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 50m Backstroke
- World Record: 24.00, Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS), 2018
- World Championships Record: 24.04, Liam Tancock (GBR), 2009
- World Junior Record: 24.00, Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS), 2018
- Defending 2017 World Champion: Camille Lacourt (FRA), 24.35
With French backstroke star and 3-time event world champ Camille Lacourt now retired, Japanese Junya Koga serving a 4-year ban from the sport, and American Matt Grevers only competing in the 100 back this year, a new group of talent will flood into the 50 backstroke scene to claim the top 3 honors.
Leading the way is current world record holder Russian Kliment Kolesnikov, who turned 19 on July 19th. Kolesnikov dominated internationally on the junior level, breaking the world junior record on multiple occasions to where it stands at 24.00. In 2017, Kolesnikov placed 17th in the 50 back at the senior World championships, just missing out on semi-finals. Yet 2018 became Kolesnikov’s breakout year as a senior international swimmer, sweeping the sprint back events at the European Championships and earning a SC world title in the 100 IM along with the 200 medley relay.
Kolesnikov’s accomplishments as a medalist on the senior level as well as a multi-world junior record holder earned him the title as the 2018 Swammy Award winner for World Male Swimmer of the Year. This year, however, Kolesnikov has been battling ongoing shoulder problems. Teammate Grigory Tarasevich took his spot in the 200 back, allowing Kolesnikov to focus on the shorter backstrokes. At the 2019 Russian Champs, Kolesnikov only won the 50 back (24.77) while taking second place in the 100/200 back. This year, Kolesnikov ranks #2 in the world with a 24.40. Despite his shoulder injuries, choosing to opt out of the 200 back should allow Kolesnikov the chance to conservatively expend his energy.
Just as Kolesnikov, the remaining contenders to take the unclaimed 2019 title have all begun to build a name for themselves in the middle of this Olympic quad. Among the contenders is Romanian Robert Glinta, who skyrocketed to #3 on the all-time performers list (at the time missed the WR of 24.04 to be #2) with a 24.12 during the semifinals of the 2018 European Championships. This season, Glinta is ranked 6th in the world with a 24.59. With only a national record and European silver medal under his belt, Glinta certainly proves capable of medalling on the world stage.
Sprinting down to the 50 event after establishing top spots in the 100/200 back at the 2019 Russian Nationals is Evgeny Rylov. Rylov comes in with much experience in the longer backstroke events, with an Olympic bronze medal and 2017 World title to his name in the 200 event. However, that all changed at the 2018 SC World Championships when he surprised the field with a 50 back world title. While his season best (24.78) is only ranked 11th in the world, his lifetime best of 24.52 alongside his other backstroke achievements can show his true speed and endurance.
Speaking of dominant backstrokers, American Ryan Murphy will also be a medal contender. As the current world record holder in the 100 back, along with his 2016 Olympic titles, Murphy is a force to be reckoned with in the backstroke events. Murphy’s lifetime best in this event stands at 24.24, which ranks as the 6th-fastest time in world history. Shortly after swimming that time to win the 2018 US Nationals, Murphy swam to a silver medal finish in the event at the 2018 SC Worlds meet. Just as in the last Worlds meet, this will be Murphy’s first time swimming the 50 back at the LC World Championships. This season, Murphy has only swam a 24.91 to rank 14th in the world. With Murphy’s international experience, he should show up well in this event.
Returning to the Worlds meet and now one of Ryan Murphy‘s biggest backstroke rivals is China’s Xu Jiayu. The root of Murphy and Xu’s rivalry is the 100 back, yet the 50 back is also a great battle to show off sprinting talent. Xu’s performance in the 50 back at the 2017 Worlds meet was good enough to finish 5th in the final. Then at the 2018 Asian Games, Xu walked away with 5 gold medals, among them the 50 back. With a lifetime best of 24.42, Xu is for sure to be in the top 8 along with his American counterpart. This season, Xu ranks 5th in the world with a 24.47, right at his lifetime best. After claiming the 100 back world title in 2017, can Xu be able to claim medal honors in the 50 back?
On a different note, Irish swimmer Shane Ryan has become a rising name in the Irish community and international level. During semifinals of the 2018 European Champioships, Ryan popped a 24.32 in the 50 back to become the 10th-fastest performer all-time. Later at the 2018 SC World Championships, Ryan became the first Irish swimmer to medal at a senior international meet, snagging third in the 50 back. Despite having a season best of 25.13, Ryan’s 2018 international feats make him prepped to be a major medal contender in his first LC Worlds meet.
Eager to establish himself on the senior international level is 20-year-old American Michael Andrew, who comes in as a 2-time World junior champion in the 50 back. Aside from his junior medals, Andrew was crowned the 2016 SC World champion in the 100 IM along with winning the 50 free at the 2018 Pan Pacs. This year, Andrew has the fastest time in the world with a lifetime best of 24.39. However, the aforementioned swimmers (with the exception of Rylov) have swum faster than 24.39 during their careers. Yet Andrew is poised to take on the challenge as one of the most dominant versatile sprinters in the world.
It would be hard to count out 2013 world runner-up Frenchman Jérémy Stravius, who will contest alone in the event with Lacourt’s retirement. It was during the 2013 semifinals that Stravius set his lifetime best of 24.45, becoming the 16th-fastest performer in history. At the 2014 European Championships, Stravius earned a pair of sprint bacstroke silver medals, remaining quiet since then. Fast forward three years, Stravius finished 4th in the 2017 World final with a 24.61 and 5th in the 2018 European Championships finals at 24.83. Now 31 years old, Stravius ranks 7th in the world this year with a 24.65. Showing no signs of stopping, Stravius does have a great chance at advancing to the 2019 World final.
Darkhorse: Coming off the 2019 World University Games, South African Zane Waddell blew away the field with two Universiade 50 back records and winning the final. Waddell’s semifinals lifetime best of 24.46 puts him at 4th in the world this year and the 17th-fastest performer in history. With nearly a 3-week gap between WUGs and Worlds, Waddell may surprise again in the event.