2022 Short Course World Champs Picks and Previews: Men’s Distance Freestyle


The men’s distance events at the 2022 Short Course World Championships feature some key absences, though not as many as the women’s distance events. Those absences include swimmers such as Lukas Martens, Bobby Finke, Mykhailo Romanchuk, Florian Wellbrock, Gabriel Detti, and Ahmed Hafnaoui, among others. There are still a number of top distance swimmers entered. We’re also (hopefully) going to get to see 100/200 free superstar David Popovici race the 400 free at this meet, which could turn out to be an incredible race if he does.

These World Champs also mark the first time the men’s 800 is being offered at a SC World Champs, so we’ll be crowning a first-ever champion in that event.


2022 Long Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

2021 Short Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

The men’s 400 free features the most returning World Champs finalists out of the three men’s distance events. It also features David Popovici, which is very exciting, and we’ll cover more in-depth shortly.

Starting with the returning SC Worlds finalists, that group is led by Danas Rapsys (Lithuania), who won silver last December with a 3:36.23. Rapsys has long been a force to be reckoned with in this event and presents a real threat to win gold here.

Although Rapsys is the top returner from last year, he’s not the top seed. That honor belongs to the US’ Kieran Smith, who took fifth in this event last December at 2021 SC Worlds. Smith is actually the only swimmer in this field who was a finalist at both the 2021 SC Worlds and 2022 LC Worlds in the 400. He swam a 3:35.99 earlier this fall, making him the top seed coming into the meet.

Next up is Antonio Djakovic (Switzerland), who won bronze in this event last summer. Djakovic is the #4 seed in this field, entered with the 3:36.83 he swam at the 2021 SC Worlds. Also of note, Djakovic is still fairly young, having just turned 20 in October. He looks primed for a finals appearance and has a good chance at a medal.

Seeded third is Matt Sates (South Africa), who may just be the favorite. Sates is an incredible middle distance swimmer and the World Junior Record holder. He holds the WJR at 3:37.92, a time which he swam last October. Sates has beaten that time since turning 19 over the summer. Sates is entered with a 3:36.30, which is just 0.07 seconds behind Rapsys and 0.31 seconds behind Smith. This really feels like a meet where Sates may raise the bar again and start working his way towards the World Record of 3:32.25.

Netherlands’ Luc Kroon is the other returning finalist from the 2021 SC World Champs. Kroon came in sixth last December, swimming a 3:39.03. He’s seeded slightly faster than that here, coming in with a 3:38.33. Though that time is faster than he swam for sixth last year, Kroon’s seed time here only has him seeded ninth, just out of the final.

South Korea’s Woomin Kim is a returning finalist from the 2022 LC World Championships, having earned a seventh-place finish over the summer with a 3:44.14 (LCM). He’s actually seeded slower than his LCM time, coming in with a 3:45.64. That being said, he’s far down on the psych sheet, but he is very much a finals contender in this event.

Also well down the psych sheet is Romanian 18-year-old David Popovici. You know the story by now, Popovici lit the swimming world on fire over the summer, sweeping the men’s 100 free and 200 free at the World Champs, European Champs, World Junior Champs, and European Junior Champs. He also broke the men’s LCM 100 free World Record over the summer, taking down one of the few remaining super suited World Records.

Popovici could be highly dangerous in the SC 400 free. He’s a guy who went 1:42 in the LCM 200 free over the summer, which would seemingly indicate he could take out a SC 400 faster than anyone else and just simply take the race over. It will be very interesting to see how he does here, as it seems possible that he could suddenly be adding the 400 free to his schedule more often.

Popo swam his personal best of 3:43.00 last month at the Romanian National Championships. On it’s face that may seem like an indication that Popovici isn’t that great of a 400 freestyler, however, he clearly wasn’t at his sharpest at that meet. For example, he swam a personal best of 46.62 in the 100 free, which is just 0.2 seconds off his LCM World Record. Given that, it doesn’t seem like Popovici took much rest at all for that meet, which means he’s very possibly ready to blow that 3:43.00 away here.


1 Matt Sates South Africa 3:36.30 3:36.30
2 Kieran Smith USA 3:35.99 3:35.99
3 Danas Rapsys Lithuania 3:36.23 3:33.20
4 David Popovici Romania 3:46.08 3:43.00
5 Antonio Djakovic Switzerland 3:36.83 3:36.83


2022 Long Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

This represents the first SC World Championships that features the men’s 800 free. Until this year, SC Worlds followed the same model the Olympics previously modeled, offering the 800 free for women only and the 1500 free for men only. Now that the Olympics have added the men’s 800 and women’s 1500, FINA has decided to do the same with SC Worlds.

That being said, there are, of course, no returning finalists from last year’s SC Worlds. There is also only one returning finalist from the 2022 LC World Championships over the summer. That swimmer is Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy), who finished just off the podium over the summer, taking fourth with a 7:41.19 (LCM).

Paltrinieri also happens to be the top seed here, coming in with a 7:27.94. That makes Paltrinieri the only swimmer in the field under 7:30, which is important because he’s also seeded under the Championship Record of 7:30.31. Paltrinieri is coming off an excellent summer in which he broke the LC World Champs and European Records in the LCM 1500 free. With his background and vast experience competing at the highest levels, it’s hard to imagine Paltrinieri as anything but the heavy favorite here in the 800.

Coming in behind Paltrinieri is David Johnston (USA), who has quickly become one of the top distance swimmers in the US. Johnston is seeded second by a sizable margin, coming in five seconds ahead of #3 seed Logan Fonatine (France). With only seven swimmers in the field seeded under 7:40, Johnston looks primed for a finals appearance and is in great position to win a medal, maybe even gold.

Fontaine leads a tight pack from #3-7 with a 7:35.47. French teammate Joris Brouchaut is the #4 seed, entering with a 7:36.22. That gives France a great chance to win one, possibly two medals in this event.

Henrik Christiansen (Norway), Fei Liwei (CHN), and Mack Horton (Australia) are all also seeded under 7:40 and stand an excellent chance at making the final. Christiansen is particularly notable, as his personal best of 7:25.78 would have him seeded first in the event.

A little further down the psych sheet, South Korea’s Woomin Kim is an interesting wildcard here. Kim is a great 400 freestyler, having finished sixth in the event over the summer at the LC World Champs over the summer. Given that, as well as his propensity for LCM racing, Kim could be a real factor in the SC 800, especially in this field.


1 Gregorio Paltrinieri Italy 7:27.94 7:27.94
2 Henrik Christiansen Norway 7:36.57 7:25.78
3 David Johnston USA 7:30.41 7:30.41
4 Logan Fontaine France 7:35.47 7:35.47
5 Joris Bouchaut France 7:36.22 7:36.22


2022 Long Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

2021 Short Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

Gregorio Paltrinieri (Italy) comes into this 1500 with a ton of momentum. Not only is he the top seed coming into these World Championships, he had a phenomenal 1500 at the Long Course World Championships, where he broke the championship record and the European Record in the event. That was, of course, a long course 1500, but he went 14:32.80, which indicates he could have a huge swim in at these Short Course World Championships.

At SC Worlds last December, Paltrinieri finished just off the podium, taking fourth with a 14:21.00. Firstly, that time is only 11 seconds faster than he went in the LCM 1500 over the summer. Secondly, Paltrinieri is the top returner from last year’s SC Worlds, as medalists Florian Wellbrock, Ahmed Hafnaoui, and Mykhailo Romanchuk are not competing at these Championships.

All that points to Paltrinieri, who is the top seed by nearly ten seconds, is the clear favorite in this race.

France’s Damien Joly (France) is the only swimmer in this field other than Paltrinieri who was a finalist at both the 2021 SC Worlds and 2022 LC Worlds in the 1500. Joly didn’t medal at either meet, finishing sixth at SC Worlds and eighth at LC Worlds, but in this field, just having made those finals gives him a leg up. Joly is the #3 seed coming in, sitting firmly between David Johnston (USA) and Shogo Takeda (Japan). As one of only four swimmers seeded under 14:30 (14:25.62), Joly is very much a medal contender here.

Henrik Christiansen (Norway) is another returning finalist in the field, having taken seventh at the 2021 SC World Champs. Christiansen comes into this meet as the fifth seed, entered with a 14:30.78. Coincidentally, that time is from his finals performance at the 2021 SC World Champs last December. Christiansen has a very fast personal best, however, having swum a 14:18.15.

The only other returning finalist in this field is Great Britain’s Daniel Jervis, who finished seventh at the 2022 LC World Championships over the summer. Jervis is, however, seeded far down on the roster here, due to the fact that he’s seeded with his LCM time of 14:48.86. Given his time, Jervis stands a great chance of advancing to the final here.

Another key contender here is David Johnston (USA), who enters as the #2 seed with a 14:22.77. Johnston has become one of the top American distance swimmers in the last few years. He’s entered nearly ten seconds off Paltrinieri, but coming in with a 14:22, he has a great chance of making it into the final, and a very good chance of medaling as well.

Japan’s Shogo Takeda is the fourth and final swimmer in this field seeded under 14:30. That puts him in an excellent position to not only make the final, but to win a medal as well. Though this field is missing some of the heavy hitters, it’s features a tightly-seeded field, particularly after Paltrinieri, so that should make for a fun race.

We also shouldn’t overlook Charlie Clark, who has become one of the top distance swimmers in the US. Clark is also seeded far down on the psych sheet, as he’s seeded with an LCM time of 14:51.78 as well.

There are a few young swimmers in the field, including Spain’s Carlos Garach Benito, who just turned 18 over the summer. He’s seeded out of medal contention, coming in at 12th. With this field being a little thinner than usual, this could present an excellent opportunity for this teenager to make a final.

Similarly, Turkey’s Mert Kilavuz just turned 19 at the end of August. Kilavuz is the ninth seed, coming in with a 14:39. Like Garach Benito, Kilavuz is in a great position to make the leap to a World Championships final.


1 Gregorio Paltrinieri Italy 14:13.07  14:08.06
2 David Johnston USA 14:22.77  14:22.77
3 Damien Joly France 14:25.62  14:24.00
4 Henrik Christiansen Norway 14:30.78 14:18.15
5 Shogo Takeda Japan 14:29.92  14:29.92

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