Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shanghai 2011: Predictions, Part Four

We are less than one week away from the start of pool swimming at the 2011 FINA World Championships in Shanghai. Instead of discussing storylines headed into the meet as I so often do, I decided instead to post my predictions in four parts, and under each prediction, I included some of my thoughts headed in to the meet. While in many cases this meet is much more straightforward in predicting than a national-level meet, there is more opportunity for a swimmer to come out of the woodwork to win a medal. So we will see how this goes. This final round of predictions includes the men’s freestyle, IM, and relay events. You can find my predictions for women’s events here and here, and the first part of my men’s predictions, including backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly events, here.

Note: With the decision as to whether Cesar Cielo can compete in the World Championships still looming, I have included four places in his events. If he is not allowed to compete, the second-place finisher moves up to gold.

50 Free
1. Cesar Cielo, Brazil
2. Fred Bousquet, France
3. Nathan Adrian, USA
4. Andriy Govorov, Ukraine
*If he gets to compete, Cielo will show that he is truly a dominant force in the one-lapper. The top-three are clear of the rest of the world. Darkhorse pick for fourth.

100 Free
1. Nathan Adrian, USA
2. Cesar Cielo, Brazil
3. Brent Hayden, Canada
4. Fabien Gilot, France
*Cielo goes out quickly and forces the pace, but Adrian motors down the stretch and edges his Brazilian rival.

200 Free
1. Michael Phelps, USA
2. Ryan Lochte, USA
3. Tae Hwan Park, Korea
*Could go a lot of different ways among the top three, but I predict strong underwater work is the difference-maker for the Americans ahead of the Korean superstar.

400 Free
1. Tae Hwan Park, Korea
2. Sun Yang, China
3. Ous Mellouli, Tunisia
*Park goes out fast and stays ahead of the Chinese distance sensation for the entire race. Mellouli is too powerful for the rest of the field.

800 Free
1. Sun Yang, China
2. Ous Mellouli, Tunisia
3. Ryan Cochrane, Canada
*Sun Yang wins first of two golds over Mellouli, while bronze is somewhat open. Americans LaTourette and Vanderkaay should both be in the final.

1500 Free
1. Sun Yang, China
2. Ous Mellouli, Tunisia
3. Ryan Cochrane, Canada
*Mellouli won’t go down without a fight, but Sun Yang has been on fire for the past 12 months. Top-three looks solid here.

200 IM
1. Ryan Lochte, USA
2. Michael Phelps, USA
3. Thiago Pereira, Brazil
*Lochte takes the lead on breaststroke and never looks back as he cracks into the 1:53 range for the first time. Pereira finally earns a medal after many fourth-place finishes.

400 IM
1. Ryan Lochte, USA
2. Tyler Clary, USA
3. Laszlo Cseh, Hungary
*At the end of his program, Lochte should still have enough to hold off a strong charge from the rising medley superstar Clary.

4x100 Free Relay
1. United States
2. France
3. Russia
*Americans have the speed, depth, and mental advantage needed to take this one.

4x200 Free Relay
1. United States
2. Russia
3. China
*Maybe the Americans can get under 7:00 for the first time in textile. Sun Yang and Zhang Lin lead the new Chinese threat in this event.

4x100 Medley Relay
1. United States
2. France
3. Australia
*Despite weakness early on, Michael Phelps puts the Americans into a strong lead with his fly leg, enough for the win. Look for Germany to make a strong push for the medals as well, while Japan will be in the mix until freestyle.

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