2017 FINA World Championships
As we head into the 2017 FINA World Championships in Budapest, China’s Sun Yang looks like the man to beat in the men’s 200 free. Yang, who won gold in this race at the 2016 Olympics, is the only man to have broken 1:45 so far this year with his 1:44.91 at the Chinese National Championships. He was also the only man to break that barrier in Rio last summer when he went his fastest time since 2013 with a 1:44.63 in the semis and nearly matched it with a 1:44.65 in the final.
This time around, however, we could see multiple men dip below 1:45. One of the first swimmers to come to mind is South Africa’s Chad Le Clos, who took silver in Rio. With his fly-and-die strategy, Le Clos has used his killer front half speed to produce a best time of 1:45.20, and he’s been getting better and better since he placed 6th in this race at 2015 Worlds. If he’s nailed his strategy or built up more endurance for that back half, he could be up there challenging Sun for gold, but he may still be toying with his race plan.
Another Olympic medalist will be in the mix, as Korea’s Park Tae-Hwan, returns to Worlds after missing the meet in 2015 due to the 18-month ban FINA imposed on him for a positive doping test. In November, he threw down a 1:45.16 at the Asian Games, marking his fastest performance since 2012. Park had a disappointing performance at the Rio Olympics, which came shortly after his suspension ended. Now that he’s fully back into the swing of things, another medal could be in the cards for him.
Up-and-comer Townley Haas (USA) and defending World Champion James Guy (GBR) are also among the medal favorites here. Haas is the 2nd fastest performer in the world this year after throwing down a personal best 1:45.03 for a dominant victory at U.S. Nationals. Guy, who won the event in a personal best 1:45.14 in 2015, has already been 1:45.55 this season. Guy’s teammate Duncan Scott has been on fire this season, and his personal best 1:45.80 from British Nationals makes him a likely finalist.
It could take anywhere from a 1:45-high to a 1:46-low to squeeze into the final. Japan’s Kosuke Hagino would be a medal threat if he could match his personal best 1:45.23 from 2014, but he hasn’t been close to that this season and isn’t entered in the event at Worlds. Team USA’s Blake Pieroni (1:46.30) and Italy’s Gabriele Detti (1:46.38) have nearly identical season bests, while Australia’s distance star Mack Horton isn’t far behind in 1:46.83. Russia’s Alexander Krasnykh (1:47.12) returns after making the final of this race at 2015 Worlds and in Rio, but like Hagino, he’ll need to get much closer to his personal best 1:45.69 to final.
The mystery player in this is former European champion Velimir Stjepanovic. He’s hardly raced since Rio, and hasn’t been under 1:48.25 in this 200 free. Unless he’s been saving up for the meet, he’s unlikely to be a factor in the final.
TOP 8 PREDICTIONS:
|Place||Swimmer||Country||Season Best||Predicted Time|
|5||Chad Le Clos||RSA||1:46.84||1:45.3|