2019 World Champs Preview: Is Mireia Belmonte’s 200 Fly Reign Over?

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 Butterfly

  • World Record: 2:01.81, Liu Zige (CHN), 2009
  • World Championship Record: 2:03.41, Jessica Schipper (AUS), 2009
  • World Junior Record: 2:06.29, Suzuka Hasegawa (JPN), 2017
  • Defending 2017 World Champion: 2:05.26, Mireia Belmonte (ESP)

This event is an interesting one, in that the time it takes to win a major championship has fluctuated the last few years, and the time is rarely very close to one of the most improbable World Records — Liu Zige’s 2:01.81 from 2009.

The defending Olympic and World Champion is Spain’s Mireia Belmonte, who was 2:04.85 in Rio to win gold. In 2017 in Budapest, her winning time was a bit slower, at 2:05.39. Last year, the European Champion was Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas at 2:07.13, the Pan Pac Champion was the USA’s Hali Flickinger at 2:07.35, and the Commonwealth Games Champion was Great Britain’s Alys Thomas at 2:05.45. The times are kind of all over the place, though a 2:04/2:05 is where the best in the event have been at since Rio.

Behind Belmonte, the second- and third-fastest women since Rio won’t be swimming in Gwangju. Japan’s Natsumi Hoshi has retired, and Australia’s Madeline Groves, the Rio silver medalist in this event and the only woman besides Belmonte to have gotten under 2:05 since Rio, has skipped out on Worlds to focus on training for the 2020 Olympics.

But it hasn’t been Belmonte at the helm of the event in 2018. In fact, Belmonte’s been suspiciously slow this year, only turning in a 2:11.05 at Spanish Nationals in April. She’s still planning on racing both IMs, the 400/800/1500 free, and the 200 fly at Worlds, though, but in 2018, she pulled out of the European Championships in the summer due to bouts of dizziness, while an ankle injury caused her to miss 2018 Spanish SC Nationals and, as a result, SC Worlds. With her health in question and her times being well off her best this year, a podium finish might not be in the cards for Belmonte.

American Hali Flickinger sits #1 in the world this season with a rock-solid in-season 2:06.40, and this feels like it could be the time that an American finally finishes on top again. Between Worlds and Olympics, the U.S. have not had a very illustrious streak — the last gold in this event at either such meets came at the turn of the century, when Misty Hyman put together a very smart race to upset the Australians and win gold in Sydney. At Worlds, they’ve hit silver in 2007 (Kim Vandenberg) and 2015 (Cammile Adams), never quite getting to the top.

FINA Champions Swim Series – Budapest – photo by Rafael Domeyko

But Flickinger has been showing incredible form: she’s been between 2:06.4 and 2:07.5 a whopping seven times in 2019 alone, showing consistent speed. She went 2:05.87 at 2018 Nationals and dropped off to a 2:07 (still winning gold) at Pan Pacs, but in her 2018 lead-up to the summer season, she went 2:07 high only once, and hovered in the 2:08 – 2:09 range. An incredibly versatile talent, the 200 fly has become Flickinger’s top event, and this summer it could be her claim to fame.

Right behind Flickinger, though, is Germany’s Franziska Hentke. The German is the fastest performer since 2016 behind Belmonte, Groves, and Hoshi, but she, like the Americans at-large, has yet to strike gold– her silver from 2017 is her only LCM medal at an international major meet (aside from the gold she won at 2016 LCM Euros). She has the speed, but hasn’t quite been able to show up when it counts.

Notably, there will be no Katinka Hosszu. A medal threat with three Worlds bronzes to her name, she finished third behind Zsuzsanna Jakabos and Boglarka Kapas at Hungarian Nationals. Both women have a great shot at the final, but perhaps not the same kind of podium potential as Hosszu, the current world #3 in the event, might have had.

Meanwhile, Katie Drabot poses another real American threat here. The rising Stanford senior made her first major long course team at Pan Pacs, where she claimed bronze in 2:08.40. She only just broke into 2:07 territory at 2018 US Nationals, not getting under 2:08 at Pan Pacs, and then this June she blasted her current best 2:06.67. Whereas she doesn’t have the same kind of consistency (or amount) of strong times like Flickinger or a number of these other women, her upside is serious, and she certainly looks due for another drop after that in-season 2:06.

The Chinese had two women in the final of the last Worlds, with former WJR-holder Yufei Zhang claiming 5th (2:07.06) and Zhou Yilin 8th (2:07.67). Yufei has already been 2:07.36 this year, ranking 8th in the world, and she’s the defending Asian Games champion (2:06.61). Current WJR-holder Suzuka Hasegawa of Japan, meanwhile, took bronze at that meet and was 6th in 2017. Her best lies at 2:06.29 from early 2017, and a trip back to that time range could put her on the verge of the podium.

Of course, Britain’s Thomas is coming off of her Commonwealth gold and could certainly challenge for the podium, too. Hometown hero An Sehyeon went 2:06.67 to place 5th in Budapest, but she’s only been 2:12 this season and finished third at Korean Nationals this spring, thereby missing the team altogether.

Place Swimmer Country Season-Best Lifetime-Best
1 Hali Flickinger USA 2:06.40 2:05.87
2 Franziska Hentke Germany 2:06.50 2:05.26
3 Alys Thomas GBR 2:07.40 2:05.45
4 Katie Drabot USA 2:06.67 2:06.67
5 Mireia Belmonte Spain 2:11.05 2:04.78
6 Yufei Zhang China 2:07.36 2:06.17
7 Suzuka Hasegawa Japan 2:07.21 2:06.29
8 Boglarka Kapas Hungary 2:07.37 2:07.37


Darkhorse: Brianna Throssell of Australia. The 23-year-old won bronze in the 100 fly at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and helped Australia to gold in the 4×200 free relay at that meet. Australia has deep history in this event (Jess Schipper is still the WC meet record holder from 2009), and Throssell was 2:06.58 in 2016. 

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Togger

Anyone going to make a huge call and back the World Record to go down?

Old Man Chalmers

In 20 years

Taa

Maybe when a man decides to test the new rules and compete as a women

AnEn

Would be very happy with a silver for Hentke, but i don’t really see her winning a medal sadly. It seems as if she was at her best from 2015 to 2017. She hasn’t broken 2:07 in two years. The only thing that gives me a bit of hope is that she swam 2:07.1 in march this year and you would expect her to go faster 4 months later at the world championships. Maybe she has got a 2:06 low left in her tank and with the lack of talent coming through and a lot of luck this might even be enough for bronze.

Heyitsme

1. Flick
2. Drabot
3. Zhang
4. Belmonte

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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