2019 World Champs Preview: Sun Yang-Less Men’s 1500 is Paltrinieri’s to Lose


  • 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 1500m free

In the absence of world record holder Sun Yang – who of course is attending the meet, but not swimming his signature event – Gregorio Paltrinieri has a clear shot at becoming just the second man ever to three-peat in the 1500. Paltrinieri won the race at Worlds in 2015 and 2017, with a gold in Rio in 2016 as well. His season-best sits at 14.38.34 from Italian Nationals in April, just off his winning time from 2017 of 14:35.85. His best time is 14.34.04, from 2016. In the interim, he’s added open water swimming to his résumé – finding quick success – and is considered a threat to medal in both disciplines in Tokyo. He already has one race under his belt at Worlds, however, as he took a somewhat disappointing sixth place in the 10k after leading for much of the race. We can’t really say if that has any correlation to how he’ll perform in the pool, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Florian Wellbrock. Photo: Andrea Staccioli

Conversely, Germany’s Florian Wellbrock took the world title in the 10k and owns the No. 2 1500 in the world this season at 14:42.91. He also has a 14:44 and a 14:49 under his belt this season, and his best time of 14:36.15 is from August of last year. Unlike Wellbrock, Ukranian Mykhailo Romanchuk hasn’t even logged a 1500 this year. He was the 2017 silver medalist, however, and took gold over Paltrinieri at the 2018 FINA Short Course World Championships last December. He’s also had a stellar showing in the 800 this year and owns the top time in the world in that event, signaling that he’s in perfectly fine shape. His best time is right there with Paltrinieri’s and Wellbrock’s at 14:36.88, from last August.

Great Britain’s Daniel Jervis was the third-fastest swimmer in the world this season with a 14:46.51 and leads the next wave of entrants with that as his best time –– but it’s from in April. A year before that, he was 14:48.67, and another year before that, 14:51.48. More recently, in June, he was 15:04.06, clearly unrested for the Mare Nostrum stop in Barcelona. The United States’ Jordan Wilimovsky holds a faster best time, at 14:45.03 from Rio, and has been consistent when it counts. He was 14:48.23 in prelims in Rio, 14:48.89 at summer Nationals last year, and 14:46.93 at 2018 Pan Pacs last summer. His best time on the season is 15:04.44, from March, but he’s also been consistently racing open water.

Australia’s Jack McLoughlin holds a lifetime best of 14:47.09 in this event from the 2018 Commonwealth Games and was 14:52.83 at Australian World Trials (his only 1500 in 2019) last month. At that meet, he won the race by nearly 20 seconds; with someone to race, well under 14:50 should be in play. Jan Micka (CZE) and Henrik Christiansen (NOR), on paper, look extremely similar. Micka’s best time of 14:48.52 came in April, as did Christiansen’s 14:49.67. Christiansen has been 14:55 or better four times, but two of those swims came in 2016; Micka’s next-best time is 14:55.47, from Worlds in 2017. He also went a very solid 14:58.34 in May of this year.

The U.S.’s second entrant, Zane Grothe, has only been under 15:00 once before, and that was his 14:48.40 performance from Pan Pacs last year. He has three 1500s to his name in 2019, but no reason to have rested, because he qualified for Worlds last summer with a 15:00.85 at U.S. Nationals; he went 15:13.29 in March, 15:26.38 in April and 15:17.12 in May. Grothe will likely have already swum prelims and finals of both the 400 and 800 free before this race, so it’s hard to factor in how much of an effect that will have, but he’s been poised to break out on the international stage for years now; will this be the race the 27-year-old does it?

Top 8 Picks:

1 Gregorio Paltrinieri ITA 14.38.34 14:34.04
2 Florian Wellbrock GER 14:42.91 14:36.15
3 Mykhailo Romanchuk UKR NA 14:36.88
4 Daniel Jervis GBR 14:46.51 14:46.51
5 Jordan Wilimovksy USA 15.05.44  14:45.03
6 Jack McLoughlin AUS 14:52.83 14:47.09
7 Zane Grothe USA 15:13.29 14:48.40
8 Jan Micka CZE 14:48.52 14:48.52

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Philip Johnson

WR watch? We shall see.


Never knew Pan Pacs was in December

Philip Johnson

It’s a shame we can’t see peak Sun Yang and peak Paltrinieri compete. Looks like Sun’s peak in the 1500 is over.


Sun’s peak in the 1500m has been over since 2015 when he didn’t even show up for the WC final because he knew he’d lose.


Also every passing day Sun’s peak looks more and more like a lie. It feels more and more like his record and him nearly taking down the 400 record (just being a good finish away from it in London) was a product of substance and not of a generational talent. It’s sad but I’ll say it again, he’s like China’s Lance Armstrong to me.

That being said though, this race has potential to be better than a peak Sun vs Paltrinieri showdown…


Armstrong was doing: EPO, transfusions, Andriol, Cortisone, HGH and Actovegin.

I agree Sun’s testing history warrants suspicion about his performances, but I don’t think there’s any suggestion he was on an Armstrong level regime. He’d have blown right past 15:30 if he was doing something that sophisticated.


But we also know the percentage of cyclists doping was over 99.99%


PEDs can’t teach being 6’6” with one of the most technically sound freestyles in history. Drugs or not, he is certainly a generational talent.

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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