2017 Worlds Preview: Iron Lady Seeks Home Gold in 200 Back

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


  • 2015 World Champion: Emily Seebohm (AUS), 2:05.81
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: Maya Dirado (USA), 2:05.99
  • World Record Holder: Missy Franklin (USA), 2:04.06

Emily Seebohm (photo: Mike Lewis)

What Maya Dirado did last summer was not expected. Katinka Hosszu had already raced her way to two gold medals in the IM’s and a gold in the 100 back, and was looking dangerous for a huge swim in the 200 back. Missy Franklin had missed the final, as had Australian Emily Seebohm. It was a wacky final, but up until the last turn, Hosszu looked to have her fourth gold in the bag. Dirado, in her last swim on the big stage, commanded the world’s attention, going a lifetime best 2:05.99 capitalized by a wild finish at the wall. She had sunk the Iron Lady.

Dirado has since retired, and Franklin didn’t even swim the U.S. Trials, as she’s taking indefinite time off from the sport competitively. While Hosszu does look like a favorite for gold, she’ll be kept on her toes by another American: Kathleen Baker. Baker was the silver medalist in the 100 back last summer, and after her performances at the 2017 NCAA Championships and the 2017 U.S. Trials, she has claimed the U.S. backstroke throne for her own. Her 2:06.38 from Indy leads all competitors in the 2017 world rankings, and it marks a huge best time for her. She’s proven that her endurance is there, and she’s someone who will take out the race hard, which will be new for Hosszu.

Both women will have to watch out for Seebohm, though. We can’t forget how good she was at the 2015 World Championships (58.2/2:05.8), and while she certainly underperformed in Rio, she has looked fantastic this year. Her 2:06.66 from Canet is the only sub-2:07 done this year besides Baker’s, and a strategic swim from Seebohm could have her pulling a Dirado on Hosszu and Baker.

Kylie Masse (by Chris Tanouye)

The podium is definitely not set in stone, however. Canadians Kylie Masse and Hilary Caldwell, along with Russian Daria Ustinova, are all on the brink of crashing through the 2:07 barrier. Masse, like Baker, is known better for her 100 speed, while Caldwell and Ustinova are stronger in the 200. Masse, though, has been on fire this year, swimming very fast again last weekend, and should be right up with them if not challenging for a medal.

Germany’s Lisa Graf is the last two woman under 2:08 this year. Graf was one of just four women selected to represent Germany, making it through their very stringent qualification procedure. Graf was 13th in Rio last year, missing out on the final, but her 2:07.63 is almost two seconds better than what she went last summer– she should have a great top 8 shot in Budapest.

Another Hungarian, Katalin Burian, will be racing for a top 8 spot in Budapest. Depending on how the home team swims later this month, Burian could ride the momentum and really impress. She’s been 2:08.38 this year, done at the 2017 Budapest Open, and the 22-year-old is ranked 7th in the world this year, right ahead of Regan Smith. Smith is a newcomer to a major senior international summer championships– Burian swam the 200 back in Kazan at 2015 Worlds. Both are riding lifetime bests into Budapest, but Smith might have the most upside. Still just 15 years old, her improvement curve is wildly unpredictable, and we could see her anywhere from contending for a minor medal to missing out on the final altogether.

1 Katinka Hosszu Hungary 2:06.03 2:05.7
2 Emily Seebohm Australia 2:06.59 2:05.8
3 Kathleen Baker USA 2:06.38 2:06.1
4 Kylie Masse Canada 2:07.23 2:06.8
5 Hilary Caldwell Canada 2:07.17 2:07.1
6 Daria Ustinova Russia 2:06.92 2:07.2
7 Lisa Graf Germany 2:07.63 2:08.0
8 Regan Smith USA 2:08.55 2:08.1

Dark horse: Kaylee McKeown of Australia. Like Smith, she’s very young, and hard to predict. Her 2:08.98 from Aussie Trials earned her a spot to compete in Budapest, and she’ll be working to uphold her country’s strong tradition in women’s backstroke.

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5 years ago

1. Hosszu (2.05.7)
2. Masse (2.06.1)
3. Seebohm (2.06.1)
4. Caldwell (2.06.9)
5. Baker (2.06.9)

I think so long as these Canadian women gain momentum like they did last summer, they have the ability to perform. Especially for the returning older girls on the team who have maintained performing through the post Olympic year.

As for the Aussies who always tend to perform in the Worlds more than the Olympics I think Seebohm will definitely do better than in Rio.

Hosszu is just a beast so I don’t think anyone can stop her at this moment in time, but I say give Kylie another year and she will be right up there. Especially in the 100.

5 years ago

The best times do not correlate to the TYR Rankings especially for Hosszu.


5 years ago

The women’s 200m backstroke competition commences on Day 6 of the competition.


Hosszu will be worn out by then.

Reply to  Baker-King-Vollmer-Manuel
5 years ago

Day 6 heats and semis, Day 7 the final. It’s enough for her.

5 years ago

I can’t see anyone beating Seebohm

5 years ago

Kylie. Masse.

5 years ago

This race will not be about times I think. Gonna be pretty close between at least 4-5 lanes, so being a good racer will be very important. The only thing I think is fairly given is that Hosszu medals because of her stability. She will be there, and the question becomes who the other girls are.

5 years ago

It wasn’t DiRado who sank Hosszu in Rio, it was herself by that stupid and unnecessary 4*200 relay. Not had been dying over the last 20 meters, that would have been a 2:05.7 or .8
Fully agree with the comment above that she should focus on IMs and 200 back (maybe 200 fly).
I would give the other sub 2:06 credit to Seebohm.

Reply to  Riez
5 years ago

Very much agree re Hosszu torpedoeing her Rio gold chances by swimming the 4X200.

Disagree, however, re Seebohm. I think too many people’s image of her is still stuck in 2015 mode. Whilst she is certainly much healthier this year than last, she is in no way nearing her 2015 levels of performances. Remember she has only ever broken 2.06 once (just) and that was at her absolute peak. 2.06s … maybe but I suspect she is past her peak and this may be the last time we see her at World level,

Jim C
Reply to  Riez
5 years ago

Why blame Hosszu’s 200m free relay swims two days earlier? What about her pair of 2:06.0x s in the heats and the semis just one day earlier. DiRado qualified third in both the heats and the semis with 2:08.40 and 2:07.53.

Reply to  Jim C
5 years ago

Right and e.g. the OR in the heats of 200 IM etc. Katinka swims all of her races at 99-100 percent, when 90 would be enough.

phelps swims 200 breast rio
5 years ago

Baker wins 2:06.0

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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