2017 Worlds Preview: Peaty, Then Parity, in the Men’s 50 Breaststroke

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


Men’s 50m Breaststroke

  • World Record: 26.42, Adam Peaty (GBR), 2015
  • World Championship Record: 26.42, Adam Peaty (GBR), 2015
  • 2016 Olympic Champion: NA
  • Defending World Champion: Adam Peaty (GBR), 26.51

We’ll ruin the suspense for you out of the gate: we’re picking Adam Peaty to win this race, and when filling out your Pick ‘Em, so should you. Nobody else in the world is even close to him. While a group of breaststrokers from around the world have made sub-27s a regular thing, they’re still all 4-tenths away from the Dynamo from Derby – which is a huge gap over 50 meters. This race falls into the category of “nobody beats Adam Peaty unless Adam Peaty beats himself.” And it would have to be bad. An off swim wouldn’t do it. A short finish wouldn’t do it. He’ll probably have to slip on the start or injure himself before the race to lose.

He’s the fastest breaststroker on top of the water in the world – that part isn’t even close, and by improving his starts and pullouts, he’s furthered the already massive chasm between himself and the rest of the world. He followed his coach Mel Marshall to Loughborough after Rio, but nothing has changed – he’s already been 26.48 in the 50 breaststroke earlier this year, just a few hundredths from his World Record.

While breaststroke is a more incremental stroke than most (the cycle changes the improvement patterns), we’d expect a World Record – maybe in an early round.

While the win is a near-certainty, the battle for the silver and bronze medals becomes incredibly interesting. There are 6 swimmers who have been between 26.83 and 27.00 in the event so far in 2017.

The world top 7 in 2017:

2016-2017 LCM Men 50 Breast

View Top 26»

Brazil has had a resurgence of some of their veteran swimmers this year across all strokes, but definitely in this 50 breaststroke. Joao Gomes Jr. and Felipe Lima are swimming as well as they ever have in the 50 breaststroke. South African Cameron van der Burgh is pushing 30 as well, and he’s the second-fastest ever in the history of the event. At 29, though, it seems unlikely that he’s going to drop back down to Peaty’s level, but South African sprinters have historically aged well, so it may be possible. He’s medaled at each of the last 5 World Championships in this event, going back to 2007, so he’s got the history – but eventually, all streaks must end.

At the other end of the spectrum are the upstarts and the unknowns. The youngest among them is Italy’s newest World Junior Record holder Nicolo Martinenghi, who is the European Junior Champion in the event. Given the multi-level taper he’s done already this year (Euro Juniors, Italian Nationals) and the upcoming World Juniors, where he’s eligible to swim as well, it’s easy to see him not being at his best in Budapest. His 50 should hold together better than his 100 though, and younger swimmers are better able to physically recover, so he has that working in his favor. We see him out of the final, though – not because he’s not capable, but just the nature of his summer. His countrymate Fabio Scozzoli was the 2011 World Champion in the event, but he hasn’t been able to chase the times as they’ve gone under 27 seconds – his best is 27.1, and this year he’s only been 27.3.

Also on the unknown, upstart side of the coin is Belarusian Ilya Shymanovich. At 23, he’s not as young as the junior Martinenghi, but he’s had a breakout year none-the-less. In 2017, he’s gone his 7 personal best times in the 50 breaststroke, improving from a 27.64 last May to a 26.96. His 100 has seen a similar improvement this season, though not quite to the same degree as the 50. More significantly for this race, he seems to have pulled well off the 200 breaststroke in 2017 and is focusing more on the sprints. Shymanovich will be one of the new names for even year-round swim fans to familiarize themselves with next week, and we think he’ll be one of the surprise podium finishers in Budapest.

Lying squarely in between those groups is American Kevin Cordes. At 23, he’s already got an Olympic (relay) gold medal under his belt, plus 4 medals from the 2015 World Championships. He also competed at the 2013 World Championships and 2014 Pan Am Championships, so he’s definitely not a newcomer.

But he’s also had trouble fulfilling his short course potential in the long course pool. In yards, he took the breaststroke races to heights that once seemed mere mythical. He’s been good for the Americans (he won two individual medals at Worlds in 2015 – in the 50 and 200), but Peaty has taken the “did you just see that?” breaststroke torch in the long course pool. Cordes is still young though, just entering his prime, and he seems to get better, and more confident, at every meet.

Cody Miller is the wildcard here. His 27.24 from Trials won’t be enough to final in Budapest, and he was actually only 3rd in the 50 – Andrew Wilson, who was 2nd, didn’t make the team, and so Miller gets the spot behind Cordes as the other 100 breaststroke entrant. But Miller showed some guts last year at the Olympics, when he got a bronze in the 100. He’s never shown the pure power and churn that it takes to medal in this 50 (against specialists, like the Brazilians, who are treating this as a primary event. He’s got the class to be in a final, though.

In the end, this is a really tough one. This will be a separation event in our Pick ‘Em contest – we expect wildly different choices, and an unpredictable outcome. We’ve got justification for our choices, but really, after Peaty, you could throw any number of a few guys at the wall, and whatever sticks is as likely as anything else.

Right now, none of the Japanese swimmers appear to have the quality to get into the final. As good as Japan has been historically in the breaststrokes, it’s never translated down to the 50 – they’ve had only 2 finalists in the 7 editions of the World Championships that have held the 50 breaststroke. China (and the rest of Asia combined) have had none.

Adam Peaty – 2016 Olympic Games in Rio -courtesy of simone castrovillari


1 Adam Peaty Great Britain 26.48 26.38
2 Ilya Shymanovich Belarus 26.96 26.7
3 Kevin Cordes United States 26.88 26.7
4 Cameron van der Burgh South Africa 26.96 26.7
5 Joao Gomes Brazil 26.83 26.8
6 Cody Miller United States 27.24 26.9
7 Felipe Lima Brazil 27 26.9
8 Kiril Prigoda Russia 27.12 27

Darkhorse: Sweden’s Johannes Skagius was once the ‘next big thing’ in Swedish men’s swimming. After 2013, however, he plateaued a little bit, and didn’t improve in either the 50 or 100 breaststroke. This year, he’s begun trending back toward lifetime bests, and has hit a new PB in the 100 (1:00.66). His 50 hasn’t been as good as his 100 so far, but if he can put together a good start, he’s got a shot of joining the sub-27 group.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Frank the tank
5 years ago

Fabio Scozzoli was the 2011 runner-up. Felipe França of Brazil won that year.

5 years ago


5 years ago

Martinenghi will be there for a medal.

5 years ago

Cordes for silver – the guy is on fire and will do something special next week .

5 years ago

Sorry Braden, but I think you’re very mistaken if you think Peaty’s only gonna go a 26.38. He was a 26.69 in the first split of his 100 in Rio, and hasn’t done a fully tapered international 50 in a long while (likely since Kazan 2015 when he went the 26.42). That record will get demolished, I’m predicting 26.19

Reply to  MegaSwimmer999
5 years ago

The 26.69 50m mark split was in the heats. In finals he was out in 26.61 so we might see a 26.0 *gasp*

Reply to  MegaSwimmer999
5 years ago

Alas, he has even beaten MY prediction by .09 in the HEATS

5 years ago

I don’t think we will see huge times (close to sub 26 or sub 57) this year for Peaty. He’s got this in the bag. I hope he has a multi year plan building to Rio

Reply to  Pvdh
5 years ago


5 years ago

Same 3 as two years ago I think

5 years ago

1. Peaty 26.3 (Goes 26.2 in one of the rounds, maybe even final)
2&3. 26.7-26.8 VDB or Cordes

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

Read More »