2019 World Champs Preview: Chupkov Leads All-Star Pack in Competitive 200 BR

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 200m Breaststroke

Most sprint events are close races, with tenths and hundredths of a second determining medals among the fastest swimmers in the world. This year, the men’s 200 breast feels like it’s going to take on a very similar vibe, in spite of being not a sprint, with most of history’s fastest performers all meeting up in a heavily-anticipated race. Less than a second separates the top 10 contenders in the event, with 9 of the top 16 performers of all-time in contention.

Leading the charge is defending world champion and meet record holder Russian Anton Chupkov. At the 2016 Olympics, Chupkov finished in a tight bronze medal position. Since then, Chupkov has rose to the top of the men’s 200 breast field. Chupkov set a new championships record with his 2017 world title time of 2:06.96. Later at the 2018 European Championships, Chupkov bettered his lifetime best with a European record of 2:06.80. That time is now the 2nd-fastest time in history, frightening Ippei Watanabe‘s 2:06.67 world record. This year, Chupkov holds the top time in the world with a 2:07.00 from Russian Nationals, showing that he is ready to defend his title and potentially write his name on the 2-year-old world record.

Speaking of Watanabe, the Japanese swimmer is currently the 2nd-fastest swimmer this year with a 2:07.02, ridiculously close to Chupkov’s season best. Watanabe, as previously mentioned, is the world record holder in this event. However, Watanabe’s world record was set back in 2016, and has yet to break 2:07 since his historic mark. Watanabe, post-world record performance, was the 2017 bronze medalist in the event. In 2018, Watanabe was the 2018 Asian Games silver medalist but followed up by winning the 2018 Pan Pacs in a new championship record (2:07.75). With his recent season swim, Watanabe looks like he’s in full form this season and is the most likely to challenge Chupkov for the crown.

His countrymate Yasuhiro Koseki, who took silver in 2017, will enter just the 50 and 100 at this year’s meet – Japan’s only entrant in those races.

Emerging onto the 200 breast scene after finishing 8th in 2017 is Aussie Matthew Wilson. After his 2017 Worlds appearance, Wilson improved to earning a pair of bronze medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Pan Pacs. It wasn’t until April 2019 that the 20-year-old wrote a name for himself in the event. Wilson won the 2019 Hancock Prospecting Australian Championships with an impressive 2:07.16, becoming the fastest Australian performer and 4th-fastest performer all-time in the event. That time ranks 3rd in the world this year only behind Chupkov and Watanabe. With rising experience, this up-and-comer has a great opportunity to earn his first World medal.

Ross Murdoch, photo: Ian MacNicol for Scottish Swimming

British teammates James Wilby and Ross Murdoch have also become the new faces of the 200 breast in their home country (Peaty’s got the 50/100 crown). At the 2019 British Championships, Wilby stole the show with a 2:07.49 winning time along with Murdoch’s runner-up time of 2:07.96. The duo now rank 4th and 5th in the world this year. Wilby’s time is only the 3rd-fastest British time in history, with Murdoch holding the current British record of 2:07.30 from the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

During the 2017 Worlds meet, Murdoch was half a second off from making the podium while Wilby finished outside the top 16. After that meet, Wilby began to slowly topple Murdoch starting off with defeating him at the 2018 Commonwealth Games by 0.17s. At the 2018 European Championships, Wilby was the silver medalist behind Chupkov while Murdoch finished off the podium in 4th place. Both of these British teammates should make the top 8, but who will become Britain’s first medalist in the event since 2003?

Unlike the aforementioned swimmers, German Marco Koch comes in with great international experience in the 200 breast. At the 2013 Worlds meet, Koch earned a silver medal e in the 200 breast. After his breakout performance, Koch later went on a winning streak, winning titles at the 2014 European Championships, 2015 Worlds meet, and 2016 SC World Championships. After finishing 11th at the 2017 Worlds meet, Koch came back to take a bronze medal at the 2018 SC Worlds meet. Recently at the Sette Colli Trophy, Koch swam just half a second outside his 2014 lifetime best to tie for 5th in the world at 2:07.96.

Haiyang Qin 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

20-year-old Chinese native Qin Haiyang has built up a name for himself as a rising junior on the senior international level. In 2017, Haiyang broke the world junior record in the 200 breast twice to where it currently stands at 2:07.35, the 10th-fastest time in history. At the World Championships of that year, Haiyang finished in 15th place overall. However, Haiyang bounced back at the 2018 SC Worlds meet to snag a silver medal and an Asian record in the SCM 200 breast. His season best this year is a 2:08.31, ranking 8th in the world. With the statement Haiyang made as a freshly-minted senior at the 2018 SC Worlds meet, Haiyang looks poised to earn a finals swim at LC Worlds in a few days.

It would be hard to forget the top 2 swimmers from the 2016 Rio Olympics, Josh Prenot (USA) and champ Dmitriy Balandin (KAZ). Both swimmers have remained relatively quiet after their Olympic performances, but certainly have not given up on the 2019 Worlds meet. During the 2018 Asian Games, Balandin considered retirement after pulling out of his signature event. At the 2015 and 2017 Worlds meets, Balandin fell short of earning medals, placing 6th and 13th respectively at each meet. This year, Balandin has swam a 2:08.61 to rank 11th in the world, making him hopeful for the upcoming Worlds meet.

Prenot, on the other hand, as been making waves in the US with his new professional career. At the 2018 US Nationals, Prenot won the 200 breast with a 2:07.28, just 0.11s off his 2016 American record and 5th-fastest time in history. In his most recent international meet at the 2018 SC Worlds meet, Prenot earned a silver medal in the 200 IM while finishing 5th in the 200 breast. While Prenot has only swam a 2:09.96 this season, his lifetime best and Olympic silver medal shows he still has more international waves to make.

Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Country Season-Best Lifetime-Best
1 Anton Chupkov Russia 2:07.00 2:06.80
2 Ippei Watanabe Japan 2:07.02 2:06.67
3 Josh Prenot USA 2:09.96 2:07.17
4 Matthew Wilson Australia 2:07.16 2:07.16
5 Ross Murdoch Great Britain 2:07.96 2:07.30
6 James Wilby Great Britain 2:07.49 2:07.49
7 Marco Koch Germany 2:07.96 2:07.47
8 Qin Haiyang China 2:08.31 2:07.35

Darkhouse: Another emerging Aussie swimmer, Zac Stubblety-Cook, is also beginning to make his mark alongside fellow 20-year-old Matthew Wilson. At the 2018 Pan Pacs, Stubblety-Cook finished with a siver medal behind Ippei Watanabe in a lifetime best of 2:07.89. With a world #9 season best time of 2:08.38, Stubblety-Cook and Wilson look to continue the Aussie breaststroke legacy in the post-Sprenger/Rickard era.

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bear drinks beer
2 years ago

An interesting pick to put Murdoch ahead of Wilby.

Teddy
2 years ago

Someone is going to go really fast in semis

There’sso many at 2:07 if someone drops a chunk of time it’ll be a huge swim

Backstrokebro
2 years ago

At least this year, This feels like the worst crapshoot in the entire sport. Everyone listed off in the article has a lifetime best less than a second from the world record. (with The exception of stubblety-cook, he’s ONLY 1.22 seconds off the world record). Every major international final, it feels like the leaders of the pack are under world record once at the 150, then someone random passes them for the medals and finishes just off the world record. Just watching some of the races, you can see how close they all are.

Objectively, I think Chupkov and Watanabe are the favorites, but quite literally anything can happen in this event. Might as well throw some darts at a… Read more »

Superfan
Reply to  Backstrokebro
2 years ago

I agree. All these swimmers are close to WR and I think the WR is probably one of the “softer” records. Just feel like someone could go way under or a couple guys under!

MTK
Reply to  Superfan
2 years ago

It does feel like this event is due for a massive WR drop – someone to put up like a 2:05.high or something by the end of the 2020 Olympics.

Tim
Reply to  Superfan
2 years ago

People always say this. Even Peaty said it can’t be hard to go 2:05/6 with my speed. It doesn’t work like that unfortunately. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2:07 wins.

Yabo
Reply to  Tim
2 years ago

When did he say that?

Togger
2 years ago

Wiley at six is a perfectly defendable pick (though I’d him higher).

It also wouldn’t be particularly unreasonable to pick him to drop time and win it in a 2.06 high.

Not a race to bet on.

Dee
Reply to  Togger
2 years ago

I just want to see Wilby putting it together. In the past he has gone out a bit too leisurely, so I was glad he swam tough at nationals. He has so much potential left to unearth – Sort that start and those pullouts and he’s way under 2.07. Easier said than done of course, but you’d hope he can get it sorted in the next year or so.

Will 37
Reply to  Dee
2 years ago

Agreed… Wilby’s pullouts are just weird. He kicks into his stroke (during his pullouts) right after he pulls down his arms…

sven
Reply to  Togger
2 years ago

Putting anyone almost anywhere is a pretty defensible pick, with this race. Obviously there are a few who have stronger chances than others, but I think this is one of those races where anyone who actually makes the final could win and it wouldn’t be a huge shock like if someone other than Murphy, Larkin, or Xu wins the 100 back.

Dee
2 years ago

I think Wilby will break the British record and that’ll be enough to medal. I think he’ll win the Olympics next year if he can find a way to sort out those grim pullouts too.

1. Chupkov
2. Watanabe
3. Wilby

AnEn
Reply to  Dee
2 years ago

Nice to see that you remain optimistic. Objectively there is no reason to think that he could beat Chupkov or Watanabe who are both clearly younger and have a better trajectory.

Dee
Reply to  AnEn
2 years ago

I wouldnt say they have better trajectory merely because they are younger. Wilby had never broken 2.10 until 14 months ago, he dropped to 2.08 last summer then 2.07 this spring. He effectively missed 2015 & 2016 with illness after swimming 2.11 back in 2014, so his progress to world class was somewhat delayed.

I may well be overly-optimistic, but anybody who has seen him swim in person will say the same thing – His stroke is perfection, but he has a hell of a lot to improve on in every other aspect, and he can go a lot quicker than 2.07.4. Whether he’ll be able to iron those issues out remains to be seen. I remain hopeful that… Read more »

tea rex
Reply to  Dee
2 years ago

I wonder if he has played around with no-pullout turns. It’s getting popular in some circles.

Andy Dwyer
2 years ago

Probably everyone in the final will swim sub 2:08, maybe even 2:07,5?
Also Koch is looking really good since he changed his coach. I’m pretty sure he’ll medal.

Superfan
Reply to  Andy Dwyer
2 years ago

Changed his coach and his body….I agree he might medal!

AnEn
Reply to  Andy Dwyer
2 years ago

I think the same is said every time, but i think there will be one or two guys at 2:08. Have no clue what Koch can do here. Currently i see no reason to think that he can improve his PB, but we haven’t seen how much time this “new” Koch can drop at a major competition.

Beverly Drangus
2 years ago

I wish yamaguchi was still swimming this. I think his 2012 207.01 is the best that breaststroke has ever looked. And he was 18 when he swam that.

DEAN IS GOD
Reply to  Beverly Drangus
2 years ago

That would be DOPE

Rafael
2 years ago

Chupkov for WR
If someone mastered the way to swim this race it’s him

JP input is too short
Reply to  Rafael
2 years ago

Him and Prenot trying to mow down everybody in the third 50 is going to be fun to watch. They swim the race very similarly.

Yabo
Reply to  Rafael
2 years ago

I love watching chupkov swim this race. IMO he swims the best 200br out of the entire field split wise. It might not be the fastest (even tho I think it will be, but who can tell with this field) but he really has this swim figured out. Would like to know how we trains to have such a good back half.

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro started swimming at age 11, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing. After joining SwimSwam, the site has become an outlet for him to research and learn about competitive swimming and experience the sport through a new lenses. He graduated in …

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