2016 Rio Olympics Preview: Chinese 3-Peat in Peril in Women’s 200 Fly

Women’s 200 Fly

Though the world record is safe in the women’s 200 fly, China’s dominance in the event on the world stage is less certain.  Ever since Liu Zige captured gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, a Chinese swimmer has always made the podium in the women’s 200 butterfly at either the Olympics or long course World Championships.  Though China once again has two young female fliers with big potential, the rest of the world has caught up, and the podium will likely be much different this summer in Rio.

Natsumi Hoshi (JPN), World Champion in women's 200m butterfly with 2:05.56. 2015 FINA World Championships (courtesy of Tim Binning, theswimpictures.com)

Natsumi Hoshi (Courtesy of Tim Binning, theswimpictures.com)

The biggest threat to Chinese dominance in the 200 fly comes from Natsumi Hoshi of Japan.  Hoshi became world champion last summer in the 200 fly where she won by nearly a full second.  Also the bronze medalist from London four years ago, Hoshi is currently ranked third in the world with her 2:06.32 from April.

China’s Yufei Zhang, a five-time 2014 Youth Olympics Medalist, has ascended from the youth stage to become one of the best 200 butterfliers in the world against any competition.  En route to earning a bronze in the 200 fly at the World Championships in Kazan last summer, Zhang broke the youth world record in the 200 fly twice, removing American Katie McLaughlin‘s name from the board.  Also representing China in the funnest event in swimming is Zhou Yilin.  Currently ranked 5th in the world, Zhou placed eighth in the 200 fly at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan last summer.  Though she was out of the medals in Kazan, Zhou won at the 2015 World University Games, which took place a few weeks before the competition in Kazan.  At WUGs Zhou shared the podium with American competitor and first-time Olympian Hali Flickinger, who won the bronze medal.  Flickinger will represent the USA in Rio where she will have another chance to race Zhou, though with a much more important medal on the line.

After not even making the championship final at the World Championships last summer, Madeline Groves has rocketed to the top of the world rankings with her 2:05.47 swum at Australian Olympic Trials.  A first-time Olympian, Groves has yet to prove herself on the biggest stage in swimming.  Her highest placing at an international competition in the 200 fly comes from Pan Pacs 2014 where she placed 7th.  Two years later and nearly five seconds faster, Groves will be a serious medal threat in Rio, where she will also swim the 100 fly.

Joining Groves is fellow Aussie Brianna Throssell, who tied for fourth last summer in Kazan in the 200 fly.  Throssell, who was recently crowned Western Australia’s ‘Swimmer of the Year‘ for the second year in a row, currently holds the world’s 6th-fastest time in the 200 fly.

Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu has slipped the 200 fly into her intense Olympic schedule.  Having placed 3rd in the 2013 World Championships, though failing to make the finals of the event last summer in Kazan, Hosszu will have an uphill battle in this event.  The semifinals of the 200 fly come shortly before the finals of the 200 IM, where Hosszu is the heavy favorite.  It will be interesting to see how much effort she puts into the semis of the fly–she could opt for “just enough” and content herself with an outside lane for the finals, though she might try to get into a more central lane for the final and pick up the pace in the semis.

Franziska Hentke of Germany, who currently holds the second-fastest time in the world heading into Rio, will threaten for a medal.  Hentke tied Aussie Brianna Throssell last summer in Kazan, though they both missed out on the podium.  Now a full second faster than her 2015 time, Hentke is going to be dangerous in Rio.

Mireia Belmonte celebrates her scm WORLD RECORD (courtesy of FINA)

Mireia Belmonte (Courtesy of FINA)

Olympic silver medalist from four years ago Mireia Belmonte will be racing the 200 fly once again in Rio.  The finals of the 200 fly will come as her ninth swim of the Rio Games, and arguably her best shot at a gold medal.  Though the short course meters world record holder in the 200 fly, Belmonte and the rest of the world are still a long ways behind the current world record, established in 2009 by Liu Zige, who will not be competing in Rio.

Cammile Adams of the United States represents the USA’s best chance at a medal in the women’s 200 fly.  Adams placed fifth four years ago but took home the silver medal last summer in Kazan where she barely out-touched Zhang, but was well behind the winner Hoshi.  The US hasn’t won gold in this event on the women’s side since Misty Hyman upset Susie O’Neill in Sydney 16 years ago.

Place Swimmer Country Best Time Since 2012 Predicted Time in Rio
1 Natsumi Hoshi Japan 2:05.56 2:04.9
2 Mireia Belmonte Spain 2:04.78 2:05.2
3 Madeline Groves Australia 2:05.47 2:05.3
4 Katinka Hosszu Hungary 2:05.59 2:05.9
5 Franziska Hentke Germany 2:05.26 2:06.1
6 Yufei Zhang China 2:06.51 2:06.2
7 Cammile Adams USA 2:06.33 2:06.5
8 Zhou Yilin China 2:06.56 2:07.1

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4 years ago

Katinka will either drop 2fly or just not be a factor. That event has declined for her as back has improved. She should just scratch it

bobo gigi
4 years ago

Hosszu is not a threat in that event anymore.
No idea about Groves. She can win gold or disappear.
Belmonte is slowly back to a good form since her shoulder’s injuries. I would have picked her for the gold without any hesitation before her injuries. I’m not sure she’s back to her best.
A Chinese girl can surprise. We are used to that.
Hentke could win too.
Adams could grab a bronze thanks to her usual big finish.
I pick Hoshi who is very solid in her last 50 but that’s a very open event with at least 5 or 6 women who can win.

4 years ago

I think you’re overestimating hosszu and underestimating Adams. Adams always brings it in this event when she needs to

Hook Em
Reply to  Klorn8d
4 years ago

“Always brings it in this event when she needs to…” based on what, one silver medal at Worlds and winning the weakest event at Trials after she should’ve been DQ’ed in prelims??

Reply to  Hook Em
4 years ago

Or, from a more optimistic perspective, the fact she’s made the final in every major international meet since the last Olympics, including a silver on the world stage in 2015 and a gold at Pan Pacs in 2014. She’s reliable, consistent, and if anything, she’s trending up.

He Gets It Done Again
Reply to  Hook Em
4 years ago

-She shouldn’t have been DQ’ed in 200 fly, video evidence proved so.
-Weakest event at trials was women’s 200 breast (qualifiers ranked 16th and 18th in 2016, in 200 fly it’s 7th and 14th).

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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