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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9 years ago

i would not be surprised if missy could go under 58 (nothing that she has done in her career thur far surprises me), but i doubt it will be this year. i dont think her start is good enough for that. but if she was able to win with a horrible start and less than 20 mins after the 200 free semi, then there is no doubt she could win again this year. i think her finish in the last 25 meters is what wins this race for her again.

9 years ago

I’d have wanted to place fastest woman in textile at first place but I’ve too many risky bets filed already. Author’s picks are boring but safe and a likely outcome of the event. I go along with them: 1) MF; 2) C-Bomb; 3) Ms. Experience.

When it comes to the differences between media attention to swimmers in Australia and USA, maybe it’s worth pointing out that the media interest is not only a bad thing. I’m sure many swimmers in USA would be more than pleased to get the media attention comparable, let’s say, to Tiger Woods or Kobe Bryant. In financial terms they would definitely be better off and swimming in general as well.

9 years ago

I wish y’all would stop talking about a bias towards America in the article, it’s hard to keep national pride from seeping into your writing, shoot if this was an aussie website Missy would be totally counted out, it’s just natural to want your countries people to win. It seems like Adrian and Missy will always have an edge over Mags and Seebohm not because they are the most talented, but because our countries media won’t eat them alive if they lose a final, so success is a personal choice vs an obligation, and swimming fast because you simply enjoy it is easier compared to trying to keep from being roasted on 24/7 news after every defeat. ESPN probably won’t… Read more »

Reply to  Ragnar
9 years ago

Ragnar – you are ridiculous. People in Australia can read lists if they like & see a time next to a metre distance & understand ( yards not so much or not at ).

Seebohm & Magnussen were not pounced on for losing their individual 100s but criticisms were raised over aspects of the whole team.

There were well founded criticisms of the team before London including that too many members just went to shop & ride around London.Post Olympics the focus has been on the organisation & not at all on the swimmers themselves.

I think Australians will hope they do well but not be surprised if not.

9 years ago

Franklin better watch out. Seebohm has a lighter schedule, and is more determined after correcting the mental and strategic errors last year. I have a feeling Terakawa and Jing will be right up there too along with Pelton. Barnburner.

Reply to  liquidassets
9 years ago

I meant “after correcting the mental and strategic errors FROM last year.”

Reply to  liquidassets
9 years ago

What he wrote. Emily has been focussing massively on the one race that got away from her last year, and she is in much sharper condition both mentally & physically for the rematch. Her lighter schedule for Barcelona can’t be discounted either.

Agree the East Asian girls will be right behind to contend for the minor spoils. Terakawa is the model of consistency for the big race, and one can never dismiss the Chinese! Fu in particular is a bit of an unknown factor, she has the dangerous potential to upset the favourites, I’d watch out for her.

Don’t see Pelton with a realistic chance of medalling at all in this event. She will be more favoured in the longer… Read more »

9 years ago

You are incorrect.

In fact, Seebohm;s Barcelona’s schedule is even heavier than her London’s schedule.

in London, Seebohm had only ONE event to focus: 100 backstroke.
while in Barcelona, her schedule will DOUBLE: 100 back and 200 IM.

And I’ve said all along: Seebohm needs to focus only on 100 back and drop the 200 IM because she has absolutely no chance there.

You need to research before throwing wild speculation.

Reply to  liquidassets
9 years ago

Seebohm will not have lighter schedule, in fact, her schedule will double:
in London she had only ONE individual event: 100 back
in Barcelona she will have TWO individual events: 100 back and 200 IM.

But yeah, Seebohm will be right behind Missy and Terakawa wil be extremely close.

Reply to  aswimfan
9 years ago

How many minutes are between the 100 back semi and the 200 IM final. Isn’t it about 30 minutes? Or is it less? Might be a tough double for Seebohm, if she makes the IM final. I’m pretty sure it’s still much better than Missy’s 200 free/100 back double, though.

9 years ago

i see Cal Bears going 1st and 3rd

9 years ago

I have a feeling that Liz Pelton might surprise a few folks come crunch time.

Well actually maybe more of a threat to Missy in the 200 back than here now that I think about it.

9 years ago

Mie Nielsen is another outside chance at a podium. I think she’s got a great shot at the final at least.

Reply to  KeithM
9 years ago

Sadly Mie is out injured.

Reply to  DanishSwimFan
9 years ago

Oh I didn’t realize. I hope it’s not serious (ie a long term concern).

Reply to  KeithM
9 years ago

She’s recovering from knee surgery in May, hopefully not too serious but one of those things that was better addressed sooner rather than later for the sake of her long-term health.

She’s planning to be back in action for the Euro short course championships in December which of course are on home soil in Herning, Denmark this year, not that far away from Mie’s home town of Aalborg.

9 years ago

Not much to add here, with the easier BCN schedule Missy all the way, Seebohm is a great swimmer but against a fully firing, rested Missy she will just come up short. Terakawa’s consistency should earn her another bronze.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner 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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