MEN’S 200 IM: 2015 FINA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW
- Day 5, Thur August 6th
- 2013 World Champion: Ryan Lochte, USA – 1:54.98 (SEE RACE VIDEO ABOVE)
- 2013 Silver Medalist: Kosuke Hagino, JPN – 1:56.29
- 2013 Bronze Medalist: Thiago Pereira, ESP – 1:56.30
With Phelps and Hagino absent, Ryan Lochte is looking for his 4th consecutive title. Since 2004, the men’s 200 IM has been dominated by two swimmers: Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte. From 2003 through 2008 we saw Phelps win every major competition, pushing the world record from 1:58.16 (Jani Sievinen’s world record that stood for 9 years until Phelps broke it in 2003) all the way down to 1:54.23 in that span. Since then, Ryan Lochte has dominated the event. He has won the past three world championship titles, and stolen the world record from Phelps taking it down to 1:54.00. Phelps was absent in the event for two of Lochte’s three world championship titles, and the two have proven to be a class above anyone else when at their best. They are the only two swimmers to ever swim under 1:55, which they have done a collective total of 14 times.
Since 2007 when Michael Phelps went the first ever sub-1:55, the event has stayed at relatively the same speed. A 1:54 performance has been what it takes for gold each of the last four world championships, and we should expect a similar outcome in Kazan. A medal winning time has ranged from 1:55 to 1:57, and we shouldn’t expect that to change this summer either. Of the three fastest men from last years world rankings, only one of them will be competing. Top ranked in 2014 and 2015, Kosuke Hagino recently pulled out of the competition due to injury. Three-time Olympic and world champion Michael Phelps was removed from the United States world roster after being issued a suspension, so he won’t be in Kazan either. This leaves a huge hold at the top, giving up and coming swimmers opportunity to make a name for themselves on the world stage. With arguably two of the top three swimmers in the event absent, we can’t expect this event to get faster than in years previous, nor can we expect Ryan Lochte to have much of a challenge for a gold medal. What we can expect is a great battle between a number of swimmers to get into the final, and a great battle for the minor medals.
American Ryan Lochte is the undisputed favourite in this event. Based on the fact he is the world record holder and the three-time defending world champion, he would have been the favourite even if Phelps and Hagino were in the field, but now that they aren’t, Lochte winning seems like a formality as this point. Along with his three long course world titles, he has an additional two world championship medals as well as three Olympic medals. He holds the world record in both short and long course, and has four short course world titles to his name in the 200 IM, along with a silver this past December at the hands of Hagino. As Lochte continues to get older, we can’t expect him to constantly be breaking world records, but with a lighter than normal event schedule another 1:54-something performance should be in the cards for the 30 year old.
I don’t expect anyone to challenge Lochte for the win, but if there’s someone who could surprise with a very good performance it could be Japan’s Daiya Seto. After Kosuke Hagino’s withdrawal from the meet, Seto will be Japan’s sole hope for a medal. He has a very good chance of doing so, as he is currently the 2nd ranked swimmer in the world for 2015 and the top for those competing in Kazan (as Hagino is ranked 1st). Seto saw initial success in the 400m medley, winning the gold medal at the both the 2012 and 2014 short course world championships, as well as the long course title in Barcelona in 2013. Seto has seen progressive success in the 200 IM as well, finishing 7th at the 2013 world championships, and following that up with a bronze medal at the Pan Pacific championships last year. He also has 200 IM medals from the short course world championships in 2012 (silver) and 2014 (bronze). Seto has been the fastest he has ever been this year at 1:56.82, and a similar performance should get him in medal position in Kazan.
Thiago Pereira has quietly been one of the best medley swimmers over the last ten years. With Phelps and Lochte always getting all the attention, talented swimmers like Pereira never receive the type of attention they deserve. Pereira broke out at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where he wound up in 5th place at just 18 years of age. He then went onto become the 2004 short course world champion in the event, defeating Ryan Lochte who would go onto the next four straight titles. Through the next few years, Pereira experienced up and downs, with 4th place finishes at both the 2007 and 2009 world championships, as well as the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games. Pereira finally broke through in the 200 IM in 2013 with a bronze medal performance at the world championships. His personal best of 1:55.55 makes him the 6th fastest man ever, and his time of 1:57.23 from 2014 ranked him 5th in the world. Pereira’s 2015 ranking sits at just 21st in the world, but we know he has been in heavy training with the ultimate goal for him being the 2016 Olympics games in his home country one year from now. We can expect him to be very fast in Kazan and be a contender for a spot on the podium. I believe he has the talent to do so, as long as he has an advantage over his competitors going into the freestyle, which is by far his weakest leg.
South African Chad Le Clos is a relative unknown in this event. Le Clos swam this event at the 2012 Olympic games, where he advanced to the final tying for 7th in the semi’s, only to withdraw to focus on the 100 fly. He condensed his schedule for the 2013 world championships to focus on the butterfly events, a successful plan that saw him win both the 100 and 200 butterfly titles. He gave the event another shot at the 2014 Commonwealth games, where he won the bronze medal. Since that meet, Le Clos has been a dominant swimmer. He won his second straight world cup overall title in November of 2014, going on an incredible win streak where he didn’t lose one race throughout the entire circuit. This included two victories in the 200m medley. He will have his work cut out for him to medal, but this would be his best chance at doing so with Phelps and Hagino not in the field. He has an unbelievable competitive edge, and will be able to take out the butterfly out fast and get home fast on the freestyle. The real question is if he can hang with the field on the middle 100. Of course, there is the possibility that he scratches the event at some point in favor of resting prior to the 100 fly, but with so much racing under his belt the last two years, there is no doubt he can handle the extra workload. In 2014 he was a 10th ranked 1:57.94, and this year has been 1:58.97, good enough for 14th in the world. A swim around 1:56-high to 1:57-low will probably about where the bronze medal winning time will be, and Le Clos is certainly capable.
Conor Dwyer will be the second entrant in the 200 IM for the United States. A spot originally earned by Michael Phelps and then given to Tyler Clary, Dwyer now holds the spot after Clary dropped the event due to a busy schedule. Dwyer has made a name for himself more so in the freestyle events, including a silver medal at the 2013 world championships in the 200m, and multiple gold medals from American 800 free relays (2011 & 2013 worlds, 2012 Olympics). Dwyer is an extremely versatile swimmer, and has proven capable of competing in both IM distances at a high level. He had the 6th fastest time in the world last year at 1:57.41, and currently sits 15th this year at 1:59.04. If Dwyer can swim close to the lifetime best he posted in 2014, he should be able to make his way into the final, and if he is within striking distance going into the freestyle, a medal isn’t out of the range of possibilities.
Like Pereira, Laszlo Cseh has been one of the most successful IM swimmers in the last ten years but hasn’t received the proper recognition for it due to always swimming in the shadow of two of the greatest swimmers of all time. After Phelps and Lochte, he would have to be considered the 3rd best IM swimmer since 2003. He has a total of five Olympic medals, including a silver and bronze in the 200 IM from 2008 and 2012, and four world championship medals in the 200 IM (2 silver, 2 bronze). In recent years we have seen Cseh begin to put more of an emphasis on his 100 butterfly training, but he remains competitive in the 200 IM. In 2014 he won his 5th straight European title in the event, and will look for his 5th world championship medal this summer in the 200 IM. Ranked 13th in the world for 2014 and 7th in 2015, Cseh is aging like Lochte and Phelps, and we can’t expect him to be swimming the best times of his life as he nears 30. However, his experience and ability should earn him a spot in the final, but medalling will be difficult as the fastest he has been in the last two years was swum at the 2013 worlds where he was 5th.
Wang Shun has seen rapid improvement in his swimming since the 2012 Olympics. He competed for China at just 18 years of age and finished 23rd in the 200 IM going 2:00.85. He saw an incredible drop in time in just one year, swimming a 1:56.86 at the 2013 world championships and finishing just outside of the medals in 4th. He didn’t swim as well in 2014, finishing 3rd at the Asian Games behind Hagino and Hirosama Fujimori of Japan, and was ranked 12th in the world. He has swum well thus far in 2015, with a 5th place in the world rankings at 1:58.13. He should be able to return the world championship final in 2015, but he will need another special performance like he had in 2013 if he wants to take a step onto the medal stand.
Great Britain’s Roberto Pavoni is another contender in the 200 IM. After an 11th place finish at the 2013 world championships, Pavoni had an excellent 2014 which saw him win bronze at the European championships as well as a 5th place finish at the Commonwealth games in the 200 IM. After being ranked 16th fastest in the world for 2014, Pavoni is now ranked 4th in the world for 2015 with a personal best time of 1:57.79. It remains to be seen whether or not he can improve upon that time come world championships or not, but he should be able to make the final. However, he will need the race of his life in order to beat some established names and earn a medal.
For a darkhorse pick, Pavoni’s British teammate Dan Wallace is someone who could surprise in Kazan. A member of the University of Florida Gators from 2012-2015, Wallace saw some success at the NCAA level including consecutive silver medal performances in the 500 yard freestyle in 2014 and 2015. With both the 500 freestyle and 200 IM taking place on the same day, Wallace always focused on the 500, but has shown recently he has incredible ability in the 200 IM as well. He came away with a silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth games in the 200 IM, and has improved his world ranking in 2014 (17th) in 2015 (10th). With a personal best 1:58.45 swum this year, he has potential to surprise and earn a finals berth in Kazan.
Australia will be without any athletes in the 200 IM after Daniel Tranter (ranked 12th in the world) and Justin James (ranked 8th in the world) missed the qualifying cut at the Australian trials. Tranter is a finalist from 2013 and certainly would have been a factor again this year. Japan’s Hiromasa Fujimori is ranked 6th in the world this year, but there hasn’t been any official announcement after Hagino’s withdrawl that Japan will be adding anyone to take his place in any event. Others to watch for in this event include Brazilian Henrique Rodrgiues, Israel’s Yakov Toumarkin and 2014 NCAA champion Marcin Cieslak of Poland.
- Ryan Lochte, USA 1:54.64
- Daiya Seto, JPN 1:56.25
- Thiago Pereira, BRA 1:56.96
- Chad Le Clos, RSA 1:57.16
- Conor Dwyer, USA 1:57.45
- Laszlo Cseh, HUN 1:57.70
- Wang Shun, CHN 1:58.04
- Roberto Pavoni, GBR 1:58.28
Darkhorse: Dan Wallace, GBR 1:58.49
SCHEDULE (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)