2017 FINA World Championships
Hungary’s defending World Champion Laszlo Cseh seeks to keep the host nation on top of the podium in front of the home crowd at the 2017 FINA World Championships, but we could see a new Hungarian with a gold medal around his neck. Though Kristof Milak is the fastest Hungarian this season, it’ll be Cseh and Olympic bronze medalist Tamas Kenderesi (1:54.33) representing their country in Budapest in this race. Kenderesi swam his personal best 1:53.62 in the Rio final as he ran down the field to land a spot on the podium. He’s been within a second of that this season despite battling a virus during his rest meet (Hungarian Nationals). Cseh, on the other hand, took a long break after Rio and doesn’t look like a lock for the podium with his season best 1:56.08. He got significantly faster as he got back into the swing of things throughout this season, so he should make a big drop from his season best and at least make it to the final.
The biggest obstacles for the Hungarians as they try to snag gold at home are Japan’s Masato Sakai and South Africa’s Chad Le Clos. 2012 Olympic gold medalist Le Clos missed the podium last summer with a 4th place finish and wasn’t able to break the 1:54-barrier, but he’s definitely in the gold medal conversation with a 1:52.96 lifetime best and a 1:53-mid on his resume from the 2015 World Championships. Like Kenderesi, Sakai used his back half speed to power to a personal best 1:53.40, taking silver and nearly running down Michael Phelps for gold. Sakai is the fastest man in the world this season, and the only swimmer to break 1:54 with his 1:53.79 from the Japan Swim. Teammate Daiya Seto is also a likely finalist and a medal contender, as he’s already been as fast as 1:54.28 this season, missing his best time by just 2 tenths.
The Americans may also see 2 of their swimmers in the final, as Jack Conger (1:54.48) and Pace Clark (1:54.58) turned in a pair of lifetime best 1:54-mids last month. While some swimmers have the luxury of not needing a full taper to qualify for Worlds, this was one of the more competitive events at U.S. Trials, so Conger and Clark probably needed a full taper for that meet. They’ll need to maintain their Trials times or make some adjustments to get a little faster to land 2 in the final for the USA, but since it’s the first World Championships meet for both of them, it’s hard to predict how much they’ll improve with 2 taper meets so close together. Some may argue that the NCAA format gives them the experience of resting for conference and then NCAAs shortly after, but neither really had to rest for conference as they’d already qualified for NCAAs, so this is a little bit different. In his post-race interview, Conger expressed that his time was a little slow and he believes there’s a lot more to come at Worlds. With the confidence he’s built after winning his first individual NCAA title and winning this race at U.S. Nationals, we could see a statement swim from him in Budapest.
China’s Li Zhuhao (1:55.08) has great momentum in this event after smashing the Junior World Record with a 1:55.09 at 2017 Chinese Nationals, and could bring that record down into the 1:54-range to make the final. Other frontrunners for a finals spot to keep an eye on are Italy’s Giacomo Carini (1:55.40), Australia’s David Morgan (1:55.70), Poland’s Jan Switkowski (1:55.94), and Brazil’s Leonardo De Deus (1:54.91). Rio finalists Viktor Bromer (1:56.47) of Denmark and Louis Croenen of Belgium will also be in the mix.
TOP 8 PREDICTIONS:
|Place||Swimmer||Country||Season Best||Predicted Time|
|3||Chad Le Clos||RSA||1:54.87||1:53.8|
DARKHORSE: Singapore’s Joseph Schooling swapped out this event for the 100 free last summer in Rio, so we didn’t get a chance to see what he could do in the 200 fly at his peak. His lifetime best is a 1:55.73 from 2015 SEA Games, but he’s already been within tenths of that with his season best time of 1:56.45. With the improvement he showed in 2016, it’s not inconceivable to think he’ll be at least 1:55-low to 1:55-mid.