2019 World Champs Preview: Can the 200 Breast Winner Beat Annie Lazor’s Time?


  • 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

Women’s 200m Breaststroke

  • World Record: 2:19.11, Rikke Moller Pedersen (DEN), 2013
  • World Championship Record: 2:19.11, Rikke Moller Pedersen (DEN), 2013
  • World Junior Record: 2:19.64, Viktoriya Gunes (TUR), 2015
  • Defending 2017 World Champion: 2:19.64, Yulia Efimova (RUS)

At the Bloomington Pro Swim Series stop in May, a rested Annie Lazor dropped a 2:20.77 in the 200 breast, making her the 9th-best performer in history in the event. As she’s skyrocketed into the world top 10 all-time next to impressive company (only Rebecca Soni, who was at one point the world record holder in this race, has been faster out of all Americans in history), we are reminded of one thing: she won’t actually be at Worlds.

The much-maligned selection procedures for 2018 Pan Pacs and 2019 Worlds meant that the top swimmers of 2018 would represent the USA at both meets. While this selection procedure is supposed to lead to a stronger result at the Olympics of that cycle (see the Americans’ dominance in Rio in 2016 versus their gaffe of a meet in Kazan in 2015), it means that even some of the best swimmers in the world in 2019 still won’t be able to race in Gwangju (see: Lazor).

So, with Lazor’s 2:20.77 leading the world rankings this year, it’s the rivalry of Lilly King and Yulia Efimova that moves into the forefront. While their stances have softened since the politically heated finger waggings of 2016, they are always trading blows, knocking the other off of the top of the world rankings, going head-to-head at every major competition. It’s definitely the weaker of the three distances for King, who has world records in the 50 and 100 breast, but the American has been 2:21.39 this season in a thrilling battle with Efimova at the Indy stop of the FINA Champions Series. That was a lifetime best for King, who may be poised to fully figure out this race in long course after settling for fourth at the 2017 Worlds and the silver medal behind teammate Micah Sumrall at the 2018 Pan Pacs.

Efimova, in her loss to King in Indy, was just two tenths back at 2:21.59. What the Russian has that the American doesn’t, however, is a much better lifetime best (2:19.41). On top of that, Efimova has been under 2:21 eight times, and under 2:20 four times. But Efimova may not even be swimming this at Worlds. She missed the top two at Russian Nationals this spring, as the event was won by 14-year-old phenom Evgenia Chikunova with a 2:22.67 with Maria Temnikova second at 2:23.45. As of right now, it’s up in the air as to who is going to be racing the event in Gwangju — Chikunova’s name is on the roster, and Russian coaches have said that she’s a reserve who will swim the 200 if a swimmer backs out. Efimova has said she’ll race the 200 if she is asked to, but would be okay swimming just the 50 and the 100.

If Efimova opts out of this, it may well be an American 1-2 here.

Yuliya Efimova

Yuliya Efimova (photo: Jack Spitser)

Sumrall, meanwhile, has revived her career after missing the 2016 Olympic team. She’ll represent Team USA with King in this event in Gwangju after storming back to racing in 2018 following nine months off, her year culminating in a gold medal at Pan Pacs with a time of 2:21.88. That was just off of her lifetime best, a 2:21.74 from the 2013 World Champs where she earned a bronze medal. Sumrall has been 2:23.88 this season, but her potential for 2:21 leaves her with a great shot for the podium — in 2017 in Budapest, only the medalists broke 2:22.

Last year, Japan’s Reona Aoki had the second-fastest time at 2:21.85. Done at the Japan Swim in April, it would’ve won gold at the 2018 Pan Pacs, and was about a second back of Efimova’s 2018 best of 2:20.72. Aoki took bronze in the 100 breast at Pan Pacs (just ahead of Sumrall) but was left off the podium in fourth in the 200 after a disappointing 2:24.46 despite her season best from Japan Swim. An on-form swim from her could send her right into podium territory.

A surprise name near the top of the world rankings this season is China’s Ye Shiwen. The 2012 Olympic champion in both IM’s at 16 (with a wild sub-1:00 final 100 in the 400 IM), Ye floundered in the years following the Olympics. She hasn’t won a medal at an Olympics or a Worlds since London. That said, she dropped a 2:22.53 earlier this year, and has moved into the conversation for this event in Gwangju.

Canada will send Trials champion Sydney Pickrem and 20-year-old Kelsey Wog — both women hit 2:22’s this year, giving them a strong chance to at least make the final. Notably, this event will be without Canadian big name Kierra Smith, who swam a 2:21 but DQ’d in the event at Canadian Trials this spring.

Smith is one of several women not returning from the last Worlds final, as well as silver medalist Bethany Galat of the US and 7th place Taylor McKeown of Australia. Galat didn’t make top two last summer, while McKeown won Australian Trials but failed to reach the qualifying standard.

One more returnee from that final who has a great medal shot is Shi Jinglin of China. She won bronze in 2017, going 2:21.93 to edge King off of the podium. It’s Ye, though, who has been (by far) the most impressive Chinese woman in the event this season.

Finally, Spaniards Jessica Vall and Marina Garcia, Briton Molly Renshaw, and South African Tatjana Schoenmaker will be candidates for sneaking into this final. Vall did so in 2017, placing 8th with a time of 2:23.29, but Renshaw leads the way this season at 2:23.42, ranked 9th in the world. Schoenmaker has been 2:24.44 and Vall 2:24.51, but Schoenmaker blasted a 2:22.02 at the 2018 Commonwealth Games for a resounding win there. Garcia, meanwhile, sits 14th at 2:24.06.

Place Swimmer Country Season-Best Lifetime-Best
1 Lilly King USA 2:21.39 2:21.39
2 Yulia Efimova Russia 2:21.59 2:19.41
3 Micah Sumrall USA 2:23.88 2:21.74
4 Reona Aoki Japan 2:24.63 2:21.85
5 Ye Shiwen China 2:22.53 2:22.53
6 Tatjana Schoenmaker South Africa 2:24.44 2:22.02
7 Sydney Pickrem Canada 2:22.63 2:22.63
8 Kelsey Wog Canada 2:22.82 2:22.82

Darkhorse: Molly Renshaw of GBR. She won bronze last summer at the 2018 European Champs behind Efimova and Vall, and also swam her way to silver behind Schoenmaker at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She’s just inside the world’s top 10 this year, and while her lifetime best of 2:22.33 is from all the way back in 2016, a good swim here could get her into the final amongst a pack of 2:22’s.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

This will be tough. Sometimes Efimova chokes in the 200 being too conservative and misses out. Lilly dies sometimes also.
1. Micah Sumrall
2. Lilly King
3. Yulia Efimova
4. Sidney Pickrem
5. Reona Aoki
6. Ye Shiwen
7. Schoenmaker
8. Jessica Vall

Reply to  Heyitsme
1 year ago

My money is on Efimova.

Justin Thompson
Reply to  Monteswim
1 year ago

Yes, I would say Yuliya is 2:20 low or 2:19 high.

Reply to  Justin Thompson
1 year ago

I think M.S. will be around 2:19 as well. King with 2:21 and a battle with Smith, honestly forgot about her. If she doesnt DQ

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Monteswim
1 year ago

I would pick Efimova. She was considered a foregone conclusion in that 200 final against King a couple of months ago. One outcome shouldn’t reverse the pecking order. Besides, King was swimming at home and you could see the surreal energy and determination over the final 50. That is hardly typical for her at 200. Efimova swam a stupid tactical race…too far back early then too much of a move in midstream. If she relaxes and paces correctly Efimova should prevail…if entered

Reply to  Heyitsme
1 year ago

The goal is the Olympics…so relax about kids being at WUGS or PanAMs who could have been at Worlds. Doesn’t matter.Join the discussion…

1 year ago

I’m going with Shiwen with the upset to really kickstart her comeback

Reply to  Pvdh
1 year ago

That would be great, we will see!

Bo Swims
1 year ago

Kierra Smith wasn’t 3rd at Canadian Trials. She swam a 2:21.75 but was disqualified.

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 »