2019 World Championships Quiet Contenders: Women’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
  • Live results

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 women 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 women, in no particular order, and we’ll follow-up with a separate post for the men.

#1 – Rika Omoto, Japan – 50/100 free, 200 IM

With a unique expected lineup of events that spans the sprint freestyles to the 200 IM, 21-year-old Omoto is looking to make her mark on this meet, racing in place of teammate Rikako Ikee, who is currently battling leukemia.

Omoto has been on a tear this year, starting off with a big-time 2:08.64 in the 200m IM for a new lifetime best. That time produced in May at the Sydney Open remains as the 3rd fastest in the world this season, even ahead of World Championships medalist teammate Yui Ohashi. That time would have won bronze at the 2017 edition of the World Championships, so Omoto needs to be at her absolute best throughout the rounds to keep up with the likes of Katinka Hosszu, Mireia Belmonte and Ye Shiwen.

In 2019 Omoto also logged the 3rd fastest 50m freestyle ever by a woman from her nation, clocking 24.98 to dip under 25 seconds for the first time in her career. She also hit a huge 54.26 lifetime best in the 100m free this year. Those times, although indicative of Japan’s progress in the sprint arena, are still well-off the leaders, but considering Omoto was putting up times in the 25-high and 55-high range just a year ago, she’s on the right trajectory to have a breakout sprint free performance.

#2 – Erika Fairweather, New Zealand – 200/400 free

Fairweather put on an absolute show in the women’s freestyle events at the NZ Open Championships, claiming wins across the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle. The 15-year-old clocked an impressive time of 4:09.33 in the latter to dip under the 4:10 threshold for the first time in her young career and clear the FINA A cut outright.

She hacked almost 3 seconds off of her previous lifetime best of 4:12.10 notched just this past spring to check-in with a new New Zealand Age Record for 15-year-olds as well as punch her ticket to Gwangju. With her massive time drop already this year, Fairweather could continue on that path toward a possible semi-final appearance at Worlds.

#3 – Barbora Seemanova, Czech Republic – 100/200/400 free

19-year-old Seemanova already nailed a new Czech National Record at the Grand Prix in Pardubice last month, hitting a lifetime best of 1:57.40 in the 200m free, a time that would have made the semi-finals back in 2017 in Budapest.

Seemanova also established a new Czech Record this year in the 400m free, powering her way to a time of 4:11.10. That smashed the previous Czech Record of 4:13.18 set by Barbora Zavadova back at the 2014 European Championships.

#4 – Anna Hopkin, Great Britain – 50/100 free

With Olympian Fran Halsall’s retirement, Great Britain is hungry for another sprint queen to rise to the top and bring home some World Championships and Olympic hardware. Freya Anderson has proven she’s a viable competitor semi-finaling in the 100m free back in 2017 and collecting numerous Commonwealth Games and European Championships relay medals last year as well.

Another name added to the sprint heir ring is Hopkin, the University of Arkansas student-athlete who has had a breakout year already in 2019. 22-year-old Hopkin fired off a new personal best in the women’s 50m freestyle during the heats of the 2019 British Championships, hitting the wall in 24.91. That beat her previous lifetime fastest of 25.07 and represented the Razorback’s first time ever under 25 seconds, making her just the 5th British female swimmer ever to do so.

Hopkin also earned a new PB in the 100m free at the British Championships, stopping the clock at 54.02 to shave over seven-tenths off her former best.

#5 – Benedetta Pilato, Italy – 50 breast

Pilato took silver in the women’s 50m breaststroke at Italian Nationals in April, stopping the clock at 30.61, a new Italian Junior Record. That outing qualified her for these World Championships at just 14 years of age.

Since then, Pilato has continued to drop even more time, ultimately lowering her PB to a monster mark of 30.13 at the Sette Colli Trophy. That overwrote the Italian Senior National Record.

Pilato continued her siege with a European Junior Championships gold medal in a time of 30.16, a Championships Record, inserting her into the conversation as a medal contender in Gwangju.

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Hopkin could surprise in the 50&100 free


You really think she could make the final in the 50 free?


Pilato is a massive medal chance in the 50, and Omoto in the IM.

Lane 8

yep, given that both of them are #3 in the world this year in that event and are within half a second of the #1 ranked swimmer


Yeah, I was surprised to see them on the “quiet contenders” list, but I guess only the most avid swim fans would have them in mind as contenders without checking times.


I’ve a hunch that Ledecky girl out of the US could sneak in for a medal or two. We shall see.


i really don’t think she has the experience or fitness for that

Philip Johnson

It’s crazy, some are counting her out.

The michael phelps caterpillar



The Michael Phelps Caterpillar???


The amount of commenters on this site who can’t grasp sarcasm still astounds me

About Retta Race

Retta Race

After 16 years at a Fortune 1000 financial company, long-time swimmer Retta Race decided to change lanes and pursue her sporting passion. She currently is Coach for the Northern KY Swordfish Masters, a team she started up in December 2013, while also offering private coaching. Retta is also an MBA …

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