2013 World Championship Previews: Women’s 100 Backstroke Looks A Lot Like ‘Chalk’

As the one-minute barrier no longer seems to be quite the challenge that it once was, the women’s 100 backstroke should be a lot of fun at this summer’s World Championships.

At the Olympics last year, this race took a 1:00.2 to just make it out of prelims, a 59.8 to make finals, and a 58.8 to find oneself upon the medal podium. The latter of those two have happened before (albeit at the 2009 World Championships in rubber suits), but even then there wasn’t the same depth in the preliminary rounds.

American Missy Franklin is the defending Olympic champion in this race, and appears to have continued to push hard this year, avoiding the double danger of the post-Olympic swoon and the senior-year swoon that we see from some American high school students.

Year-over-year, she was faster at this summer’s trials (58.67) than she was at last summer’s (58.85). But here’s the thing: she needs to be faster if she wants to feel comfortable to repeat her gold medal success from the Olympics.

That’s because of Australia’s Emily Seebohm. Franklin’s American fans might overlook her, because when Seebohm was in the states for the Santa Clara Grand Prix, she was just shy of being a non-factor (she only made A-finals in the 100 and 200 backstroke, placing 5th and 4th respectively, and being nowhere near Franklin’s wins). But Seebohm swims big at big meets, and her 59.17 from Australia’s trials ranks her 3rd in the world.

It’s going to take a 58-low to win in Barcelona this year, so a 59.1 isn’t going to scare anybody too badly, but that’s just the setup to show that she’s still swimming well this year.

The spike is that, you will recall, Seebohm had the fastest time of all three rounds at the Olympics last year with her 58.23 in prelims, she just did it in the wrong round. Franklin was a 58.33 in finals, and Seebohm walked away with a silver medal and the Olympic Record.

The point is: Missy is the reigning global champion, but the margins are slim enough that this race will come down to who gets those tenths or hundredths in the finals in Barcelona. By those criteria, Franklin has to be the favorite based on last year, but Seebohm has every opportunity in the world to prove that she can step up too, especially now that she’s been able to put together back-to-back training cycles together for the first time in a long well.

It’s a little cliche, and perhaps boring, but my pick for the medalists is pretty much to chalk from what we saw at the Olympics last year, with bronze for Japan’s Aya Terakawa. She’s extremely consistent (she was a 58.83 at the Olympics, and has been a 58.84 this year), and though she hasn’t shown us the ability to get down to Franklin/Seebohm times, she’s not going to have any big time-adds either.

Those are the three Olympic medalists, and the three best in the world thus far in 2013. Who, then, is within reach of picking them off? It doesn’t appear as though there are many. The second American, Liz Pelton, is 2nd in the world this year with a 59.27, and gave Franklin a full run for her money at U.S. Nationals. That was a best time for Pelton, and one long overdue. If she’s got another little bit of a taper in her, she could go after bronze in this race.

Sinead Russell could be a sleeper to get onto the medal stand. After suffering a hip injury, she fell out in the semi-finals of this race at the Olympics, Prior to that, however, she was well-on-track to be sub-59. She had a very good first season of training in Florida, and has been really solid this year (she was 59.9 at Canada’s Trials – the fastest she’s been prior to the World Championships).

China’s Fu Yuanhui was lucky number 8 at last year’s Olympics. She finished 8th in the prelims, she finished 8th in the semi-finals, and then 8th in the finals. The number 8 is a good one in Chinese culture, especially several 8’s together (A phone number of all 8’s was sold for more than a quarter-of-a-million US dollars once in China), and at only 17 years old looks like she may have taken over the mantle as China’s top backstroker – she leads the world in the 50, for example.

Her teammate Zhao Jing is also on the roster, and though she’s not been great this year, she was still very, very good at the Olympics, finishing 6th.

Russian Anastasia Zueva swam well at the World University Games, but is recovering from an injury and preparing for her own wedding, and still has to have another surgery on a steel plate in her leg. She’s out of this meet, though she might have been the best candidate (when healthy) to steal a medal away.

The other Australian is Belinda Hocking, who has also been very good this season (but not quite as good as in past years).

Georgia Davies will carry the British torch after breaking a minute  in-season for the first time in Eindhoven in April. She performed much better than a lot of the British team at their late-June trials, despite spending a lot of time working on her law degree that she deferred after the Olympics. Even though Lauren Quigley bested her at that meet, and is likely going to be a star by the 2016 Olympics, this year I’d give Davies a better chance at

Expect Seebohm to lead this race at the turn, with Terakawa and Franklin not too hard behind. On the back-half, though, look out for those two, along with Hocking, to close very well. Yuanhui is a bit of a mystery, as she’s clearly one of the best 50 backstrokers in the world, but she’s not a big fast starter; she swims a very balanced race. She still has to prove that she can get through three rounds; if she does, she could be top-4, if she doesn’t, then she could be 8th again.

Our top 8 picks, with the best times since January 1, 2010:

1. Missy Franklin, USA, 58.33
2. Emily Seebohm, Australia, 58.23
3. Aya Terakawa, Japan, 58.83
4. Belinda Hocking, Australia, 59.29
5. Liz Pelton, USA, 59.27
6. Yuanhui Fu, China, 59.56
7. Georgia Davies, Great Britain, 59.92
8. Jing Zhao, China, 58.94
Darkhorse: Katinka Hosszu, Hungary, 1:00.24

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Philip Johnson

This is one event where the WR should have gone down in London. If Seebohm is the swimmer she was last year and holds form in the final, she will be very formidable. That being said, I will go with the defending Olympic champion to win gold. However, I hope either Seebohm or Franklin breaks the WR.


Well said Philip with regards to Seebohm. She will be more than ready for the big occasion this time.

But, American bias much in this article?? Emily’s Olympic & Textile World Record from London 2012 was actually 58.23, not 58.33! Notably faster than Franklin has ever managed…

I see the Top 8 as follows. Will be a faster final overall than London.

1. Seebohm (WR!)
2. Franklin
3. Terakawa
4. Hocking
5. Zhao
6. Fu
7. Davies
8. Pelton

Philip Johnson

That 58.33 was actually swam by Franklin. There’s not a lot separating the two, so it will be a close race. I don’t see Franklin or Seebohm running away with the title. I picked Franklin to win, but it will be a very close race. That is, if the two are in top form.


Missy and Emily faced off four times in the 100 backstroke at last year’s Olympics. Missy won two and Emily won two. Missy won the 100 back final and the medley relay lead off leg. The two races that counted. Emily went all out in the prelims whereas Missy (who had a much busier schedule) was pacing her efforts and building through each of the heats. You’re putting a lot of stock in Emily’s Olympic record. While it does show that Emily had the potential to race a quicker time and she didn’t have her optimal swim in the final … a mere tenth of a second is not quite the mark of superiority that you seem to suggest.


@KeithM “A mere tenth”. Tell that to the Nathan Adrian fans who argue that his .01 victory means that he gets it done when it counts.

It is worth noting, however, that Seebohm’s two “wins” were in her own heat, and that Missy beat her both times when they were actually racing. I would also put less stock in Seebohm’s wins. With no other events she was free to build up her confidence with fast preliminary swims, where as Missy had to pace her way into finals with her event load.


With the 100m back coming up before the 200m free I think Franklin has a great chance at a 57.XX and the way Seebohm is swimming this year she’ll be right there with Missy. A great race to look forward to.

bobo gigi

A little reminder of what happened last year in London. Always impressive to watch Missy winning the race after such a bad start!


Hey thank you for that little reminder of a thrilling final Bobo.

For those of you who may have missed the excitement of the preceding rounds, here’s how they all progressed (or failed) to the final in London.


Semi-Finals 1

Semi-Finals 2


Here’s the Final, with the official Olympic commentary (Bobo’s version is without commentary). Starts at around 23:46


The commentators here sound Australian, but they are much more neutral & objective in their observations compared to the Aussie TV broadcast!

bobo gigi

The schedule in Barcelona is perfect for Missy. Last year the 100 back final was just after the 200 free semi-finals. And despite the fatigue and an awful start, she has won the gold medal. This year the 100 back final is before the 200 free semi-finals and I expect a little better start from Missy.
Missy wins the race with a new world record.
Emily Seebohm in second.
Aya Terakawa third.

Philip Johnson

Yeah, you have to remember Franklin just swam a 200 free semi before that 100 back final, so she wasn’t fresh. With the two switched (possibly to accommodate Franklin?), I expect better from Franklin.

C Martin

Maybe a 57 is in her future?…

Philip Johnson

I know a lot of male swimmers that would be happy swimming a 57 back lol.


Don’t you think it’s more than a bit dodgy when the biggest swimming nation in the world seems to keep getting preferential treatment over the little guys? I’m referring to FINA’s tailoring of the World Champs schedule in order to impart an unfair advantage to a particular individual (Franklin)? Or back in Beijing when heats were flip flopped to the evening and finals to the morning session, for the sole benefit of Americans… In spite of all of this, I’m still going to go with C-Bomb for the WR, you’ll see. She is such a massive talent who’s often overlooked and completely underestimated by fans of the American golden girl. No doubt Franklin will make it interesting in the last… Read more »


It’s all about the money Einstein. NBC paid the IOC a ton of money for broadcasting rights of the Olympic Games and In China, they ran the finals in the morning for American TV to be seen in the evening live because of the time difference.

I imagine that some the millions and millions of NBC TV money ended up in the pockets of IOC officials.

No swimmer wanted to swim the finals in the morning, including the Americans.

Are you really this stupid?

bobo gigi

It seems you haven’t still accepted the result of the London final one year later!
And sorry but I don’t underestimate Miss Seebohm. She has a huge talent. It will be a very close race because of the bad start of Missy.


The only time ever that FINA adjusted the schedule was Beijing, for Phelps, other than that, no.

Yes, FINA consider which events have the most doubles, and they separated them, but not for any particular swimmers. For example, 50 and 100 free will never have overlapping days.

And the schedule for the olympics and world championships have always been different. For example: Alicia Coutts didn’t have good schedule in 2011 Shanghai (100 buttterfly semi, 200 IM semi and 4×100 free all in one day, the same schedule in 2013 Barcelona in fact), but in London she had great schedule where 100 fly and 200 IM was apart ans she went a lot faster in 200 IM).

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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