Most events in Rome won't fully shape up until after all the trials, but, with the sterling short course season (World Cup and European short course championships) and Aussie trials, we can already see how several events will shape up. The men's 50 Fly has already shaped up, with several Europeans and Aussies, as well as some other veterans that we can expect to be there.
Milorad Cavic - the man who almost beat Michael Phelps in the 100 Fly in Beijing, Cavic has unbelievable speed and certainly enters as the favorite to win in Rome; he set a European record of 23.11 (long course) at the European championships last year that makes him the second fastest man in history behind South Africa's Roland Schoeman
Amaury Leveaux - as the silver medalist in the 50 Free at the Olympics, Leveaux is also a top-class sprinter who has some butterfly experience and is the European champion and World Record-holder in the short course version of the event; he has great underwater dolphin kicks, so he will not be as strong long course, but, if he swims the event (prelims and semi-finals are on the same day as the relay), he has more than a chance for a medal
Fred Bousquet - although he has the same conflict as Leveaux, he was ranked 10th in the world last year in the 100 Fly and also has amazing speed, as evidenced by his recent 21.44 US Open record in the 50 Free; consider him a gold-medal contender in this event
Rafael Munoz - this Spanish swimmer was third behind Leveaux and Cavic at the European short course championships, Munoz is ranked #1 in the world in 2009 in this event; he is certainly a medal contender for the world championships
Matt Targett - the Australian did not swim his best at his national championships this week, swimming almost a second off his 100 Free best time, so he can probably go faster than the 23.31 he swam in the semi-finals of the event in Sydney; he considers this his best event, so he could also claim a medal - maybe even gold
Andrew Lauterstein - Lauterstein outtouched Targett for both the Australian record (23.30) in the semi-finals and in the finals for the title; he could also drop some time in Rome, so consider him a medal possibility
Roland Schoeman - the South African World Record-holder swam his best times in the 50 Free long course (in Beijing) and short course (SA Nats in September); he is an outside medal contender for sure and keep an eye out for this guy!
Americans - Ian Crocker, in addition to holding the 100 Fly World Record has won silver in this event at the last two world championships and holds the American record (23.12); I believe he is not swimming this year, though; if he is swimming this year, Ben Wildman-Tobriner will be a medal contender; Matt Grevers also has great speed and some fly experience and could make finals if he swims this
Other - Evgeny Korotyshkin of Russia is another strong contender who won bronze in this event at the 2008 short course World championships and swam fly on Russia's 4th place relay in Beijing and is now training with Andrea de Nino (with Cavic and American Randall Bal) in Italy. Urkraine's Sergiy Breus has won multiple World championship medals in the event. Also, Albert Subirates was fourth in this event in Melbourne 2007, and he won bronze in the 100 Fly at that meet. There are other veterans such as Jason Dunford of Kenya, Ryan Pini of Papua New Guinea, Slovenia's Peter Mankoc, and Japan's Kohei Kawamoto. Finally, keep an eye on the other South African, likely Lyndon Ferns.
Who I think will final (in no particular order):
1) Milorad Cavic
2) Fred Bousquet
3) Amaury Leveaux
4) Matt Targett
5) Rafael Munoz
6) Roland Schoeman
7) Andrew Lauterstein
8) Evgeny Korotyshkin
In other news:
- Women's NCAAs finish tonight in College Station, Texas on the campus of Texas A&M. Events start at 7pm (8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific) with a live broadcast online at ESPN 360. The men's meet will be next Thursday through Saturday, March 26-28, also in College Station.
- California leads the race for the NCAA title followed closely by Georgia and defending champion Arizona, currently suffering from a costly DQ in the 200 medley relay prelims yesterday. Those three stand far ahead of Stanford and Arizona. Events include the 1,650 Free, 200 Back, 100 Free, 200 Breast, 200 Fly, and 400 Free Relay. Predictions: 1,650 Free - Wendy Trott (Georgia); 200 Back - Gemma Spofforth (Florida), 100 Free - Dana Vollmer (Cal), 200 Breast - Rebecca Soni (USC), 200 Fly - Elaine Breeden (Stanford) (also watch Kathleen Hersey of Texas and Jemma Lowe of Florida)
- Aussie trials will conclude on Sunday with prelims beginning at 8am Sydney time (5pm Eastern/2pm Pacific) and finals at 5pm (2am Eastern/11pm Pacific).