2021 SC Worlds Picks & Previews: Men’s Butterfly Events


  • Thursday, December 16th – Tuesday, December 21st
  • Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
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Tokyo Olympic Finalists Participating: N/A

Nicholas Santos, now 41, will have the opportunity to defend his world title in this men’s 50m butterfly event. The reigning World Record holder took the gold 3 years ago in Hangzhou in a time of 21.81 after having logged a shiny new World Record of 21.75 just two months prior.

Santos has even more competition in this fast and furious race, however, as the Brazilian now no longer is sole owner of the WR standard. He’s joined by Hungary’s Szebasztian Szabo who matched the super quick 21.75 while competing for Aqua Centurions during this International Swimming League (ISL) season 3. As such, he and Santos lead the pack as the men to beat.

Chasing them in this 50m fly, however, will be the silver medalist from 2018, Chad Le Clos of South Africa, along with his teammate and superman-off-the-blocks starter Brad Tandy.

America will look to Michael Andrew to help put some hardware in the stars ‘n stripes column, with the 22-year-old coming off of having made his Olympic debut this past summer.

But it’s his compatriot Tom Shields who represents the only other contender besides the top 2 who have been under 22-seconds this season. Shields clocked a time of 21.99 during the World Cup to strike down a Caeleb Dressel American Record in the process.

Top 3 Picks:

  1. Nicholas Santos, Brazil (SB: 21.81)
  2. Szebasztian Szabo, Hungary (SB: 21.75)
  3. Tom Shields, USA (SB: 21.99)


Tokyo Olympic Finalists Participating:

  • #3 Noe Ponti, Switzerland
  • #4 Andrei Minakov, Russia
  • #5 Jakub Majerski, Poland

The men’s 100m fly field will be without heavy hitters Caeleb Dressel of the United States and Kristof Milak of Hungary, but the men who are in Abu Dhabi are still among the world’s best ever.

We’ll see the 2018 Short Course World Champion Chad Le Clos try to defend his title, entering this meet ranked 4th in the world with his season-best of 49.03 from the FINA World Cup.

Sitting atop the season’s rankings, however, is 30-year-0ld racing mainstay Matteo Rivolta of Italy. The man clocked the fastest time of his career in 48.64 during the ISL, rendering him the man to beat in Abu Dhabi.

The Americans have trusty Tom Shields ready to snag a medal, with the former Cal Bear owning a 2021-best of 48.67 as the only other man besides Rivolta to have gone sub-49 this season.

Lurking in the background, however, are Norwegian athlete Tomoe Hvas and surprise Olympic bronze medalist Noe Ponti of Switzerland. The former already notched a lifetime best of 49.22 this year while once-NC State commit Ponti cracked the 50-second mark at 49.98 for the first time in his career.

Top 3 Picks:

  1. Matteo Rivolta, Italy (SB: 48.64)
  2. Tom Shields, USA (SB: 48.67)
  3. Chad Le Clos, South Africa (SB: 49.03)


Tokyo Olympic Finalists Participating:

  • #5 Chad Le Clos, South Africa
  • #6 Leonardo de Deus, Brazil
  • #8 Krzysztof Chmielewski, Poland

The top-ranked swimmers in the world right now, Daiya Seto and Tomoru Honda, are both not swimming this men’s 200m fly event. Seto is opting to stick to the trio of IM events as the only Japanese swimmer racing here in Abu Dhabi.

Italy’s Alberto Razzetti is coming in hot in this men’s 200m fly event after having taken the 2021 European Short Course Championship title earlier this year. The 22-year-old owns the 3rd fastest time in the world of 1:50.24, a mark he shares with USA’s Tom Shields.

But it’s not Shields who will contest this event for the Americans but instead 2019 World Championships finalist Zach Harting along with Trenton Julian

This past August, Julian made some noise at the Speedo Summer Championships, ripping a lifetime best of 1:54.71 in the long course 200 fly to become the United States’ 9th fastest man ever in the event.

Chad Le Clos will once again be among the top medal contenders, while Noe Ponti and Tomoe Hvas will put their short course racing chops to the test as well.

Hvas looks particularly primed to medal, coming off a successful season of individual racing in the ISL as a member of LA Current. In September he posted a huge lifetime best of 1:50.62 to register a new national record and put his name into contention for the podium here.

Top 3 Picks:

  1. Alberto Razzetti, Italy (SB: 1:50.24)
  2. Chad Le Clos, South Africa (SB: 1:50.32)
  3. Tomoe Hvas, Norway (SB: 1:50.62)

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Phelps swims 200 breast rio
5 months ago

Santos is 41?? That ain’t a typo?

Reply to  Phelps swims 200 breast rio
5 months ago

Sure ain’t.

Reply to  Braden Keith
5 months ago

Braden, why don‘t you follow the footsteps of Santos and make a comeback at the age of 34 and challenge Dressel’s 17.6 ? 🤣🤣
I‘ll tell you what, the internet will break and Remel will lose his mind.

5 months ago

If Santos wins gold, will he be the oldest individual world champion? I can’t imagine there’s been an individual world champion in their 40s before?

Reply to  Jamesabc
5 months ago

he already is the oldest medalist, male or female, at sc worlds from his 50 fly gold from 2018 (38)


5 months ago

Small correction for the 50 fly. Szabó did not compete for Iron in the ISL this season, but for Aqua. And he did not match the World Record at an ISL meet, but at the European Championships.

diehard byu fan
5 months ago

Where is Tony Puertas (mr. doors)

Last edited 5 months ago by diehard byu fan
5 months ago

i can’t see how you would not pick Shields in the 100 just cause he is so consistent with his racing. Julian has got a legit podium shot in the 200. Likely these events are won by swimmers who choose to peak for this meet vs the ISL or some other meet.

5 months ago

My picks are easy – maybe wrong – but still easy:
50 fly – Michael Andrew
100 fly – Tom Shields
200 fly – Chad le Clos

5 months ago

USRPT MA will look pedestrian next to the european dinosaur Szabo.

Reply to  Swimfan
5 months ago

I expect MA to be off his game a little I don’t think he has even done a meet this fall.

5 months ago

MA isn’t really known as a short course swimmer. Not to say he’s a slouch or anything, but he doesn’t have the elite underwaters that a lot of these guys do.

Jonathan Charbroiled Steak
5 months ago

It’s going to be close, but I have Szabo over santos in the 50 fly.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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