2019 Worlds Preview: Next Generation Closing In On Veterans In Women’s 200 Free

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 200 Freestyle

Similar to what she had done in the 400, 800 and 1500 freestyle, Katie Ledecky appeared to have taken complete control over the women’s 200 freestyle.

After a historic performance at the 2013 World Championships where she won gold in the those three aforementioned events, along with the 4×200 relay, the now 22-year-old added the individual 200 to her program at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships.

She won.

Then, at the 2015 Worlds, after advancing to the final shortly after dominating the 1500, she won by fending off world record holder Federica Pellegrini and defending champ Missy Franklin.

The 2016 Olympics were more of the same. Facing off with the über-talented Sarah Sjostrom, she came through again to win the gold medal.

Just like the three longer freestyle events, the Nation’s Capital product appeared unstoppable in the 200 free.

But since Rio, we’ve seen some chinks in the armor.

An epic final 50 from Pellegrini gave her the victory in Budapest over Ledecky, who tied with Australia’s Emma McKeon for silver.

The 2018 Pan Pacs saw the final contested not long after she swam the 800, and Canadian youngster Taylor Ruck took full advantage as she won gold in 1:54.44. Rikako Ikee (1:54.85) of Japan also got by Ledecky on the last 50, leaving her with bronze in 1:55.15.

This year the schedule remains the same from previous World Championships.

Ledecky will race the 1500 shortly before the 200 semis, probably an hour, and if all goes well, her schedule is clear the day of the final.

It puts her in a much better position than she was in Tokyo, but she’ll still have 4300 meters of racing under her belt heading into the race (accounting for one swim on the 400 free relay).

A wide array of up-and-coming stars and experienced veterans are among the challengers to keep Ledecky off the top of the podium once again:

THE YOUNG STARS

  • Taylor Ruck

    • Really blossomed during 2018, winning the 200 free at both the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs, taking out Australian Ariarne Titmus and Ledecky back-to-back.
    • Her 1:54.44 in Tokyo proved to be the #1 time in the world for the year, and she followed it up with a seamless transition to the NCAA where she tied Simone Manuel for fourth all-time in the yards version of the event (1:40.37).
    • Ledecky won’t be the only one impacted by a busy schedule in Gwangju, as Ruck is slated to have the 100 back final just two events before the 200 semis. She’s shown an ability to handle back-to-backs well and has stated she intends to use this meet as a ‘test drive’ for next summer’s Olympics.
  • Ariarne Titmus

    • Similar to Ruck, Titmus had a phenomenal 2018, hitting a PB on the Gold Coast in 1:54.85. She then proceeded to drop the event at Pan Pacs in favor of the 800, but led off the Australian relay in 1:55.27.
    • The 18-year-old brought her best down to 1:54.30 in April, setting a new Commonwealth Record and taking over the top spot in the world rankings. She followed up with a solid 1:55.09 at Aussie Trials in June, and is set up to take a run at gold after placing just 17th two years ago in Budapest.
    • She has yet to open up her swims under 27 at the first wall. She might be the best swimmer on the back 150, but opening a bit quicker could push her over the edge.

THE ‘VETERANS’

  • Emma McKeon

    • McKeon has consistently been amongst the world’s best 200 freestylers for some time now. After winning Commonwealth gold in 2014, the now 25-year-old broke 1:55 twice in 2016, including winning the Olympic bronze, and then followed up with a World silver in 2017.
    • Last year, after taking bronze behind Ruck and Titmus at the Commonwealth Games, she dropped the 200 free at Pan Pacs due to a busy schedule over a short four-day meet.
    • Last month at World Trials McKeon threw down a new best time in 1:54.55, putting her #2 in the world to Titmus while beating her head-to-head. She was actually out-split by the teen on the second, third and fourth 50s, but her opening split of 26.18 is what got it done.
  • Federica Pellegrini

  • Allison Schmitt

    • The 2012 Olympic champion had a successful return to the sport in 2018, asserting herself as the #2 American in the event with a 1:55.82 runner-up finish to Ledecky at U.S. Nationals. She followed that with a pair of 1:56s at Pan Pacs, finishing fourth in the final.
    • This year she has shown solid form, including a 1:57.7 at the Des Moines PSS in March, which is quicker than she was at that point last year.
    • Schmitt is a good bet to final and has an outside shot to snag a medal.

OTHERS IN THE MIX

  • Siobhan Haughey
    • Shortly after closing out her senior year at Michigan, Haughey kicked off her pro career with a bang, setting Hong Kong National Records in the 50 and 100 free at the Monte-Carlo stop of the Mare Nostrum Tour. In the 200, she finished less than a tenth off her best from the 2017 World Championships (where she was fifth) in 1:56.05, setting herself up to take a run at a spot on the podium this year.
  • Charlotte Bonnet
    • Bonnet exploded to win the European title last summer in 1:54.95 after placing eighth in Budapest. If she can re-create that type of swim she’s right there.
  • Femke Heemskerk
    • Heemskerk has been swimming at the highest level dating back to 2007 and continues to put herself in the running with fast swims. However, she has had trouble putting it all together on the big stage (individually).
  • Penny Oleksiak
    • A so-so performance at the Canadian Trials was salvaged by Oleksiak’s win and PB in the 200 free, out-touching Ruck in a time of 1:56.92. While this event hasn’t been a primary focus thus far in her young career, she has the ability to be a contender having split 1:54.9 on the relay in Rio.
  • Katinka Hosszu
    • The 200 free isn’t among the top priorities for Hosszu in her busy schedule, but she has opted to swim it through to the final in both Kazan and Budapest. Given the stacked field here it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her drop it with the 100 back and 200 fly nearby, but if she’s in she’ll probably final. She has 33 career swims sub-1:57, but none in 2019.

Other potential finalists include Qiu Yuhan and Yang Junxuan of China, and Veronika Andrusenko of Russia.

SJOSTROM WILL SWIM

Update: Upon learning that Sarah Sjostrom will indeed swim this event in Gwangju, she has been added to the top-8 predictions.

After not even swimming the event at the 2015 World Championships individually, she led off Sweden’s 800 free relay in a time (1:54.31) that would’ve won the gold medal by eight-tenths. The following summer in Rio she took silver behind Ledecky in what remains her lifetime best at 1:54.08, and has already been 1:55.39 and 1:55.44 this season. We’re slotting her in for silver, just behind Titmus, but it would not be a surprise to see her claim gold.

TOP-8 PICKS

Place Swimmer Country Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Ariarne Titmus Australia 1:54.30 1:54.30
2 Sarah Sjostrom Sweden 1:55.39 1:54.08
3 Taylor Ruck Canada 1:56.97 1:54.44
4 Katie Ledecky USA 1:55.32 1:53.73
5 Emma McKeon Australia 1:54.55 1:54.55
6 Federica Pellegrini Italy 1:55.42 1:52.98
7 Siobhan Haughey Hong Kong 1:56.05 1:55.96
8 Charlotte Bonnet France 1:56.57 1:54.95

In This Story

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WV Swammer

Ledecky- 1:53.86
Titmus- 1:53.98
Ruck- 1:54.03
Pellegrini- 1:54.66
McKeon- 1:54.80
Schmidt- 1:54.89
Bonnet- 1:55.11
Oleksiak (Just for fun)- 1:55.55

Wow

Way too fast throughout

WV Swammer

Literally all 8 have been 1:54, I really don’t think I’m pushing it too far

Old Man Chalmers

oleksiak’s best time is 1:56.92, so not even close to 1:54

WV Swammer

1:54 relay split..whether or not you like it, she’s capable

Observer2537

I agree she’s done it on a relay and she just got a best time in the 200. The only problem i have with this prediction is I can’t imagine Penny coming 8th. She’s 2 clutch

Ervin

This aint 09…the whole field isn’t all gonna go best times in the same race….you’ll have 2 or 3 156s in the final

WV Swammer

3 of those are best times..:

Texas Tap Water

Lol no. It won’t be anywhere that fast.

Brownish

I think, it is not the biggest problem. Titmus will in it. Ruck and/or Ledecky for second. Federica won’t swim it IMO, and if Katinka would take it seriosly, she will be in the final and otherwise Penny won’t. Bonnet and Heemskerk will.

Brownish

Titmus.

Jeff

This is a tough one to call. You would think Ledecky and Titmus would be favourites. But I could genuinely see a situation where neither of them medal and Pellegrini, Ruck, McKeon and Bonnet take the top positions.

Brownish

Why could we think that Federica will swim it?

Observer2537

I think people are sleeping on Penny here. I think she might drop a 1:54 and be in contention for a medal. Almost all of her best 200 times have been from the past 2 years and since she didn’t swim last summer we haven’t really seen what she can do in this event.

Brownish

This year’s Penny won’t reach the final.

Observer2537

Why do you say that?

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James formerly competed for the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in February of 2018, placing 11th at the OUA Championships in the 200 IM, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics in May. He …

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