Olympic Swimming Predictions 2012: Gold Medal Odds for Every Event

Blake Dorfman@blakedorfmanFeatured ColumnistJuly 26, 2012

Olympic Swimming Predictions 2012: Gold Medal Odds for Every Event

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    A lot of epic performances (mostly involving Michael Phelps) were delivered in the Water Cube at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

    This time around, the London Aquatics Centre will be the spot where a lot of incredibly fit humans will swim exceedingly fast as the world watches.

    Here’s a guide to top contenders, current world records, predictions and odds in each event. If your knowledge of Olympic swimming is a little cloudy, use this event-by-event guide to de-fog your viewing goggles.


    *A quick note about world records: You'll notice that nearly every world record was set in 2008 or 2009. That's because competitors were wearing the synthetic "supersuits" during those years before FINA changed the rules.

Men’s 50-Meter Freestyle

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    When: August 2-3

    World Record: 20.91 seconds, Cesar Cielo (Brazil), 2009

    Outlook: This quick-hitting event is always exciting, and the lightning-fast Cielo is surely the favorite. The Brazilian won gold in Beijing, set the world record when he won the world title in 2009 and won the World Championships in Shanghai last year.


    Gold: Cesar Cielo (BRA)

    Silver: James Magnussen (AUS)

    Bronze: Cullen Jones (USA)

    Cielo Odds for Gold: 1/2

Women's 50-Meter Freestyle

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    When: August 2-4

    World Record: 23.73 seconds, Britta Steffen (Germany), 2009

    Outlook: Steffen did not compete in this event last year, but the reigning Olympic champion still has a great shot at a gold medal. Look for Jessica Hardy and Therese Alshammar to give her stiff competition, as well as the competitor in the running for the best-named Olympian, Ranomi Kromowidjojo of the Netherlands.


    Gold: Brita Steffen (Germany)

    Silver: Therese Alshammar (Sweden)

    Bronze: Jessica Hardy (USA)

    Steffen Odds for Gold: 1/1

Men’s 100-Meter Freestyle

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    When: July 31-August 1

    World Record: 46.91 seconds, Cesar Cielo (Brazil), 2009

    Outlook: The matchup between Cielo and Magnussen is the highlight, as Magnussen is the 2011 world champ and Cielo holds the world record. Magnussen, however, has the world's fastest time using a textile swimsuit (instead of the now-banned synthetic suits). The outspoken Magnussen has spoken about his rivalry with both Cielo and countryman James Roberts, giving one of those "They're my friends but I can't wait to kick their asses" interviews.


    Gold: James Magnussen (Australia)

    Silver: Cesar Cielo (Brazil)

    Bronze: James Roberts (Australia)

    Magnussen Odds for Gold: 1/2

Women's 100-Meter Freestyle

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    When: August 1-2

    World Record: 52.07 seconds, Britta Steffen (Germany), 2009

    Outlook: Jessica Hardy won the U.S. Olympic Trials in somewhat of a surprise, and Missy Franklin will also be taking some of the spotlight in this event. Kromowidjojo, however, is the swimmer to beat for gold.


    Gold: Ranomi Kromowidjojo (Netherlands)

    Silver: Jeanette Ottesen (Denmark)

    Bronze: Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden)

    Kromowidjojo Odds for Gold: 4/5

Men's 200-Meter Freestyle

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    When: July 29-30

    World Record: 1:42, Paul Biedermann (Germany), 2009

    Outlook: Michael Phelps beat world champion Ryan Lochte at the Olympic Trials, but will not compete in this one in London. This promises to be a very close one, with each of the top contenders (as well as Korea's Park Tae-Hwan) in the hunt.


    Gold: Ryan Lochte (USA)

    Silver: Paul Biedermann (Germany)

    Bronze: Yannick Agnel (France)

    Lochte Odds for Gold: 2/5

Women's 200-Meter Freestyle

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    When: July 30-31

    World Record: 1:52.98, Federica Pellegrini (Italy), 2009

    Outlook: Pellegrini took gold in world-record fashion in Beijing and won the world title in 2009 and 2011. She'll have to fend off a strong field that includes U.S. Trials champion Allison Schmitt as well as Missy Franklin.


    Gold: Federica Pellegrini (Italy)

    Silver: Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden)

    Bronze: Allison Schmitt (USA)

    Pellegrini Odds for Gold: 3/5

Men's 400-Meter Freestyle

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    When: July 28

    World Record: 3:40.07, Paul Biedermann (Germany), 2009

    Outlook: Park Tae-Hwan won in Beijing and is also the reigning world champion. China has two contenders in the field, Sun Yang and Hao Yun, but you can't discount the world-record holder. Biedermann could win gold, but an interesting finish would be a podium without a European or American.


    Gold: Park Tae-Hwan (Korea)

    Silver: Sun Yang (China)

    Bronze: Paul Biedermann (Germany)

    Park's Odds for Gold: 2/5

Women's 400-Meter Freestyle

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    When: July 29

    World Record: 3:59.15, Federica Pellegrini (Italy), 2009

    Outlook: This is a stacked field with numerous medal contenders. Rebecca Adlington is the reigning gold medalist and could bring double-golden glory to the host nation if she takes this and her signature 800. Federica Pellegrini is the world champ, but Adlington was second last year in Shanghai.


    Gold: Rebecca Adlington (Great Britain)

    Silver: Federica Pellegrini (Italy)

    Bronze: Allison Schmitt (USA)

    Adlington Odds for Gold: 3/2

Men's 1,500-Meter Freestyle

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    When: August 3-4

    World Record: 14:34.14, Sun Yang (China), 2011

    Outlook: Sun Yang set the world record in Chinese waters at last year's World Championship, and he is the favorite in this grueling event. An American medal would be a big stretch.


    Gold: Sun Yang (China)

    Silver: Ous Mellouli (Tunisia)

    Bronze: Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy)

    Sun's Odds for Gold: 1/5

Women's 800-Meter Freestyle

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    When: August 2-3

    World Record: 8:14.10, Rebecca Adlington (Great Britain), 2008

    Outlook: Cue the NBC background piece on Katie Ledecky, the 15-year-old American who has a legit shot at a gold medal in the event. The favorite, however, is reigning Olympic-champion Rebecca Adlington. She is the current world champion and could be a British hero in the Games if she wins both her races.


    Gold: Rebecca Adlington (Great Britain)

    Silver: Lotte Friis (Denmark)

    Bronze: Katie Ledecky (USA)

    Adlington Odds for Gold: 2/5

Men's 100-Meter Butterfly

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    When: August 2-3

    World Record: 49.82 seconds, Michael Phelps (USA), 2009

    Outlook: Ryan Lochte is not Michael Phelps' only rival in London. Phelps beat Milorad Cavic in this race by just one-hundredth of a second in Beijing. It was the closest finish in Olympic history, and watching it still gives American swimming fans chills. Phelps is the world champion, and if you read the comments on YouTube, some Serbs are still unhappy about Beijing. Cavic had back surgery in 2010, but from an emotional standpoint, you can't question his motivation. 


    Gold: Milorad Cavic (Serbia)

    Silver: Michael Phelps (USA)

    Bronze: Tyler McGill (USA)

    Cavic Odds for Gold: 6/1

Women's 100-Meter Butterfly

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    When: July 28-29

    World Record: 56.06 seconds, Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden), 2009

    Outlook: Dana Vollmer, 24, is favored to win her first individual Olympic gold in this event. The American is the reigning world champion after failing to even qualify in Beijing. Sarah Sjostrom, the record-holder, has the best chance to unseat the favorite.


    Gold: Dana Vollmer (USA)

    Silver: Sarah Sjostrom (Sweden)

    Bronze: Alicia Coutts (Australia)  

    Vollmer Odds for Gold: 3/5

Men's 200-Meter Butterfly

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    When: July 30-31

    World Record: 1:51.51, Michael Phelps (USA), 2009

    Top Contenders: Michael Phelps (USA), Wu Peng (China), Takeshi Matsuda (Japan)

    Outlook: Michael Phelps has set the last eight world records in this event. He won the gold in Beijing even though his goggles filled up with water, blinding him, midway through the race. It will be a big upset if he's not atop the podium in London.


    Gold: Michael Phelps (USA)

    Silver: Takeshi Matsuda (Japan)

    Bronze: Wu Peng (China)

    Phelps Odds for Gold: 1/10

Women's 200-Meter Butterfly

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    When: July 31-August 1

    World Record: 2:01.81, Liu Zige (China), 2009

    Outlook: Jiao Liuyang is the world champion and will have a feisty Brit behind her in Ellen Gandy. This is a fairly open field and could be an exciting and tight finish.


    Gold: Jiao Liuyang (China)

    Silver: Ellen Gandy (Great Britain)

    Bronze: Natsumi Hoshi (Japan)

    Jiao Odds for Gold: 3/5

Men's 100-Meter Backstroke

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    When: July 29-30

    World Record: 51.94 seconds, Aaron Peirsol (USA), 2009

    Outlook: Matt Grevers, who won silver behind Aaron Peirsol in Beijing, is the expected winner in London after swimming the event's second fastest time ever at the Olympic Trials. Ryosuke Irie won bronze at last year's World Championships while Camille Lacourt shared gold with compatriot Jeremy Stravius.


    Gold: Matt Grevers (USA)

    Silver: Ryosuke Irie (Japan)

    Gold: Camille Lacourt (France)

    Grevers Odds for Gold: 1/5

Women's 100-Meter Backstroke

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    When: July 29-30

    World Record: 58.12 seconds, Gemma Spofforth (Great Britain), 2009

    Outlook: Missy Franklin's winning time at the Olympic Trials would have won the 2011 world title, which was claimed by Zhao Jing. It's up for grabs between the top contenders, and this will be a big test for the 17-year-old Franklin.


    Gold: Missy Franklin (USA)

    Silver: Zhao Jing (China)

    Bronze: Anastasia Zueva (Russia)

    Franklin Odds for Gold: 1/5

Men's 200-Meter Backstroke

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    When: August 1-2

    World Record: 1:51.92, Aaron Peirsol, 2009

    Outlook: Ryan Lochte is dominant in this event and should win gold, although he will have a distraction looming ahead of the race. Just a half-hour after the final, he will face Michael Phelps in the 200 IM final. We predict the same finish as seen at the 2011 World Championships.


    Gold: Ryan Lochte (USA)

    Silver: Kyosuke Irie (Japan)

    Bronze: Tyler Clary (USA)

    Lochte Odds for Gold: 1/10

Women's 200-Meter Backstroke

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    When: August 2-3

    World Record: 2:04.81, Kirsty Coventry (Zimbabwe), 2009

    Outlook: This is Missy Franklin's event to lose, as she won five world medals in it last year and is only getting stronger at the age of 17. She beat Australian champion Belinda Hocking by nearly a second to win the 2011 World Championships.


    Gold: Missy Franklin (USA)

    Silver: Belinda Hocking (Australia)

    Bronze: Anastasia Zueva (Russia)

    Franklin Odds for Gold: 1/5

Men's 100-Meter Breaststroke

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    When: July 28-29

    World Record: 58.58 seconds, Brenton Rickard (Australia), 2009

    Outlook: The world champion in this event, Norway's Alexander Dale Oen, died during a training session in April. Kosuke Kitajima won his second straight gold medal in Beijing, and Brendan Hansen has returned from retirement to contend in the event.


    Gold: Brendan Hansen (USA)

    Silver: Kosuke Kitajima (Japan)

    Bronze: Cameron van der Burgh (South Africa)

    Hansen Odds for Gold: 5/2

Women's 100-Meter Breaststroke

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    When: July 29-30

    World Record: 1:04.45, Jessica Hardy (USA), 2009

    Outlook: Breeja Larson beat Rebecca Soni in an upset at the U.S. Olympic Trials, but Soni is still considered the favorite by most. Leisel Jones, who finished second to Soni in Shanghai last year, is in her fourth Olympics. Also look for Aussie Leiston Pickett to contend.


    Gold: Breeja Larson (USA)

    Silver: Leisel Jones (Australia)

    Bronze: Rebecca Soni (USA)

    Larson Odds for Gold: 5/2

Men's 200-Meter Breaststroke

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    When: July 31-August 1

    World Record: 2:07.31, Christian Sprenger (AUS), 2009

    Outlook: Kosuke Kitajima was out-touched by Daniel Gyurta at the 2011 World Championships, but has won the last two Olympics and is the favorite in this event. American Brendan Hansen did not qualify for the event, which takes a contending horse out of the race.


    Gold: Kosuke Kitajima (Japan)

    Silver: Daniel Gyurta (Hungary)

    Bronze: Tateishi Ryo (Japan)

    Kitajima Odds for Gold: 1/1

Women's 200-Meter Breaststroke

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    August 1-2

    World Record: 2:20.12, Annamay Pierse (Australia), 2009

    Outlook: This is Rebecca Soni's top event, and she has the potential to set a world record. She will be challenged by her USC teammate Yuliya Yefimova, who finished second to her in Shanghai last year.


    Gold: Rebecca Soni (USA)

    Silver: Yuliya Yefimova (Russia)

    Bronze: Satomi Suzuki (Japan)

    Soni Odds for Gold: 1/5

Men's 200-Meter IM

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    When: August 1-2

    World Record: 1:54.00, Ryan Lochte (USA), 2011

    Top Contenders: Ryan Lochte (USA), Michael Phelps (USA), Laszlo Cseh (Hungary)

    Outlook: It's Phelps vs. Lochte on center stage for this event. Michael Phelps set the world record for this event eight times before Ryan Lochte did it the last two times. The defending world champion, however, lost to Phelps at the U.S. Olympic trials. The rest of the field is an afterthought.


    Gold: Ryan Lochte (USA)

    Silver: Michael Phelps (USA)

    Bronze: Laszlo Cseh (Hungary)

    Lochte Odds for Gold: 1/1

Women's 200-Meter IM

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    When: July 30-31

    World Record: 2:06.15, Ariana Kukors (USA), 2009

    Outlook: Stephanie Rice is a national icon in Australia and set the world record en route to winning gold in Beijing. She is coming off of shoulder surgery, however, and Shiwen is the reigning world champion. Kukors holds the world record and won at the 2009 World Championships. Look for a close race.


    Gold: Ye Shiwen (China)

    Silver: Ariana Kukors (USA)

    Bronze: Stephanie Rice (Australia)

    Shiwen Odds for Gold: 9/5

Men's 400-Meter IM

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    When: July 28

    World Record: 4:03.84, Michael Phelps (USA), Beijing

    Outlook: Michael Phelps goes against Ryan Lochte in another battle that's up-for-grabs between the two Americans. This will be the first swimming final of the Olympics and could be one of its best. Phelps vowed to be done with the ultra-tough event after 2008, but will be hungry to win after losing to Lochte in the Olympic Trials.


    Gold: Ryan Lochte (USA)

    Silver: Michael Phelps (USA)

    Bronze: Kosuke Hagino (Japan)

    Lochte Odds to Win: 4/5

Women's 400-Meter IM

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    When: July 28

    World Record: 4:29.45, Stephanie Rice (Australia), 2008

    Outlook: Stephanie Rice is the Olympic champion, thanks to a world record performance in 2008. Now the favorite looks to be Elizabeth Beisel, who is the reigning world champ after beating out Hannah Miley and Rice in Shanghai.


    Gold: Elizabeth Beisel (USA)

    Silver: Hannah Miley (Great Britain)

    Bronze: Stephanie Rice (Australia)

    Beisel Odds for Gold: 3/2

Men's 4x100 Freestyle Relay

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    When: July 29

    World Record: 3:08.24, USA, 2008

    Outlook: Jason Lezak saved this race and Michael Phelps' dream of eight golds thanks to an anchor leg for the ages in Beijing. Lezak will swim in the prelims in London, as the U.S. is expected to make the final. There, however, the Americans will have to upset a world champion squad from Australia led by James Magnussen.


    Gold: Australia

    Silver: United States

    Bronze: Russia

    Australia Odds for Gold: 1/2

Women's 4x100 Freestyle

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    When: July 28

    World Record: 3:31.72, Netherlands, 2009

    Outlook: The Dutch contingent won this race in Beijing before going on to win world titles in 2009 and 2011. They'll be challenged by a star-studded U.S. squad featuring Missy Franklin, Jessica Hardy, Allison Schmitt and even Natalie Coughlin, who will swim in the prelims.


    Gold: United States

    Silver: Netherlands

    Bronze: Australia

    U.S. Odds for Gold: 9/5

Men's 4x200 Freestyle

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    When: July 31

    World Record: 6:58.55, U.S., 2009

    Top Contenders: U.S., Australia, France

    Outlook: This race will be owned by the Americans and could very well produce a world record. Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte will lead the charge, and Phelps dropped the individual 200 freestyle from his menu in London so that he could place more emphasis on this race. Look for the Americans to cruise.


    Gold: United States

    Silver: France

    Bronze: Australia

    U.S. Odds for Gold: 1/5

Women's 4x200 Freestyle

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    When: August 1

    World Record: 7:42.08, China, 2009 

    Outlook: This could be a close one, as the Chinese are the world record holders and the 2009 world champions. The U.S., led by Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt, won last year's world title and are favored by many ahead of both China and Australia.


    Gold: U.S.

    Silver: China

    Bronze: Australia

    U.S. Odds for Gold: 4/5

Men's 4x100 Medley Relay

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    When: August 3-4

    World Record: 3:27.28, U.S., 2009

    Outlook: The Americans won this race in Beijing and also won world titles in 2009 and 2011. They have plenty of depth and options to back up Michael Phelps, who will be swimming the butterfly leg.


    Gold: U.S.

    Silver: Australia

    Bronze: Germany

    U.S. Odds for Gold: 1/5

Women's 4x100 Medley Relay

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    When: August 3-4

    World Record: 3:52.19, China, 2009

    Outlook: This is another star-studded affair for the United States, with Rebecca Soni, Missy Franklin and Dana Vollmer leading the charge. China was a full three seconds behind the Americans at the 2011 World Championships, while Australia was right behind the Chinese.


    Gold: U.S.

    Silver: China

    Bronze: Australia

    U.S. Odds for Gold: 1/10