include many of the same contenders as in the 100 back, including Smith, Kaylee McKeown and Kylie Masse, while the quickest lifetime-best mark in the field belongs to the Netherlands’ Kira Toussaint at 27.10. The world record, held by China’s Liu Xiang since 2018 at 26.98, is definitely in play.

Predictions
Gold: Katharine Berkoff, USA
Silver: Kylie Masse, Canada
Bronze: Kira Toussaint, Netherlands


Men’s 200 IM

One year after China’s Wang Shun held off a surging Duncan Scott to claim Olympic gold in this event, those two were the world-title favorites before Scott withdrew from the meet because of complications in his recovery from COVID-19. Wang swam a mark of 1:55.00 on his way to gold, becoming the third-fastest performer in history behind Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps. He has recorded no world-ranked swims up to this point, and the 200 IM is the only event where he is a medal contender, but without Scott in the mix, he has to be considered a strong favorite for gold.

The medal podium at the 2019 World Championships consisted of Daiya SetoJeremy Desplanches and Chase Kalisz, and all three should be in medal contention. Desplanches earned bronze in this event in Tokyo, holding off Seto by five hundredths at the end of a very disappointing Olympics for the versatile veteran from Japan. Carson Foster is better at the 400 IM, but he was the silver medalist behind Seto at the Short Course World Championships in December, while Leon Marchand is a real threat after he swam the fastest time ever in the 200-yard IM at this year’s NCAA Championships.

Predictions
Gold: Wang Shun, China
Silver: Daiya Seto, Japan
Bronze: Leon Marchand, France


Women’s 800 Freestyle Relay

Australia arrived at the Tokyo Olympics with a loaded and favored 800 free relay squad, but a surprising group from China took control and claimed gold while the United States earned silver, leaving the Aussies in third. This year, Australia will be without 200 free Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus and veteran relay stalwart Emma McKeon, and they still have the best quartet. Mollie O’Callaghan was the runnerup behind Titmus at last month’s Australian Championships in 1:54.94, and she was followed by Madison Wilson (1:55.86), Kiah Melverton (1:55.94) and Leah Neale (1:56.10). If those four swimmers can hit their best swims in the Budapest final, the Aussies will be really tough to beat.

China is a bit of a question mark, but with the group of Yang JunxuanTang MuhanZhang Yufei and Li Bingjie expected to return, they have a good chance of backing up last year’s world-record-setting performance, while Canada should deploy rising star Summer McIntosh, 200 free Olympic bronze medalist Penny Oleksiak, consistent veteran Kayla Sanchez and a resurgent Taylor Ruck. The United States has a really strong history in this relay, and Katie Ledecky has helped the Americans to four gold medals and two silvers at the last six major international competitions, but the depth behind Ledecky is suspect this year. No other Americans besides Ledecky have been under 1:57 so far in 2022, and none of the swimmers who joined Ledecky on last year’s silver-medal-winning relay (Allison SchmittPaige Madden and Katie McLaughlin) will be in Budapest.

Predictions
Gold: Australia
Silver: China
Bronze: Canada

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