2022 Short Course Worlds Picks And Previews: Women’s Breaststroke

2022 FINA SHORT COURSE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

Despite the retirement of 50/100 breast world record holder Alia Atkinson, women’s breaststroke is still set to be one of the most competitive fields at the 2022 Short Course World Championships.

In the shorter distances, Ruta Meilutyte has the hot hand after scaring both the 50 and 100 breast world records at the FINA World Cup this fall. The 200 breast will be a rematch between domestic rivals Lilly King and Kate Douglass—although King has more international and short course meters experience, Douglass has the hot hand after breaking the NCAA, American, and US Open records in the 200-yard breast late last month.

Women’s 50 Breast

2022 Long Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

2021 Short Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

Around this time last year, Ruta Meilutyte was just beginning to come out of retirement, racing for the first time in two years at the 2021 Lithuanian Short Course Championships. She clocked a 29.33 in the 50 breast at that meet, faster than the 29.34 Anastasia Gorbenko swam to win at the 2021 Short Course World Championships that were happening at the same time.

One year and a long course and European 50 breast title later, Meilutyte now comes into the 2022 Short Course Worlds championships as the heavy favorite to win gold. She scared the world record in this event twice this year, with the first time being when she went 29.44 long course at Euros to approach Benedetta Pilato‘s world mark of 29.30, and the second time being when she swam a time of 28.60 short course at the Berlin stop of the FINA World Cup that was just 0.04 seconds off of Alia Atkinson’s 28.56 world record.

After originally saying she wasn’t going to Short Course worlds, Meilutyte changed her mind to take advantage of the opportunity, and now looks to cap off her incredible comeback season with a new world record in her hands.

Even though Meilutyte is the pick for gold, the race for the minor medals will be a competitive one. Our pick for silver is the 17-year-old Benedetta Pilato, who has been a staple of consistency in this event for the last two years. After setting the long course 50 breast world record last year, she won silver at 2021 short course worlds, 2022 long course worlds, and the 2022 European championships, with Meilutyte being the only women to beat her in the latter two races. Now, the biggest question is whether she’ll be able to get under 29 seconds for the first time since 2020, when she went her best time of 28.81 that ranks her #5 all-time.

The third woman who has been sub-29 in this field is Lilly King, who went her personal best of 28.77 in the 2020 ISL season. Her season-best of 29.15 gives her the second-fastest entry time behind Meilutyte, and she’ll look to get herself back on a 50 breast podium again after suffering COVID-19 prior to long course worlds and placing an uncharacteristic 7th in the finals. Fresh off an Asian record, China’s Qianting Tang is also close to that 29 barrier, having clocked a 29.19 at Chinese Nationals this fall. She’s the third-ranked seed in the field, and looks to earn herself a spot on the podium in the 50 breast after opting not to swim the event last year. We’re going with King for bronze now, but if she’s as vulnerable as she was at long course worlds, Tang could sneak in to challenge her.

That being said, Chinese swimming has been affected with several COVID-19 issues this fall, which has resulted in several big meets like long course nationals being postponed. Having set best times in the 50 and 100 breast, Tang wasn’t amongst the group of Chinese swimmers that underperformed at long course worlds this summer, but it’s hard to say where she’ll be at during short course worlds.

Despite being a British record holder in the event, Imogen Clark has never swum at a World Championship meet, largely due to the fact that British selection procedures do not prioritize 50 stroke winners. Clark will be making her Worlds debut as the fourth seed, entered with her British record time of 29.32. She’s coming off a successful long course year, taking silver at the Commonwealth Games and bronze at the European Championships in her first major international meets since 2018. Now, all eyes are on whether she can continue her momentum into short couse.

Another swimmer fresh off a record is Lara Van Niekerk, the long course worlds bronze medalist and Commonwealth champion in the long course 50 breast. She broke the South African record in the short course 50 breast with a time of 29.62 this year, and will be racing in her first-ever short course international meet following her long course breakthrough year.

Sophie Hansson was last year’s bronze medalist in this event, and comes in with a best time of 29.55 which ranks her. However, with this year’s field being considerably more competitive than it was last year, she’s going to have to do more work in order to repeat a podium finish.

Don’t forget about NCAA star Anna Elendt. Although she’s seeded down in 18th with a 30.10, she’s been as fast as 25.73 on a 50 breast relay split in yards, a time that converts to 28.56 in meters. If that conversion translates to around a 29-low flat start time, Elendt could also be in contention for one of the top spots in this race. With Hansson having a best yards split of 26.05 and a best meters time of 29.55, it can reasonably assumed that Elendt is a few tenths faster than time and potentially in medal territory.

A notable swimmer missing from this event is defending champion Gorbenko, who is not entered in this year’s edition of Short Course Worlds after winning two titles last year.

SwimSwam’s Top 5 Picks:

Place Name Nation Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Ruta Meilutyte Lithuania 28.6 28.6
2 Benedetta Pilatto Italy 29.71 28.81
3 Lilly King United States 29.16 28.77
4 Imogen Clark Great Britain 29.73 29.32
5 Qianting Tang China 29.19 29.19

Women’s 100 Breast

2022 Long Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

2021 Short Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

The field in the women’s 100 breast is set to be extremely competitive, with all top seven finishers this year’s long course world championships set to compete. However, after seeing her performances at the FINA World Cup, this event is forecasted to be the Ruta Meilutyte show once more.

Meilutyte clocked a 1:02.77 at the Indianapolis stop of the World Cup, making her the only woman in the field sub-1:03. In addition, her time was also a massive season-best for her, just a few tenths off the world record of 1:02.36 that she shares with Alia Atkinson. Just like in the 50 breast, the 100 breast will be another showcasing where we could see the fastest time ever go down by virtue of Meilutyte.

After she finished off the podium of a 100 breast race for the first time in her career at long course worlds this summer, this 100 breast race is Lilly King‘s opportunity to prove she’s still amongst the world’s best. She’s entered as the third seed with a time of 1:03.74, but her best time of 1:02.50 makes her the third-fastest of all-time and the only woman in the field aside from Meilutyte to have been under 1:03. That being said, despite being the long course world record holder and an Olympic and world champion in the 100 breast, King is still missing a 100 breast short course world title from her resume—the one time she raced at short course worlds in 2016 she was second to Alia Atkinson.

Despite her mishap at Worlds, the 100 breast is still historically King’s bread and butter event, which is why we have her down as our pick for silver. And if things go extraordinarily well for her, she could even overtake Meilutyte for gold and earn her first short course worlds title.

Just like in the 50 breast, Qianting Tang could be a force that disrupts the top contenders. In a field missing big names like Meilutyte and King, she won the world title last year in a time of 1:03.47. She has since then gone on to improve that best time, swimming a 1:03.15 Asian record at Chinese Nationals to become the eighth-fastest of all-time. Assuming her training situation wasn’t affected by COVID-19, her recent success could land her on the podium once more.

Defending silver medalist Sophie Hansson comes in as the fourth seed with a time of 1:03.50, which she clocked at last year’s short course worlds. Since then, she has set a yards personal best of 56.72, which took nearly half a second off her previous best of 57.23. It will be interesting to see if she can make a similar drop in meters after switching her training base from NC State to Loughborough, as her best yards time converts to a 1:02.95 in meters. We have Hansson over Tang for bronze because of the COVID variable and because Hansson seemingly hasn’t reached peak potential, but the race should be close between the two.

Anna Elendts best yards time of 56.88 converts to a 1:03.13 in meters, so there’s plenty of room for her to improve upon her entry time of 1:04.07 as well.

With Italy being extremely competitive in breaststroke, Benedetta Pilato didn’t even get the opportunity to race the 100 breast at last year’s short course worlds despite medaling in the 50 breast. Since then, she’s gone on to win the World and European title in the long course 50 breast. As the eighth seed in this event, the seventeen-year-old looks to improve upon her best time of 1:03.55 set back in 2020. Also keep an eye on Reona Aoki, who ended 2022 with the fastest long course time (1:05.19) in the world and recently broke the Japanese record in the short course 100 breast with a time of 1:04.01.

After a DQ kept her out of the World Championship final, Annie Lazor looks to redeem herself in the 100 breast by swimming this event at short course worlds and potentially racing in her first-ever 100 breast international final (excluding the 2019 Pan American Games). Interestingly enough, she’s only raced the 200 breast at FINA World Cup stops, so what she has in store for the 100 breast is still a question mark.

SwimSwam’s Top 5 Picks:

Place Name Nation Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Ruta Meilutyte Lithuania 1:02.77 1:02.36
2 Lilly King United States 1:03.74 1:02.50
3 Sophie Hansson Sweden 1:05.03 1:03.50
4 Qianting Tang China 1:03.15 1:03.15
5 Anna Elendt Germany 1:04.07 1:04.07

Women’s 200 Breast

2022 Long Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

2021 Short Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

The women’s 200 breast podium will see some shakeups, with seven out of the eight finalists from last year not competing this year. Defending champion Emily Escobedo and bronze medalist Molly Renshaw have since then retired from swimming, whereas Russian silver medalist Evgeniia Chikunova is banned from FINA competition. In fact, had Chikunova been allowed to compete, she would have been the heavy favorite to win, considering that she swam the second-fastest time ever (2:14.70) in last November.

With last year’s stars gone, the two big favorites to win this race are Americans Lilly King and Kate Douglass.

Deciding between King and Douglass for the 200 breast world title was extremely difficult, as both swimmers make very strong cases for themselves. On one hand, Douglass comes in as the hot hand, being fresh off an American record in short course yards. Her personal best time of 2:01.87 in the 200-yard breast is nearly a second faster than King’s best yards time of 2:02.60, which she set in 2018. 2:01.87 converts to a 2:15.27 in meters, which is faster than King’s best time of 2:15.56. That being said, King has improved substantially from 2018 to 2022 in the 200 breast, with her long course best time dropping from a 2:21.83 to a 2:19.92, so it’s safe to say she’d be much closer to Douglass in yards than the 2018 version of herself would be.

However, King has much more short course meters 200 breast racing experience than Douglass, both from ISL and the 2016 edition of short course worlds. She’s also beaten Douglass in the last two times that they’ve raced head-to-head in any course, first at U.S. International Team Trials and then at long course World Championships. Keep in mind, King was recovering from COVID-19 at LC Worlds, so why wouldn’t she be able to beat her when fully healthy?

Something else to keep in mind is Douglass’s recent track history at international meets in finals. Last year, at the 2021 Short Course World Championships, she swam the fastest 200 IM time in prelims by over two seconds, but then added time in finals and finished third. Then, at the 2022 long course World Championships, she came in as one of the favorites to win the 200 breast but added two seconds in the finals race. Being able to swim the best at the right moment comes with experience, and that’s another factor that will put King over Douglass, for now.

Since conversions don’t always pan out, she has more experience, and her SCM personal best and season bests are both nearly two seconds clear of the rest of the field, we’re picking King to win as the “safe” bet. However, Douglass has had her fair share of moments where she’s outperformed expectations (ex. when she dropped over a second and ran down pre-race favorite Madisyn Cox to make the Olympic team), so we wouldn’t be surprised if she proved us wrong and pulled off the upset against King.

A potential contender for bronze is Elendt. She’s only raced this event in SCM at one meet in the last three years—when she set a best time of 2:21.33 at the Toronto stop of the FINA world cup. However, she was the NCAA runner-up in the event last year behind Douglass and her best yards time of 2:03.92 converts to a 2:17.55 in meters, a time that would rank #2 this year. Also be on the lookout for recently-graduated NC State swimmer Hansson, who was fourth in this event last year with a time of 2:18.13 and has a yards best of 2:03.75 that converts to 2:17.36 in meters. Her season-best of 2:24.88 from the World Cup is considerably slower than what she’s known to be capable of, but with her lack of racing this fall, we can assume that she wasn’t rested for that meet and will be in better shape come time for short course worlds.

The highest-ranked swimmer entered in this event aside from King is the Netherlands’ Tes Schouten, who went 2:19.55 at the World Cup. Also in sub-2:20 range was Sydney Pickrem (2:19.71) who didn’t race this event at Short Course Worlds last year but has been as fast as 2:17.75 before, a time that would have won the event. She’s coming off of a short course world title in the 200 IM, and looks to add gold from a second event to her resume.

Pickrem’s teammate Kelsey Wog is also a strong short course swimmer. Her season-best is a 2:20.59, but her personal best of 2:17.13 from ISL makes her the 14th-fastest performer of all-time. She’s raced SCM while doing USports competitions, having nearly taken down the USports record with a time of 2:18.67, so it will be interesting to see what she is capable of in a major short course meet.

Also entered in this race is long course worlds silver medalist Jenna Strauch. She’s been as fast as 2:19.64 in short course, and hit a season best of 2:21.57 at the Australian Short Course Championships. Her long course success this year came at the expense of both a slower competition field and dropping nearly a second in the 200 breast, so if she’s able to see similar drops in short course, she could be in contention to medal as well. Another long course star set to swim this event is European Champion Lisa Mamie. However, her short course PB of 2:21.20 indicates that she still has a ways to go before equating her long course success in the shorter pool.

SwimSwam’s Top 5 Picks:

Place Name Nation Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Lilly King United States 2:17.56 2:15.56
2 Kate Douglass United States 2:01.87 (yards) N/A
3 Anna Elendt Germany 2:21.33 2:21.33
4 Sydney Pickrem Canada 2:19.71 2:17.13
5 Sophie Hansson Sweden 2:24.88 2:18.13

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Tim
1 month ago

anyone know if theres a sportsbook where we can place bets on this meet?

WADA
1 month ago

I’ve got Ruta, she’s a beast 🦾⚙️

Alison England
1 month ago

Just as a bit of a “heads up” the past tense is “has never swum”, not “has never swam”. Is this very frequent error merely an Americanism?

David Jones
1 month ago

How can I live stream it in the USA?

Admin
Reply to  David Jones
1 month ago

No info yet, but we’ll post it when it’s available.

Splash
1 month ago

Pretty sure Hansson went a 2:21 at BUCS

Swimmerj
1 month ago

I’m thinking Douglass. At the Tennessee Invite, she was off her times in the 50 free and 100 fly, yet she produced an American record in the 200 breast. Yes, sometimes a full rest can give you the power you need for sprinting, but it can also help with fatigue at the end of a 200, plus she showed plenty of pop at the beginning of the race (nearing her best 100 time on the opening 100). What does this mean? She’s been focusing on it. As we’ve seen in the past, when Kate decides to really narrow in on one her of her many races, she’s pretty hard to beat.

Taa
1 month ago

I see king winning something don’t know which event. Okay prob the 200

Sub13
1 month ago

Controversial to pick King over Douglass considering how high people are on Douglass but I totally agree. King has the experience, and King has improved massively in the 200 since the last time she swam in yards so the American record isn’t as big of a deal as it seems.

Also Australia desperately needs a sprint breaststroker. It’s been a weakness since Leisel Jones retired. Although Hodges did step up in the medley relay final in Tokyo.

About Yanyan Li

Yanyan Li

Although Yanyan wasn't the greatest competitive swimmer, she learned more about the sport of swimming through scoring countless dual meets, being a timer, and keeping track of her teammates' best times for three years as a team manager. She eventually ventured into the realm of writing and joined SwimSwam in …

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