2017 Worlds Preview: Belmonte Seeks Repeat Gold in 200 Fly

You can find links to all of our event-by-event previews and a compilation of our predicted medal-winners here.


  • 2015 World Champion: Natsumi Hoshi (JPN), 2:05.56
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: Mireia Belmonte (ESP), 2:04.85
  • World Record Holder: Liu Zige (CHN), 2:01.81 | 2009

After crowing the 2008 and 2012 Olympic champions for themselves, China was denied a third straight Olympic gold in Rio. In fact, China was shut out of the podium altogether, led by a fantastic finish between Spain’s Mireia Belmonte and Australia’s Madeline Groves. Just three hundredths separated them at the wall, but Belmonte was triumphant to touch ahead at 2:04.85, a historic finish for her– not only was this her first-ever Olympic gold, but she was Spain’s first female Olympic champion in swimming. Japan’s Natsumi Hoshi was 3rd in 2:05.20, while the Chinese women, Zhou Yilin and Zhang Yufei, settled for 5th and 6th.

Zhou and Zhang are back as China’s two qualifiers in this race, with Zhou having posted a 2:07.36 this year for the 7th-ranked time in the world for 2017. Zhang, meanwhile, has been 2:08.50.

The race won’t come from them, though– eyes will be on Belmonte, as she will be trying to defend her gold from Rio. Emma McKeon was an expected opponent in this race, after she backed up her 2:07.37 from Aussie Trials with a 2:07.49 in Chartres a couple of weeks ago, but she is not entered in the 200 fly at Worlds. Rio finalist Brianna Throssell is the only Aussie entrant, with her 2:07.90 ranking her 14th in the world this year.

It’s been a slow year– the world’s best time is Franziska Hentke‘s 2:06.18, which is pretty far off of last year’s podium times. Belmonte’s final event lineup decisions will have a lot to do with how this podium shapes up. The Spaniard is capable of a gold in this race, but her chances go way down if she sticks with all six of her events (with the 1500 free, 400 free, and 200 IM all taking place before the 200 fly). The times this year suggest that it might not take a 2:05 low to make the podium– that time might actually be good for gold.

Seasoned championship swimmers like Belmonte and Hentke are going to have to keep tabs on Natsumi Hoshi’s successors– 17-year-olds Suzuka Hasegawa and Hiroko Makino. Both broke 2:07 this year, with Hasegawa’s 2:06.29 from April breaking the World Junior Record. Hasegawa also posted a 2:06.9 to whoop everyone in Canet by over a full second. She seems capable of a big swim in Budapest– considering Hentke’s inconsistencies when swimming for medals at major meets, Hasegawa has a great shot at silver.

British qualifiers Charlotte Atkinson and Alys Thomas have been 2:07’s this year, with Atkinson’s 2:07.06 ranking her 6th in the world this year. Meanwhile, Hungary’s Liliana Szilagyi and South Korean’s An Sehyeon are both at 2:07.5’s. Szilagyi has an edge, swimming at home, and that could be amplified if the Hungarian team shows up with big performances right off the bat at this meet. Katinka Hosszu may not swim this event (she scratched it at the Olympics), but she is medal-worthy material if she executes it right.

The Americans are led by Hali Flickinger in one of their weakest events. Flickinger touched 7th in the Rio final, though her fastest race came during prelims (2:06.67). She actually got several tenths slower with each swim in Rio, but swam very controlled races in Indy this summer and looks like a pro in this race. The top 10-12 swimmers in this race are stacked up with very similar times, and Flickinger might be able to edge ahead of a bunch of them with a smart race if she makes the final. Meanwhile, first-time international roster member Dakota Luther was a surprise 2nd place finisher in Indy– she’ll need to keep riding the improvement curve into Budapest, though, to final.

Ultimately, this event is not the deepest on the schedule, and we think Belmonte (who has been unusually healthy since Rio) has every chance to repeat.

1 Mireia Belmonte Spain 2:04.85 2:05.0
2 Suzuka Hasegawa Japan 2:06.29 2:05.5
3 Franziska Hentke Germany 2:06.18 2:06.3
4 Katinka Hosszu Hungary 2:08.05 2:06.3
5 Zhou Yilin China 2:06.52 2:06.6
6 Hiroko Makino Japan 2:06.92 2:06.8
7 Hali Flickinger USA 2:06.67 2:06.9
8 Yufei Zhang China 2:06.95 2:07.5

Dark horse: Svetlana Chimrova of Russia. She was 2:07.67 in Monaco. Russia’s not known for their female 200 flyers, but Chimrova’s ranked 12th in the world right now.

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5 years ago

Hali F. says she’s been waiting for a big breakthrough for a couple years.

This might be her chance, with some of the Olympic medalists from last year not competing.

5 years ago

Up against a field that appears distinctly shallow in quality; on paper Belmonte should have this comfortably but will her schedule bring her back to the field ?

Am thinking Hakegawa & Yilin look the most likely other medallists but if this is a slow race then those from the ruck of 2.07s who can lift on the night may enter the equation.

Hosszu … unlikely to swim this one. McKeon intimated at AUS Trials that she was never going to race this one given she also has a heavy schedule and this would be by far her lesser event.

Reply to  commonwombat
5 years ago

I think Katinka will swim it. She will scratch only from the 200free semis(or not). Medal chance.

5 years ago

Wondering how long this WR is going to last

Reply to  swimmer
5 years ago

For the foreseeable future.

5 years ago

If Mireia doesn’t change her timetable, I’ll predict:

1. Hasegawa
2. Belmonte Garcia
3. Yilin

5 years ago

I really hope Mireia wins this one, but I’m afraid her schedule will cost her the gold. And I really doubt Hentke will go 2:06.3 as she always delivers poorly on world stage.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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