2015 World Championships Preview: Women’s 200 Back

For the last 10 years, the women’s 200 backstroke has seemingly had one woman dominate the race, with the rest of the field fighting for the minor medals. Kirsty Coventry dominated from 2004 through 2009, taking the world record down from 2:06.62 to 2:04.81 in that span. Since then, Missy Franklin has taken control of the race, with two straight world titles and an Olympic title, as well as a new world record of 2:04.06. Anyone swimming under 2:06 has been an incredibly rare feat, as only three women have ever accomplished it, and only one in the last five years (Franklin). I believe Franklin will be able to do so once again, and win the gold, but the rest of the field will fight it out for the minor medals, with a 2:06 likely being what it takes for a silver or bronze.


  1. Missy Franklin, USA                   2:05.18
  2. Daria Ustinova, RUS                   2:06.41
  3. Katinka Hosszu, HUN                 2:06.46
  4. Emily Seebohm, AUS                  2:06.63
  5. Hilary Caldwell, CAN                  2:07.47
  6. Elizabeth Beisel, USA                  2:07.65
  7. Hayley Baker, AUS                       2:08.14
  8. Elizabeth Simmonds, GBR         2:08.28

Darkhorse: Kirsty Coventry, ZIM        2:09.09

Missy Franklin has dominated the women’s 200 backstroke ever since her world championship debut in Shanghai in 2011. She won her first individual gold medal at those world championships in the 200 back, setting a new American record. She then went onto win gold in the event at both the 2012 Olympic games and 2013 world championships, including a new world record set at the Olympics. Missy then went onto have a disappointing 2014, seeing her miss the medals in the event at the Pan Pacific championships and post a seasons best time over four seconds slower than her world record performance. Missy has had a successful 2015 thus far, with a strong showing at the NCAA championships that included a gold medal in the 200 back. She only has one long course meet under her belt this year, where she posted an 18th ranked 2:09.84. She hasn’t shown her hand at all this long course season, and I think we are in for a spectacular performance from her in Kazan. All the doubters no doubt fuel Missy’s fire after her disappointing 2014 season. She is by far the fastest in the field and with potential top competitor Belinda Hocking not competing, I don’t see anyone stopping Missy from winning her third consecutive world title.

At just 16 years of age, Daria Ustinova of Russia looks poised to earn her first individual world championship medal in front of her home crowd. She made her world championship debut two years ago at 14, making the final but ultimately finishing 8th and swimming much slower in the final than she did in the semi, showing some nerves. She showed improvement in 2014, winning the bronze medal at the European championships and posting the 3rd fastest time in the world of 2:08.02. She has continued her improvement this year, again posting the 3rd fastest time in the world with a 2:07.29. Ustinova is so young and has so much potential, I see her continuing to improve at the world championships. With a few years of international experience already under her belt, I think she will feed off of the home crowd and take home a medal.

Katinka Hosszu has become a top tier contender in the 200 back. After a 6th place finish at the 2013 world championships, she won gold and set a new world record at the 2014 short course world championships swimming a 1:59.23, becoming the first woman under two minutes in the event. After posting a long course season best of just 2:10 in 2014, Hosszu has already been 2:06.8 this year, putting her 2nd in the world. If her heavy program doesn’t get in the way at the world championships we should expect to see her bring home a medal in the 200 back.

Australian Emily Seebohm, more known for her abilities in the 50 and 100 backstrokes, has recently added the 200 to her program. She won a pair of silver medals last summer at the Pan Pacs and Commonwealth games, posting the second fastest time in the world with a 2:07.61. She then won silver at the short course world championships in December becoming the 3rd fastest woman ever (2:00.13). She has seen continued success in 2015, winning the Australian national title and posting the top time in the world of 2:06.69. Seebohm looks like a good bet to medal in Kazan, and certainly has gold medal potential. However, I potentially see Seebohm trying to take advantage of her speed and being too aggressive the first 100, ultimately costing her a medal. With the absence of Belinda Hocking, Seebohm will hope to continue Australia’s success in the event, as Hocking has medalled at the last two championships.

Canadian Hilary Caldwell had a breakout performance two years ago at the world championships in Barcelona. After a disappointing 18th place at the 2012 Olympics, Caldwell won bronze in Barcelona swimming a huge personal best and Canadian record of 2:06.80. Caldwell swam solid in 2014, including a bronze at the Commonwealth games and the 7th fastest time in the world (2:08.55). Caldwell has yet to regain the form she found in Barcelona, but will hope to do so in Kazan. She is coming off a gold medal at the Pan Am games where she posted the 5th fastest time in the world this year (2:08.22). Look for her to give everything she has in order to win a second straight world championship medal. Ultimately, I see the field being a little too rich for her, but we certainly cannot count her out. She’ll be a factor in the final.

American Elizabeth Beisel has been swimming the 200 back on the international stage for eight years. She debuted at the 2007 world championships, finishing 12th at just 14 years of age. She then went onto final in every 200 backstroke at the Olympics or world championships from 2007 to 2012, including bronze at the 2009 world championships and 2012 Olympics. After missing qualifying for the 2013 worlds team in the 200 back, Beisel is back this year after a strong showing at the Pan Pacific championships last year. Beisel was ranked 5th in the world last year, and will be in the mix this year. If she can approach her personal best of 2:06.18 from 2012, she will be a medal threat.

Hayley Baker of Australia had a breakout performance at their nationals earlier this year. After posting a personal best of 2:10.90 in 2013, Baker regressed in 2014, with her best performance being a 2:13.18, which ranked just 95th in the world. At the Australian trials in April, Baker swam 2:08.21, taking off more than two seconds from her best time and out-touching Madison Wilson for the second spot on the team behind Emily Seebohm. Baker is ranked 3rd in the world this year, and will need to swim close to her personal best to qualify for the final.

Elizabeth Simmonds has been knocking on the door for many years. She swam well in between 2008 and 2010, with a 6th place finish at the Olympics in 2008, 5th place at the 2009 worlds, and posting a career best 2:06.79 in 2010. She then had her best ever international performance at the 2012 Olympics in her home country, just missing a medal finishing 4th. After missing the 2013 world championships, Simmonds rebounded with a solid 2014 which included a silver medal at the European championships and a 4th place finish at the Commonwealth games. She has looked strong again this year, sitting 6th in the world rankings. Simmonds looks poised to return to the world championship final this year, but will need to approach her personal best from 2010 if she wants to challenge for a medal.

Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe is a true darkhorse pick. A fixture on the international stage for many years, Coventry won gold in the 200 back at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, as well as the 2005 and 2009 world championships, along with silver in 2007. She pushed for a third consecutive gold at the 2012 games, but fell short finishing in 6th. After taking some time off, she has made a comeback this year training in Charlotte with Swim Mac Elite. She is currently tied with Hungarian backstroke legend Krisztina Egerszegi for the most individual Olympic swimming medals won by a female with 7. Coventry has publicly stated that her ultimate goal is to win the most individual Olympic medals of any female, so she is aiming towards 2016. It will be interesting to see how she fares at the world championships this year, as she has posted a solid 2:10.01 this year, ranking her 20th. Coventry should be able to qualify for the semi-finals in Kazan, with an outside shot at the final. Of course, we can’t count her out seeing that she is the 2-time Olympic and world champion. She will have to swim the fastest she has in three years to have a shot at the final. She will be one to keep an eye on for the next 12 months to see if she can reach her goal and win yet another Olympic medal.

After a series of mishaps including second-degree burns, a dislocated knee and a car accident, 2011 and 2013 world championship silver medalist in the 200 backstroke Belinda Hocking will not be competing in Kazan this summer. After her car accident, she decided she just needed to take some time off, with her career in question. Hocking was coming off a great 2014 that saw her win titles at both the Commonwealth games and the Pan Pacific championships in the 200 back. Her absence opens the door for Australia’s second qualifier Hayley Baker to get her first taste of international experience.

Others to watch for in this event include Duane Da Rocha of Spain, Jenny Mensing of Germany, Dominique Bouchard of Canada, Fu Yuanhui of China and Ukrainian Daryna Zevina.


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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7 years ago

I hope you are right (about Missy winning), but I fear the Hosszu! It all depends on if KH gets too greedy with her program. Her 1:59.23 converts to a 2:01.63 (TYR time converter) or a 2:02.23 (Swimming World time converter). Even if the converters are a little generous, that’s a pretty darn fast time! How fast could that woman go rested? We will see…….

bad anon
7 years ago

Missy a lock for gold, this is the easiest event to predict on the women roster. Missy wins in a championship record 2.04.62, Hosszu second in 2.05.99 Coventry bronze 2.06.23

Reply to  bad anon
7 years ago

I would consider the women’s 400 free and 800 free the easiest events to predict on the women’s roster (at least for gold).

7 years ago

The 100 can be fairly described as being line-ball or marginal either way between Seebohm and Franklin but a fit Franklin probably still has a “quality” gap on the competition.

Hosszu is a clear contender but James is correct in stating her heavy program may count against her. Ustinova COULD be a “bolter” but home competition can prove both as a boost or an inhibitor; very hard to call what she may do.

Seebohm HAS swum the 200 domestically for years but the path was blocked 2008-2014 by two 2.06/2.07 swimmers in Hocking and Nay. Whilst she swam the 200 successfully at last year’s CommGames & PP, this is her first “major” at this distance so a cautionary note is… Read more »

7 years ago

Apologies for being off-topic, but was there ever a video of Missy’s 200 free from NCAAs?

Swim Fan VT
7 years ago

Will there be television or webcast coverage of these events? Any chance I can watch unedited coverage of the longer freestyle events?

7 years ago

I think Seebohm is going to take a medal. I agree Franklin is the favorite but not as prohibitive a one anymore. Hozzu likely to silver this event unless she overdoes it and swims too many events.

Reply to  FINA SUCKS
7 years ago

She (Hosszu) might just get tired at the end with 7 individual events..

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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