2015 World Championships Preview: Men’s 50 Butterfly


  • Day 2, Mon August 3rd
  • 2013 World Champion: Cesar Cielo, BRA – 23.01 (Race Video Above)
  • 2013 Silver Medalist: Eugene Godsoe, USA – 23.05
  • 2013 Bronze Medalist: Fred Bosquet, FRA – 23.11

At the 2013 world championships the men’s 50 fly final was a shootout, as any one of the eight men competing had a shot at a medal. For example, in his first world championship final American Eugene Godsoe won silver in 23.05 out of lane one, while Brazilian Nicholas Santos, after swimming the top time of 22.81 in the semi-finals, missed the medals going 23.21. This year is going to be the same, as the eight men who qualify for the final will all have a shot to win a medal. In the last five world championships we have seen the winning time coming in right around 23 seconds, save the 2009 worlds where 22.67 won. This year we should expect a similar result, with only one man under the mark so far this year. Despite that, this years field might just be the most loaded we have seen yet, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see numerous men crack the 23-second barrier.

2014-2015 LCM Men 50 Fly

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Chad Le Clos etched his name in swimming history when he beat Michael Phelps in his signature event at the 2012 Olympics, stopping Phelps from winning his 3rd consecutive Olympic title in the 200 fly. Le Clos showed his ability in the 100m event later on at those games, winning the silver. He still had yet to develop his 50m speed come the 2013 world championships, where he placed just 23rd. He showed improvement at the 2014 Commonwealth games, winning a bronze, but it was after that when he really took off. In late 2014 he went on his amazing World Cup run where he didn’t lose a single race, including numerous 50 fly’s where he competed against some tough competition at every stop of the circuit but never got beaten. He topped that off going undefeated at the short course world championships, including winning the 50 fly swimming the second fastest time ever of 21.95. Le Clos best LCM result in the 50 fly is his bronze from the Commonwealth games last summer, but we can expect that to change in Kazan. His personal best from last year had him ranked 11th in the world, and this year he is just 59th, but an in-season 50m time doesn’t really say much about what someone like Le Clos is capable of come the championship meet of the season. After Le Clos’ recent short course dominance, I expect he’ll carry it over to the long course world championships. Not saying he’s going to go undefeated at these championships, which would be incredible, but he has a great chance of sweeping all the butterfly events. The 50 will probably be the toughest, just because of some of the names he’ll be up against and the fact he will be the only contender in the 50 who is also a threat in the 200. I believe he’ll crack 23 seconds for the first time and walk away with the gold medal, but the 50 fly is anyone’s game and the smallest mistake could cost someone a medal or a spot in the final.

Nicholas Santos of Brazil has been a top contender in the 50m fly for many years now, but has yet to really have a breakthrough performance at a long course championship meet. He had a successful world championship debut in 2009, finishing 5th in the 50 fly. At the 2013 world championships, Santos came into the final with the fastest time from the semi-finals (22.81) but ultimately finished in 4th (23.21) while his time from the semi would’ve been enough for gold. He has remained consistent the last two years, with the 6th best ranking in the world for 2014 (23.01) along with a silver medal from the short course world championships (22.08). He has looked even stronger this year, holding the fastest time in the world at 22.90, the only man under 23 seconds this year. He is a definite medal contender and will look to rectify his near miss two years ago.

Florent Manaudou obviously had his big breakout swim at the 2012 Olympics, winning gold in the 50 freestyle. He made another big splash this past December at the short course world championships, with gold medals and world records in both the 50 free and back. Despite his success in these races, he has always been a top performer in the 50 fly as well. He made his world championship debut in 2011 where he made the final in the 50 fly (5th), and then did so again in 2013 (8th). His best performance in the event came at the 2014 European championships where he tied for the gold medal, putting him in a tie for 4th in the world rankings (23.00). This year he is currently in a 4-way tie for 6th fastest in the world (23.37). I think this year his confidence will be very high, fuelled by his recent success, and he will have his best ever 50 fly performance and find his way onto the medal stand.

Primarily a sprint freestyle specialist himself, Cesar Cielo has found great success in the 50 fly. He is the two-time defending world champion, with titles in 2011 and 2013. He has shown great form in the event the last two years as well, holding down the 2nd spot in the world rankings both years. Cielo will have loads of competition to contend with if he wants to three-peat, with almost all of his top contenders being swimmers who have posted very fast times at various competitions but have yet to win a world championship medal in this event. Swimmers like Le Clos, Santos, Manaudou, Tsurkin and Govorov, among others, will all be very hungry to dethrone Cielo as world champion. I think he just misses the medals in 4th.

Belarusian Yauhen Tsurkin is another big threat in the 50 fly. His world championship career began in 2011, when he finished 21st. He saw a big improvement at the 2013 worlds, finishing 6th, but had his most successful year yet in 2014. He tied Manaudou for the European title (23.00) and the 4th spot in the world rankings. He rounded out the year with a solid 6th place finish at the short course world championships, and now this year is ranked 4th in the world once again. He will challenge some of the more well known names come the final and try to hunt down his first world championship medal. His personal best time is 22.90 from the 2013 semi-final.

Andrii Govorov of Ukraine has been a player on the sprint butterfly scene for the last five years. Beginning in 2010, he has won four medals at the short course European championships in the 50 fly (gold in 2011 & 2013) and has also twice medalled at the short course world championships in the 50 fly (2nd-2010,3rd-2014). He finished 5th at the 2013 world championships and then won bronze at the 2014 European championships. He also held the top time in the world for 2014 with a personal best of 22.87. This year he has been fast again tied for 6th in the world at 23.37. No one has put up a faster time than Govorov over the last two years and he will be a threat to win his first long course world championship medal.

Just 20 years of age, British sprinter Ben Proud has established himself as one of the fastest in the world in the 50 fly. He got his first taste of international competition at just 17 when he won silver at the 2012 European junior’s in the event. He made some major improvements in 2013, swimming a personal best 23.10 at the British Gas championships as well as finishing 11th at the world championships. 2014 was his best season yet, as he won Commonwealth games gold in a best time 22.93 and tied for bronze at the European championships. Proud was ranked 3rd in the world last year and this year sits 18th with a 23.51. He will be a major threat and could challenge for a medal if he swims like he did last year.

Rafael Munoz of Spain burst onto the swimming scene in 2009, taking over half a second off Roland Schoeman’s existing 50m fly world record of 22.96 all the way down to 22.43. He swam well at his first world championship that year, if not up to the standard he set for himself with the world record, winning bronze in both the 50 and 100 butterfly. Munoz has remained relatively quiet on the world stage since 2009, but has won three European titles in the 50 fly since ’09 (2010 & 2012 LC, 2012 SC). He finished 9th at the 2013 world championships, and then finished 5th at last years European championships. Munoz is apart of the 4-way tie for 6th in the world this year at 23.37, and if he can swim maybe just a little faster than that at the world championships he should be able to qualify for his first world championship final in six years.

Joseph Schooling of Singapore has recently established himself as a top contender in the men’s fly events. His first real international experience came last summer at the Commonwealth games where he made the final in all three fly events, including a silver medal in the 100. He also won medals in all three fly events at the Asian games, including a gold in the 100. He then had a fantastic rookie year with the Texas Longhorns, as Schooling took home individual golds in the 100 and 200 yard fly at NCAA’s. He has been strong so far this long cours season as well, winning 9 gold medals at the Southeast Asian Games. As for his chances in the 50 in Kazan, Schooling swam a personal best at the Commonwealth games going 23.43, and has been 23.49 this year. He will need to improve upon his best time to make the final, but he proved he has unbelievable speed this short cours season posting multiple sub-20 50 yard fly relay splits, including tying the fastest ever at 19.66. He certainly has potential to make a splash in the 50.

Others to watch out for in this event include Aleksandr Popkov and Vyacheslav Prudnikov of Russia, Piero Codia of Italy, Konrad Czerniak of Poland, Steffen Deibler of Germany and Yu Hexin of China.


  1. Chad Le Clos, RSA             22.73
  2. Nicholas Santos, BRA       22.80
  3. Florent Manaudou, FRA   22.84
  4. Cesar Cielo, BRA                 22.91
  5. Yauhen Tsurkin, BLR         22.97
  6. Andrii Govorov, UKR         23.01
  7. Ben Proud, GBR                  23.08
  8. Rafael Munoz, ESP             23.17

Darkhorse: Joseph Schooling, SIN


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)

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8 years ago

The 50 fly is always incredibly hard to predict. However, the one thing that I am ready to bet money on is that it will NOT be won in a time below 23.00. Also, I think Cielo will make it on the podium and I agree that Le Clos will win it!

8 years ago

Once again, the field doesn’t stand a chance unless the Gaul spares them, being Manaudou far to much power and speed not to mention his nearly unfair start…Maybe if Manaudou, Santos, or Cielo Fihlo gets struck dead by lightning. LeClos is simply too weak.

8 years ago

Rooting for schooling.. Go bolles!!

8 years ago

I think the four-way tie for 6th in the world foreshadows a very tight race with no clear favorite. I don’t think 5 swimmers will be under 23, at least in the final. Maybe 2-3 max, and I don’t want to speculate who. Unless someone cares to make it interesting. Just kidding, kind of. I don’t want to get SwimSwam in trouble. But let’s face it, the 50’s are only good for gambling– splash, dash, viewing obscured by chaos, and bam! It’s over and nobody knows what happened til they look at the scoreboard. C’mon if Godsoe can randomly win a silver at Worlds, you know it’s anybody’s game. #All-In

8 years ago

King Chad shall decide that the short distance is only for a warm up so he will ease on the speed and take the bronze instead.

8 years ago

No way Le Clos goes 22.73 . He will win bronze with a 22.95 more like IT with florent winning

Reply to  Crannman
8 years ago

Santos and Manaudou have considerably stronger starts than the rest of the field however the back half of Le Clos race is where he really raises his game (in contrast to Santos, who generally ties up really badly). Also important to remember that Cielo has historically been one of the best “finals” swimmers at World Champs

My prediction:

1. Manaudou – 22.7 (I believe he would have broken the short course WR in Doha had he swam it)
2. Cielo – 23.0
3. Le Clos – 23.0

Rick Mears
8 years ago

The Prince is going down and I predict he’ll go a 22.9. A great time for him, but not enough to win gold. Outside of that, the slap and dash really isn’t that interesting. It would be different if most of the top 8 factored into the 100m, but only Le Clos and Tsurkin are in the top 25 for 2015.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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