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


  • 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
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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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4 years ago

I hope its Prenot’s year to shine again …… but the field is insane around 2.07 its hard to predict .

Will 37
4 years ago

That picture of Watanabe looks more like Koseki to me…IMO as long as Chupkov does not fall too far behind at the 150, he wins it without a doubt.

4 years ago

Is Chupkov the only one to break 2:07 more than once? That’s why he’s got to be the favorite.

That 2:07 barrier seems to be elusive to most of these guys, even the ones that swam a 2:06 the one time.

Reply to  marklewis
4 years ago

Chupkov has gone under it twice, and Wantanabe is the only other man to have done it, when he set the world record.

4 years ago

Wilby will get bronze, going low 2:07, high 2:06 i expect

4 years ago

This is going to be an insane race. Probably a ton of 2:07s (par for the course with this event now) and a couple 2:06s – I’m thinking Chupkov finally gets the WR here in like 2:06.4. He doesn’t need the crazy front end speed like some of the other guys will go for – he can go 2:06.mid as like 29.2-32.2-32.5-32.5.

4 years ago

I don’t think Prenot will win a bronze. Considering the strength in the field and his recent major international performances (Pan Pacs and Short Course Worlds)

Reply to  Jeff
4 years ago

I think prenot could get anywhere from first to eighth

JP input is too short
Reply to  Provel
4 years ago

I think that goes for anybody in this race but Chupkov. I think he has the least variance here.

4 years ago

I think Chupkov has to he the favorite by a decent margin. I can really only see 3 swimmers in this field (Prenot, Wantanabe, and Wilson) being able to beat him, but he has been the most consistent swimmer through the crazy revolution that has happened in this event, and not only that, he’s the only man ever to go sub 2:07 multiple times. As for the rest of the field, I have no clue. I really like Wilson though, the dudes progress from being an age grouper in Australia has been great and I can see him carrying that through world’s and joing the sub 2:07 club.

Reply to  IM FAN
4 years ago

Yeah Wilson is a wild card in this race. I think by Tokyo he might be the favorite. My projections for him are pretty high.

JP input is too short
Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

Yeah, we know he’s going to take it out fast – maybe leading the pack given the profile of the other favorites. He’s just got to bring that last 50 home.

4 years ago

I’m pretty sure the WR was set in 2017

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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