MEN’S 200 BREASTSTROKE
- 2012 Olympic Champ: Daniel Gyurta (Hungary), 2:07.28
- 2015 Worlds Champ: Marco Koch (Germany), 2:07.76
- World Record: 2:07.01 | Akihiro Yamaguchi (Japan) | 09/15/2012
Daniel Gyurta, the Hungarian who garnered Olympic silver as a 15-year-old at the 2004 Games, set the Olympic record during prelims in 2008 only to finish 5th in the final. In 2012, however, he resurged for Olympic gold with a 2:07.23 in world record-fashion. Gyurta returned in 2013 to earn the world title in this event, though the now-27-year-old is losing some of his sharpness. In 2015, it was Germany’s Marco Koch, the 2014 European Champion, who stole the show with a 2:07.47, a meet record at the time. Gyurta finished third in 2015, and chose not to race at the 2016 European Champs to focus on Rio.
This event has been crowded under the 2:08 mark since 2012, when Japan’s Akihiro Yamaguchi nearly took the 200 breast into 2:06 territory. Since, European names like Gyurta, Koch, Ross Murdoch, Michael Jamieson, and Andrew Willis (the latter three all from the U.K.) have dominated the endurance breaststroke race. That is, until now.
Kevin Cordes raced his way to SCY American records in his impressive NCAA career, and looked to be the next breaststroke star for the Americans after the retirement of Brendan Hansen. Cordes faltered in his first international appearances, DQ’ing the USA’s 4×100 medley relay at the 2013 World Championships and then DQ’ing again in the individual 100 breast at the 2014 Pan Pacific Champs. He got back on his feet in 2015, winning a surprise silver medal over Gyurta in the 200 breast, and swam very well at the 2016 U.S. Trials with a new American record in the 100 and a second-place finish in the 200 breast. Cordes, now under the tutelage of the great Sergio Lopez, has certainly made his way into the category of “medal threat” for these upcoming Olympics.
Cordes, however, was left in the dust at the finish of the 200 breast in Omaha. Cal’s Josh Prenot made his move at just the right time, jetting past Cordes (and the American record) with a field-best 32.98 final 50 to win it in 2:07.17. With that swim, Prenot might have just begun his journey to stardom. Up until that race, Cordes had broken the 100 breast American record and swum a 2:07 in the 200 breast semifinals, and had looked ready to handle the international field in the breaststrokes as the clear top American. Prenot, now, is well within striking distance of the world record and is capable of bringing glory back to American breaststroke, which hasn’t struck Olympic gold in this event since Mike Barrowman in 1992.
Other than his teammate Cordes, the defending Olympic Champion Gyurta, and the defending World Champion Koch, Prenot could be up against Scottish breaststroke star Ross Murdoch. 22 years old, like Prenot (though Prenot turns 23 later this month), Murdoch was recently crowned European Champion at the 2016 Euro Champs. Murdoch, with a 2:08.33, took down Koch in a close battle. The two were separated by hundredths at the finish (Koch was 2:08.40). The problem? Murdoch was actually 3rd at British Olympic Trials and presumably will only be in Rio to swim the 100. There’s still a chance the British team finds a way to get Murdoch into the race, but it would take some crafty lineup work, with Andrew Willis and Craig Benson currently holding the two spots and not swimming anything else in Rio.
It was Willis who swam a 2:08.08 at the British National Champs this spring, a few tenths ahead of Murdoch’s season best from Euros. Willis is used to the number four. After touching 8th in the final in 2012, Willis was 4th at the World Champs in 2013 and 2015, and 4th again at the 2014 Euros. If he’s going to break the chain of near-misses from the podium in Rio, he’s going to have to be well under 2:08.
Japan’s duo will be competitive in this event. After all, Japan has produced world record holder Yamaguchi as well as the legendary breaststroker Kosuke Kitajima. Leading the nation will be Yasuhiro Koseki, who dropped a 2:08.14 at the Japan Swim 2016. He touched ahead of Ippei Watanabe, who was 2nd in 2:08.83. Watanabe was once the World Junior Record holder in this event, a record that now belongs to Russia’s Anton Chupkov at 2:09.64.
Chupkov, meanwhile, has continued to whittle down his 200 breast– he dropped a 2:08.53 at the Canet stop of the Mare Nostrum tour in early June. If he makes this final, he’ll easily be the youngest, as he’s three years younger than Murdoch.
The focus for the podium will be on a battle between the older veterans (Koch, Gyurta, Willis) and the new blood in this event (Prenot, Murdoch, Cordes). We saw multiple Olympic champions falter in their best events in Omaha, and we could see Gyurta miss the podium altogether in Rio.
|Place||Swimmer||Country||Best Time (Since 2012 Olympics)||Predicted Time in Rio|
Dark Horse: Kazakhstan’s Dmitriy Balandin. At 19 years of age, Balandin completed a triple-gold performance at the 2014 Asian Games, taking home titles in all three breaststroke races. In the 200, he broke Kitajima’s 12-year-old meet record with a blazing fast 2:07.67. He hasn’t broken 2:09 yet this season, but he could be saving up for something big this summer.