2020 Olympic Previews: Youth Hunting Hosszu in Women’s 200 IM


Women’s 200 IM

At the 2016 Olympic Games, Katinka Hosszu dominated the IM events, sweeping the gold medals and setting a new world record in the 400 IM. Hosszu, who was 27-years-old at the time, also broke the Olympic record in the 200 IM and won the 100m backstroke at the games. Since then, Hosszu has been almost untouchable in the 200 IM, winning gold medals at the 2017 World Championships, 2018 European Championships, and 2019 World Championships. 

Katinka Hosszu 58th Settecolli Trophy, Rome, Italy Courtesy of Mine Kasapoglu

Katinka Hosszu
58th Settecolli Trophy, Rome, Italy Courtesy of Mine Kasapoglu

In Tokyo, Hosszu should remain on top in this event. Her best time stands nearly 2 seconds ahead of every other swimmer in the field. In addition, the women’s 200 IM is one of the first events of the meet, falling on Day 3. With Hosszu’s busy schedule, this could be a huge benefit for her, especially considering she’s 32-years-old. If she is able to repeat as the champion in this event, she will become the oldest swimmer to ever win the event at the Olympics.

Hosszu’s biggest obstacle in this event will be overcoming a field filled with young contenders, including Americans Alex Walsh and Kate Douglass, along with China’s Yu Yiting, all of whom have had explosive performances since the coronavirus restrictions were lifted. 

Both Walsh and Douglass have risen through the IM ranks both nationally and internationally over the past year. The University of Virginia duo are currently ranked as two of the fastest performers of all time in the short course version of this event, holding personal bests of 1:51.53 and 1:50.92, respectively. At the US Olympic Trials meet, Walsh managed to get her hand to the wall first in a time of 2:09.30, while Douglass touched in a time of 2:09.32. Although Walsh was slightly off of her personal best of 2:08.87, Douglass’ performance marked a huge personal best. Also, both athletes are only 19-years-old (although Walsh turns 20 during the Olympics), meaning that they may very well have room to improve upon their best times at the Olympic Games. 

Yiting, at only 15-years-old, recently shattered the world junior record in this event at the Chinese Olympic Trials, posting a time of 2:09.88 to cut a tenth off of Rikako Ikee’s previous record. Unlike McKeown, Walsh, and Douglass, Yiting has raced this event at the senior international level, swimming at the 2019 World Championships when she was only 13-years-old. Although she only ranks 10th in the event going into Tokyo, Yiting is at the age where many swimmers begin to develop and take large chunks of time off of their personal bests. With a 1 second drop, Yiting could find herself on the podium in Tokyo. 

Sydney Pickrem, 200 breast final. Courtesy Joseph Kleindl

Canadian Sydney Pickrem is another threat to Hosszu in this event, as she is one of the only women to have beaten Hosszu in an international event since Rio. After choking on water  and getting out of the pool during the final of the 200 IM at the 2017 World Championships, Pickrem came back with vengeance, claiming a bronze medal in the event at the 2019 World Championships. With her personal best of 2:08.61, Pickrem ranks as the 3rd fastest performer entered in the event in Tokyo, putting her in a prime position to claim another international medal, and her first Olympic medal. However, Pickrem has only been 2:10.29 this season, leaving some doubts as to her fitness level following the pandemic, as Canadian training centers were closed several times throughout the year. 

Abbie Wood has slowly risen through the ranks to become one of the world’s top IM swimmers since the pandemic began. Wood experienced her international breakout during the 2020 ISL season, when she shattered the British record in the 200 IM SCM, posting a time of 2:04.77. Wood later followed up her ISL performances with major drops in the long course pool, swimming a personal best of 2:09.23 at the British Selection Trials. Wood’s time currently ranks her as the 4th fastest performer in the world for 2021, and the 3rd fastest this season amongst swimmers who will be competing in Tokyo. However, Wood has never competed at a major international competition, and the time difference between Tokyo and England may be difficult to adjust to. Despite this, she still has a strong chance of finaling at the Olympics. 

Japanese swimmers Miho Teramura and Yui Ohashi will have a huge advantage with the time zone difference, competing at their home Olympic Games. The pair currently rank 6th and 7th in the world for the 2021 season with their personal bests of 2:09.55 and 2:09.59, respectively. 

Ohashi, in particular, will be a strong contender in this race. After posting a 2:07.91 back in 2017, Ohashi struggled to match her personal best in 2018 and 2019, not even going under 2:10 in 2020. Since covid restrictions have eased, however, Ohashi has been swimming very strongly, posting a time of 2:09.59 already this season. Currently, Ohashi is ranked as a favorite to medal in the women’s 400 IM, which occurs on Day 1 of the meet. If she is able to live up to expectations and earn a medal, momentum may help her climb the rankings in the 200 IM as well. 

Termura, the 9th place finisher in this event at the Rio Olympics, holds valuable international and Olympic experience that many of the other competitors lack. At the Japanese Olympic Trials, Termura posted a personal best in this event for the first time since 2018. With this, it seems that she is peaking at the right time to make a big jump at her second Olympic Games. 

Great Britain has another strong entrant in Alicia Wilson, who set her personal best of 2:09.61 this year. Wilson is the reigning World University Games gold medalist in this event and made a huge jump to qualify for Tokyo. South Korea’s Kim Seo-Yeong is also in the position to final here, having placed 6th overall at the 2019 World Championships. Although she has only been 2:10.66 in 2021, Seo-Yeong holds a personal best of 2:08.34, which places her right in the thick of things. 

SwimSwam’s Picks:

Place Swimmer Country
Best Time Since 2016 Olympics
1 Katinka Hosszu HUN 2:07.00
2 Sydney Pickrem CAN 2:08.61
3 Yui Ohashi JPN 2:07.91
4 Alex Walsh USA 2:08.87
5 Abbie Wood GBR 2:09.23
6 Kate Douglass USA 2:09.32
7 Miho Teramura JPN 2:09.55
8 Yu Yiting CHN 2:09.64

Dark horse Pick: 17-year-old Anastasia Gorbenko has dropped almost 3 seconds in this event since 2018, going from 2:12.88 to 2:09.99. Gorbenko is currently ranked 12th overall in the event going into Tokyo. However, she is coming off of a huge European Championships victory over Hosszu, and is young enough to drop a significant amount of time in Tokyo. 

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Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Manuel
2 months ago

If this is about Kaylee McKeon, she announced she’s not swimming the 200 IM

The unoriginal Tim
Reply to  PVSFree
2 months ago

I think the point is that Hosszu is ranked 15th in the world this season so should not be considered the favourite.

Worth noting that at least three of the women ahead of her on the season ranking will not be swimming this in Tokyo including nos 1 and 2.

Last edited 2 months ago by The unoriginal Tim
Sam B
2 months ago

she has a good chance at being on the podium, even the Hungarian National team’s head coach doesn’t believe she will win either IM events. (He predicts one gold for Hungary, obviously: Milak)

Last edited 2 months ago by Sam B
Reply to  Sam B
2 months ago

Mr. Sós is terrible, a typical politcian/lawyer type. Never want to lose, and predicting the least. This how you underachieve. This why Katinka won in Rio 4 medals, with the Tusup/American mentality.

Reply to  TerryO
2 months ago

Yes, Sós is really “sós”. He’s predicting, counting something and divides it with two.

Reply to  Sam B
2 months ago

It was long time ago, read what he is saying now.

2 months ago

Wait a minute. Are Walsh, Douglass, and Weyant all in the same class?

Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
2 months ago

nope, douglass inc jr, walsh inc sophomore, weyant inc fresh year (douglass might do 5th year making her and walsh same class tho)

Reply to  Pez
2 months ago

I got confused by the article saying the first two are still 19, but I can see how that works out, with Douglass potentially skipping a grade back in 1-12 grade. Also just remembered Weyant redshirted so that explains that.

Reply to  bobthebuilderrocks
2 months ago

Walsh is old for her class year turning 19 in July before her freshman year and Douglass is very young for her class only turning 18 in November of her freshman year.

Scotty P
2 months ago

They still have a ways to go before they catch her tricepts

2 months ago

We saw at US Trials that this five year gap particularly favored youth over veterans. I think we see a similar thing at the Olympics. Alex Walsh is now the only swimmer entered who’s gone sub 209 this year. I think she takes it, and Douglass gets on the podium as well.

Reply to  Greg
2 months ago

Pickrem didn’t taper yet this year because she was prequalified in her events.

Reply to  Greg
2 months ago

Wow and I thought I was bold having Walsh get the silver and Douglass get 4th in my pick’em

waHOOwa forever
2 months ago

let’s go hoos!! let’s go usa!

Joel Lin
2 months ago

Walsh & Douglass pull off the shocker & go 1-2.

2 Hoos in the 2:07s.

Douglass is on a age grouper time drops run in her long course events. All three of her 2 IM swims at Trials lowered her lifetime bests. I think that continues. The Lady Hoos get dialed in & get it done.

Reply to  Joel Lin
2 months ago

I agree completely RE: Douglass. She keeps dropping time like an age grouper. She tends to put her head down in the IM with 10 or so meters to go and complete magic happens. This is a deadly combo for a veteran to face – – a talented teenage closer in a 2IM sprint with absolutely NOTHING to lose

2 months ago

Hot take: Pickrem wins it.
Hosszu, Wood, Walsh, and Douglass battle for 2nd and 3rd. Wood is on fire, and so is Douglass.

Last edited 2 months ago by wow

About Nicole Miller

Nicole Miller

Nicole has been with SwimSwam since April 2020, as both a reporter and social media contributor. Prior to joining the SwimSwam platform, Nicole also managed a successful Instagram platform, amassing over 20,000 followers. Currently, Nicole is pursuing her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she is an active …

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