Sunday, 17 June 2012

New Vote: Who Will Win the Women's 200m Freestyle in London?

There might not be a more contentious event in world swimming right now than the women's 200m Freestyle. Everyone has an opinion, and most of them differ from fan to fan.

We are still yet to see what the American women have to offer, but it's time to take this question to the masses.

The Contenders:

Federica Pellegrini - Reigning Olympic and World Champion.

Camille Muffat - Textile record holder having a tremendous 2012.

Sarah Sjoestrom - Uber-talented has bundles of speed and has improved her endurance.

Femke Heemskerk - Gutsy racer could well lead the Olympic final at 150m, can she hang on?

Kylie Palmer - World Silver medalist is improving year on year.

Missy Franklin - The opinion splitter. World's fastest time in 2011 and just turned 17 years of age, the sky is the limit.

Allison Schmitt - Already in 2012 has been faster than Franklin's 2011 best time, and that was unrested. 1:55.0 untapered speaks to a potentially huge swim this summer.

Bronte Barratt - Sub 1:56 in 2012 and faster than compatriot Kylie Palmer, she has the stamina to challenge if she can stay close to the field.

Other - Dana Vollmer could upset either Franklin or Schmitt at US Trials, Barbara Jardin of Canada, Shijia Wang/Yi Tang of China, Rebecca Turner and maybe Caitlin McClatchey of Britain will have home support, Haruka Ueda of Japan has been improving steadily recently, Mireia Belmonte is a fighter and Silke Lippok has age on her side.


  1. 1.Missy Franklin 1.52.91WR(gold)
    2.Allison Schmitt 1.53.55 (silver)
    3.Cammile Muffat 1.54.01(bronze)
    4.Federica Pellegrini 1.54.55
    5.Sarah Sjostrom 1.54.97
    6.Femke Heemskerk 1.55.05

    1. "1.Missy Franklin 1.52.91WR(gold)"...

      Heck it never ceases to confound me how certain people keep on attributing superhuman abilities of a quasi-mystical nature (that surpasses even Phelpsian standards) to Franklin when we haven't seen any evidence of that at all.

      If anything, her times this year have been unspectacular to say the least, with no appreciable margin of improvement over her in season performances at a similar period last year.

      Would be the first here to concur that Franklin is a massively talented individual who can be ranked as amongst the best female swimmers America has to offer these days.

      But, objectively based on what we've seen of her up to this point, she seems to have plateau'ed somewhat in 2012. In stark comparison to more than a few of her competition who have really come into their own recently by advancing the progress of this race into new territory, after so many years of relative inertia.

      A key observation being that Franklin's starts & walls don't appear at this moment to have reached a level competitive with the top game changers in this sport.

      Her underwaters is the very area where she'd really needed to show appreciable progress if she truly wishes to leapfrog the curent top contenders in the field.

      Won't deny that Franklin IS good enough to make finals of this event in London should she get past the twin threats of Schmitt & Vollnmer in Omaha, but personally I wouldn't even entertain mention of her being a serious medal contender in the same breath as, say, a Pellegrini or a Muffat...or even a Sjostrom or Schmitt...

      Now the American Olympic Trials could and will certainly spring more than a few surprises in a week's time, but extremely doubtful that Franklin posting a world leading or textile world record in the 200 will remotely be one of them!


    2. swimphile,
      a few of the claims you made in this post are completely unfounded. Especially the one where she seemed to have plateaued in 2012. THat term is thrown around a lot, but the truth is you really don't know when someone is going to drop huge time. Just take Phelps for example, he didn't really significantly improve any of his times from 2003- 2006 ("plateaued") only to go on to drop something like a second and a half in each of his 200m events.

      The claim you make is even more extreme as we haven't even gotten to US Trials yet.

      The fact of the matter is that Missy's fastest inseason time was record AFTER Shanghai, it was a 1:56.7 against Muffat at Winter Nationals. Before any accusations of it being a taper meet, consider that she was only 54.8 (100free) and 100.1 (100back) at the meet, which is over a second off her best, which would definitely translate to bigger drops in the 200.

      This being much faster than her times from last year suggest that she has made improvements since Shanghai. Additioanlly you have to remember that although Missy was extremely quick for 2 meet in 2011, there were several meets closer to Shanghai where she did not swim as fast (closer to 1:00 in the 100back).

      That said, her slower performances this year may indicate a different training schedule, and doesn't indicate anything regarding her plateauing or not. If anything her 1:56 is an indication of the contrary.

      Given that she dropped almost 4 seconds last year, it's somewhat unlikely that the progress just dropped to a halt. That said, she only needs to drop a second to claim favoritism for this title, which is something I believe is within her capabilities.

      The real indication for me is whether either Franklin or Muffat could supplant Muffat's textile best at US trials. If this is a case, I think we would all start believing that a 153 is possible in a textile suit.

  2. Heemskerk and Schmitt can't seem to perform when it matters (a mental thing), so I don't think either of them. Not Sjostrom because she's better elsewhere. I think Muffat or Pellegrini.

    1. Too true... The psychological aspects are as crucial if not more so. On that alone Schmitt and especially Heemserk are quite suspect based on their past history at the top level. One only has to look back to as recently as last year's world championships for glaring proof of that!

      Sjostrom has opened a lot of eyes with her rather impressive times posted since the winter. But as you had mentioned, this isn't one of her specialty events. Though with all her vast potential and development, the Swede's more than capable enough to warrant a bronze medal consideration.

      Taking everything into account, it all boils down to an epic confrontation between Federica Pellegrini and Camille Muffat.

      The Lioness of Verona has dominated this race in the period from Beijing to Shanghai, often by a very significant margin. Her mental composure, experience and ability to deliver at the highest level of the sport provides her with a psychological edge, enabling her to toy with her opponents using her trademark "cat and mouse" strategy. All this and more topped off with an intimidating closing speed that affords no cushion of comfort to any frontrunners, even towards the last 25m of the final lap. As witness Pellegrini's exhibitionist destruction of Heemserk in the final 30m on the video of the Sette Colli Trophy that was posted here yesterday...

      Facing Italia's pride will be the hope of Gaul, who has really come into her own in this all important Olympic year, finally maturing and peaking into a well oiled juggernaut. Globs of easy speed, improved endurance, and a devastating closing pace from this big girl will surely strike fear and more than a measure of uncertainty in her rivals' minds. Doesn't hurt either that Muffat is the only one to have broken the 1:55 barrier this year (and that on 2 separate occasions), owning the textile WR at 1:54.66 and showing her consistency with 5 of the top 8 performances of 2012 (Schmitt & Sjostrom being the other two to have the privilege of getting on this list).

      When it comes down to it in London, my money's on Pellegrini narrowly repeating her Olympic gold in the mid 1:54s, narrowly edging out Muffat after a hotly contested fight to the death. Both her playing musical chairs with her coaching mentors and her soap-operatic love life seem to have stablise as of late, and a happy, confident Pellegrini is a most dangerous predator indeed.

      On the other hand, Muffat does seem to have too much momentum going for her right now not to possibly win it all if the Games were to be held today, what with all those impressive and consistent top ranked times from her as of late. However, she is undeniably burdened by her past baggage of not really stepping it up all the way when it really counts, though I suppose this landmark year could turn out to be the turnaround point for her ascendancy to dominance...

  3. 3-4 women will do around 1:53,5-1:54,0 in the semi, but in the final, Muffat and Pellegrini are the only one who can copy that. I hope the Italian diva takes it, but if London was next week, Muffat would rule in 200 and 400 free.

  4. There was a point in time when Allison Schmitt was an extremely slow inseason swimmer, when she went 157.1 in season in 2011, I penciled her in for Gold in 2011. Clearly, that did not happen and she open dropped half a second going into WC. This seems to be the type of schedule she is on this year, that said, I would not expect her to be faster than 154.5 this summer, though that should be enough for a medal.

    I have voiced my opinions about Pellegrini in

    In fact I would be more surprised to see Pellegrini win this than seeing Sjostrom. Considering how little we know about her taper. Where as Pellegrini's annual progress is well documented. And based on this, it seems unlikely she will drop to the low 154s necessary.

    Muffat historically has not had a great taper, but Pellegrin her coach seems very confident about peaking at the right time this time. If this comes to fruition, its possible we could see her under 154, though I have my doubts.

    I think we will see something like this

    1. franklin 154.2
    2. Muffat 154.4
    3. Schmitt 154.6
    4. Pellegrini 154.9
    5. Sjostrom 155

    1. We have seen the best of Sjoestroem already this year in my opinion. Her and Johansson came to British trials intent on going fast after altitude training and did so. If you look at her current times she is way off and I think she was at the top of her game in London, we'll see.

    2. john what calculations are you basing off to arrive at that 1:54.2 for Missy?

      from stats for her best non-taper vs tapered time for recent years:

      2:00.45 - Charlotte GP
      1:59.17 - National Champs
      (1.28 sec drop)

      1:57.06 - Charlotte GP
      1:55.06 - WC Shanghai
      (2 sec drop)

      1:57.86 - Austin GP

      a projected drop of around 2 sec would place Missy at roughly 1:55.86, not too competitve at all tbh.

      but say we give Missy the benefit of the doubt, and assume that she has increased her training workload in 2012, including improving on key areas like her underwaters.

      so, allowing for a sweet 3 sec drop, Missy could hit 1:54.86 at the Olympics. now while this is a really admirable time that would have ranked her far ahead of the pack last year, i think the best that can be achieved in London with such a time would be bronze at best. the competition has just gotten that good in this event.

      keep in mind as well that Missy has a busier & tougher schedule in London relative to Shanghai, exponentially greater media attention & pressure as well as expectations from the public due to the press hype. this will all have an impact on her performance i'm sure.

      otoh, Allison's chances look much rosier in the immediate future.

      1:58.01 - Paris
      1:56.10 - Pan Pacs
      (1.91 sec drop)

      1:57.31 - Santa Clara
      1:56.66 - WC Shanghai
      (0.65 sec drop)

      1:55.04 - Texas Invite

      2011 was by all accounts a pretty abysmal year for Allison (don't know if she misjudged her taper or whether it was a mental issue) so if we use the 0.65 sec differential as the worst case scenario. that would produce a time of 1:54.39. which should be good for silver at the very least if not gold.

      now if we adopt a more optimistic approach and take Allison's 1.91 drop from 2010 as a better indicator of potential taper progress (actually she dropped over 5 sec back in 2009, but we'll disregard those results since the suits really screwed up things!), then, wow, =>1:54.13<= baby!!!

      i don't have the corresponding data for Camille, but by these calculations, i think we can agree she would no longer the sure thing, if Allison can get down close to 1:54 flat.

    3. Not exactly,
      Franklin's best time of the season (aka since Shanghai) is a 156.71 from Winter Nationals. At the same meet, she swam a 54.8 in the 100free and 1:00.1 in the 100back. I'm sure we could agree that since this was the situation, she was untapered as she was over a second (closer to 1.5) off of what she was in Shanghai.

      People often feel at Franklin was swimming 1:57s all grand prix season last year and 59mids in the 100back. This was the case. She was that fast at Austin, and I believe Michigan or Indy. But was much slower later on. So she wasn't swimming 1:57s and 59mids with no rest. Now that we know that, we have no idea where Franklin was for the grand prix meets she swam this year.
      In the same sense, Lochte is actually swimming slightly slower than he was inseason last year, but it really doesn't mean much.

      If you choose to predict that Franklin drops 2-3 seconds through taper with 156.7, which you proposed, we are looking at a times between 1:53.7 and 1:54.7. It is important to note that this type of drop through taper is not unusual (Lochte drops what? 5 seconds?)


      Now do not mistake me for an ardent patriotic American fan. I am American, but I frequently anticipate or even root for another swimmer's victory.

      An important key in my choosing Missy Franklin to win is that
      a) She dropped 4 seconds from 2010-2011, and it is unlikely at her age that she is done with some sort of considerable drop

      b) Her 1:56.7 marks an improvement in the 4 months after Shanghai. Eventhough she hasn't improved upon this in season swim, you also have to consider that this was 6 months ago.

      She may not have shown that she has improved to Coughlin-esque turns, but I believe that there are enough places where she could improve on top of the water. Because of above stated reasons, I believe that 1:54mid would be a conservative guess, and 1:53 wouldn't be completely shocking.

    4. you know what john, after reading thru your analysis & deductions, i'm starting to believe that Missy can really pull it off!

      i'm actually cheering for team usa all the way, but try to be reasonably fair when it comes to these predictions.

      Missy's 'coming out' party in Shanghai had gotten me so fired up (still remember the giddy excitement of the live chat sessions hosted by Tom on this site!) that i was worried i would end up expecting too much out of her for this year.

      so i adjusted my assessment of Missy's potential times way down from what i was (secretly) hoping she might treat us to this summer. btw didn't downplay Allison's chances as she tends to be underestimated or discounted by more than a few folks, so i wasn't concerned about getting on her bandwagon!

      anyway fun as these armchair predictions go, i guess no amount of scientific calculations can ever replace actually having the swimmers go out and race each other. someone hot that day can always trump another who has been consistently faster prior to the event itself.

      bring on the trials, i can't wait!

    5. Save up that giddy excitement for when we do the live chat again during the Olympics.

    6. hip hip hooray! :)

  5. I think we are conveniently forgetting Palmer (silver medallist from shanghai and Bronte Barrat. They deserve mention in this discussion :)

  6. Amazing to look and read articles around the internet. Europeans backing Muffat and Pellegrini in huge numbers whereas Americans are saying one of the two Americans (Missy & Allison). I personally think Muffat will take it from Pellegrini with Franklin getting the bronze.

    1. Muffat - 1.54.4 NR
    2. Pellegrini - 1.54.6
    3. Franklin - 1.54.7 AM
    4. Schmitt - 1.54.9
    5. Sjoestroem - 1.55.2

  7. objectiveswimfan17 June 2012 at 19:06

    My realistic predictions:

    1/ Camille Muffat 1:54.5 (could go 1:54.35 in semis...)
    2/ Allison Schmitt 1:54.6
    3/ Federica Pellegrini 1:54.75
    4/ Sarah Sjoestrom 1:54.8
    5/ Missy Franklin 1:54.85
    6/ Kylie Palmer 1:55.25
    7/ Femke Heemskerk 1:55.3
    8/ Bronte Barratt 1:55.5

  8. I think the youngsters Sjoestrom and Franklin will end up setting blistering times in the semis (maybe breaking 1.54) but whether or not they'll perform in the final could depend on how they've done in their earlier events. Franklin could be on a high from a 4x100 relay medal but then so could Heemskerk! Sjoestrom seems pretty laid back but there's a lot of pressure on her now, and if she doesn't medal in the 100m fly on the Sunday (she could easily be touched out at the wall behind Vollmer/Gandy/Coutts/Jiao) that could be a massive blow to her confidence. Neither Franklin or Sjoestrom quite have the grit yet to go with the talent. Rio 2016 might be a different story...

    Pellegrini on the other hand - it's obvious that she focuses on winning and not times. Since the Beijing 400m she hasn't lost a significant race, due to sheer bloody mindedness. I'd put money on her for the gold, but it'll probably only be by a few hundredths!

    1. Pellegrini
    2. Muffat
    3. Schmitt
    4. Palmer
    5. Sjostrom
    6. Franklin
    7. Barratt
    8. Turner -- plucky young Brit breaks textile British record by going 1.56.0 in semis then splonks it all for a 1.59 in the final :)

  9. Here's my prediction:

    1. Franklin
    2. Muffat
    3. Pellegrini

    and I'm not even an american

  10. I mostly agree with aswimfan.. I however think Schmitt will finish ahead of Pellegrini

  11. 1 Muffat 1,53.9
    2 Pellegrini 1,54.4
    3 Heemskerk 1,54.65

    4 Sjostrom 1,54.7
    5 Schmitt 1,54.75
    6= Barratt 1,54.85
    6= Palmer 1,54.85
    8 Franklin 1,54.99

    Won't be much of a contest for gold.

    Muffat's already massively ahead of the field, it's not funny. Can't see anyone getting remotely close to her, not even Pellegrini at her best.

    Like Kat, I'm harbouring fantasies of Turner making the final, perhaps squeaking by Franklin for the last spot after the young American succumbs to the media circus that will be focussed on her.

    Not too realistic though, innit...