2019 World Champs Previews: Milak And Kenderesi Seeking 1-2 Finish in 200 Fly


  • 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


  • World Record: 1:51.51, Michael Phelps (USA), 2009
  • World Championship Record: 1:51.51, Michael Phelps (USA), 2009
  • World Junior Record: 1:53.79, Kristof Milak (HUN), 2017
  • Defending World Champion: Chad le Clos (RSA), 1:53.33

Three of the 8 fastest 200 butterflyers of all time are Hungarian. Next week, all three will race at the 2019 FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, though only two will swim the 200 fly.

World Junior Record holder and third-fastest performer all-time Kristof Milak is the huge favorite for the gold medal. While Michael Phelps‘ 2009 World Record of 1:51.51 is probably too much to hope for, Milak’s best time is only 1/100th slower than the current European Record set by countryman Laszlo Cseh at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Cseh, the second-fastest performer all-time, is not swimming the 200 fly in Gwangju and will instead focus solely on the 50 and 100 fly.

Milak has been on a steady rise since he set the current World Junior Record (WJR) in the 200 fly at a 1:53.79 in 2017. Milak did not get to swim the 200 fly at the 2017 World Championships, but still managed to win silver in the 100 fly behind Caeleb Dressel in 50.62, another WJR. In 2018, Milak won the gold medal in the 200 fly at the European Championships nearly tying his lifetime best time with a 1:52.79. In October at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, Milak won again in 1:54.89. In 2019, Milak has already been a 1:53.19 from Hungarian Nationals in March, where Milak just got the better of 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Tamas Kenderesi., who touched 2nd in 1:53.42, a lifetime best.

Milak’s 200 fly WJR was threatened by 17-year-old American Luca Urlando earlier this year when the teen phenom popped off a 1:53.84 to erase Michael Phelps’ legendary National Age Group (NAG) Record. Swim fans will have to wait at least one more year to see an international show down between Milak and Urlando, as Urlando only tied for 3rd at the 2018 U.S. National Championships in the 200 fly and did not make the 2019 Worlds team.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Tamas Kenderesi seemingly took the torch from veteran Laszlo Cseh as Hungary’s next great 200 butterflyer. Kenderesi was unable to replicate his success in 2017, and Cseh surpassed him and Milak to win the silver medal in the 200 fly at the World Championships in Budapest, falling to South African Chad le Clos. In 2018, Kenderesi won the silver medal at the 2018 European Championships, soundly defeating Cseh in the prelims and producing another sub-1:55 swim in the finals. In March at the 2019 Hungarian Championships, Kenderesi nearly caught Milak, touching 2nd in 1:53.42, a new lifetime best.

Japan’s Daiya Seto seems to dominate everything he swims lately, including breaststroke. At the 2018 Short Course World Championships, Seto upset Chad le Clos for the victory and new World Record in the 200 fly, stopping the clock in 1:48.24. Seto has already been within half-a-second of his personal best in the 200 LCM fly this season and is the defending 2017 World Championships bronze medalist in this event. Seto easily won the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games (1:54.53) and 2018 Pan Pacific Championships (1:54.34), and has been on numerous tantalizingly close to breaking 1:54, a feat that only 13 men in history have accomplished.

China’s Li Zhuhao took bronze behind Seto at both the 2018 Asian Games and Short Course Worlds, posting a 1:55.76 to win the bronze in Jakarta last August, and then in December swimming to a new Chinese Record in the 200 SCM fly in 1:50.39 in Hangzhou. Though Li is better at the 100 fly, he has become a highly-competitive 200 butterflyer as well and has remained one of Asia’s top butterflyers since he exploded onto the scene with a 5th-place finish in the 100 fly at the 2016 Rio Olympics when he was only 17-years-old.

2012 Olympic gold medalist Chad le Clos had a successful 2018: le Clos swept the butterfly events at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and produced a 50.10 100 fly split in the 400 medley relay; he won the gold medal in the 100 fly at the Short Course World Championships in December, and at the same meet went a lifetime best in the 200 fly, skating under his former World Record, but still just behind Japan’s Seto. Le Clos is a butterfly stalwart, though will have to push through the 2019 World Championships with a reported groin hernia that may need surgery after Worlds. Though le Clos has said it only hurts when he pushes off the wall, not while kicking, it is still a condition to take seriously, however badly he wishes to defend his 2017 gold medal.

Brazil’s Leonardo de Deus is the oldest swimmer in the field, though he has managed to remain a relevant contender in the men’s 200 fly. At the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, de Deus produced a 1:54.89 to take silver behind Japan’s Seto. Though he did not final at the 2017 World Championships, de Deus has been 1:56 and 1:57 already this season and is a veteran competitor.

Near the opposite end of the age spectrum, Italy’s Frederico Burdisso is another with the talent to potentially crack the top-8 in Gwangju. Burdisso lowered the Italian Record in the 200 fly in April at the Italian National Championships with a 1:54.64. Internationally, Burdisso won the bronze medal behind Milak and Kenderesi at the 2018 European Championships, and then in October the bronze at the Youth Olympic Games behind Milak and Ukraine’s Denys Kesil.

Americans Justin Wright and Zach Harting will dawn the stars and stripes for their first-ever long course World Championships where they will swim one event: the 200 fly. As they are both 200 fly specialists and relative newcomers to the international scene, both will be hungry for a berth in the final. At the 2018 U.S. National Championships, Wright won the 200 fly in a 1:54.63, leaving Harting silver in 1:55.11. Wright was unable to replicate that swim at Pan Pacs and settled for 2nd place in the ‘B’ final with a 1:57.27, while Harting went on to capture bronze in 1:55.05.

Australia’s David Morgan, meanwhile, placed 4th in the 200 fly at Pan Pacs in 1:55.82. Morgan surpassed that time with a new lifetime best at the 2019 Australian Trials, posting a 1:55.26 to win gold ahead of teammate Grant Irvine, who touched in 1:55.89.

Rank Swimmer Country Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Kristof Milak Hungary 1:53.19 1:52.71
2 Tamas Kenderesi Hungary 1:53.42 1:53.42
3 Daiya Seto Japan 1:54.44 1:54.03
4 Chad le Clos South Africa 1:55.48 1:52.96
5 Leonardo de Deus Brazil 1:56.95 1:54.89
6 Federico Burdisso Italy 1:54.64 1:54.64
7 Zach Harting United States 1:58.56 1:55.05
8 David Morgan Australia 1:55.26 1:55.26

Dark Horse: Denys Kesil of Ukraine is the silver medalist in the 200 fly from the 2018 Youth Olympic Games and the 11th-fastest in the event this year with a 1:55.89. At YOGs last October, Kesil went head-to-head with both Milak and Burdisso, getting the better of the Italian by well over a second, though Burdisso peaked at the 2018 European Championships. If Kesil is able to shave a few tenths from his best time he will stand an excellent shot at making the championship final. 

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Chaitha D.
1 year ago

Why is Burdisso is low? Similar to Luca Urlando, he seems like a young swimmer on an rapid improvement rate and his season best is 4th among all competitors The only thing he doesn’t have is much international experience on the big stage.

1 year ago

1. Kristof Milak 1:52.68
2. Daiya Seto 1:53.59 I think it’s time for Daiya to have his breakthrough 200 Fly LCM, been stuck at 1:54 since 2014
3. Tamas Kenderesi 1:53.72
4. Federico Burdisso 1:54.63
5. Chad Le Clos 1:54.89
6. Zach Harting 1:55.04
7. Denys Kesil 1:55.99
8. David Morgan 1:56.25

Reply to  SeanSwim
1 year ago

I feel like you’re underestimating Le Clos. The fact that he can be swimming under the radar an entire year and then win the 100 fly at sc worlds (unshaven by the way) makes me feel like he’ll be very dangerous, despite his conditions.

1 year ago

If ever there is a ‘wipe out’ event for TEAM USA men, it is this.
I don’t see any American making the podium — or even getting that close.
GAD, I hope I’m wrong.

1 year ago

Maybe for this year, but 2020, two words.


1 year ago

Good thing we’ve got a new phenom in the event

Knows Nothing
1 year ago

You’re wrong: Justin will hit his taper and a 1:52. 4 the podium

WV Swammer
Reply to  Knows Nothing
1 year ago

I have a feeling his 1:54.63 last summer was a lightning in a bottle swim..hasn’t approached it since

Justin Wright
Reply to  WV Swammer
1 year ago

Ouchy 😧

1 year ago

A wipeout would be if there was no finalist from USA.

Zach and Justin have heat and semifinal swims to try to get to their top form. I think one of them will make it to the final.

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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