2019 World Championships Quiet Contenders: Men’s Edition


  • All sports: Friday, July 12 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
  • Pool swimming: Sunday, July 21 – Sunday, July 28, 2019
  • The Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center, Gwangju, Korea
  • Meet site
  • FinaTV Live Stream
  • Entry Lists

The big guns of swimming from around the world will soon be taking to the Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center pool, with hardware, records and, in some cases, even Tokyo 2020 qualification on the line. With so much at stake, however, anything can happen, with wild cards and dark horses threatening to rain on the medal favorites’ parades.

Below are just a few men to watch out for throughout the competition in Gwangju, as each as displayed glimmers of greatness that may just come to a head when it’s their time to put their training to test. Keep an eye on these lurking contenders for the men, in no particular order, and also take a look at our same list for the women here.

#1 – Luke Greenbank, Great Britain – 100 back, 200 back

First of all, it’s GreenbaNk, not Greenback, just since you’ll see it frequently misspelled. Bottom line, the 21-year-old British backstroking ace is infusing excitement into the discipline for his nation since Olympian Christopher Walker-Hebborn’s retirement. A mainstay on the international racing scene since the inaugural European Games in 2015, Greenbank has been continually striving to break through the senior ranks.

In Baku back in 2015, Greenbank took 100m and 200m back gold medals, while also collecting 2 relay silvers. He more recently grabbed silver on the Gold Coast as a member of Britain’s 4x100m medley relay. He was right on the cusp of individual Commonwealth hardware, finishing 4th in both the 100m and 200m backstroke events.

Flash forward to the 2019 British Championships, however, and the Loughborough athlete finally fired off the performance he’d been seeking, blasting a new personal best 200m back time of 1:55.89. That outing marked his first time ever under 1:56 and beat his PB of 1:56.89 from Baku. Greenbank’s gold medal-worthy performance in Glasgow inserted him into the 3rd slot among all-time British performers in the event.

Greenbank also wrangled up a PB of 53.92 in the 100m back to take the title at British Championships. His times render him the 19th seed and 8th seed, respectively, in the 100m and 200m backstroke events entering Gwangju. But the Brit has chosen the right time to finally break through, giving himself a chance to proceed at least past the heats in both events at these World Championships, with a final appearance not out of the question in the 200m.

#2 – Katsuhiro Matsumoto, Japan – 200 free

Per our men’s 200m free World Championships preview, the event is wide open, with several different strategists waiting to put their tactics to the test. Aussie Kyle Chalmers, Lithuanian Danas Rapsys and Brit Duncan Scott are just a few of the power players vying for a spot on top of the podium in the ultra-competitive event.

But there’s an Asian in the mix not named Sun Yang who could also surprise for at least a minor medal in the form of Katsuhiro Matsumoto.

22-year-old Matsumoto took the 200m free title at this year’s Japan Swim back in April. With countryman Hagino out of the mix, Matsumoto had a clear path to gold, but he still fired off the best time of his career in a World Championships-qualifying 1:45.63.

That world-class outing ties the aforementioned Scott for the 4th fastest performance globally heading into Gwangju.

Matsumoto has solid international racing experience under his belt, reaping bronze in the 200m free event at last year’s Pan Pacific Championships, beating the likes of America’s Blake Pieroni, Brazil’s Fernando Scheffer and Australia’s Mack Horton in the process.

#3 – Federico Burdisso, Italy – 200 fly

17-year-old Burdisso blasted a new Italian Senior National Record in Riccione while competing in the men’s 200m fly final at the Italian Championships in April.  Burdisso ripped a new lifetime best of 1:54.64, a mark which overtook the previous national record by well over half a second, with the old standard resting at 1:55.40. Burdisso’s outing remains as the 5th fastest time in the world heading into Gwangju.

It’s not as though Burdisso hasn’t been on an elite podium before, however, as the Northwestern University-bound athlete produced a big 1:55.97 for bronze at last year’s European Championships. Additionally, at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games the young Italian collected both 50m bronze and 200m fly bronze.

With South African Chad Le Clos dealing with a hernia, perhaps a slot may open up for a young gun to enter the scene.

#4 – Clyde Lewis, Australia – 100 free, 200 free

21-year-old St. Peters Western athlete Lewis almost overtook winner Kyle Chalmers in the men’s 200m free at this year’s Aussie World Trials. Entering the Trials meet, Lewis’ personal best in the 200m free rested at the 1:46.54 established at Pan Pacs last year. He wound up claiming silver in Brisbane in a time of 1:45.88, just .12 behind Chalmers and under the 1:46 threshold for the first time in his career.

Lewis did more damage in the 100m free at Trials as well, hitting a personal best of 48.46. He’ll also be contesting this event in Gwangju.

The young man’s career has taken a decisive turn from IM events to freestyle and it appears to be paying off. Lewis took gold in the men’s 400m IM on the Gold Coast at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, as well as bronze in the 200m IM, but he opted to focus on freestyle this time around and he may just ride the momentum to a minor medal in the sea of 200m free contenders.

#5 – Thomas Ceccon, Italy – 50m back, 100m back & 200 IM

18-year-old Ceccon has made a name for himself already on the junior circuit, having reaped 4 individual medals, including 50m freestyle gold, at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

Since then the man has been busy, earning a new Italian Junior Record in the men’s 100m back at the Italian National Championships this past spring. He touched in 53.60, a time good enough to qualify for these World Championships ins Gwangju.

Just 10 days later, Ceccon fired off a new Italian Junior Record in the 50m back, hitting a lifetime best of 25.16.

Ceccon doubled down to win the 50m/100m back golden duo at this year’s European Junior Championships, while he also threw down a massive 48.17 100m free split on Italy’s silver medal-winning 4x100m free relay.

Cecon has built up a resume of international racing and may just sneak in to become a factor in the 100m back, even among the titans.

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Swimmer A
1 year ago

Shhhhh… (they’re trying to keep quiet)

1 year ago

Out of these 5 swimmers only Burdisso has real chances to medal individually while Greenbank will probably medal in the 4*100 medley relay. He might final in the 200 but no more than that. and same goes for Matsumoto and Lewis, I don’t see them getting to the podium.
As for Ceccon, he might be one of the best junior swimmers currently, but he is no where near the top of the field in his events at worlds. Even Minakov has a better chance in my opinion.

1 year ago

No love for Zac Stubblety-Cook on the 200 BRST?

Reply to  Jred
1 year ago

I’m pretty sure his last 50 at pan pacs was the fastest in history

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Swim analyst, businesswoman.

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