2015 World Championships Preview: Women’s 100 Back

The women’s 100 backstroke saw a rapid progression between the years 2005 and 2009, as the gold medal winning times at the world championships went from 1:00.2 in 2005 all the way down to 58.12 in 2009, a world record performance from Gemma Spofforth that still stands today. Since then we have seen some very fast swims, including three swimmers go sub-59 at the 2012 Olympics. A 58 second swim is still rare these days, as only two different women have accomplished it in the last two years. However, based on the talent pool at this year’s championship, there is a good chance a 58 is what it takes to win a medal.


  1. Emily Seebohm, AUS               58.47
  2. Missy Franklin, USA                 58.70
  3. Mie Nielsen, DEN                      58.97
  4. Katinka Hosszu, HUN              59.01
  5. Madison Wilson, AUS              59.06
  6. Etiene Medeiros, BRA              59.19
  7. Fu Yuanhui, CHN                        59.30
  8. Kathleen Baker, USA                 59.59

Darkhorse: Daria Ustinova, RUS

Emily Seebohm of Australia has been a top performer in the 100 backstroke for many years. She has earned many major international medals in the event, including a bronze medal at the 2009 world championships, and back-to-back silvers at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 worlds, with American star Missy Franklin being the only one to top her. She also has won consecutive Commonwealth games titles and Pan Pacific titles, done in 2010 and 2014. Seebohm looks poised to finally reach the top of the podium at the world championships this summer, as she has held the top time in the world for 2014 and 2015, and is the only women to crack 59 seconds both years. After finally beating Franklin at last years Pan Pacs, Seebohm comes into this meet as the favourite and has earned it through her recent performances. I think she’ll top the podium this summer.

Missy Franklin of the United States is an American star. After breaking out at the 2011 world championships where she won five medals including three gold, she had an unbelievable Olympic debut where she won four gold medals including one in the 100 backstroke. She then followed up with six gold medals at the 2013 world championships, including the 100 backstroke title. After back-to-back years with such successful performances, Franklin hit a speed bump in 2014. She managed to qualify for the world championships in all of her events, but experienced back spasms at the Pan Pacific championships which saw her lose to rival Emily Seebohm in the 100 backstroke, where she finished just 3rd. She still held the 4th fastest time in the world for 2014. She only has one long course meet under her belt this year, as she has been putting in lots of work ever since the NCAA championships in March. Franklin will challenge Seebohm this summer, but with Franklin having a much heavier schedule and Seebohm’s recent performances, I believe Franklin will have to settle for the silver this time around.

Mie Nielsen of Denmark has already had lots of international success in her young career, and has been one of the fastest 100 backstroke performers recently. In the 100 back, she won gold at the 2011 European juniors, silver at the 2012 short course worlds, gold at the 2013 short course European championships and then gold at the 2014 Euro’s (tying Katinka Hosszu). After swimming the 2nd fastest time in the world for 2014 with a 59.20, she has further improved this year swimming a 4th ranked 59.14. If Nielsen continues her successful international career and incredible rate of improvement, we can expect to see her on the medal stand this summer, and maybe even break 59 seconds for the first time.

Katinka Hosszu withdrew from the 100 back after the prelims at the 2013 world championships, but with her performances in the event since then I think there’s a very good chance she swims the event all the way through to the final this time. In 2014 she won gold at the European championships (tying Mie Nielsen) swimming the 3rd fastest time in the world, and then at the short course world championships she won gold and set a new world record of 55.03. In 2015 she has the 6th ranked time in the world, and if other events don’t get in the way she will have a very good chance of medalling in the event this summer.

Madison Wilson of Australia has come onto the scene recently, with a very surprising performance at the 2015 Australian trials that saw her almost defeat incumbent Australian champion Emily Seebohm. In 2014 Wilson swam a personal best of 1:00.31, but showed incredible improvement in December as she finished 4th at the short course world championships in 56.37. Once Australian trials came, Wilson really turned some heads. She finished 2nd to Seebohm, swimming a personal best and 2nd fastest time in the world of 58.94. At just 20 years old, the thing working against Wilson will be her lack of experience. If she can recreate her performance from Australian trials, she should be able to medal, but with such a competitive field it is going to be very close between the top 8 and her nerves may get the best of her come the final. However, it is tough to say. She will be in the fight for the medals.

Etiene Medeiros of Brazil is coming off a strong performance at the Pan American Games and will look to have another good performance in Kazan. More well known for her ability in the 50 back, Medeiros executed a perfect race plan in the Pan Am final where she didn’t over-swim the first 50 and came home strong to take the title in a 59.61, which ranks 7th in the world this year. Medeiros should be able to final in Kazan, but will need to take off a bit of time if she wants to challenge for the medals.

Fu Yuanhui of China has consistently been a top performer in the 100 back the last three years. After making the final at the 2012 Olympics (finishing 8th), she finished 5th at the 2013 world championships, and has held top rankings in the event in 2014 and 2015. She came away with the Asian Games title in 2014 and held the 6th fastest time in the world, and this year she sits 5th with a 59.41, just off her career best 59.36 from 2013. This summer Fu will look to make her second consecutive world championship final.

Kathleen Baker of the United States had a breakout 2014, when she made her first national team in the 100 back after swimming a personal best of 1:00.35 at the Pan Pacific championships. After a 6th place finish at the short course world championships in December, Baker saw another big improvement at the 2015 Arena Pro swim series in Charlotte. She broke one minute for the first time, swimming a 59.86. This time ranks her 9th in the world this year, and a similar performance should get her into the final in Kazan.

Russian Daria Ustinova is my darkhorse pick. At just 14 years of age, Ustinova won a host of medals at the European Junior and World Junior championships in 2013, including gold in the 100 backstroke at both meets. She also won her first major international medal at the 2013 world championships in the medley relay. Despite a disappointing 8th place at the 2014  European championships, she still posted the 7th best time in the world with a personal best 59.78. She has been strong again this year, with a 10th ranked 59.89. She will have the support of the home crowd, and will look to make her first individual world championship final.

Missing from this field is Natalie Coughlin, who holds the 3rd fastest time in the world this year with a 59.05. After putting more of a focus on her sprint freestyle, Coughlin missed the world championship team and instead competed at the Pan American Games in Toronto recently. She swam backstroke on the medley relay for the Americans and posted that time, which would’ve won her the individual 100 back and would no doubt challenge for a medal at the world championships. She is one to watch out for in this event over the next 12 months, as she is reportedly open to adding this event to her Olympic trials lineup.

Others to watch for in this event include Chen Jie of China, Lauren Quigley and Elizabeth Simmonds of Great Britain, and Simona Baumrtova of the Czech Republic.


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)

  • M 200 IM
  • M 100 Free
  • W 200 Fly
  • W 50 Back
  • W 4×200 Free Relay

Day 6, Fri August 7th (Day 14)

  • W 100 Free
  • M 200 Back
  • W 200 Breast
  • M 200 Breast
  • M 4×200 Free Relay

Day 7, Sat August 8th (Day 15)

Day 8, Sun August 9th (Day 16)

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8 years ago

I think Baker will surprise all;)
1. Seebohm
2. Hosszu
3. Baker
4. Franklin

Philip Johnson
8 years ago

I would be very surprised if Missy won the 100 back.

Reply to  Philip Johnson
8 years ago

She looked strong and smooth a week ago when she dropped in our pool to get a workout in while in NYC.

8 years ago

solid predictions except Baker goes closer to 59.0 and is in the middle of the pack

bobo gigi
8 years ago

Wow! I love that prediction.
If Missy swims 58.70, I’m really happy.
In my opinion, Emily Seebohm is unbeatable this year. It’s her year.
But Missy will take her crown back next year when it counts the most.
However, Todd, please make something for her start. Not only it has not improved at Cal, contrary to what I expected, but it looked even worse than ever in Santa Clara.

samuel huntington
Reply to  bobo gigi
8 years ago

why do you think Missy will automatically beat Seebohm at the Olympics?

Reply to  samuel huntington
8 years ago

It’s only her prediction/opinion. Jeez. That’s all anyone can do..educated guess, or emotional “hopes”. The irony is, both of them may lose in the Olympics…that’s what makes it exciting to watch. 🙂

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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