2017 Worlds Preview: Masse, Baker Rise To The Top In Women’s 100 Back

2017 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

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

The crown in the women’s 100 back has proved to be one of the most difficult to maintain. The last seven World Championships have garnered seven different winners, and there’s a good chance it reaches eight in Budapest.

Other than Americans Natalie Coughlin and Missy Franklin, no one has been able to stay on top for more than one year.

After the 2015 World Championships Australian Emily Seebohm was the clear favorite for gold in 2016. She looked unstoppable in winning both the 100 and 200 titles, but that wasn’t the case in Rio.

IM superstar Katinka Hosszu was the one who put it all together come the Olympic final, winning gold in 58.45. It wasn’t a massive surprise, given she had gone 58.78 in prelims in Kazan, but opted to scratch. That could very well happen again, as the 100 back semis and the 200 IM final are only separated by two heats of the men’s 200 free. Considering how close Siobhan-Marie O’Connor got to Hosszu in the IM final in Rio, and how stacked the lineup is in the 100 back, it wouldn’t be a surprise to her scratch. However, if she rolls the dice and swims both, she’s a real player for gold once again. She’s only ranked 15th in the world this year, but hasn’t had a reason to taper.

Hosszu won the gold last year by a clear margin, but behind her it was insanely close. 2nd through 5th place were separated by five one-hundredths, including a tie for the bronze medal.

The three other medalists, Kathleen BakerKylie Masse and Fu Yuanhui, have all been faster this year than they were in Rio, with Masse leading the way.

Heading into 2015 with a personal best of 1:02.7, the Canadian saw incredible improvement to go 59.9 and win gold at the FISU Games. Three 58-second swims in Rio cemented her as a legit top contender, and her rapid improvement hasn’t stopped. Her three fastest swims have come this year, including a 58.21 in April that stands up as the third fastest in history. She’s now the favorite, and has put the eight-year, super-suited world record of Gemma Spofforth in serious, serious jeopardy.

Speaking to the media from the Canadian training camp in Italy on Thursday, teammate Hilary Caldwell raved about Masse’s ability to shut out outside expectations and not get stressed prior to racing. She wasn’t overwhelmed in Rio, she won’t be in Kazan. The 58-second barrier could very well go.

After Coughlin and Franklin, Baker has picked up the mantle as the next great American backstroker. She got some experience on the big stage in 2015, making it into the World final, and then looked comfortable as ever on the biggest stage to win that silver in Rio. And like Masse, she keeps on improving.

An explosive NCAA performance saw her go 3-for-3 in individual events, and she carried that momentum to World Trials, winning both the 100 and 200 back, both PBs. That’s an another thing we’ve seen from both Baker and Masse. Their ability in the 200 has come a long way since Rio, and they’re now premier medal contenders in that event as well, not to mention the 50. The two will be going head-to-head for years to come, but at least in the 100, Masse has the edge this year.

China’s Fu went viral in Rio with her hilarious reaction of tying for bronze in the 100 back, initially believing she was 4th. She was 58.72 – 0.04 faster than Rio – at Chinese Nationals to sit 4th in the world. As the defending champion in the 50 back she’s got a ton of early speed, and will challenge to move up a step on the podium if she utilizes it.

Her countrywoman Chen Jie also figures to be in the final after three consecutive years under a minute. This year she’s been her fastest ever – 59.43 – sitting in a tie for 8th in the world.

Just outside of the medals in that 5th place position was Denmark’s Mie Nielsen, who has now been sub-59 five times in the last two years. However, the 2015 bronze medalist has dropped the World Championships, citing a lack of motivation since Rio and not mentally ready to compete at the highest level.

After going on an absolute tear in 2015, the 7th place finish in Rio was definitely a tough one for Emily Seebohm to swallow. She has said it’s made her more motivated, and she’s certainly capable of winning it all in Budapest. She sits 3rd in the world at 58.62, which to be fair is similar to where she was heading into Rio, but with a “hard lesson” learned there the defending champion should be on her game in a less pressure-packed environment.

Joining Baker for the Americans in this event is Olivia Smoliga, who was the sixth woman sub-59 in the Rio final in 58.95. Smoliga is known as a speedster, winning a pair of NCAA titles in the sprint freestyle events in 2016. However, Smoliga was actually the slowest of the eight finalists going out in Rio, and came back better than everyone other than Hosszu. The ex-Georgia Bulldog was 2nd to Baker at U.S. Trials in 59.17, and is poised to dip below the 59-second barrier once again in Budapest. If she can utilize a bit more speed opening up, she could sneak in for a medal.

The eighth finalist in Rio was Madison Wilson, who won silver behind fellow Aussie Seebohm in Kazan. However, she missed the team in this event, and the second Australian spot was taken by Holly Barratt. At 29, Barratt became the oldest rookie ever for the Australian team when she took 2nd to Seebohm at Aussie Trials in 59.66. She wasn’t far off that mark recently at the Sette Colli Trophy in 59.89, so she’ll be a threat to final at her first World Championships.

Veteran Georgia Davies failed to make the 100 back final last year in Rio, but impressively came back with the two fastest swims of her life to lead the British women into the final of the medley relay. She further improved that best by one one-hundredth down to 59.34 at British Trials, stating after the race: “I can’t retire when I still love what I do and I’m still improving”Though a medal seems out of reach, she’s on track to move up from last year and be a finalist.

Other potential finalists include Russians Anastasia Fesikova and Daria Ustinova, Great Britain’s Kathleen Dawson, and the Ukraine’s Daryna Zevina. All four were under a minute last year, but have yet to do it in 2017.

TOP 8 PREDICTIONS

SWIMMER COUNTRY SEASON BEST PREDICTED TIME
1 Kylie Masse Canada 58.21 58.0 WR
2 Kathleen Baker United States 58.57 58.3
3 Emily Seebohm Australia 58.62 58.5
4 Fu Yuanhui China 58.72 58.6
5 Olivia Smoliga United States 59.17 58.8
6 Georgia Davies Great Britain 59.34 59.2
7 Chen Jie China 59.43 59.5
8  Holly Barratt Australia 59.66 59.5

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ERVINFORTHEWIN
5 years ago

Masse and Baker to light up the final

commonwombat
5 years ago

People are talking WRs; they may or may not happen ….. WRs are contrary things and happen “when they happen rather than as part of some linear pattern.

It was disclosed later that Seebohm’s 2016 was compromised by a diagnosis of endometriosis which explained her being off her peak times through the yea….. but not necessarily some “scrambled” racing in Rio itself. Her health appears to be settled down this year and she has probably been racing the most consistently of the lead Australians in 2017 albeit NOT to her 2015 level. She MAY be a medal factor over the next couple of weeks but I suspect her peak “window of opportunity” has passed and this may be her last… Read more »

Brownish
Reply to  commonwombat
5 years ago

CW, Hosszu is a XX factor 🙂

KRB
5 years ago

I don’t think Hosszu will scratch, so if she swims, my predictions are:

1. Masse
2. Seebohm
3. Hosszu

Hswimmer
Reply to  KRB
5 years ago

Really, no baker?? She’s been working on her back half all year and has improved loads on her 200. I think Baker could win or at least second with a 58.3

KRB
Reply to  Hswimmer
5 years ago

I think Baker will swim 58.4-58.5, but I don’t think think it will be enough to beat Masse, Seebohm or Hosszu. If Hosszu scratches, I have Baker in 3rd.

I think Seebohm will be seeking redemption for her performances in Rio, and will be much stronger in Budapest.

Brownish
Reply to  KRB
5 years ago

Katinka will swim it.

commonwombat
Reply to  KRB
5 years ago

Disagree re Seebohm, she’s unlikely to be sub 58.5. If the medals are swum at 58.mid then she can most certainly be a factor but she’s only ever been down in the 58lows when she’s been on peak form and there has been nothing this year to suggest that. She certainly should be better than in Rio but she’s probably past her peak years.

ERVINFORTHEWIN
Reply to  KRB
5 years ago

Baker comes at least in second ……at least

Swammerjammer
5 years ago

Go Team USA!

E Gamble
5 years ago

Baker will find a way to get her hand on the wall first. She’s a total stud muffin. ?

S L
5 years ago

1. Masse (WR in the semi)
2. Fu
3. Baker

Dee
5 years ago

I’m going to say… No WR in the final, things tend to get a bit edgy in a stacked final… If it comes, more likely in a semi, or even heat for me… Not convinced it will come either way.

1. Kylie Masse
2. Kathleen Baker
3. Emily Seebohm

Riez
5 years ago

You can be sure that Hosszu won’t scratch it now. Would be weird from the Olymic champion. Also, her aim is not two golds on home soil.

AvidSwimFan
Reply to  Riez
5 years ago

I can see why she would. She is the Olympic champion in both the 100 back and the 200IM. She does have a clearer shot at the 200IM as the current IM queen, even though there’s O’Connor nipping at her heels. In the 100back, Masse and Baker are bigger favorites. I say she will do as she did in Kazan and Rio, swim all her heats and see if the other competitors are in tip top shape at the meet. If Masse, Baker, Seebohm, Fu, etc have the hot hand on the 100 back with O’Connor, Margalis, Pickrem also too close for comfort, I think she will likely scratch the 100 back, and instead give the home audience a show.

Prickle
Reply to  AvidSwimFan
5 years ago

I think Hosszu will swim prelim 100 back to check if her semi-final at this event can cause problems to 200IM final in the evening. If getting #8 at 100BK semi is not a big deal and if 200IM semi swum day before didn’t indicate the possibility of strong competition she will go with this double: 100BK semi-200IM final. She will go despite these two events are separated by two M200FR semis only. I think she will even go with the double 100BK final – 200FR semi next day. Why not to try unless there are some worries that such total load will get to her at the end of competition. Doubles by themselves are not that terrible and she… Read more »

Brownish
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

She will swim the the backs and perhaps all the others.

Prickle
Reply to  Brownish
5 years ago

…. and even more.
She with her husband are calculated people. I don’t believe in their Hungarian pride. They will do nothing and will sacrifice nothing that can hurt their family business. She won’t swim 100bk just for the sake of sport competition. If there is nothing to profit of she will scratch this event.

Prickle
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

Just recently I saw the footage with Krisztina Egerszegi standing on the top of podium and covering her face from cameras with Hungarian National flag. She symbolized this way that her gold medal is the medal of her country. For me it is too much of patriotism, but I would like to see Hosszu doing the same thing.

Brownish
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

Then (Seoul) and now at the Opening Ceremony.
IMG_0300.JPG

Brownish
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

Up to you. But she will swim it. It’s the very beginning of the week.

Riez
Reply to  AvidSwimFan
5 years ago

I don’t think so that comfort plays any role in here schedule. She wants to grab the possible most golds, that’s the show the home audience wants to see. My guess is that she betters her 200IM WR on day #1 in the semi final, and on the next day makes the final in 100 back in the 5-8th place, then still can manage to collect the gold in 200IM with whatever time is needed to get it.

Prickle
Reply to  Riez
5 years ago

Since my high school years I firmly believe in conservation laws and in conservation energy in particular. It states BTW that perpetual motion is impossible. If Hosszu is going to break this law as well and win 6 gold medals then I will join Federica Pellegrini’s suggestion that KH is in fact from Mars.
She probably needs to slow down a little bit so there would be no questions about such unbelievable fit at age 28 when her pre-25 profile looks nothing like that.

Riez
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

200 free is not in the picture, but anything is possible in between two and five (golds). I don’t question her origin 🙂 since Windsor last December.
Back to the topic: all the big names were in the pool in Rio as well, where Seebohm turned first and Hosszu sixth.

Brownish
Reply to  Prickle
5 years ago

Not so much tsense to believe in the jealous Craig.

Riez
Reply to  Brownish
5 years ago

Exactly. I had to drink a beer to cool down after reading that stupid novel. 🙂

Brownish
Reply to  Riez
5 years ago

He is “little bit” woody. Other. You are on the FB of MUSZ and/or Katinka. I grab the opportunity, you are kindly invited to the forum.index.hu (úszás). Wait you there too.

Riez
Reply to  Brownish
5 years ago

Thanks 🙂 I follow swimming everywhere I can, on FB only Hosszu, Kapas and Sjostrom.
Same like Craig, I only post for myself 😀
https://www.facebook.com/bruce.riez/posts/1477498468976570

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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