Women's World Championships Predictions - Version 1.1
I'm banking on a return to form for the world's best sprinter last year, Kromowidjojo. Her performances in Dubai last year was so head and shoulders ahead of the world, I'm looking at a repeat in the long pool. Hardy has a scheduling conflict with the 50 Breast, but I think she can step up twice in the same session.
This was a real head over heart decision. For Worlds, I've gone for Kromowidjojo for the same reasons highlighted above. I believe Halsall will take silver in Shanghai before turning it into gold in London next year. Coughlin, Steffen, Coutts and Yi Tang have all entered my intrapersonal conversation for the bronze spot.
Without trying to spoil the surprise, I see a repeat of Beijing happening for Pellegrini - a disappointing 400 Free followed by a stunning 200 Free. At the Paris Open, Camille Muffat looked like she is poised for a huge breakthrough meet. Kylie Palmer seems to be more consistent than compatriot Bronte Barratt. The obvious name missing here is Allison Schmitt. She has been in my Top 3 all year, but I just couldn't find a place for her. Toughest event to predict on the schedule.
Pellegrini has been in every spot of this Top 3 in the lead up to Worlds. Adlington has been in supreme form in this event for the last two years and has had a big training cycle since her 4:02.8 in March. Muffat's 400 in Paris was spectacular and I think she can drop down to 4:02. Should Pellegrini have a poor swim in the 400 (not out of the question going by the previous few years) and drop out of the medals, my money is on Chloe Sutton for the bronze spot.
In terms of rankings, this race appears to be a lock for Adlington. A few mental issues surfaced in 2009 and 2010 but they seem to have been put well and truly to rest. She currently sits a full 3 seconds ahead of the rest of the world in 2011. Sutton, Ziegler and the Chinese are my choices for bronze. I'll go with Sutton but its close.
Ziegler is the world record holder in the event, her 2007 effort of 15:42.54 surviving the tech suit era. I expect the field to be close with Ziegler's strong second half taking her away from the field. Friis, Sutton, Grainne Murphy, Kristel Kobrich and Melissa Gorman will have a fierce battle for the medals. This will be the most exciting non-Olympic event at Worlds.
1 Gao Chang
50's are notoriously hard to predict but at her very best Gao Chang has shown that she is a cut above the rest of the world. She did struggle in Dubai however (as did Zueva).
1 Zhao Jing
Terakawa was my pick before the home-crowd influence swung me towards Zhao Jing. The Chinese woman is also the only woman under 59 seconds in a textile suit. Coughlin, Terakawa (and Zueva) have a great chance to win this race. After her recent poor results (by her high standards) I can't include Gemma Spofforth here, then again she is a part of the Florida training group who seem to get their tapers spot on.
1 Zhao Jing
The pick of Zhao Jing is based solely on her performance at last year's Asian Games. Missy Franklin gets her only individual swim of the meet in this race and I'm expecting fireworks. Australia's Hocking and Nay are serious contenders to take it all. Lizzie Simmonds having to taper for British Nationals in June is cause for concern. Her time will come in London next year.
Hardy and Efimova are a cut above the rest. Leiston Pickett has a strong chance for a medal, as does Leisel Jones. I'll go with Soni, who has the chance of rewriting the history books in Shanghai.
The Soni pick isn't surprising, but the Efimova choice might raise eyebrows, especially given Jones' strong form at the recent Aussie SC Nationals. I'm going with the Dave Salo effect here and picking Efimova who has been training with the Trojan swim team in California.
This looks on paper to be Soni vs. the clock. The world record is certainly under threat. WR-holder Annamay Pierse is over her injury/illness-ridden 2010. Efimova posted an incredible 2:23.66 at the recent Meet of Champions in America.
This is Alshammar's pet event, I can't see her being beaten. (Assuming they both swim) Marieke Guehrer and Inge Dekker are elite in this event.
2 Liu Zige
Sjostrom's talent level is off the charts. A sub-57 swim is highly likely. Liu Zige is one of world swimming's more inconsistent swimmers, but swimming in-front of an expectant home crowd worked well for her in Beijing. My original pick for bronze, Alicia Coutts, has changed to Dana Vollmer. A certian Mr. Rieder helpfully pointed out that her 57.5 untapered this year is out of this world. Point taken.
1 Liu Zige
2 Jiao Liuyang
Before Kathleen Hersey's 2:06 at Santa Clara, it looked like the US might not have a representative in the final for this race. The Chinese pair are in a different class right now. Britain could well end up 3rd and 4th, my pick for bronze is Jemma Lowe who has dealt better with competing on the major stage in the past than Ellen Gandy. Hersey, Jessicah Schipper, Katinka Hosszu, Mireia Belmonte, Natsumi Hoshi and Zsuzsanna Jakabos will be fighting it out for a hotly contested final spot.
2 Ye Shiwen
Officially the most anticipated women's event of the World Championship (actually, tied with the 100 Free). This one is absolutely stacked. Ye Shiwen could blow the entire field apart on home soil, however my money is on Ariana Kukors. Of all the suited world records broken in Rome, her 2:06.15 seems to have come under the most scrutiny. If her 2:09.53 from Santa Clara was untapered, we could be in store for a stunner in Shanghai. I feel bad for not picking Coutts to win any events, but she does seem to have a knack of racing in the most competitive events going. Incredible to think that the likes of Steph Rice, Katinka Hosszu, Kirsty Coventry and Mireia Belmonte have been left out of the medals. Just tells you how deep this one is.
1 Ye Shiwen
As I've discussed in the comments section, the pick of Ye Shiwen in the 400 IM, arguably a weaker event for her than the 200 IM, is down more to Kukors' strength. Hannah Miley was spectacular at Europeans last year and will look to use her Breaststroke leg to win this for her, however, I do worry about her having to go up against the fast starting Steph Rice. Elizabeth Beisel is a wildcard here, how will she respond to the Florida programme? Somebody that's under the radar that could have a breakthrough meet... Japan's 17-year-old Miyu Otsuka.
4 x 100 Free
Barring any sub-par performances, this should be a win for the Dutch. The emergence of Missy Franklin should make the US the closest challengers with Australia, China and Germany battling it out for Bronze. Darkhorses for an upset... Sweden.
4 x 200 Free
Fascinating relay. Australia have shown an incredible depth in 2011 (4 swimmers ranked in the Top 13!). China broke the short course world record in Dubai, while USA can call upon a team full of talent. Relatively easy top 3 to pick.
4 x 100 Medley
As is often the case, this could come down to a battle of the breaststrokers. On every other leg there isn't much to choose between the US and Australia, but if Rebecca Soni can taken 0.5 seconds from Leisel Jones on the breaststroke, this race is over. If Ji Liping or Sun Ye step up to a new level on the Chinese breaststroke leg, this relay suddenly becomes very interesting.