Following the glitz and the glamour of the opening ceremony of the Rio Games, attention will immediately turn to the pool as the world’s finest swimmers compete for the glory of a podium finish.
Much of the focus will be on August 7-8, when a triple-header of races looks set to capture the heart and imagination of the viewing public, particularly in the UK.
This fascinating event looks set to be a three-way dance for honours, and a clash between the current world record holder, the former world record holder and the US Team Trials champion is certainly a mouth-watering prospect.
The encounter between Dana Vollmer and Sarah Sjöström back in London 2012 was something of a barnstormer too. Dana smashed the world record and became the first woman to break the 56-second barrier—in the process beating the time set by Sjöström in the infamous banned body suit at the World Championships of 2009.
The Swede, after finishing fourth in London, took her medicine and came out fighting: clinching five medals at the 2015 World Aquatics Championships including gold in the 100m butterfly. It was in this very event that Sjöström broke the world record not once but twice — first in her semi-final and then in the final in a never-bettered time of 55.64.
As if to compound Vollmer’s misery, she was beaten into second by young upstart Kelsi Worrell at the US Team Trials qualifying event in 56.48. What an intriguing prospect it’ll be when this trio clashes on August 7 – presuming they all qualify for the medal race of course.
Given her dominance at the 2015 World Championships, it’s perhaps no surprise to see Sjöström heading the bookmakers’ market at a super-short price of 1/9, but the feeling in swimming circles is that Worrell can mount an assault on the gold and at 14/1 with bet365 she looks an outstanding candidate for an each way wager.
History could be made in the Men’s 100m Breaststroke on August 7 when Adam Peaty attempts to become the first British male swimming gold medallist since Adrian Moorhouse. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Peaty were to achieve the feat—he is the current world record holder and reigning Commonwealth, European and World champion after all.
He’s on record as stating that "it just feels like my stroke is in the best place ever", and also boasts six of the ten fastest recorded times in history. At 2/5 with Ladbrokes, he’s clearly going to take some stopping.
Peaty’s main competition will come from the South African, Cameron Van Der Burgh, who himself is a former world record holder after setting a time of 58.46 at the London Games in 2012, winning gold there by some five-tenths of a second.
It’ll also be worth keeping an eye on Kevin Cordes, the American record holder. His personal best of 58.94 came as recently as June in the Team Trials, an indicator that he is coming into form at exactly the right time. With quarter odds paid on a top three place, he looks worthy of investment at 14/1 with William Hill.
The standout race in Monday August 8’s packed schedule is the Men’s 200m Freestyle, where another British hope will battle it out for Olympic honours. James Guy was just 20 years old when the Games came to London, but he watched on from poolside and was clearly inspired by what he saw.
He claimed two gold medals at the World Championships of 2015 in this event. He also the 4x200m Freestyle Relay, while in the individual race he saw off the hopes of Olympic silver medallist — and his main rival for the gold in Rio — China’s Sun Yang.
Yang’s progress has been hampered by all manner of controversies, including being banned from competition at the tail-end of 2013 for being caught driving without a licence, before testing positive for the stimulant Trimetazidine in 2014.
At the World Championships of 2015, he was also accused of assaulting Brazilian swimmer Larissa Oliveira. All in all, not ideal preparation for the Olympics. Although the Chinese ace has recorded the fastest time in 2016 to date of 1:44.82.
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