2019 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
- 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
MEN’S 50 FREESTYLE
- World Record: 20.91, Cesar Cielo (BRA), 2009
- World Championship Record: 21.08, Cesar Cielo (BRA), 2009
- World Junior Record: 21.75, Michael Andrew (USA), 2017
- Defending World Champion: Caeleb Dressel (USA), 21.15
2017 was the summer of Caeleb Remel Dressel, and he is the defending 50 free World Champ after a blistering 21.15 to win the event. Coming very close to Cesar Cielo’s meet record and relatively close to his suited WR, Dressel established himself as a fixture on the international scene. After a shaky 2018 that saw him land a decent ways back from his bests at Pan Pacs, Dressel has looked like a legend-in-the-making again in the lead-up to 2019 Worlds.
In addition to his incredible swims in the 100 fly and 100 free already this year, Dressel has gone a lifetime best in the 200 fly, and his 50 free has been as fast as 21.51. While his 21.51 seems ‘with the pack’ and nothing more (he’s just 4th in the world this season, two tenths behind World #1 Bruno Fratus at 21.31), the time stands out when looking at Dressel’s history in the event. He’s been sub-22 seconds a total of 14 times in his life, but he’s only ever broken 21.50 twice — his 21.29 and 21.15 from 2017 Worlds. 21.51 — nothing to scoff at, but nothing legendary. And yet, it’s Dressel’s third-best performance ever. For someone who is known to blow everyone away while tapered, the fact that he’s ahead of where he was at 2017 Nationals and 2018 Nationals AND 2018 Pan Pacs already, in-season, lends to some juicy predictions about what might happen in Gwangju.
Dressel, for all of his speed, talent, and allure, has the range to swim a respectable 200 free (and of course, a lights out 100 free). Three of the fastest men besides him since 2016 are much more so in the drop-dead, pure sprint speed range, and since it’s just one length down the pool, it’s hard for someone to ever be a *heavy* favorite.
The aforementioned Fratus is going to be one of the big guns to battle Dressel along with Ben Proud of GBR and the USA’s Michael Andrew. Fratus, who just a couple of weeks ago turned 30, is the veteran of the field. A favorite for gold in the event in 2016 at his home Games, Fratus fell to sixth in a disappointing 21.79. In 2017, however, he surged back to take silver behind Dressel in Budapest (21.27), and his 21.31 this season is nearly faster than his time at that meet. In 2018, after logging his 60th sub-22 second performance in the 50 (surpassing Cielo as the most frequent 21-second sprinter in history), Fratus pulled out of Pan Pacs for a shoulder injury and subsequently underwent surgery in the fall. Seven months to the day after his surgery, Fratus cracked a 21.47 to snatch the World #1 time, and he’s since improved that to 21.31 at the Mare Nostrum Monaco stop. He’s also come out in support of the International Swim League (ISL), but has opted out of the league to focus exclusively on long course and Tokyo.
Proud was busy in 2018, doubling up to take gold in the 50 free at the Commonwealth Games and then the European Championships. While his winning time was impressive at Euros (21.37), it was his 21.11 from semis that makes him a real gold medal threat this season– he’s the fastest swimmer among those active right now. At the 2017 World Champs, he shot to gold in the 50 fly and finished just behind Fratus in the 50 free at 21.43. This season, he’s the World #2 at 21.48, just ahead of Russia’s Vladimir Morozov (21.49). Naturally, Morozov was also #4 at 2017 Worlds, just a few hundredths back of Proud.
And then there’s defending Pan Pac Champion Michael Andrew. He knocked off Dressel in 2018, first at Nationals, and then at Pan Pacs, the latter of which dropping a lifetime best 21.46. Despite sentiment from the peanut gallery about race pace training and Andrew’s training/racing style, it’s foolish to discount his talent at this point in his career. He continues to improve, and right now, 21.4 is podium-level speed at a major international meet. Andrew’s been 21.83 this season from the Richmond PSS stop in April. The 6’5″ Andrew would be a good person to bet on for a shocker in Gwangju.
The next rung of swimmers have all been in the 21-mid range. The World #4, Italy’s Andrea Vergani, was 21.53 at Italian Nationals after going 21.37 in semis at 2018 Euros (he’d go on to finish with a bronze, off of his semis time and behind Proud and Greece’s Kristian Gkolomeev— the latter has been 21.54 from Mare Nostrum Monaco to rank 6th in the world). But Vergani has been slapped with a doping violation after he tested positive for marijuana, and it’s currently unclear if he’ll be competing at Worlds. His suspension is supposed to run through July 18th, which is three days before the meet starts.
Also in the crowd of 21-mids this season are Japan’s Shinri Shioura (21.67), 2019 Polish champion Pawel Juraszek (21.71), and 2019 Hungarian champion Maxim Lobanovskij (21.79). Of the three, Juraszek might have the strongest case for making this final– he placed 5th in this event in 2017, and boasts a best of 21.45 from 2018’s Polish Nationals. Lobanovskij, meanwhile, became just the second Hungarian man to ever break 22 seconds in this race when he went his 21.79 this spring. Shioura hit a lifetime best and Japanese record of 21.67 in April, for his part.
This could’ve been an even more tantalizing race if France’s Florent Manaudou, hot on the comeback trail, was racing here. He didn’t make the meet, but he went 21.7 twice in June in his comeback after a 2.5 year hiatus post-Rio. It would be a spectacle (and Ervin-esque) for him to come back after hiatus to gobble up gold in Gwangju– it won’t be in the cards, and we’ll have to wait for Tokyo 2020 to see a serious clash of the titans in this race.
Despite a history of sprint excellence, no Australians made the team in this event. At their Trials, Kyle Chalmers (22.09) edged Cameron McEvoy (22.29), but neither was close to the Aussie cut of 21.77. Chalmers was just .02 from his PR, but McEvoy was well off of his best of 21.44 from 2016.
|PLACE||SWIMMER||COUNTRY||SEASON BEST||LIFETIME BEST|
Dark horse: Andrii Govorov (Ukraine). The 50 fly WR-holder hasn’t been under 22 seconds this season (he’s 18th in the world at 22.03). That said, he has been as fast as 21.46 from the 2016 Olympic Games, where he placed 5th after posting the top time in prelims and winning his semifinal. With the 50 fly not being an Olympic event right now, and looking ahead to 2020, the 50 free is Govorov’s best chance at placing well in Tokyo.