2022 Short Course Worlds Picks and Previews: Women’s Backstroke

2022 FINA SHORT COURSE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Like the men’s field, the women’s backstroke races are littered with returning finalists from both last year’s short course Worlds and long-course worlds in June. Add in some quickly rising teenagers to go along with the world record holders and a home crowd for the Australians, all three women’s backstroke races should be close ones.

Women’s 50m Backstroke

2022 LONG COURSE WORLDS FINALISTS PARTICIPATING:

2022 SHORT COURSE WORLDS FINALISTS PARTICIPATING:

Maggie MacNeil arrives in Melbourne as the world record holder and defending champion in the 50 backstroke. She’s reunited with Rick Bishop at LSU, and is coming off an electric fall season where she shattered multiple program records, hit a new lifetime best in the 50-yard free, and dropped some of the fastest splits in history at the Art Adamson Invite.

In her one appearance at the World Cup in Toronto, she won three events, including the 50 back, and set Canadian records in the 50 and 100 butterfly. She and her Canadian teammate Kylie Masse have the same season best time of 25.96, but given MacNeil’s performances so far this year and the fact that she is the world record holder, we’ll give her the edge here over Masse.

That’s not to say that Masse won’t give her a close race, though. She’s the long-course world champion in this event, and she swam well at all three stops of the World Cup, getting faster as she went. Masse earned silver in this event at SC Worlds last year, and looks primed for another trip to the podium.

Sweden’s Louise Hansson rounded out last year’s podium, hitting a lifetime best 25.83. Like Masse, she raced at all three stops of the World Cup, swimming a season best 26.20 in Toronto to finish fourth. Last year at Worlds, the top 5 swimmers (all of whom are back in the race this year) got under 26 seconds in the final, so expect it to take a similar effort to win a medal this year. Hansson has shown she’s capable of that, so she should be in the mix for a medal.

With seven of the eight finalists returning though, all of last year’s medalists will have to fight to stand on the podium once again. Hoping to move up from their finishes in 2021 are France’s Analia Pigreethe Netherlands’ Maaike de Waard, Austria’s Caroline Pihatsch, and Denmark’s Julie Kepp Jensen.

Of these four, we’d take Pigree to be the one to upset the top three from Abu Dhabi. She earned bronze in Budapest in a French record time of of 27.40, getting her hand on the wall in front of backstroke stars like Regan Smith and Kaylee McKeown. Her lifetime best in SCM is 25.96, which she swam to finish fourth at Worlds last year. Her season-best is a 26.36 from the French Elite Championships, an improvement from the 26.96 she swam in Berlin. Look for her to get closer to her best in Melbourne.

MacNeil took the world record from Kira Toussaint, who finished eighth in that final. Toussaint hasn’t been close to her best times in about a year, and has also had to recover from fracturing her finger during practice, which derailed her World Cup plans. Given that, we’ve left her out of the top five, but she could surprise us.

They might not be a threat to upset the top of the order here, but watch for McKeown and Claire CurzanBoth have proven themselves enough in long course meter backstroke for us to discount them here. Even if they don’t contend for medals, they’re more than capable of grabbing a lane for finals.

SwimSwam’s Top 5 Picks

Rank Swimmer Nation Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Maggie MacNeil Canada 25.96 25.27
2 Kylie Masse Canada 25.96 25.62
3 Analia Pigree France 26.32 25.96
4 Louise Hansson Sweden 26.20 25.83
5 Kaylee McKeown Australia 26.00 26.32

Women’s 100m Backstroke

2022 LONG COURSE WORLDS FINALISTS PARTICIPATING:

2022 SHORT COURSE WORLDS FINALISTS PARTICIPATING:

They’ll be without Regan Smith, but we’ll be treated to another showdown between Kylie Masse and Kaylee McKeown at Worlds. Masse earned the silver medal last year, swimming her lifetime best of 55.22, while McKeown didn’t race this event. It was the same story this summer in Budapest, as McKeown opted to focus on the 200 IM. It should be a good race between them, because while Masse has the faster lifetime best, McKeown has been faster this season, 55.81 to 56.13.

Neither of them are the defending SC world champion though–that title belongs to Louise Hansson, who blasted 55.20 to take the win in 2021, two hundredths ahead of Masse. She has yet to show that kind of speed this season as her season best is a 56.58 from Toronto’s World Cup. She wasn’t really involved in the showdowns between Masse and Beata Nelson throughout the World Cup, which could imply that she’s more focused on the 100 butterfly rather than the 100 back. Still, she is the defending champion, and can’t be discounted.

Like the 50 back, over half of the last year’s finalists return. That doesn’t include the bronze medalist Katharine Berkoff, but there will be plenty of competition for her spot on the podium. Kira Toussaint and Rhyan White will be back in the mix, as will Maaike de Waard and Simona Kubova. Toussaint’s lifetime best of 55.17 would have won her gold last year, but it’s from 2019 and it’s been a while since she’s threatened that time. White has spent her fall swimming yards, and posted lifetime bests in two of her off-events at the Art Adamson Invite.

Two teenagers worth watching here will be Budapest bronze medalist Claire Curzan and Australia’s Mollie O’Callaghan. Like White, Curzan has spent the fall swimming yards. She really began to break through on the international scene this summer, so watch for her to continue her rise in Melbourne. FINA doesn’t have a registered swim for her in the SC 100 back, so she’s lurking down the psych sheet seeded with her LCM best of 58.39.

As for O’Callaghan, she turned heads at Australia’s World Trials with her backstroke times, but ended up scratching those events to focus on freestyle. If she swims, this will be our first chance in a while to get a look at what she can do in backstroke while truly tapered. She’s a master of practically even splitting her long-course 100 freestyles, so watch to see if she does the same in backstroke.

SwimSwam’s Top 5 Picks

Rank Swimmer Nation Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Kylie Masse Canada 56.13 55.22
2 Kaylee McKeown Australia 55.81 55.68
3 Claire Curzan United States
4 Mollie O’Callaghan Australia 56.02 56.02
5 Louise Hansson Sweden 56.56 55.20

Women’s 200m Backstroke

2022 LONG COURSE WORLDS FINALISTS PARTICIPATING:

2022 SHORT COURSE WORLDS FINALISTS PARTICIPATING:

Stop us if you’ve heard this before: the majority of the finalists from both Budapest and Abu Dhabi will be in the race in Melbourne. Once again, that’s the case for the women’s 200 back.

That includes all three of last year’s medalists: Rhyan White, Kylie Masseand Isabelle Stadden. Of the three, Masse is the only one that we’ve seen in short course meters this season, and she posted a season best of 2:02.21, which is just off what she swam to earn the silver medal last year. Her lifetime best is a 2:01.45. White’s best is just behind that in 2:01.58, while Stadden sits a bit further back in 2:02.20.

They’ll have their hands full though with world record holder Kaylee McKeown. McKeown’s record is a 1:58.94, and she’s already broken 2:00 this season in 1:59.48. Add in the fact that she’ll be racing in front of a home crowd, and she’s the one who comes into the meet as the favorite. Not by a wide margin though–in Budapest, the 200 back was one of the closest races of the meet, as McKeown charged home in the final 50 meters to eke out the win ahead of White and Phoebe Bacon.

We also can’t discount Italy’s Margherita Panziera or China’s Peng Xuwei, who are returning finalists from both Budapest and Abu Dhabi. Last year, they finished #4 and #5, respectively, so expect them to be right back in the thick of the action in the final.

Finally, look for Kira Toussaint and Minna Atherton as finals threats. Toussaint swam a lifetime best of 2:01.26 at the Euro Championships last November, while Atherton’s lifetime best of 1:59.25 is from the 2019 ISL season. Most recently, Atherton posted 2:03.26 at the Australian National Championships in August 2022, so she’ll need to get closer to her best to mix it up with the top contenders.

SwimSwam’s Top 5 Picks

Rank Swimmer Nation Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Kaylee McKeown Australia 1:59.48 1:58.94
2 Kylie Masse Canada 2:01.45 2:02.21
3 Rhyan White United States 2:01.58
4 Margherita Panziera Italy 2:01.45
5 Peng Xuwei China 2:03.07 2:03.00

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Splash
1 month ago

Somehow I think Hansson is still underlooked. Her underwaters are way better than MOC, Kaylee and Masse. But how far will that take her? Only time will tell. I reckon the two Aussies and the Swede for the podium. Masse didn’t improve much from in season times to worlds or Commies in LC so interested how she goes in SC

Tracy Kosinski
1 month ago

Really looking forward to the backstroke. I think Kylie Masse is hungrier than anyone else in the field right now. I’m feeling another Masse/McKeown showdown in the 100 and 200.

Negative Nora
Reply to  Tracy Kosinski
1 month ago

I don’t see anyone touching Kaylee in the 200. The 100 should be a great race, I think MOC is somewhere on the podium with Masse and McKeown.

Tracy Kosinski
Reply to  Negative Nora
1 month ago

I think I agree. 200 could be tough catching Kaylee.

Troyy
Reply to  Tracy Kosinski
1 month ago

I don’t see Masse challenging Kaylee in the 200.

Tracy Kosinski
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

Yeah, one could hope and dream…maybe for Paris 👌🇨🇦❤️

commonwombat
Reply to  Tracy Kosinski
1 month ago

2023 will tell most likely tell us the story as regards Masse and the 200back. From being a medallist in Tokyo, her 200 was way-off this year. Was this due to switch in focus to the shorter races and was that just a one year “investigation” or indicative of her trajectory through to Paris ??

She is an absolute class act and certainly still one of the peak contenders over the 2 shorter backstrokes however, of what I’ve seen of her SC at ISL & World Cup; she hasn’t looked quite the threat she poses LC. Granted these outings were “out of peak season” so maybe not the truest indicator.

Troyy
Reply to  commonwombat
1 month ago

Didn’t you see her at SC worlds last year? She’s definitely a threat in the 100 in SC and also a contender for a medal in the 50 behind MacNeil who’ll probably crush everyone with her underwaters.

commonwombat
Reply to  Troyy
1 month ago

No, only last 2 ISL seasons plus this year’s World Cup. where she was generally good but also had her colours lowered by some who were, admittedly SC specialists.

In no way am I rubbishing her and I fully agree that she certainly has to be seriously respected over 50/100. 100% concur regarding MacNeil.

Heidisbsh
1 month ago

Why isn’t Wilm in here?

Tracy Kosinski
Reply to  Heidisbsh
1 month ago

Yes, if she’s attending she would be a contender for both the 50 and 100 🙂

Splash
Reply to  Tracy Kosinski
1 month ago

She’s swimming the 100 and 200. MacNeil and Masse are the 50 entries

Canadianh2ooooooo
Reply to  Heidisbsh
1 month ago

She is here

About Sophie Kaufman

Sophie Kaufman

Sophie grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, which means yes, she does root for the Bruins, but try not to hold that against her. At 9, she joined her local club team because her best friend convinced her it would be fun. Shoulder surgery ended her competitive swimming days long ago, …

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