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August 06, 2004

Athens Olympics Swimming Medal Predictions

Athens Olympic Games Blog reader, Jonathan Paxman, has done a lot of thinking about the Swimming events in Athens and has put together this great set of predictions of Medal Winners in swimming events. Thanks Jonathan - great work. Here are his predictions.

These predictions are my humble opinion, based on a number of factors including 2003 and 2004 rankings, and performances in past championships. Dont interpret these as expectations for any given team. In particular, you will note that Americans (14 gold) and Australians (11 gold) figure heavily in the predictions. In some ways, I expect the team performances to be somewhat lower than these predictions. This is because the Australian and American teams are perhaps more known quantities than their European and Asian counterparts. If there are some surprise packets at the Olympics who break their personal best by a substantial distance to win gold, I expect these to come from outside the Australian and American teams.

Perhaps my predictions for the Aussies are a little optimistic, but not unjustifiably so. Australia has the top ranked competitors in twelve events if you include the relays, and world record holders in seven. For the Australian team, I would regard anything over the five gold haul of Sydney to be a very good result. To match the 1956 haul of eight gold would be outstanding.

It is difficult to see Australia seriously challenging American supremacy in the overall medal count. The difference can be summed up in one word: Phelps. It is interesting to note that the top ranked competitor or team in every mens event is either American or Australian. Certain individuals may challenge that whitewash at the Olympics: Kitajima, Hoogenband, and Popov in particular. The womens events on the other hand are a much more multinational affair, with gold medal chances in the Japanese, Polish, German, Ukrainian, Dutch, French and Chinese teams.

50m Freestyle
Gold: Inge de Bruijn (NED)
Silver: Lisbeth Lenton (AUS)
Bronze: Michelle Engelsman (AUS)

The womens sprint events are shaping up to be Inky vs the Aussies, and I predict that Sydneys queen of the pool will triumph in the one lap splash and dash.

100m Freestyle
Gold: Jodie Henry (AUS)
Silver: Inge de Bruijn (NED)
Bronze: Lisbeth Lenton (AUS)

Sure to be one of the most closely contested races of the meet. Henry has had the better of Lenton in recent finals, despite Lenton's world record in the semi-finals of the Olympic trials. de Bruijn will definitely be looking to regain her world record in the event.

200m Freestyle
Gold: Franziska van Almsick (GER)
Silver: Melanie Marshall (GBR)
Bronze: Petria Thomas (AUS)

This one is tough to predict, with Melanie Marshall swimming strongly this year, along with Otylia Jedrzejczak, Jiaying Pang, and Petria Thomas. World record holder van Almsick should stamp her authority on this race if she can swim anywhere near her best.

400m Freestyle
Gold: Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL)
Silver: Laure Manaudou (FRA)
Bronze: Camelia Potec (ROM)

This event could be very close, with the top six competitors within half a second this year.

800m Freestyle
Gold: Sachiko Yamada (JPN)
Silver: Kalyn Keller (USA)
Bronze: Diana Munz (USA)

Yamada is the best this year by several seconds, and it will take a top performance to beat her. The Japanese and Americans should clean up the medals in this event.

100m Backstroke
Gold: Natalie Coughlin (USA)
Silver: Laure Manaudou (FRA)
Bronze: Reiko Nakamura (JPN)

Natalie Coughlin is a big favourite on paper, but after a several of failures at major championships, she will be under a lot of pressure. Manaudou has also put in a number of strong times this year, and may be very close.

200m Backstroke
Gold: Reiko Nakamura (JPN)
Silver: Stanislava Komarova (RUS)
Bronze: Katy Sexton (GBR)

Nakamura and Komarova are the standout performers this year, although the British swimmers could also be in contention.

100m Breaststroke
Gold: Leisel Jones (AUS)
Silver: Tara Kirk (USA)
Bronze: Brooke Hanson (AUS)

World record holder Jones, with six of the top ten times this year, should win this if her nerves hold up. Brooke Hanson, and Americans Beard and Kirk are the only other serious contenders. Interestingly, American Staciana Stitts failed to qualify in this event despite setting the fastest time by an American this year in the preliminary rounds at the US trials.

200m Breaststroke
Gold: Amanda Beard (USA)
Silver: Leisel Jones (AUS)
Bronze: Qi Hui (CHN)

This one on one battle between Beard and Jones should be decided in a world record. Jones broke the record (previously held jointly by Beard and Qi) in heavy training earlier this year, only for Beard to take it back by half a second at the US trials. Of the other swimmers, only Qi may get close.

100m Butterfly
Gold: Petria Thomas (AUS)
Silver: Inge de Bruijn (NED)
Bronze: Martina Moravcova (SVK)

In the lead up to the Olympics, much of the attention has been focused on Ian Thorpe, Leisel Jones and the speedy freestylers Lenton, Henry and Mills. This has suited Petria Thomas just fine as she has continued to set scorching times in the 100m and 200m Butterfly. On this years times, nobody will come close in the 100m, however world record holder 'Inky' de Bruijn can never be discounted.

200m Butterfly
Gold: Petria Thomas (AUS)
Silver: Otylia Jedrzejczak (POL)
Bronze: Yuko Nakanishi (JPN)

Petria Thomas is again the form swimmer in the 200m 'fly, but will be chased by another world record holder in Jedrzejczak. Galvez will fight with Nakanishi for the bronze. There is a danger for Thomas in the semi-final, where she may have less than 15 minutes to recover from swimming the 200m freestyle final.

Amid all the speculation over whether Michael Phelps will match Mark Spitz' record of seven gold medals in one games, nobody has mentioned that Petria Thomas has a serious possibility to match Kristin Otto's 1988 record of six gold medals. It is pretty unlikely that either swimmer will achieve the feat, however Thomas seems to have the better chance.

200m Individual Medley
Gold: Amanda Beard (USA)
Silver: Yana Klochkova (UKR)
Bronze: Alice Mills (AUS)

This will be a very closely contested event. The main contenders are Americans Beard and Hoff, Aussies Mills and Hanson, along with Klochkova and Rohman (GER). Only 0.04 of a second separates the top three ranked this year (Beard, Hoff and Rohman).

400m Individual Medley
Gold: Yana Klochkova (UKR)
Silver: Kathryn Hoff (USA)
Bronze: Eva Risztov (HUN)

World record holder Klochkova will do battle with the top ranked swimmer this year, Hoff. Australian Jennifer Reilly should be in medal contention along with Risztov and Sandeno (USA).

4x100m Freestyle Relay
Gold: Australia
Silver: USA
Bronze: Germany

After the scorching times set by the Australian women at the Olympic trials, Australia is now a hot favourite to win this event for the first time since Dawn Fraser's 1956 team. USA are also very strong, and the German world record holders led by Franziska van Almsick will not be far away. It should take a new world record to win this event.

4x200m Freestyle Relay
Gold: Australia
Silver: Germany
Bronze: USA

With no one team showing dominance in the 200m freestyle, this relay could be one of the most closely contested events of the games. Australia look strong, with Petria Thomas swimming as well as she ever has, Linda Mackenzie improving all the time and Elka Graham returning to her best form. Germany, USA and China will all be strong and any one of them could take the gold medal.

4x100m Medley Relay
Gold: Australia
Silver: USA
Bronze: China

With top ranked swimmers in three of the four strokes, Australia should cement it's domination of women's swimming on the final day of the Olympic programme. USA will provide a close contest as always, and expect China and Germany to fight out the bronze ahead of Britain and Japan.

50m Freestyle

Gold: Gary Hall Jr (USA)
Silver: Roland Shoeman (RSA)
Bronze: Alexander Popov (RUS)

Gary Hall has just qualified for his third Olympics, and is looking as hungry as ever. The 50m free might be a bit of a lottery between the Americans Hall and Lezak, Popov, Shoeman and a couple of Spaniards Lorente and Noriega.

100m Freestyle
Gold: Jason Lezak (USA)
Silver: Pieter van den Hoogenband (NED)
Bronze: Roland Shoeman (RSA)

This should be the breakthrough year for Lezak, after years in the shadow of Hall, Ervin and Walker. Any of the finalists might win however: watch out for a certain Ian Crocker.

200m Freestyle
Gold: Ian Thorpe (AUS)
Silver: Pieter van den Hoogenband (NED)
Bronze: Grant Hackett (AUS)

In the most anticipated race of the swimming programme, Ian Thorpe should gain his revenge over van den Hoogenband for his defeat in 2000. Hackett and Phelps are also in top form, and the winner could come from any of those four.

400m Freestyle
Gold: Ian Thorpe (AUS)
Silver: Grant Hackett (AUS)
Bronze: Klete Keller (USA)

Ian Thorpe will be looking for a strong start to his Olympics. He will need it to beat Grant Hackett, who has put in several strong 400 swims this year. Americans Keller and Jensen will be fighting for bronze.

1500m Freestyle
Gold: Grant Hackett (AUS)
Silver: David Davies (GBR)
Bronze: Yuri Prilukov (RUS)

Hackett says he can beat his world record, and who is to doubt him? If he swims anything close to it, he will be untouchable. Davies, Prilukov and Jensen will fight out the medals with Craig Stevens. Expect the top five to all swim under 15 minutes.

100m Backstroke
Gold: Aaron Peirsol (USA)
Silver: Matthew Welsh (AUS)
Bronze: Lenny Krayzelburg (USA)

Aaron Peirsol is the pacesetter this year, but Welsh is only a whisker away, and the world record holder Krayzelburg cannot be discounted. Expect a touch to separate the medals.

200m Backstroke
Gold: Aaron Peirsol (USA)
Silver: Razvan Florea (ROM)
Bronze: Gregor Tait (GBR)

With the withdrawal of Michael Phelps, there is noone to touch Peirsol in this event. I cant imagine Phelps withdrawing if he thought he had a chance of winning this event, and if he cant do it, noone else can come close.

After a number of good performances this year, Romanian Florea is a good chance of a medal ahead of Gregor Tait and Markus Rogan.

100m Breaststroke
Gold: Kosuke Kitajima (JPN)
Silver: Brendan Hansen (USA)
Bronze: Darren Mew (GBR)

Kitajima will be looking to regain his world records in the breaststroke events from Hansen. His best chance lies in the 100m, but it will be a close battle.

200m Breaststroke
Gold: Brendan Hansen (USA)
Silver: Kosuke Kitajima (JPN)
Bronze: Jim Piper (AUS)

Brendan Hansen has stamped his domination on this event with a time that is almost two seconds faster than his rivals this year.

100m Butterfly
Gold: Ian Crocker (USA)
Silver: Michael Phelps (USA)
Bronze: Andriy Serdinov (UKR)

This one could well be a repeat of the extraordinary event at the Barcelona world championships, where Serdinov, Phelps and Crocker in turn broke the world record in the semi-finals and final.

The Australians Huegill and Pine are well off the pace, and will not figure in an event that Australia once dominated.

200m Butterfly
Gold: Michael Phelps (USA)
Silver: Pawel Korzeniowski (POL)
Bronze: Justin Norris (AUS)

And so begins the Phelps procession. There are three events in which he is all but unbeatable, and the rest will race for silver. My prediction for Phelps Olympics is four gold and two silver (including the two freestyle relays), which is nothing short of phenomenal. Unfortunately, many in the media will perceive anything short of a Spitz as failure.

Any of a further ten athletes could win a minor medal.

200m Individual Medley
Gold: Michael Phelps (USA)
Silver: Thiago Pereira (BRA)
Bronze: Ryan Lochte (USA)

Again, this could be a close race for silver between a number of athletes.

400m Individual Medley
Gold: Michael Phelps (USA)
Silver: Alessio Boggiatto (ITA)
Bronze: Laszlo Cseh (HUN)

Boggiatto and Cseh are the clear candidates for silver. No one comes close the Phelps for gold.

4x100m Freestyle Relay
Gold: USA
Silver: Russia
Bronze: South Africa

World record holders Australia will have a tough time getting a medal, let alone retaining their Olympic title. In 2000 Michael Klim was in blistering form, breaking the individual world record in leading off the relay. Fydler, Callus and Thorpe also swam extremely fast splits to beat the Americans by a whisker. This year, Klim is recovering from injury and only two swimmers broke 50 seconds in the 100m final of the Olympic trials (compared to 6 americans under 49.5).

This year, the Americans look unbeatable. Jason Lezak is in worlds best form, and with the addition of Crocker and Phelps to the team, the Aussie record is surely in danger. The fight for the minor medals will be between Australia, Popovs Russia, South Africa, and perhaps Italy.

4x200m Freestyle Relay
Gold: Australia
Silver: USA
Bronze: Italy

The Americans are very quick in the 200m, but Australia has a secret weapon, and its not Ian Thorpe. Grant Hackett swam a disappointing 200m in 2000, missing out on the world record breaking relay final. This year, he is nearly four seconds faster. With solid swims from the supporting crew of Sprenger, Pearson, Matkovich and Stevens Australia could well break the record again.

The American team led by Phelps will not be far behind, and the Italian team led by Rossolino and Brembilla should be good for a medal.

4x100m Medley Relay
Gold: USA
Silver: Australia
Bronze: Great Britain

With the top ranked competitor in each stroke, including three world record holder, the USA are a lock. Barring disqualifications, the rest are competing for silver. Australia will be strong, and Britain, Ukraine and Russia will all be aiming for a medal.

Medal Tally:
USA 14 Gold :: 8 Silver :: 5 Bronze :: 27 Total
Australia 11 Gold :: Silver :: 5 :: 8 Bronze :: 24 Total
Japan 3 Gold :: 0 Silver :: 2 Bronze :: 5 Total
Netherlands 1 Gold :: 4 Silver :: 0 Bronze :: 5 Total
Poland 1 Gold :: 2 Silver :: 0 Bronze :: 3 Total
Germany 1 Gold :: 1 Silver :: 1 Bronze :: 3 Total
Ukraine 1 Gold :: 1 Silver :: 1 Bronze :: 3 Total

Petria Thomas 5 Gold :: 1 Silver :: 0 Bronze :: 6 Total
Michael Phelps 4 Gold :: 2 Silver :: 0 Bronze :: 6 Total
Ian Thorpe 3 Gold :: 1 Silver :: 0 Bronze :: 4 Total

Aussie women 7 Gold :: 2 Silver :: 5 Bronze :: 14 Total
Aussie men 4 Gold :: 3 Silver :: 3 Bronze :: 10 Total
US women 3 Gold :: 5 Silver :: 2 Bronze :: 10 Total
US men 11 Gold :: 3 Silver :: 3 Bronze :: 17 Total

Compiled By Jonathan Paxman

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Posted by Darren at August 6, 2004 05:47 PM
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