Before Cielo's recent failed test for a masking agent, I had him doing the 50 and 100 Free double. His biggest advantage has been his incredible mental strength, and the impact this had on his competitors. Cielo has always had a mental edge over Fred Bousquet especially, now I think the tables have turned. I see Bousquet sensing a chink in the Brazilian's armour and taking advantage of it.
As the Cielo saga unfolds this choice could change, but he did look on incredible form at the Paris Open. Nathan Adrian has not shown his hand in 2011, but should be a force to be reckoned with after a full taper. Brent Hayden might be the most under rated 100 Freestyler on the planet, the only man to break 48 seconds last year and yet still most people see bronze at best for the Canadian.
200 Free (Changing my mind on a daily basis)
Easily the hardest event to predict in world swimming. Park is my choice for the top spot based on three factors a) he is an Olympic champion, that can never be underestimated, b) he was a full half second faster than the rest of the world last year, and c) he looked in great shape at the Santa Clara meet. Lochte is Lochte and Phelps is Phelps. At this stage its a coin flip between the two of them. I still refuse to rule out Paul Biedermann and he will have a serious point to prove in Shanghai.And then there's the improving Yannick Agnel.... my head is starting to hurt again.
1 Sun Yang
I can't wait for this event. Sun Yang vs Tae-hwan Park, both 3:41 guys, both with a legitimate shot at the world record. Check the comments for John26's assessment of the race, I tend to agree with his theory about Sun Yang being under world record pace before falling off, compared to Park being down at all stages of his race at Asian Games. Agnel should have Ous Mellouli for company for the bronze medal fight.
1 Sun Yang
Nobody is talking about Sun Yang breaking compatriot Zhang Lin's WR of 7:32.12, maybe for good reason as it would require two 3:46s back to back. He also 'only' managed 7:47 at last year's Asian Games. My pick of Pizzetti instead of Ryan Cochrane has been questioned, but I can't overlook Pizzetti who seems to have made a step up in class in 2011. European Champion Sebastien Rouault shouldn't be forgotten either.
1 Sun Yang
Will Grant Hackett's iconic world record go? I think so. With the greatest of respect to Mellouli, Cochrane and the rest of the 1500 field, I can't see anyone getting within 8 seconds of the new Chinese star.
Lacourt is one of the easier picks in both the 50 and 100 Back. Unless his competitors make enormous breakthroughs, or Lacourt has an off meet, he should come away with double gold from Shanghai. Liam Tancock should be good enough for silver with the battle for bronze wide open. Nick Thoman hasn't convinced me of his long course ability (without a tech suit), but I think he may have enough for bronze here.
Irie has been one of the stars of 2011 so far and will look to improve upon his disappointing 4th place at Worlds two years ago. For British hopes next year it would be great to see Tancock pick up a medal here ahead of London next year. The absence of Matt Grevers makes this a relatively straightforward Top 3 to pick.
These three look the class of the field. Lochte is the obvious choice. Irie is Mr. Consistent, he has the top 5 swims of 2011 (all between 1:54.0 and 1:54.6). Clary reportedly swam 1:54.7 in jammers, in training earlier this year, he could cause a huge shock. Chinese youngster Zhang Fenglin, James Goddard, Chris Walker-Hebborn and Polish phenom Radoslaw Kawecki should all make the final.
1 V.D. Burgh
Van Den Burgh remains a class apart in the sprint Breaststroke. Time to see another Silver from Silva.
2 Dale Oen
"I will never bet against Kosuke Kitajima again", this has been my mantra since I doubted his chances in Beijing. Alexander Dale-Oen and Brenton Rickard I have as the clear choices for silver and bronze. Ryo Tateishi is the danger man to break into the top three if he rediscovers his form from last year.
Despite the aforementioned mantra, I almost went with Tomita in this one. His 2:08.25 earlier this year was spectacular, but how can you bet against Kitajima and his proven excellence at major competitions? Gyurta is the choice for bronze based on his ability to bring it together on the biggest stage. If Christian vom Lehn improves on his German Nationals time, watch out, but Shanghai might have come a year too early for the German youngster. Watch out for him next year.
Depends Cielo's participation.
Cavic hasn't done a lot to inspire confidence, but he and Phelps are still in a league of their own. Phelps could drop a huge swim in this one. He's focusing more on the 100 distance than he ever has before. Bronze is wide open, but Fujii has been excellent in 2011 and owns 5 of the top 14 times this year.
We could be looking at the closest 200 Fly final for Phelps in recent years, but given his previous margins of victory that's not saying much. Matsuda
This could be one for the ages. We have Phelps vs Lochte, and the world record looks vulnerable. Lochte had the better 2010, but Phelps has already shown his class in 2011. It wouldn't surprise me if this is the race he is most motivated for here. This should be close... and fast. Thiago Pereira and James Goddard will be in the race for bronze, but I don't see them stopping Cseh take yet another international medal.
This one might be a lot closer than many people think. Clary is a legitimate threat to Lochte. For Cseh, read above. Chengxiang Wang put the cat among the pigeons on home soil.
4 x 100 Free
However hard I try, I just can't see USA losing out, not that it won't be close. France have the best chance to take on the Americans, and with Yannick Agnel they seem to have a safe hand on the final leg (assuming Agnel swims the relay). The emergence of James Magnussen means Australia have jumped Russia in my opinion for the bronze medal.
4 x 200 Free
When you have two of the top 200 Freestylers in the world joined by two other Top 10 talents, you have quite a team. Russia might be stronger in the 4 x 200 relay than the 4 x 100 team, while China are boosted by Sun Yang's 1:44 ability. Japan, Australia and France will be the other major strengths.
4 x 100 Medley
Make no mistakes about it, this race will be close. USA lack strength on the breaststroke, France lack a butterflier while Japan might struggle on the freestyle. When the dust settles, Michael Phelps' dominance on the butterfly will win this for USA, but he will probably have some ground to make up on France and Japan.