2019 World Champs Preview: 200 IM is Still Hosszu’s Game


  • 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


  • World Record: 2:06.12, Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 2015
  • World Championship Record: 2:06.12, Katinka Hosszu (HUN), 2015
  • World Junior Record: 2:09.98, Rikako Ikee (JPN), 2017
  • Defending World Champion: Katinka Hosszu, 2:07.00

Katinka Hosszu has had an iron grip on the IM’s, and there are no signs of this World Champs being any different.

The Iron Lady has been 2:08.28 already this year, and she owns the four-fastest times of the season– all in 2:08 range. In total, she’s been 2:08 six times and 2:09 six times this year alone. The defending World and Olympic Champion is still the clear favorite for gold this summer in Gwangju — an added bonus for Hosszu’s readiness will be the fact that she missed the Hungarian team in the 200 fly, and won’t have to swim that race (which would’ve likely been three times for her).

World #2 Sydney Pickrem, meanwhile, looks incredibly strong after breaking the Canadian record at 2019 Canadian Worlds Trials (2:08.71) and then again at FINA Champions Series – Indy (2:08.61). Hitting multiple PRs in the lead-up to the summer typically alludes to further improvement to come, and while she would need a massive performance to seriously challenge Hosszu, she’s emerging as the strong candidate for silver. Last Worlds, Pickrem was seeded third in the 200 IM final but swallowed water going into her fly-to-back turn, causing her to leave the pool (and race) completely. Her semis time of 2:09.17 would’ve won bronze had she been able to repeat that performance in the final.

While Pickrem’s looked very strong this season, Japan’s Yui Ohashi and GBR’s Siobhan-Marie O’Connor have already ventured under 2:08. In Rio, it was O’Connor who truly came close to defeating Hosszu, going 2:06.88 to finish just three-tenths back of the Hungarian to break the British record. O’Connor faltered in 2017, though, dropping to 7th in the final while Ohashi surged to silver with a 2:07.91, again not very far from Hosszu’s 2:07.00. Ohashi’s 30.28 final 50 in 2017 was the quickest in the field.

Ohashi has been 2:09.14 for the World #4 spot from a meet in January, while O’Connor’s been 2:10.34 from British Trials in April. Another Japanese IMer, however, is positioned ahead of both women going into Gwangju. After not making the top two in either IM for any recent major international championships, Rika Omoto is on Japan’s Worlds team, and she’s been as fast as 2:08.64 this year. Tha time was done at the Sydney Open in May, and she came just one-hundredth away from Alicia Coutts’ All-Comers record in the event (essentially, Omoto almost tied the fastest performance ever done on Australian soil).

The field gets even more crowded with hometown Kim Seoyeong, who is coming off of wins at the 2019 Korean Trials. She is the reigning Asian Games champion after registering a 2:08.34 to win the crown last year, a time that would leave her at the World #2 spot this season (of course, that’s against swims not from a summer championship). She has been 2:09.97 this season to rank 7th in the world.

It’s unusual to go this far without mentioning an American name in a Worlds preview. That’s partly because the top American this season, Madisyn Cox, won’t be racing at Worlds due to a controversial doping suspension, while the top American in LCM in 2018, Kathleen Baker, recently pulled out of the event at Worlds. That leaves Melanie Margalis, who placed fourth in this event at Worlds in 2017 behind bronze medalist Cox, and the newly added Ella Eastin. Margalis is a fantastic racer with a lifetime best of 2:08.70, certainly keeping her in the conversation for a podium finish. Eastin, for her part, has had a string of unfortunate circumstances which have kept her from making major international meets. But, making the Pan Pac team last year in the 200 IM after a bout of mononucleosis, Eastin would go on to qualify for World University Games, where she’s competing now.

Eastin took the silver medal at WUGs in the 200 IM, but she was well off of her best of 2:09.90 from Pan Pacs, a time that still feels doesn’t do her justice based on her exceptional SCY best times. It’s unclear when exactly Eastin found out she’d be taking Baker’s 200 IM spot, and if she was able to adjust her training to peak for Worlds or if she’s going to do a double taper of sorts. It certainly feels like, based on her talent, Eastin could be somewhere down in the 2:08 range, but there are too many questions for now to bank on any big drops from her.

Finally, someone with a potentially huge upside is China’s Ye Shiwen. After claiming Olympic golds in both IMs at the 2012 London Olympics and then virtually disappearing, she’s been back this year and has gone lifetime bests in the 200 breast and 200 fly. She’s been 2:09.24 to hold the World #5 spot this year, and it’s worth keeping her 2:07.57 best in mind– a 2:07 may be enough for a medal, and potentially even a silver.

1 Katinka Hosszu Hungary 2:08.28 2:06.15
2 Yui Ohashi Japan 2:09.14 2:07.91
3 Sydney Pickrem Canada 2:08.61 2:08.61
4 Ye Shiwen China 2:09.24 2:07.57
5 Rika Omoto Japan 2:08.64 2:08.64
6 Melanie Margalis USA 2:10.41 2:08.70
7 Kim Seoyeong South Korea 2:09.97 2:08.34
8 Siobhan-Marie O’Connor GBR 2:10.34 2:06.88

Darkhorse: Kaylee McKeown of Australia. She’s turning 18 just before the start of this meet, and while she’s been known as a backstroker, she’s quietly developed into a formidable IM’er. Her time of 2:09.94 won the event by over three seconds and left her as the only Australian qualifier in this event. This is a field of seasoned talent — McKeown could easily get right into this final, and she’s young, so her improvement potential is higher than most of the others in this field.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

also a bit late.. are there no Aussies in this event?

4 years ago

A bit late, but I’m going to predict that Eastin proves everyone wrong and medals.

4 years ago

1 Hosszu
2. Pickrem
3. Ohashi

Darkhorse: Will always have to be O’Connor. The only woman in the world who can challenge Hosszu in full-flow. Hard to see it coming back now; But we’ll hold out a bit of hope.

4 years ago

1. Katinka Hosszu 2:07.12
2. Sydney Pickrem 2:07.97
3. Yui Ohashi 2:08.45
4. Melanie Margalis 2:08.72
5. Kim Seoyeong 2:08.88
6. Ye Shiwen 2:09.12
7. Siobhan Marie O’Connor 2:09.74
8. Ella Eastin 2:09.75 *I know everyone is not gonna agree with this, but she was NOT tapered for WUGs. She is gonna do fine at worlds

Reply to  Seans
4 years ago

We will see. Eastin could just make us all speechless and medal

4 years ago

Would like to see SMOC get close back to her Rio form, a 2:07/2:08 this year would be a good sign for Tokyo

Ol' Longhorn
4 years ago


4 years ago

What’s the story with Ye Shewin? She was winning all the medals and then she fell into a slump for several years.

What changed that produced a comeback? Can the Chinese swimmers even talk about their swimming careers?

Reply to  marklewis
4 years ago

China swimmers have the strangest career paths. They have fluctuating performers, one swim wonders, exceptional talents or in general interesting stories which I find nothing in depth about. Maybe not a whole lot of interviews get out of China idk

Reply to  Ytho
4 years ago

Her body reaaaally changed after London

4 years ago

Looking at those best times, you really appreciate SMOC’s Rio swim even more. Would be great for her to be back to near that form.

Tough to see her hanging around the 2.10 mark these days.

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

Read More »