2012 women’s swimming and synchro: All about the Franklins

Once again: These projections will obviously draw quite heavily from the just-concluded World Championships, and the FINA site’s “rankings” page that generates the best times in any given time period — in this case, since the really fast high-tech suits were banned (1/1/2010).

This post includes projections for synchronized swimming. And with that, we will be done with every single Olympic event.

Reminder: When you see “PSSE,” that means “Post-Silly Suit Era.”

FREESTYLE

50: Britta Steffen curiously withdrew from Worlds after a rough start. She’s only 10th on the PSSE list. Five of the top six on that list, including the top three, posted their times in the final in Shanghai. Top three: Sweden’s Therese Alshammar (24.14), the Netherlands’ Ranomi Kromowldjojo (24.27), the Netherlands’ Marleen Veldhuis (24.49). Belarus’s Aliaksandra Herasimenia was slightly slower at Worlds than she was earlier this year in Belarus (24.57). Britain’s Francesca Halsall (24.60) and Denmark’s Jeanette Ottesen (24.61) are within striking range. But Steffen’s situation certainly makes things interesting. Being 28 in London should be no problem in an event in which 40something Dara Torres medaled in Beijing.

2008: Britta Steffen (Germany), Dara Torres (USA), Cate Campbell (Australia)

Projection: Sweden, Netherlands, Germany

Top Americans: Jessica Hardy made the final but was doomed by the slowest start in the field. She has a 24.63 to her credit from 2010. Amanda Weir ranks 12th.

100: Again, Steffen’s absence from Worlds is a puzzler. But the field is deeper and faster here. Belarus’s Aliaksandra Herasimenia and Denmark’s Jeanette Ottesen tied for first at Worlds in 53.45, and bronze medalist Ranomi Kromowldjojo of the Netherlands has gone faster at 53.44. Britain’s Francesca Halsall posted a 53.48 in qualifying but slipped to 53.72 to finish in another tie, this one for fourth place with the Netherlands’ Femke Heemskerk.

2008: Britta Steffen (Germany), Libby Trickett (Australia), Natalie Coughlin (USA)

Projection: Denmark, Belarus, Netherlands

Top Americans: Dana Vollmer and Natalie Coughlin reached the final in Shanghai but finished a distant seventh and eighth.

200: Only one of the top 10 PSSE times was posted in the World Championship final. Italy’s Federica Pellegrini (warning: do not search too much for details on her love triangle with France’s Laure Manadou and Italy’s Luca Marin if you’re on a work computer) won the title with a time that wasn’t too far off her best of 1:55.45. That was the best of the PSSE era until American teen Missy Franklin, whose name will pop up a few more times here, flew to a 1:55.06 in the first leg of the 4×200 relay. Aussie Kylie Palmer took silver in Shanghai, also not far off her best, and France’s Camille Muffat took bronze. The Netherlands’ Femke Heemskerk and Australia’s Bronte Barratt have faster times than Muffat. Manadou is making a comeback and is rumored to be keeping an eye on this distance, which would be huge for the European gossip mill even though she is now happily married and has a daughter.

2008: Federica Pellegrini (Italy), Sara Isakovič (Slovenia), Pang Jiaying (China)

Projection: Italy, Australia, Netherlands

Top Americans: Assuming Franklin doesn’t add this event to her program, the contestants are Allison Schmitt, who finished sixth in Worlds, and Morgan Scroggy, who didn’t make the semis.

400: Another distance in which we might have a Pellegrini-Manadou showdown, but for now, Pellegrini is off by herself, winning the World final by more than 2 seconds in 4:01.97. Britain’s Rebecca Adlington, France’s Camille Muffat and Australia’s Kylie Palmer all finished slower than their best (especially 2008 gold medalist Adlington, who had a 4:02.84 earlier this year) but still finished in that order behind Pellegrini in Shanghai.

2008: Rebecca Adlington (Britain), Katie Hoff (USA), Joanne Jackson (Britain)

Projection: Italy, Britain, Australia

Top Americans: Katie Hoff, who entered the 2008 Games with a Phelps-ian program and faded in several events, took time off and is working her way back. She finished seventh at Worlds. Chloe Sutton is seventh on the PSSE list and narrowly missed the final at Worlds.

800: Britain will be expecting gold here, though Rebecca Adlington (8:17.51) had to pass Denmark’s Lotte Friis (8:18.20) down the stretch in Shanghai. The other story here is the comeback of Kate Ziegler, who racked up world titles at 800 and the non-Olympic 1,500 in her teen years but failed to qualify for the final in Beijing. Ziegler then missed the 2009 Worlds with swine flu. With an 8:21.59 at the 2010 Pan Pacific meet, bronze here and silver in the 1,500 in Shanghai, she’s getting closer to her 2005-2007 form.

2008: Rebecca Adlington (Britain), Alessia Filippi (Italy), Lotte Friis (Denmark)

Projection: Britain, Denmark, USA

Top Americans: Chloe Sutton was fourth behind Ziegler in Shanghai.

BACKSTROKE

100: Very close finish here in Shanghai, with China’s Zhao Jing (59.05) beating Russia’s Anastasia Zueva by 0.01 seconds. Third was Natalie Coughlin (59.15), who has been the U.S. women’s answer to Michael Phelps over the years and is gearing up for one more run in London. Australia’s Emily Seebohm (59.21) was a close fourth. Japan’s Aya Terakawa was fifth in Shanghai and fourth on the PSSE list at 59.17. Two British swimmers are a couple of tenths back.

2008: Natalie Coughlin (USA), Kirsty Coventry (Zimbabwe), Margaret Hoelzer (USA)

Projection: Russia, China, USA

Top Americans: Missy Franklin took bronze in the non-Olympic 50 backstroke in Shanghai and will surely focus more on this event in the next 12 months, giving Coughlin and the others a good challenge.

200: The 6-foot-1 Franklin won a lot of acclaim for posting relay splits that were off the charts. This was her big individual event, and she took a convincing wire-to-wire win. Australia’s Belinda Hocking was nearly a second back. The Netherlands’ Sharon von Rouwendaal was a distant third as several swimmers failed to match their PSSE bests, including British hopeful Elizabeth Simmonds.

2008: Kirsty Coventry (Zimbabwe), Margaret Hoelzer (USA), Reiko Nakamura (Japan)

Projection: USA, Australia, Britain

Top Americans: Elizabeth Beisel faded from third to fifth down the stretch at Worlds.

BREASTSTROKE

100: The FINA list has a mistake here, listing Julia Larina’s 1:03.07 here. That would be a world record. As it actually stands, the USA’s Rebecca Soni is bearing down on the record (1:04.45) held by countrywoman Jessica Hardy. She won Worlds in 1:05.05, slightly off the 1:04.91 she posted in qualifying but still more than a second ahead of Australia’s Leisel Jones. The Aussie veteran’s PSSE best is 1:05.66, a little bit ahead of Hardy’s 1:05.90. Hardy wasn’t at Worlds — longtime ESPN Page 2 favorite Amanda Beard had her spot in a comeback bid — and China’s Ji Liping edged Russia’s Yuliya Efimova for bronze.

2008: Leisel Jones (Australia), Rebecca Soni (USA), Mirna Jukić (Austria)

Projection: USA, Australia, USA

Top Americans: Hardy will be back in the mix at this event. She missed time serving a suspension for a positive test for clenbuterol, the substance that has tripped up cyclist Alberto Contadro and some Mexican soccer players, in part because it can enter someone’s system by accident all too easily. But we’ll save the WADA rant for another time.

200: Soni is far in front at this distance. Even though she missed her PSSE best (2:20.69) by nearly a second in Shanghai, she beat Russia’s Yuliya Efimova by a comfortable 0.77 seconds. No one else is anywhere near. Leisel Jones is third on the PSSE list at 2:23.23; Canada’s Martha McCabe took bronze in Shanghai in 2:24.81.

2008: Rebecca Soni (USA), Leisel Jones (Australia), Sara Nordenstam (Norway)

Projection: USA, Russia, Australia

Top Americans: Amanda Beard came closer to qualifying for the final at this distance and might be able to make it in London. Hardy isn’t planning to compete in the 200.

BUTTERFLY

100: Another tight race in Shanghai, with the USA’s Dana Vollmer holding off Australia’s Alicia Coutts by 0.07 seconds and China’s Lu Ying by 0.19. Sweden’s Sarah Sjoestrom, who holds the world record, was a half-second back. Vollmer was much faster in qualifying with a 56.47; Coutts saved her best of 56.94 for the final.

2008: Libby Trickett (Australia), Christine Magnuson (USA), Jessicah Schipper (Australia)

Projection: USA, Australia, Sweden

Top Americans: 2008 silver medalist Christine Magnuson has a competitive time of 57.32 from 2010 but didn’t qualify for the Shanghai final.

200: Britain’s Ellen Gandy managed to slip in between the Chinese 1-2 of Jiao Liuyang and Liu Zige in Shanghai. Fellow Briton Jemma Lowe also has a competitive time. The final was close — only 1.09 seconds separating first from a two-way tie for seventh that included Lowe and 2008 bronze medalist Jessicah Schipper of Australia. Japan’s Natsumi Hoshi was a close fourth, Australia’s Stephanie Rice fifth, Hungary’s Zsuzsanna Jakabos sixth.

2008: Liu Zige (China), Jiao Liuyang (China), Jessicah Schipper (Australia)

Projection: China, Britain, China

Top Americans: Kathleen Hersey tied for ninth in the semis, though she was 0.62 seconds out of eighth. Teresa Crippen was farther back.

INDIVIDUAL MEDLEY

200: The top four in Shanghai are the top four on the PSSE list — China’s Ye Shiwen (2:08.90), Australia’s Alicia Coutts (2:09.00), the USA’s Ariana Kukors (2:09.12) and Australian Olympic gold medalist Stephanie Rice (2:09.65).

2008: Stephanie Rice (Australia), Kirsty Coventry (Zimbabwe), Natalie Coughlin (USA)

Projection: Australia, China, USA

Top Americans: Kukors won the 2009 world title and is still in her early 20s. Caitlin Leverenz was fifth at Worlds but only ninth on the PSSE list.

400: American Elizabeth Beisel came up big in Shanghai with a time of 4:31.78. Runner-up Hannah Miley (of Britain, not the Disney Channel) has gone faster (4:33.09) than her 4:34.22 from the final, but she’s still well back. Australia’s 2008 swim queen, Stephanie Rice, was 0.01 seconds behind Miley in Shanghai with her PSSE best. China’s Ye Shiwen has a time of 4:33.79 from the 2010 Asian Games but was well back at Worlds.

2008: Stephanie Rice (Australia), Kirsty Coventry (Zimbabwe), Katie Hoff (USA)

Projection: USA, Britain, Australia

Top Americans: Beisel competed in Beijing at age 15 and is only getting faster. Caitlin Leverenz was eighth at Worlds.

RELAYS

4×100 free: The Shanghai final broke into two races: Netherlands vs. USA for gold, Germany vs. China vs. Australia for bronze. The Netherlands came back from more than a second down after Natalie Coughlin and Missy Franklin gave the USA a good early lead, whittling away the gap and then pulling away for a win by 0.51 seconds. Germany’s bronze is a bit of a mystery — only Britta Steffens, who wound up leaving Shanghai later in the meet, is ranked among the top 15 in the world. Australia has many more swimmers in the mix.

2008: Netherlands, USA, Australia

Projection: USA, Netherlands, Australia

Top Americans: This is a good group. Coughlin will surely put forth one more great run. Franklin is only going to get faster and more confident, and her 52.99 in the second leg was the fastest time in Shanghai, even with a relatively slow (by relay standards) reaction time. Jessica Hardy is better at breaststroke but is working her way back into shape. Dana Vollmer is No. 8 on the PSSE list and will need to hold off the Netherlands’ Femke Heemskerk down the stretch — unless the USA shifts the order and puts Franklin or even Coughlin last.

4×200 free: The Shanghai final got a little scary in the last 50 meters as Allison Schmitt gave back more than a second of her sizable lead, but the USA still finished 1.28 seconds ahead of Australia and 1.52 ahead of China for the win. Fourth-place France was 6.08 seconds back, and from a glance at the top times, no one else is going to challenge the top three.

2008: Australia, China, USA

Projection: USA, Australia, China

Top Americans: Missy Franklin would’ve won gold by half a body length in the individual 200 with her opening leg. Dagny Knutson, at No. 11 the lowest-ranked of the four Americans on the PSSE list, had the second-fastest second leg behind China. Katie Hoff was second to Australia by just 0.05 seconds in the third leg, and she’s likely to improve. Schmitt was fastest in the pool through 150 and then dragged (or cruised, perhaps) down the stretch.

4×100 medley: This race was almost unfair. The USA had the fastest swimmer in all four legs — Natalie Coughlin (backstroke), Rebecca Soni (breaststroke), Dana Vollmer (butterfly) and Missy Franklin (freestyle). The race was for second, with China pulling away from Australia down the stretch. Russia gave the Aussies a good run for third.

2008: Australia, USA, China

Projection: USA, China, Australia

Top Americans: They’re all good.

OPEN WATER

10k: Traditionally a sport for Germany and Russia, then the Netherlands and Italy, then the USA and Australia. But it’s safe to say Britain is looking for a medal in Hyde Park here. Keri-Anne Payne took silver in Beijing and gold in Shanghai, holding off Italy’s Martina Grimaldi and Greece’s Marianna Lymperta in a pack that broke free from the rest.

2008: Larisa Ilchenko (Russia), Keri-Anne Payne (Britain), Cassandra Patten (Britain)

Projection: Britain, Italy, Greece

Top Americans: Christine Jennings was 13th in Shanghai, finishing in the middle of a 20-swimmer pack behind the top three.

SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING

Duet: Let’s make this very simple. Five of the seven World Championship events, including both Olympic events, finished Russia, China, Spain. The Olympic-irrelevant solo free routine finished Russia, Spain, China. The mildly relevant team free routine combination finished Russia, China, Canada. The suspense in this event: Will Spain catch China? If either stumbles badly, Canada could capitalize.

2008: Russia, Spain, Japan

Projection: Russia, China, Spain

Top Americans: Mary Killman and Lyssa Wallace finished 11th.

Team: Canada is actually close enough to harbor some hopes of catching Spain here. And Spain’s close enough to China to wonder if home-continent advantage might help.

2008: Russia, Spain, China

Projection: Russia, China, Spain

Top Americans: 10th place at Worlds.

The synchro medal count is therefore pretty easy to calculate. China gains one; Japan loses one.

 

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