MEN’S 50 FLY
- 2015 World Champion: Florent Manaudou (FRA), 22.97
- World Record: Rafael Munoz Perez (ESP), 22.43 | 04/05/2009
Three men have broken 23 seconds this year in the 50 fly. Two are Brazilian– world leader Nicholas Santos (22.61) and #3 Henrique Martins (22.98). Sandwiched in between is GBR’s Benjamin Proud at 22.80. With the kind of talent outside of these three names, there will probably be several other men charging past the 23-second threshold, potentially making this a much faster final than the last World Championships.
In fact, 2015 was the first year since 2009 that someone in the 50 fly final broke 23 seconds, as Florent Manaudou of France just got under at 22.97. We’ve already seen three men go 22’s this season, however, with Santos getting all the way down to 22.6. There’s more to come, though, with the stacked field in this event.
Joseph Schooling returns after winning Olympic gold in the 100 fly last summer in Rio, beating three of the most iconic butterfliers from this century. Schooling tore out to a big lead at the first 50, hitting the turn at 23.64 and holding on strong for the finish. He showed a lot of speed at NCAAs this spring with 18.3 free and 19.4 fly relay splits and a 3rd place finish in the individual 50 free. What was once Schooling-Conger is now Schooling-Dressel, as Caeleb Dressel has become America’s answer to Schooling in lieu of Phelps’s retirement. Schooling has taken the sprint butterfly throne, but his Bolles club teammate from back in the day was also made for sprinting, and he’s never looked this good. Dressel, of course, beat Schooling in the 100 fly at NCAAs and threw down a huge PB to win U.S. Trials, and as good as he is in the 100, he’s just as good (if not better) across 50 meters.
Dressel (23.05) and Schooling (23.25) do not come in with the most impressive seed times, but 1) Dressel is new to this event on the international stage (and has not raced many 50 meter butterflies in his life compared to his other events) and 2) Schooling’s time is from 2015 before he became Olympic champion. To count either of them out would be silly, as they should be vying for podium finishes. More importantly, and thinking about the long run, these are two young, big-name swimmers with amazing sprint capabilities. Their clashes this summer will be the start of a fantastic rivalry that could dominate the sport in the future much like Lochte-Phelps most recently did (though we’re not there, yet).
Of course, the young guns have to get past a lot of experienced sprinters. Five men return from the 2015 final. Other than Santos, the silver medalist in Kazan, Andrii Govorov (Ukraine), Laszlo Cseh (Hungary), Konrad Czerniak (Poland) and Proud were all in that final. Of those four, Cseh is the least well-known for his sprinting, yet he beat all of them besides Santos and scored the bronze in Kazan. They’ve all been around for awhile, save for Proud, who is GBR’s best pure 50 sprinter right now. Proud erupted for lifetime bests 21.32 (free) and 22.80 (fly) this spring, and he has that rising star momentum much like Dressel and Schooling.
With all of these swimmers either right under 23 or pushing for that drop, it’s going to be about who has that lucky touch for a lot of these spots in the final. A 50 meter race is about having everything go right– there isn’t nearly enough time to make adjustments or “put on the jets” at the finish with a race this quick (I suppose a certain 2016 Olympic 50 free champion or 100 breast champion might argue with the ‘finishing the race’ part), and considering the wealth of swimmers capable of 23-lows, it’ll be very tough to push ahead to make top 8.
|PLACE||SWIMMER||COUNTRY||BEST TIME SINCE RIO||PREDICTED TIME|
Dark horse: Li Zhuhao of China. He’s only 18, and the WJR holder in the 100 and 200 fly. Whether or not his front-end speed will be there in Budapest is unclear, but he’s been 23.36 which ranks him 9th in the world this year.