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
WOMEN’S 200M BACKSTROKE
- World Record: 2:04.06, Missy Franklin (USA), 2012
- World Championship Record: 2:04.76, Missy Franklin (USA), 2013
- World Junior Record: 2:06.53, Regan Smith (USA), 2018
- Defending World Champion: Emily Seebohm (AUS), 2:05.68
In the almost two years since 2017’s World Champs, the scene has changed dramatically. No longer are we waiting for WR-holder Missy Franklin to mount a comeback. The defending World Champion, Australia’s Emily Seebohm, did not have a great meet at Aussie Trials and missed their Worlds roster. Seebohm’s 2:05.68 winning time from 2017 is the fastest performance since before Rio, too.
The next name that immediately comes to mind is Hungarian Katinka Hosszu, who was sucker-punched with an ambush by Seebohm over the final 50 meters in 2017 at her home Worlds. That was the second time in two years that a competitor ran down the Iron Lady after American Maya Dirado pulled the upset to win the event in Rio.
Despite her two silvers at the last two major international championships (2018 was a split year, with Pan Pacs, Euros, Commonwealth Games, and Asian Games fragmenting the world’s top talent), Hosszu ranks outside of the top 5 this season.
At the top is upstart Margherita Panziera of Italy, who has broken out onto the scene and proved she can swim with the big names. Panziera is the world leader at 2:05.72, a time done at the Italian Trials in April which nearly eclipsed Seebohm’s winning time from 2017. Panziera first broke Federica Pellegrini’s 200 back Italian Record just last year, when she went 2:07.16 at the Sette Colli Trophy to take almost a full second off of Pellegrini’s record. After a best of 2:09.43 from 2017, Panziera dropped down to 2:06.18 in 2018 to win the European title after breaking the Pellegrini record, and she went on to dip into 2:05 territory this spring. A newer presence, Panziera feels like a lock for the podium.
She’s just ahead of former 100 back WR-holder Kylie Masse, who has proven to be one of the world’s top backstrokers with her 2017 World title in the 100 back (a race in which she set the WR). While Panziera is the hot new name, Masse (who isn’t exactly an *old* name) is also the defending Commonwealth Games Champion. Whereas Panziera’s 2:05.72 leads the world, Masse went 2:05-high in 2017, 2018, and then this spring at Canadian Trials with her lifetime best and Canadian record 2:05.94.
In the line of new blood, this event has four teenagers with very real potential for gold in Gwangju. That’d be 19-year-old Taylor Ruck of Canada, 19-year-old Minna Atherton of Australia, 18-year-old Kaylee McKeown of Australia, and 17-year-old Regan Smith of the USA.
Ruck has a year of Stanford training and racing under her belt and finished just behind Masse at Commonwealth Games last year, and then claimed silver at Pan Pacs behind USA’s Kathleen Baker and ahead of Smith. McKeown set the WJR in 2017 at 2:06.76 where she’d finish in 4th in Budapest, just behind Baker and off of the podium, while Masse was 5th and Smith was 8th. At Aussie Trials this spring, on the final day, McKeown (2:06.35) and Atherton (2:06.85) denied Seebohm a ticket to Gwangju in the reigning World Champ’s final shot at making the team. McKeown continues to slowly progress, while Atherton went a 2:08 in 2016, plateaued, and has since revved things right back up.
Smith, meanwhile, dropped a world-class 58.4 in the 100 back in season earlier this year, while her 2:06.47 from this spring is just hundredths off of her performances at 2018 Nationals and 2018 Pan Pacs. Her in-season speed is unprecedented for her, and with Baker having to pull out of the 200 IM due to an injury and having not raced since March, Smith is the favored American this summer. If Baker has rested and recovered, though, there’s no reason she isn’t a strong candidate for a podium finish.
Following Hosszu as the second Hungarian is Katalin Burian. The 24-year-old swam to a bronze at the 2018 European Champs in a best time of 2:07.43, and she’s been 2:08.50 to rank 10th so far this season.
Daria Ustinova of Russia returns after finishing 7th in 2017 at 2:07.35. This year, though, she’s been just 2:10.30 from Russian Nationals. At that meet, Ustinova placed second behind 17-year-old Anastasia Avdeeva, who sits at #21 in the world at 2:09.89.
TOP 8 PICKS
|PLACE||SWIMMER||COUNTRY||SEASON BEST||LIFETIME BEST|
Darkhorse: Liu Yaxin of China. Liu earned the gold at the 2018 Asian Games, touching in 2:07.65. She hasn’t gone a time in the top 25 this season, but a 2:07 may well place into the top 8 this year despite the field being as tough as it is, and she made it to the 2016 Olympic final where she touched 7th.