WOMEN’S 200 FREESTYLE
- 2015 Worlds Champ: Katie Ledecky (USA), 1:55.16
- 2016 Olympic Champ: Katie Ledecky (USA), 1:53.73
- World Record: 1:52.98 | Federica Pellegrini (Italy) | 07/28/09
With Sarah Sjöström out of the picture to focus on her sprints, Katie Ledecky has a much clearer path to gold than she did last year. It was a battle of titans in Rio between the Swede and the American, with Ledecky fighting off a late charge to hold on for the gold. Now, it’s not looking very likely that Ledecky will have quite as tough an opponent as Sjöström later this month in Budapest.
If anyone is going to push back, however, it’ll be Federica Pellegrini or Emma McKeon (or both). Pellegrini, the world record holder, has medalled in this race countless times. Pit her experience against McKeon, a younger (though not Ledecky-young) Australian competitor who beat the Italian Pellegrini in Rio, and you have an interesting dynamic between experience and fresh talent. The 200 free is not a race to be swum without strategy– McKeon likes to take it out fast, and she was out ahead of both Sjöström and Ledecky at the 100 mark in Rio. Pellegrini and Ledecky are better closers, though Ledecky obviously puts it all together the best.
McKeon (1:55.68) and Pellegrini (1:55.94) have swum similar times this season. The Australian came into Rio with a 1:54.8 from Aussie Trials, and earned the bronze in 1:54.9. Pellegrini came in with a season best 1:54.5, then fell six tenths to fourth in Rio. McKeon has to be favored to upgrade to a silver behind Ledecky this summer.
Another Swede, Michelle Coleman, posted a lifetime best 1:55.64 at the Stockholm Open this April. She is a very fast in-season swimmer, like Pellegrini– she was 1:55.8 in the months before Rio but was 7th (1:56.27) in Rio. If Coleman can match or improve upon her best in Budapest, she could catch Pellegrini off her game and sneak in for a medal.
Interestingly enough, Katinka Hosszu decided to enter this race after not swimming it in Rio. Hosszu is great in the 200 free, and her 1:55.41 PR from the Dubai World Cup stop in 2015 is a really strong time. She does have a heavy schedule, taking on the 200 fly, 200 back, 100 back, 200 IM, and 400 IM, but so does someone like Leah Smith. The American will race the 200 through 1500 free as well as the 400 IM, amassing 3300 meters of prelims swims only, excluding any relay swims. These women are tough enough to make the final, and Hosszu maybe a medal, but they will be feeling the load of their other events if they swim this final.
Ai Yanhan and Li Bingjie will lead the Chinese women, while Mary-Sophie Harvey will be one of the Canadian entrants in this event along with Katerine Savard. Ai and Li are both just 15, while Harvey is 17. Li is made more for the 400 free, where she’s a medal threat, but both Chinese women are very talented young prospects. Harvey will be more fun to watch in the 400 IM, but she continues to develop her mid-distance free, and this could become one of her strong points in a couple of years.
Japan’s Rikako Ikee would be another young name to watch, but FINA’s app doesn’t show her among the two entries for Japan into the event. Ikee was a 5-event national champion for Japan, and this event makes the most sense for her to drop, especially considering the big role she’ll have to play on most of her nation’s relays.
Meanwhile, Femke Heemskerk and Charlotte Bonnet are two big European names who will be hard to get past for the final. Bonnet (1:55.80) of France is one of a flurry of 1:55’s this season, with Heemskerk of the Netherlands not far back (1:56.28). Heemskerk faltered in Rio, missing the final, while Bonnet touched 8th. If they’re on form, though, they should find themselves racing in the final.
|PLACE||SWIMMER||COUNTRY||BEST TIME SINCE RIO||PREDICTED TIME IN BUDAPEST|
Dark Horse: Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey. She’s the 2nd-best LCM 200 freestyler currently in the NCAA (yes, Leah Smith is no longer a collegiate swimmer) behind Ledecky with her 1:56.91 PR from Rio. She’ll have to lop off at least five or six tenths, but a finals berth could be in store for her.