2017 FINA World Championships
Swimming fans are getting ready to see the rematch between rivals Lilly King and Yuliya Efimova in the 100 breast at the 2017 FINA World Championships. The rivalry became one of the big storylines of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games when King made it well known that she didn’t approve of Efimova competing despite a recent positive doping test for meldonium. Efimova, who was cleared to compete in Rio following that drug test, went on to win silver in both breaststrokes and placed 2nd behind King in the 100 breast.
A year later, King and Efimova are atop the World Rankings in the 100 breast again. Both have broken 1:05 already this season and are the only women to have done so in 2017 thus far. Efimova leads the way with her 1:04.82 from the Canet stop of the Mare Nostrum tour. That was a new Russian Record for Efimova and made her the 3rd fastest performer ever. King is just a tenth behind this season with a 1:04.95 from U.S. Nationals. After both put up smoking in-season swims, it could come down to who hits their taper better.
Another name to add to the rivalry mix is World Record holder Ruta Meilutyte, who stunned the world to win the 100 breast at the 2012 London Olympics when she was only 15-years old. Meilutyte wasn’t at her best last summer in Rio, finishing 7th in the final with a 1:07.3 while recovering from injury. Her lifetime best of 1:04.35 was done at the 2013 World Championships, and she’ll look to return to the medal stand once again after taking gold in 2013 and silver behind Efimova in 2015. Meilutyte is training with a new coach in Lithuania, Paulius Andrijauskas, and says that she’s found “new motivation.” She hasn’t been 1:07.0 yet this year to prove that she’s recaptured the magic she had training with Jon Rudd, but hasn’t had a reason to rest yet either.
It should take at least a 1:05-mid to make the medal stand, and Olympic bronze medalist Katie Meili is certainly still in the conversation after putting up a 1:05.51 at U.S. Nationals. Sweden’s Jennie Johansson has produced a season best of 1:06.30, and will look to join Meili in the 1:05-range. Johansson has plenty of speed, as she’s the reigning 50 breast world champ.
The battle for a spot in the top 8 could be very close considering the number of women who enter the meet with best times in the 1:06-range. China’s Shi Jinglin (1:06.28), Iceland’s Hilda Luthersdottir (1:06.45), and Canada’s Rachel Nicol (1:06.68) are all returning finalists from the Rio Olympics. Japan’s Reona Aoki (1:06.53) and Satomi Suzuki (1:06.65) are looking dangerous this season after throwing down a pair of 1:06s, as is Spain’s Jessica Vall with her 1:06.44 from the Spanish Championships. Great Britain’s Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (1:06.34) ripped a 1:06.8 at British Trials and also boasts a lifetime best 1:06-low. Teammate Sarah Vasey has been a hair faster than O’Connor this season with a 1:06.78 at British Trials.
Update: we’re also including Alia Atkinson, who stormed back into contention over the weekend in Orlando. The Jamaican Olympic finalist was conspicuously absent from the long course scene post-Rio, competing on the World Cup and at Short Course Worlds, but not logging a single long course swim since August 2016 (at least, per USA Swimming’s database). In fact, Atkinson’s only registered swims since December were a pair of 50 yard butterflys at at Florida club meet.
But Atkinson looked in good form at the Orlando Sectional over the weekend, going 1:07.6 in the 100 breast and 30.9 in the 50. She’s typically been a pretty good in-season swimmer, but should be good enough to sneak into the final in Budapest.
Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen, the 200 breast World Record holder, missed out on the 100 breast final after putting up a 1:07.0 in semis at the Rio Olympics. She was faster in prelims, though, with a 1:06.58. So far, her season best is a 1:07.33 from the Danish Open, so she’s on track to dip into the 1:06s again if she hits her taper, but could go even faster given her lifetime best is a 1:05.93 from 2013 Worlds.
Top 8 Predictions:
|Place||Swimmer||Country||Season Best||Predicted Time|
DARKHORSE: Ireland’s Mona McSharry has been doing very well this season, taking down an Irish Senior Record in the 50 breast at European Juniors to become the first ever Irish swimmer to win gold at that meet. She swam a personal best 1:07.38 at the Irish Championships in April, and will now go after the Irish Record of 1:07.15. If she can crack the 1:07 barrier, we could see her in the final in Budapest. Regardless, she’s a target for Tokyo – the new man in charge in Ireland is Jon Rudd, who was Ruta Meilutyte‘s old coach.