In a lot of events, there are some things I want to happen, but I know they probably won't. With these "predictions" below, I know that they are all big longshots, but I will be rooting for them all the way!
Women's 50 free: Dara Torres
This event is just too deep right now! There are six girls with legitimate shots at medals. Dara, who is currently ranked fourth in the world, might not have quite enough firepower to chase for the gold. She will need to be well under 24 seconds to get it done. She has a lot of room for improvement from her 24.43 at Nationals, but I'm not sure she can drop the six or seven tenths needed. If she could, wouldn't it be awesome to see a 42-year old come back being touched out by 0.01 in Beijing to be World Champ?
Women's 200 free: Dana Vollmer
It is not a stretch to say that Dana Vollmer did not have a very good year last year. After missing the team, she came back strong to win Nationals with a 1:56.20, the second fastest time in the world this year. While Italy's Federica Pellegrini is almost two seconds ahead of her, Vollmer has a legitimate shot at silver. If she can control the first 100 a little bit better, she will be able to eclipse Katie Hoff's American record of 1:55.78 and make a run at a medal. Most of the contenders for this race have not shown all of their cards this year, so it will be deeper than the current world rankings indicate, but this may be Dana Vollmer's year.
Women's 50 back: Hayley McGregory
Note: I want her to win the 100 too, but her chances here are much more realistic. After another heartbreaking summer where she once again finished third in both backstrokes, Hayley McGregory is back once again. After a flip-flop training year where she swam for three different clubs, McGregory won the 100 back at Nationals with a so-so time of 1:00.07. While Kirsty Coventry looms in that distance, the shorter event may have an opening. In fact, the event is wide open. Even though she is not among the seven women who have cracked 28 this year, she has not raced the event in 2009, so expect her to be near the leaders. We don't quite know what she is capable of, but it could be gold.
Women's 50 fly: Dara Torres (if she swims it)
Same reason as the 50 free above. Once again, it is a really competitive field. However, she appears to have a better shot at a medal in this one. She is ranked third in the world this year (and also in history) with a 25.50 from Nationals. In my opinion, the only way she won't get a medal is if she doesn't swim it.
Women's 200 IM: Ariana Kukors
In 2008, out-touched by eight one-hundredths for the second spot in the this event. In 2009, four one-hundredths. However, with the withdrawl of Elizabeth Pelton from this event in Rome, Kukors is back in the medal hunt. While World and Olympic silver medalist Kirsty Coventry is still going strong, world record-holder Stephanie Rice took an extended break after Beijing, and has been feeling under the weather as of late, which may leave an opening in this event. I'm rooting for Kukors to make up for her disappointments and secure a medal in this event. She has the potential of a 2:09-low or even 2:08-high swim. Probably not enough for gold, but a medal could be hers for the taking.
Men's 10k Open Water: Fran Crippen
Fran Crippen, one of many great swimmers in the Crippen family, is on the rebound from a disappointing 2008 of his own. In fact, he was shut out of 2008 before it began. At the open water world championship trials in late 2007 (which would qualify swimmers for worlds, where they could qualify for the Olympics), he came in as one of the favorites, having just won the Pan American Games, but he finished ninth, missing Beijing altogether. He took up a job in Philadelphia, but continued training, and he came back to win this year's world champ trials in the 10k, so he has another chance. And it is a real chance. With three of the four medals from last year's worlds and Olympics (combined) out of the race, his main competition will be German bronze medalist Thomas Lurz, as well as veterans such as Spyridon Gianniotis of Greece and Peter Stoychev of Bulgaria. I'm not sure he can pull it off, but it would be a great end to a great story.
Men's 400 free relay: USA
I admit, the race from Beijing still amazes me. I still get goosebumps every time I watch it. In 2009, once again, the French are the favorites, but, alas, I don't think the US can pull it off. It's simple: we don't have enough firepower, and France does. It would be a much bigger upset if it happened this year than it was last. All of America will be rooting for that foursome, but I don't think it will be enough.