MEN’S 50 BUTTERFLY: 2015 FINA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW
- Day 4, Wed August 5th
- 2013 World Champion: Chad le Clos, RSA – 1:54.32 (Race Video Above)
- 2013 Silver Medalist: Pawel Koreniowski, POL – 1:55.01
- 2013 Bronze Medalist: Wu Peng, CHN – 1:55.09
From 2001 to 2011 Michael Phelps dominated the 200 men’s 200 fly. In those ten years he won two Olympic titles, five world championship titles and broke the world record an astonishing eight times. Come 2012, Phelps was looking for his third consecutive Olympic title, but he ran into rising star Chad Le Clos. Le Clos dethroned Phelps, and has since taken control of the event. Le Clos hasn’t come close to his performance of 1:52.96 from the Olympic games since, so it will be interesting to see what kind of times are produced in Kazan. Le Clos won the 2013 worlds in 1:54.32, and we still haven’t seen anyone break 1:54 in 2014 or 2015 either. Phelps has even come out and commented on how the event hasn’t gotten any faster (maybe it has even gotten slower) from when he last competed in it, which has to be part of the reason he is seriously considering in competing in it going forward, considering Phelps has swum under 1:54 fifteen times in his career. Looking at this year, I think the winner has to break 1:54, with the bronze medal most likely coming in around 1:54 mid to high.
Chad Le Clos is looking like the man to beat this year in all the butterfly events. He is the defending world and Olympic champion and has looked almost unbeatable the last two years. Le Clos got his first taste of international experience in 2010, winning five medals at the Youth Olympic games and another five at the Commonwealth games (including a gold in the 200 fly). He also won his first world title at the short course championships winning the 200 fly in an incredibly close finish that saw the top five swimmers all finish within 0.36 of each other. In 2011 he competed at his first long course world championships, finishing 5th in the 200 fly. He wouldn’t lose the 200 fly at a major competition again after that, as he won the 2012 Olympic gold over Michael Phelps in a best time of 1:52.96, and followed up with his long course world title in 2013. Later in the 2013 Le Clos lowered the short course 200 fly record twice, taking it down to 1:48.56. He of course continued his success in 2014, winning both the Commonwealth gams title and his second short course world championship title. He was ranked 2nd in the world for 2014 and currently sits in a tie for 4th this year. Le Clos will need to swim his fastest time since 2012 if he wants to win his second straight world title.
Daiya Seto of Japan has been putting up top times the last 18 months in the 200 fly that make him a major threat. More well known as a medley swimmer, Seto didn’t compete in this event at the 2013 world championships, pretty much due to the fact that the Japanese are so strong in this event. Coming out of 2013 his best time was 1:55.59, but he has improved on that greatly these last 18 months. He has swum 1:54 eleven times in the last two years, showing remarkable consistency. He first competed in the 200 fly on an international stage at the Pan Pacific championships last summer, winning the gold medal. He also won gold at the Asian Games, posting the top time in the world for the year of 1:54.08. Seto then matched up against his top 200 fly competitor in Chad Le Clos at the short course world championships, where they pushed each other to amazing performances. Le Clos just edged out Seto 1:48.61 to 1:48.92, but Seto definitely proved he can compete with the absolute best of the best in this race. Seto once again holds the top time in the world this year, and will be coming into these world championships with his confidence at an all-time high. I think he and Le Clos can both push each to go 1:53, but who comes out on top remains to be seen.
As previously mentioned in the 50 fly article, Joseph Schooling has come onto the scene the last few years and established himself as a major threat in every butterfly distance. He has incredible sprint ability, but also has produced impressive results in the 200. He began his international career by qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in the 200, ultimately finishing in 26th place. He improved come the 2013 world championships, finishing 10th in a best time 1:56.27. He had an up and down summer in 2014, finishing 3rd at the Asian games and a disappointing 8th in the final at the Commonwealth games. Schooling moved to Texas for his rookie season with the Texas Longhorns where he went onto win the 100 and 200 yard fly at NCAA’s, including defeating Longhorn teammate and newly minted American record holder in the 200 fly Jack Conger. Schooling has looked great so far this long course season as well, as his 9 gold medal run at the Southeast Asian Games included a personal best in the 200 fly of 1:55.73. With a much lighter schedule at the world championships than the Southeast Asian games, I expect Schooling to further improve his personal best in the 200 fly, and maybe even challenge for his first world championship medal. I think he can take off about a second and battle with numerous men for the bronze medal.
Laszlo Cseh was always a top contender in the IM events and sometimes would throw in some backstroke once in a while, but his performance in the 200 fly at the 2008 Olympics certainly shocked everyone. Coming in with no established time in the event, Cseh became the second fastest performer in history swimming a 1:52.70 and winning the silver medal behind Michael Phelps. Cseh has seen a range of success in the event since, winning a pair of medals in the event at the 2010 & 2012 short course world championships and winning the European championships in 2012, but he never regained the form he found in Beijing. He finished 13th at the 2011 world championships and didn’t compete in it in 2013, but he looks poised to have his best ever world championship performance in the event this year. A month ago at the Hungarian championships Cseh swam the fastest he has in the event since 2008, with the 4th ranked time in the world of 1:54.90. Cseh should be good to make the final and will challenge for the bronze medal if he swims a similar time that he had a month ago, and could even surprise and challenge Le Clos and Seto if he finds another gear in the final, because the fact remains he has the fastest best time of anyone in the field.
American Tom Shields has been one of the best short course swimmers in the world for a number of years. He had an incredible career with Cal that included numerous medals and three in the 200 fly, including gold and tying Michael Phelps’ American record of 1:39.65 at his final championships. Shields narrowly missed making the 2012 Olympic team finishing 4th in the 100 and 9th in the 200 fly at US Olympic trials. He collected three medals at the 2012 short course world championships, and then had another narrow miss at the 2013 world championship trials, finishing 5th in the 100 and 3rd in the 200 fly. Shields finally had his breakout long course meet at the 2014 national championships, winning both the 100 and 200 fly and qualifying for the Pan Pacs and the world championships this year. Shields swam a massive personal best of 1:55.09 in the 200 which makes him a contender this year. The Pan Pacs didn’t go as planned as Shields was disqualified in the prelims of the 200 fly and was the 4th fastest American in the prelims of the 100 which kept him out of the A and B finals (even though he was 4th fastest overall as well). Despite the slight setback, Shields swam well at the short course world championships taking home 5 medals along with a 4th place finish in the 200 fly. His 1:55.09 had him ranked 3rd last year, and this year his best swim is 1:57.49. Even though that might not look too good, thats the fastest Shields has ever been in-season so we should expect good things from him in Kazan. I expect he’ll be in the battle for a medal.
Masato Sakai of Japan has been putting up some fast 200 fly times for a few years now, but this will be his first world championships. He had his first international competition in 2013 when he won a silver medal at the 2013 world junior championships. He came out of 2013 with a personal best of 1:56.78, but exploded last year swimming faster than that six times and taking his personal best down to 1:55.15, ranking him 4th in the world. Sakai gained more international experience that year swimming at the Pan Pacific championships and finishing 4th in the 200 fly. He has had a successful 2015 thus far, improving his best time down to 1:55.08 and holding 7th in the world rankings. He also beat Japanese record holder Takeshi Matsuda out for the second spot in the event at the Japanese championships this year, qualifying him for his first world championship. Looking at Sakai’s consistency we should expect him to swim right around 1:55 and challenge for the medals.
Danish swimmer Viktor Bromer seemingly came out of nowhere to win the 200 fly at the European championships last summer. He had a personal best 1:57.67 coming out of 2013 but dropped it down numerous times down to his personal best of 1:55.29 that won the European title (and set the Danish national record). He carried that success over to the short course world championships where he finished 5th in the 200 fly, and set national records in both the 100 and 200. He has looked good this year, posting the 9th fastest time in the world of 1:55.39, just off his best time, and had his first competition on American soil when he won the 200 fly at the Arena Pro Series in Orlando. Bromer will be one of many with a shot at a medal in Kazan.
Russian Evgeny Koptelov is another swimmer with medal potential in Kazan. Koptelov has made consistent improvements every year, from 2:01.73 in 2012 to 1:58.04 in 2013 to 1:56.37 in 2014 and now has posted the 2nd fastest time in the world of 1:54.79 this year, which was one of his three gold medals from this years World University games. Koptelov will have home field advantage over his competitors and will look to challenge for a medal.
After narrowly missing the US Olympic team in 2008, Tyler Clary truly had a breakout year in 2009. At the US national championships, he qualified for the world championships by finishing second to Michael Phelps in the 200 fly (1:53.64) and second to Ryan Lochte in the 400 IM (4:06.96). Clary was better known as an IM’er and backstroker, so his 200 fly result was especially surprising. Coming into that meet his best time was 2:01.74, and all of a sudden he challenged Michael Phelps and became the 4th fastest performer in history. He was a little bit off of his time at the 2009 worlds, finishing 5th in 1:54.45. After a disappointing performance at the 2011 worlds where he didn’t advance past the final, Clary had a successful 2012 making his first Olympic team and finishing 5th in the 200 fly. He also had the race of his life to win the gold medal in the 200 back defeating favourite Ryan Lochte in the process. Clary finished 7th in the event at the 2013 world championships, and then 3rd at last years Pan Pacs. The 200 fly has never been Clary’s premier event, but he has proven he can compete with the best in the world when it counts. Clary has looked somewhat shaky this year, particularly in the 200 fly where he is ranked 79th in the world. This year I predict Clary just misses the final in the 200 fly.
For a darkhorse pick, Belgian Louis Croenen is someone who could surprise in Kazan. Croenen qualified for his first Olympics at just 18 years old, swimming on Belgium’s 4×200 freestyle relay in London. Finishing the 2013 season with a personal best of 1:58.21 in the 200 fly, Croenen had several improvements in 2014 culminating at the European championships finishing in 4th and posting a best time of 1:56.06. That swim had Croenen ranked 13th in the world, and this year he has further improved his time and ranking to 1:55.44 and 10th overall in the world. Croenen will have as good a chance as anyone to make the final and challenge the top names. Based off his swim this year, a medal isn’t out of the question.
With so many swimmers coming in with times so close together, any one of these swimmers (and more!) have potential to medal in Kazan.
Hungarian Tamas Kenderesi is ranked 2nd in the world with a time of 1:54.79 and had medal potential, but recently withdrew from the meet due to mononucleosis.
Others to watch out for in this race include Pan American champion Leonardo De Deus of Brazil, Jan Switkowski of Poland, Russia’s Aleksandr Kudashev and the Australian duo of Grant Irvine and David Morgan.
- Daiya Seto, JPN 1:53.63
- Chad Le Clos, RSA 1:53.78
- Joseph Schooling, SIN 1:54.71
- Laszlo Cseh, HUN 1:54.73
- Tom Shields, USA 1:54.91
- Masato Sakai, JPN 1:55.00
- Viktor Bromer, DEN 1:55.09
- Evgeny Koptelov, RUS 1:55.14
Darkhorse: Louis Croenen, BEL
(POOL SWIMMING STARTS ON DAY 9)
SWIMMING FINALS SCHEDULE:
Day 1, Sun August 2nd (Day 9)
Day 2, Mon August 3rd (Day 10)
Day 3, Tue August 4th (Day 11)
Day 4, Wed August 5th (Day 12)
Day 5, Thur August 6th (Day 13)
Day 6, Fri August 7th (Day 14)
Day 7, Sat August 8th (Day 15)
Day 8, Sun August 9th (Day 16)