2022 SC World Champs Previews: Among Heavy Absences, the Stage is Set for Li Bingjie


The women’s distance freestyle events are missing some of the top stars from around the world at this year’s SC World Champs. Despite those absences, there should be some exciting races. China’s Li Bingjie is set up very well to repeat as champion in both the 400 and 800 free. This year’s meet also marks the first SC World Champs with a women’s 1500.


2022 Long Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

2021 Short Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

As you can see, this women’s 400 free field looks very different than what we’ve been accustomed to in recent years. No Katie Ledecky, no Ariarne Titmus, no Summer McIntosh. What that does is leave the field pretty wide open for Li Bingjie, who is the only returning swimmer from last year’s final and, coincidentally, is also the defending gold medalist in the event. Additionally, Bingjie is the World Record holder in the event, having swum a stunning 3:51.30 earlier this fall.

Bingjie is also reportedly in a very good spot heading into these SC World Champs. According to a report by Chinese media, Bingjie has improved her Cardiorespiratory ability and lactic acid tolerance through training this fall.

Bingjie won’t be without challengers, though she is the top seed in the event by over five seconds. She’s not the #2 seed, in fact she’s the #5 seed, but keep an eye out for the US’ Erin Gemmell. Gemmell’s seeded at 4:00.45, however, she’s coming off an incredible summer in which she went 1:56.14 in the LCM 200 free and 4:05.07 in the LCM 400 free. Will she have enough to truly challenge Bingjie? We’ll have to wait and see, however, she’s a strong contender for a medal.

Of course, there’s also Australia’s Lani Pallister, who is the #2 seed by a fairly wide margin, coming in at 3:56.74. She’s behind Bingjie’s 3:51.30, but Pallister is also almost three seconds ahead of #3 seed Miyu Namba out of Japan. Pallister finished fourth in the 40 free at the LCM World Championships over the summer, touching just 0.08 seconds off what it took to make the podium. Pallister is more of a true distance swimmer and more of a long course swimmer, but especially in this field, she’ll be fighting for a spot on top of the podium.

The only other finalist from the LCM World Champs this summer in this field is New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather, who took seventh in Budapest. Fairweather is seeded with a 4:02.28 and after swimming a 4:04.73 in the LC this summer, it feels like she’s primed to improve on her seed time.

As for the rest of the field, China’s Liu Yaxin comes in as the #4 seed, having swum a 4:00.33. She’ll certainly present a challenge to the podium, as long as she makes it through to the final. Australia’s Leah Neale is entered at 4:01.28, seeding her to make the final.

We also have Valentine Dumont out of Belgium, who comes in as the #7 seed with a 4:01.84. Merve Tuncel of Turkey is a young distance star in the making, and she’s seed just outside the top eight, with a 4:02.47. Similarly, rising French distance star Alexa Reyna is seeded with a 4:06.93, but she’s been improving a lot, so she could be a dark horse candidate to make the final.


1 Li Bingjie China 3:51.30 3:51.30
2 Lani Pallister Australia 3:56.74 3:56.74
3 Miyu Namba Japan 3:59.47 3:59.47
4 Erin Gemmell USA 4:00.45 4:00.45
5 Erika Fairweather New Zealand 4:02.28 4:02.28


2022 Long Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

2021 Short Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

The absence of stars like Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus is definitely felt here as well. Additionally, there’s no Katie Grimes, who has become a real threat in the 800, and no Kiah Melverton, who won silver in this event last December at SC Worlds.

We do, however, still have defending gold medalist Li Bingjie, who again looks to be the favorite in this event. Simona Quadarella was supposed to be competing in this event but has pulled out of the meet, leaving the path even more open for Bingjie.

Leah Smith leads the next group of swimmers with a 4:12.01. Behind her is China’s Zhang Ke (8:13.92) and Japan’s Miyu Namba (8:15.47). The cutoff is really interesting, as it just so happens that to be seeded in the top eight, it took being under 8:20. In fact, there’s a bug gap between #8 seed Erika Fairweather (8:18.63) and #9 seed Ching Hwee Gan (8:22.91).

Smith is in excellent position to medal with the absence of Quadarella. She’s been swimming well lately, and she has more experience than the young up-and-coming swimmers behind her.

In terms of people who may be flying under the radar, US 17-year-old Jillian Cox had a fantastic summer in LCM racing. She’s seeded tenth here at 8:22.94 but has been improving consistently in her racing. It wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see Cox make her way into the final, though a medal seems a bit out of reach at this point.


1 Li Bingjie China 8:02.09 8:02.09
2 Lani Pallister Australia 8:07.37 8:07.37
3 Leah Smith USA 8:12.01 8:07.67
4 Miyu Namba Japan 8:15.47 8:15.47
5 Zhang Ke China 8:13.92 8:13.92


2022 Long Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

Of note, this is the first time the women’s 1500 free is being offered at the SC World Championships. Prior to this year’s edition of the meet, SC Worlds followed the same model used for distance races in the Olympics, offering the 1500 for the men and the 800 for the women. They’ve now changed to match the LC Worlds and new Olympic format, which offers both distance races for men and women.

That being said, there aren’t any returning finalists from last year. Moreover, it’s a small field, and only one finalist from LC World Champs over the summer are in this field. That swimmer is Australia’s Lani Pallister, who is the top seed in the event by a whopping ten seconds. Pallister also won bronze at LC Worlds over the summer. While a win is, of course, not guaranteed, it seems overwhelmingly like Pallister wins a medal in this race.

The 1500 is the only distance race where Li Bingjie isn’t the top seed or the favorite. That being said, the Chinese distance star really excels in SCM racing and if she’s on top of her game at this meet, she absolutely could win the race. Especially with Simona Quadarella out of the picture, Bingjie is in excellent position to medal.

Turkey has a pair of swimmers who could make a bit of noise here as well. 17-year-old Merve Tuncel and 18-year-old Deniz Ertan are the fourth and fifth seeds respectively, coming in well into the top eight, but with times that lag behind the top three a little bit. We should look for both swimmers to make the final, where who knows, anything can happen.

Another swimmer to keep an eye on is France’s Alexa Reyna, who is the eighth seed with the 16:02.61 she swam earlier this fall. She’s by no means a guarantee to make the final, but she’s been swimming very well lately, and it feels like a sub 16:00 may be in her near future.

China’s Zhange Ke could be a factor here as well, entering as the sixth seed and one of only seven swimmers under 16:00. Brazil’s Gabrielle Roncatto is the seventh seed and the last swimmer seeded under 16:00 in this field.

1 Lani Pallister Australia 15:24.63 15:24.63
2 Li Bingjie China 15:41.80 15:41.80
3 Merve Tuncel Turkey 15:50.36 15:45.29
4 Alexa Reyna France 16:02.61 16:02.61
5 Deniz Ertan Turkey 15:51.65 15:51.65

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Sherry Smit
5 months ago

Don’t loose sight of Kensey McMahon in the 1500 free. She has some serious potential and could get herself a top 8 finish or even a medal

Tracy Kosinski
5 months ago

Excited to see these ladies in action! Although many are missing, the distance events have become much more exciting all-around on the women’s end.