2018 SC Worlds Preview: Can New WR Holders Liu, Baker Keep Momentum?


The summer of 2018 witnessed two new women’s world records in backstroke events. First, the USA’s Kathleen Baker shaved .10 from the former world record in the women’s 100 LCM backstroke, formerly held by Canada’s Kylie Masse. Baker’s WR time of 58.00 blew away the field at US Nationals and put the world on watch. Baker didn’t touch that time at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo, Japan, later in August, but she still had a great meet overall, lowering her best time and winning the gold medal in the 200 backstroke in a time of 2:06.14.

Also in the summer of 2018, Liu Xiang of China broke the world record in the 50 backstroke, becoming the first woman in history to dip below the 27-second barrier with a record mark of 26.98. Xiang, who swam at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, broke the nine-year-old world record of 27.06, held by countrymate Zhao Jing. Though Xiang is the fastest performer of all time in the 50 LCM backstroke, teammate Fu Yuanhui holds six of the ten fastest times in history in the event, the fastest of which, a 27.11, currently sits as the third-fastest performance of all time.

Without the Netherlands’ Kira Toussaint, a place on the podium has likely opened up in the 50 backstroke, and possibly the 100 as well.

Women’s 50 Meter Backstroke

Newly-minted 50 LCM backstroke world record holder Liu Xiang of China will face off against reigning world champion and 50 SCM world record holder Etiene Medeiros in Hongzhou. Alongside Xiang, compatriot Fu Yuanhui will also race on home turf, and honestly either (or both) of these two could make the podium. Fu owns six of the ten fastest times in history in the long course version of this event and should be a serious contender for a spot on the podium.

Americans Olivia Smoliga and Kathleen Baker will also be in contention. Smoliga, who is the American Record holder in the LCM version of this event, and Baker, who is the world record holder in the 100 LCM backstroke, have not had as many opportunities to race SCM as the rest of the field, though that probably won’t matter very much given their impressive resumes.

Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu, who enters the event as the co-top seed alongside world record holder Etiene Medeiros, is always one to watch regardless of the event she’s swimming. Though she is better known for her dominance of the 100/200/400 meter distances, Hosszu is the 6th-fastest performer all-time in the 50 SCM backstroke and will certainly make noise in this event.

Place Swimmer Country 2018 Best All-Time Best
1 Liu Xiang CHN 26.49 26.49
2 Kathleen Baker USA 26.30 26.30
3 Emily Seebohm AUS 26.05 25.83
4 Etiene Medeiros BRA 25.95 25.67 (WR)
5 Fu Yuanhui CHN 26.27 26.27
6 Katinka Hosszu HUN 27.4 25.95
7 Olivia Smoliga USA N/A 26.24
8 Georgia Davies GBR 26.13 26.13

Women’s 100 Meter Backstroke

  • World Record: 55.03, Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 2014
  • World Championships Record: 55.03, Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 2014
  • 2016 World Champion: Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 55.54

Even without Kira Toussaint and Kylie Masse, the women’s 100 backstroke will be a thrilling event to watch as LCM world record holder Kathleen Baker takes on SCM world record holder Katinka Hosszu. Hosszu, who is also the 2016 Olympic Gold medalist in the 100 backstroke (LCM), will be swimming an exhausting schedule consisting of eight individual events. Fortunately for the Iron Lady, the 100 backstroke is one of her first two events, so she will have only raced six times prior the finals of this event (prelims/finals of 400 IM and 200 fly, as well as the prelims and semi-finals of the 100 back will all come prior the final of the 100 back).

Australia’s Emily Seebohm, the top seed, will not only have to contend with Baker and Hosszu, but will also have to hold off China’s Fu Yuanhui, who will be racing in front of a home crowd. Fu, who has been consistent ever since she won bronze in the women’s 100 backstroke in Rio in 2016, is seeded 8th if one accounts for Toussaint’s absence.

Sweden’s Michelle Coleman and American Olivia Smoliga, who rank as the 24th and 25th-fastest performers ever in this event, respectively, could also make things interesting. Australia’s Minna Atherton will also vie for a spot on the podium alongside teammate Emily Seebohm, and Great Britain’s Georgia Davies, who enters the competition seeded with only a 59.36 but whose best time is a 56.45, is also likely to appear in the top eight.

50 SCM backstroke world record holder Etiene Medeiros is also entered in this event and has a great shot at qualifying for the top eight, but with a relatively younger field that is largely comprised swimmers who prefer the 100-200 meter distance, Medeiros has a fight ahead of her.

Place Swimmer Country 2018 Best All-Time Best
1 Kathleen Baker USA 55.91 55.91
2 Katinka Hosszu HUN 56.08 55.03 (WR)
3 Emily Seebohm AUS 55.81 55.31
4 Fu Yuanhui CHN 57.09 57.09
5 Olivia Smoliga USA N/A 56.58
6 Minna Atherton AUS 56.04 56.04
7 Michelle Coleman SWE 56.57 56.57
8 Georgia Davies GBR 56.75 56.45

Women’s 200 Meter Backstroke

  • World Record: 1:59.23, Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 2014
  • World Championships Record: 1:59.23, Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 2014
  • 2016 World Champion: Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 2:00.79

The women’s 200 meter backstroke will showcase world, Olympic, and Pan Pacific champions Seebohm, Hosszu, and Baker, as well as a handful of others that could make this event interesting, though it is unlikely anyone else in the field will be able to breakthrough the Seebohm-Hosszu-Baker trinity and get on the podium.

If there is one swimmer capable of breaking upsetting either Baker, Seebohm, or Hosszu for a spot on the podium it is relative-unknown Margherita Panziera of Italy. Earlier this fall, Panziera swam a lifetime best of 2:01.56 in the 200 backstroke to become the 11th-fastest performer all-time in the event.

Russian Daria Ustinova is only 1/100th slower than Panziera has ever been in this event, and enters the meet with a highly-competitive 2:02.25, so if she swims anywhere near that time, she’s guaranteed a spot in the final. Sweden’s Michelle Coleman and China’s Liu Yaxin are two more to watch out for in this event. Coleman, who is also a great freestyler, and Liu, who is racing on home turf, should be top-8 contenders.

Place Swimmer Country 2018 Best All-Time Best
1 Kathleen Baker USA 2:00.69 2:00.69
2 Emily Seebohm AUS 1:59.94 1:59.94
3 Katinka Hosszu HUN 2:01.00 1:59.23 (WR)
4 Margherita Panziera ITA 2:01.56 2:01.56
5 Michelle Coleman SWE 2:04.63 2:03.26
6 Daria Ustinova RUS 2:02.25 2:01.57
7 Minna Atherton AUS 2:02.02 2:02.02
8 Liu Yaxin CHN 2:04.60 2:04.60

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1 year ago

W 50 Backstroke
1) Medieros 25.78
2) Baker 25.87
3) Fu 25.90

W 100 Backstroke
1) Baker 55.55
2) Seebohm 55.87
3) Atherton and Hosszu 56.09

W 200 Backstroke
1) Seebohm 1:59.58
2) Baker 2:00.00
3) Hosszu 2:00.08

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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