The 2017 FINA World Championships are starting up and several local swimmers are hoping to make a big mark as the next Olympic cycle gets under full swing.
Leah Smith (Pittsburgh, PA) is expected to perform the best out of the local athletes, qualifying at worlds in the 400m medley, 200m, 400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle events. With the second best time this year in the medley, she is expected to fight more a gold medal.
In the freestyle events, her strongest competition will be from her own teammate, Katie Ledecky. Ledecky likely has a gold medal locked up in each of the four events, although Smith will have solid chances to medal in each of them.
Kelsi Worrell (Westhampton, NJ) is seen as a legitimate medal contender in several events, after taking home national titles in the 50m and 100m butterfly. Her time in the 50m at nationals was the third fastest time in the world this year, giving her shot at a podium finish.
While her chances in the 100m aren’t as strong, she will still be someone to watch there. Her performance will be helpful enough to add a medal in the medley relay as well, the same event in which she struck gold in Rio.
Lia Neal (Brooklyn, NY) is a hot contender for a gold in the women’s 400m relay, although she won’t be competing on her own after finishing third in both the 50m and 100m freestyle. Hali Flickinger (Spring Grove, PA) will be hoping to just make the final in the 200m fly, with only the tenth best time in the world this year in the event, and after taking seventh in Rio.
The men’s team’s only local swimmer is Nic Fink (Morristown, NJ) who is participating in the 200m breastroke. However, he isn’t likely to medal, after being a runner-up at nationals, and with only the eighth-best time in the world this year.
Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte may not be participating in these championships, but Team USA is prepared to allow the next generation of stars to emerge, led by Ledecky. Local athletes will have a big chance to step up and make a name for themselves.
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