2017 Worlds Previews: Defending Champ Fu Fighting Challengers in 50 Bk

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


The world record in the women’s 50 back is one of six women’s records on the books from the 2009 supersuit era. China’s Zhao Jing went 27.06 at the 2009 World Championships just one year after then-15-year-old Australian Emily Seebohm became the first swimmer to break the 28-second barrier (27.95, sf, Australian Championships).

Fu Yuanhui, China. Photo: Tim Binning

This week, crowd (and internet) favorite Fu Yuanhui of China will swim to defend her world title and take down the 8-year-old world mark. She was 27.11 for the gold medal in Kazan, missing the record by just .05. Fu is the top seed in the race, having swam 27.36 at Chinese Championships in April. She is also just one year out from her Asian record-setting, Olympic bronze medal 58.76 100 back from Rio (but her reaction to the swim is what led to her 2016 Swammy Award for Viral Video of the Year).

Also returning to the world stage will be 2015 silver medalist and reigning short course world champion and short course world record holder Etiene Medeiros of Brazil. Medeiros was 27.26 for the silver medal in this event in Kazan. She went 25.82 (SCM) to take the title in December in Windsor (her 25.67 from the 2014 Doha World Championships is the short course world record.) Medeiros had a disappointing Rio last year,

Etiene Medeiros, Brazil. Photo: Satiro Sodré/SSPress

topping out at 8th in the 50 free, but Medeiros’s 50 back prowess makes the world championships the better event to showcase her talent.

Yuanhui’s teammate in the event, 19-year-old Rio Olympic semifinalist Wang Xueer, is the second-fastest swimmer in the world this year. Wang’s top time from the year is her second-place 27.55 from Chinese Championships.

2012’s double Olympic silver medalist in the 50 and 100 free Aliaksandra Herasimenia of Belarus is the second seed in the event this week. She is seeded into the 50 back with her 27.40 Belarusian record from April 2016, but her fastest time this year is a 27.67 from last month’s Mare Norstrum Monaco.

It would be an understatement to say that Holly Barratt has had an incredible year. The Aussie swimmer is on her first-ever world championships team at the age of 29. In April, Barratt snapped Seebohm’s 5-year winning streak in the 50 back, taking the Australian title in 27.57. After that performance, the fourth-fastest in the world this year, Barratt is a huge wild card going into Budapest.

Americans Hannah Stevens and Kathleen Baker are the sixth and eighth seeds, respectively, with their 27.63 and 27.69 from U.S. Nationals last month. Since the Americans hardly ever have the chance to swim the 50 back on a stage like this, either one could see even further improvement this week. Case in point- Stevens’s best time in the 50 back before Nats was 29.14, while Baker’s was 28.18.

Kylie Masse. Photo: Speedo Canada

Canadian Rio bronze medalist Kylie Masse is our pick to win the 100 back after putting up the third-fastest swim in history in April with 58.21. She is ranked further back in the 50, coming in seeded between the Americans with her 27.71 from Canadian Trials. But, if she’s at the top of her game (and we expect her to be), Masse could be a real 50 contender.

Veteran Georgia Davies of Great Britain was 27.69 at British Championships in April, putting her right even with Baker. Davies, at 26, is swimming her personal best times; she was 59.34 in the 100.

Emily Seebohm, Australia. Photo: Peter Sukenik

Emily Seebohm has been a staple of the world backstroke scene ever since finishing fourth in the 100 backstroke at the age of 14 at the Melbourne World Championships in 2007. She comes into the event seeded eleventh with her 27.72 from March. However, her 100 back is ranked third in the world right now, so we should expect to see her come up even faster.

Though unlikely to challenge for a medal, Dutch duo Maaike de Waard and Kira Toussaint have both been under 28 this year. Each put up a 27.96 at the Eindhoven Swim Cup in April. Simona Baumrtova (27.89, Sette Colli Trophy) and Anastasia Festikova (27.93, Russian Nationals), also have the potential to challenge for finals slots


1  Fu Yuanhui  China  27.36  27.0 WR
2 Etiene Medeiros  Brazil  27.62  27.3
3 Aliaksandra Herasimenia  Belarus  27.67 27.4
4 Kylie Masse  Canada  27.71  27.5
5 Wang Xueer  China  27.55  27.5
6  Kathleen Baker USA 27.69  27.5
7  Emily Seebohm  Australia  27.72  27.6
8  Holly Barratt  Australia  27.57  27.6

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Ex Quaker
5 years ago

I believe Medeiros and Herasimenia both have doping violations on record- could somebody confirm?

Reply to  Ex Quaker
5 years ago

Etiene had a TUE documentation problem but was cleared of any doping accusation. Don´t know about Herasimenia..

Reply to  Ex Quaker
5 years ago

Yes, Herasimenia tested positive in 2003 for norandrosterone and served a 2-year suspension.

Coach Mike 1952
5 years ago

Ms. Fu *might* even hit the cherished 26.9 range! Why not?

Hater of Swimvortex
5 years ago

Can’t wait to see Fu’s performance on the podium.

5 years ago

Fu Fighting


5 years ago

With the usual disclaimer re the unforgiving nature of 50’s, it is however difficult to look past Fu when discussing likely winners.

Minors, however, look a very open book and it will undoubtedly hinge around who is having a “hot” meet and who who isn’t out of both the 50 specialists (Medeiros/Herasimenia) and those coming down from longer distances (Masse, Baker). Of the two Australians, Barrett may actually be the more likely finalist.

About Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht

Hannah Hecht grew up in Kansas and spent most of her childhood trying to convince coaches to let her swim backstroke in freestyle sets. She took her passion to Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa and swam at NAIA Nationals all four years. After graduating in 2015, she moved to …

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