Rebecca Soni won the 200-meter breaststroke at the 2008 Olympic Games, and since then the 25-year-old American has grown into the most dominant female breaststroke swimmer in the world.
She'll arrive in London with the fastest time of 2012 by nearly two seconds. Soni swam to a time of 2:21.13 at the U.S. Olympic trials, and the next closest 2012 time is that of Satomi Suzuki of Japan at 2:22.99. Soni has a pretty comfortable margin in the event, which should help grow her confidence as the Olympic Games begin.
The fact that it's not the first time Soni has thoroughly dominated the event should help, too. At the 2011 World Championships, Soni won in a time 2:21.47, while Yulia Efimova of Russia touched second in 2:22.22.
In addition, Soni is the defending champion in the event, and she won at the 2008 Olympic Games by a similar margin when she defeated Australian Leisel Jones by nearly two seconds.
Simply put, Soni has dominated the 200 breaststroke for a while, and heading into London, she should think of the event as her own. Nevertheless, there will be several women looking to keep Soni from reaching the top spot. The real question is whether or not anyone can do it. Unless something catastrophic happens, I don't think it's likely that anyone other than Soni will win this event.
Efimova will be one who can certainly challenge for a medal, though whether she can challenge for gold or not remains to be seen. She gave Soni her best race since the 2009 World Championships (where Soni failed to medal) and Efimova will certainly be a favorite for a podium position.
Soni's American teammate and Olympic newcomer Micah Lawrence could wind up on the podium, as well, though it's even more unlikely that Lawrence will defeat Soni in the breaststroke event. Lawrence will arrive in London with the third-fastest time of 2012 at 2:23.03.
Japanese teammates Suzuki and Kanako Watanabe could shake up the field a bit. As the Olympic Games begin, the two women have the second-and fourth-fastest times in the world this year at 2:22.99 and 2:23.56, respectively. The Japanese field of 200 breaststrokers is extremely deep, and as a result, these two women likely would have had to go through a pressure-filled national championships in order to make the Olympic team. They'll face an even bigger test in Soni, though, and likely these two will be competing for silver, as well.
The preliminary heats of the women's 200 breaststroke are scheduled to be contested on Aug. 1, while the final heat of the event is scheduled to be held on Aug. 2.
Read more from this author: The Last Five Women to Win the 200-Meter Breaststroke at the Olympic Games
Sandra Johnson was a competitive swimmer for more than 15 years before she began coaching. She is a longtime Olympic fan, and while working for the United States Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colo., she had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46