2022 Short Course Worlds Picks & Previews: Men’s Sprint Freestyle

2022 FINA SHORT COURSE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

From the introduction of David Popovici to the resurgence of Kyle Chalmers, to the current absence of Caeleb Dressel, men’s sprint freestyle is at a interesting point. In the past two years newer names such as Popovici, Hwang Sun-woo, Lewis Burras, and Pan Zhanle have already found success in the discipline. But that doesn’t mean that mainstays of the sprint freestyle scene like Ben Proud and Florent Manaudou have gone anywhere. A lot of men currently occupy the top tier of sprint freestyle, which was evidenced earlier this year when seven different men were responsible for winning the nine medals in the discipline at the 2022 World Championships.

With three loaded fields, check out the discussions below for our predictions of who will come out on top, who will join them on the podium, and who will be just out of the top three.

MEN’S 50 FREESTYLE

2022 Long Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

2021 Short Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

The short course 50 freestyle is the shortest event at the meet and the group of men scheduled to race it in Melbourne will make it one of the most exciting. The man with the most momentum coming into this meet is arguably Trinidad and Tobago’s Dylan Carter who won 9 out of 9 of his races across the three meets that comprised the 2022 FINA World Cup. Carter won the 50 freestyle, 50 butterfly, and 50 backstroke at all three stops, completing a “triple-triple crown”

Carter got under 21 seconds at all three meets, hitting a 20.72, 20.77, and 20.91 to give himself 3 of the 6 fastest times in the world this year (including the top 2). Carter’s 20.72 marked a new national record and got him within half a second of top seed Ben Proud‘s best time (20.40) from 2021. The only other man with a quicker entry time is Kyle Chalmers who holds a 20.68 in 2021. Chalmers and Carter went head to head a few times at the World Cup this year, with Carter coming out on top in each matchup.

Carter, who has been seemingly unstoppable this year, had a showdown with Proud earlier this year at the Commonwealth Games. There, Proud was victorious, while Carter landed in 5th place overall. Proud hasn’t raced much this season so far but is fairly consistent at major international competitions (he is the reigning Short Course Worlds, Long Course Worlds, and Commonwealth Games champion in the 50 free) and will certainly give the field a tough time. That’s enough to make Proud the favorite here, but if Carter can show up in Melbourne with the speed and confidence he put on display this fall, Proud might be looking at his first major 50 freestyle loss in a while.

Chalmers will certainly be contending for a title, but will likely have raced more meters than the other two by the time the 50 freestyle goes down, considering that he is entered in both the 100 and 200 freestyles.

It’s hard to pick a 50 freestyle podium and ignore 3-time Olympic medalist in the event, Florent Manaudou. Manaudou’s greatest success has come at Olympic Games, but he has also had a great deal of short course success. He won the 50 freestyle title back in 2014 with a time of 20.26 (which is faster than any of the other men entered this year), along with silver in 2012. Manaudou has been slightly quieter this season, however, having peaked at a 21.05 in Berlin at the World Cup. That’s slightly behind Carter and Chalmers, but ahead of Proud’s fastest 2022 time. If he brings his A-game, Manaudou will clearly be a contender here, but we’ll slot him in at 4th place for now.

The group of men sitting behind this leading quartet is quite dense. There are two more men entered with a 20 (Szebasztian Szabo with a 20.72 and Thom de Boer with a 20.78), while another 8 men sit between 21.00 and 21.20. Szabo and de Boer both finished in the top 8 in 2021 at this meet, as did Manaudou’s teammate Maxime Grousset (21.08). Between those three, Grousset has been the fastest this year with his 20.78 from back in July 2022.

But it’s actually the USA’s Michael Andrew who will get the 5th spot in this preview. Despite his position on the psych sheet, Andrew is a highly-rated swimmer in this event. Andrew’s entry time is a 21.41, but that’s his most recent long course time from earlier this year. He swam a short course 20.94 back in 2018 but hasn’t raced the event much in recent years. Andrew is a versatile competitor and his return to the short course 50 freestyle could end up being medal-worthy.

With that said, Szabo, de Boer, Grousset, Kristian Gkolomeev, Kenzo Simons, Vladyslav Bukhov, and Kosuke Matsui are all worth a mention. A few men lower down on the psych sheets who might have something up their sleeve include nation-leading NCAA swimming Jordan Crooks, representing the Cayman Islands, Great Britain’s Lewis Burras, Commonwealth Games silver medalist, Michael Andrew‘s teammate David Curtiss, and 2021 World Championships finalist Ian Ho.

SWIMSWAM’S TOP 5 PICKS:

PLACE NAME NATION SEASON-BEST LIFETIME BEST
1 Ben Proud GBR NA 20.40
2 Dylan Carter TTO 20.72 20.72
3 Kyle Chalmers AUS 20.81 20.68
4 Florent Manaudou FRA 21.05 20.26
5 Michael Andrew USA NA 20.94

MEN’S 100 FREESTYLE

2022 Long Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

2021 Short Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

It’s always interesting to see just how different the field is in the 100 freestyle than it is in the 50. The 50 freestyle is a highly-specialized event and many men stick to the shorter race. One man who routinely goes after both, however, is Kyle Chalmers. He has a chance to make waves in the 50, but as the 2016 Olympic champion and current short course world record holder, the 100 freestyle is more in his bag.

Beyond the fact that he’s the fastest man in history in the event, there’s not much that needs to be said to justify putting Chalmers in the #1 spot here. Normally it would be an uncontroversial opinion that Chalmers is a near-lock to win this event. But there’s one name that throws a wrench in that line of thinking: Popovici.

David Popovici saw Chalmers set his 44.84 short course world record back in 2021 and, a few months later, raised him a 46.86 long course world record. The short course record is more relevant here, but we likely haven’t seen a fully-tapered short course swim from Popovici since his major breakthrough in the summer of 2022. Popovici put up a respectable 46.62 short course national record in November 2022, which left the world wondering what he’ll do next. It’s likely that that swim came without any rest and his swim in Melbourne is almost certainly going to be faster.

So, do we go for the reliable short course swimmer who holds the world record or the long course world record-holder who won’t stop improving and hasn’t given his all in short course yet? I’m going to go with Chalmers here because we know that he’s keenly focused on this meet and has actually articulated a short course world title as one of his two main goals in the sport right now. He’s been solid in the short course season this fall, has his eye on the ball, and is a known quantity in the 25-meter pool. Popovici is a speed machine but is a less-known quantity in this course. Regardless of who wins, we can expect a good race, and if we’re lucky a new world record.

At this meet one year ago, neither Chalmers nor Popovici was in attendance. In their absence, Italy’s Alessandro Miressi took gold (45.57), while Ryan Held was second (45.63), and Josh Liendo was third (45.82). While Held and Liendo are missing from the meet this year, Alessandro Miressi will be back in action and holds the second seed after Chalmers. Miressi swam a 46.41 in November 2022, which is a bit slower than where he was at that point in 2021 (45.84) before he dropped a 45.57 to win the world title in December. So we’ll put Miressi in the top 5, but with Chalmers, Popovici, and a burgeoning sprint crew, Miressi has some work to do to get into the top 3.

Maxime Grousset made a strong case for being the third-place pick in this event when he swam a 45.61 at the French Elite Championships in November. That made him the second-fastest man worldwide this year and got him within 0.04 of Miressi’s winning time from 2021. That swim from Grousset was a new best time and shows that he has the needed speed this fall to be in the mix. If he can put all the necessary elements together in that Melbourne final, it’s clear that Grousset could come away with a bronze medal (or maybe even gold!).

Just like in the 50 freestyle, you can see a pretty strong top four and a huge group of men behind fighting for the 5th-place spot.

China’s Zhanle Pan was nearly on the podium at long course World Championships this year, hitting a 47.79. At short course Worlds in 2021, he put up a 46.92 in prelims for 6th place but then missed out on the final with a 47.09 for 11th in semi-finals. Pan is entered right behind Italy’s backstroke world record-holder Thomas Ceccon who has a 46.15 entry time in the 100 free. Ceccon is sneakily a world-class freestyler who might be able to pick up his first major international freestyle medal here. Hwang Sun-woo of South Korea will be more of a threat in his specialty 200 freestyle, but a 46.34 entry time is strong enough to keep him in the conversation.

Similarly, Drew Kibler will likely have a better shot in the 200 free but is entered in the 100. His teammate Hunter Armstrong is a backstroker (and like Ceccon, a world record-holder) but will attempt to show off his freestyle skills in the 100. Other entrants to look out for will be 2021 finalist Stan Pijnenburg, Gabriel Santos of Brazil, Katsumi Nakamura from Japan, and Popovici’s teammate Robert Glinta.

PLACE NAME NATION SEASON-BEST LIFETIME BEST
1 Kyle Chalmers AUS 45.52 44.84
2 David Popovici ROU 46.62 46.62
3 Maxime Grousset FRA 45.61 45.61
4 Alessandro Miressi ITA 46.41 45.57
5 Zhanle Pan CHN 46.27 46.27

MEN’S 200 FREESTYLE

2022 Long Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

2021 Short Course Worlds Finalists Participating:

The biggest name in the 200 freestyle field that we didn’t see in the 50 and 100 is South Africa’s Matt Sates. Sates has developed quite a resume in the short course pool after two seasons on the World Cup circuit and a brief stint in the NCAA. In 2021 Sates lowered the world junior record in this event to a 1:40.65, which is his top-seeded entry time for the 2022 World Championships. Sates was just a touch slower than that time at the Berlin World Cup stop in November 2022 when he hit a 1:40.88. That swim makes him the fastest man in the world this year and one of two men under 1:41.

But David Popovici is probably the favorite here, even though the fastest he’s been in 2022 is a 1:43.06. Popovici is just a few months out from his world junior record-breaking 1:43.21 long course 200 freestyle so once he’s in Melbourne, we can almost definitely expect a significant drop. If you were excited about the prospect of the Popovici/Chalmers matchup in the 100 freestyle, Popovici/Chalmers/Sates in the 200 will be sure to delight.

Aside from Sates, the only 1:40 swimmer thus far in 2022 is Kyle Chalmers who delivered a 1:40.98 at Aussie Nationals in August and followed that up in October with a 1:41.09 in Berlin. While Sates won the showdown with Chalmers in Berlin, it was certainly a close race. Third place at that meet went to the USA’s Kieran Smith with a 1:42.30. Smith has since improved upon that time with a 1:41.78.

Another prime candidate to fight for a spot on the podium is South Korea’s Hwang Sun-woo. He is no stranger to the 200 freestyle, having won this event at the 2021 World Championships (in the absence of Sates and Chalmers) and having placed second at the long course 2022 World Championships. We haven’t seen a big short course swim from Hwang this fall, but his 1:41.60 from Abu Dhabi 2021 is enough to keep him in the conversation. The bronze medalist at that meet, Danas Rapsys, will also be racing this year and is entered with a 1:41.17.

Rapsys got to a 1:41.89 this fall at the Indianapolis World Cup, which was an improvement upon his 1:42.46 and 1:42.54 from the earlier stops. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Rapsys at his 1:40.85-national-record speed but even if he nears top shape in Melbourne, it might be enough to snag a second-straight bronze medal.

Beyond the aforementioned six, Olympic champion Tom Dean is never to be counted out in the 200 freestyle. He hasn’t gotten back to his peak since his 200 freestyle victory in Tokyo, but his 2019 time of 1:42.33 is a solid foundation to keep him in the race. He entered with a 1:43.25, which he swam in December 2021, so if he wants to stay in it he will probably need to drop time.

We’ll also need to look out for Brazil’s Fernando Scheffer and Japan’s Katsuhiro Matsumoto who are currently 3rd and 4th worldwide this year. Olympic medalist Scheffer swam a 1:41.32 in September, while Matsumoto hit a 1:41.67 in October. Drew Kibler will be racing the 200 freestyle as well and while he’s not accustomed to short course meters, he’s a key player for Team USA’s long course 4×200 and is the reigning NCAA champion in the short course yards 200 free. Lastly, 6th and 8th place finishers at last year’s World Championships Antonio Djakovic and Matteo Ciampi have entered to race again and will be looking to move up in the rankings.

PLACE NAME NATION SEASON-BEST LIFETIME BEST
1 David Popovici ROU 1:43.06 1:42.12
2 Matt Sates RSA 1:40.88 1:40.65
3 Kyle Chalmers AUS 1:40.98 1:40.82
4 Hwang Sun-woo KOR NA 1:41.17
5 Kieran Smith USA 1:41.78 1:41.78

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Tony
1 month ago

Unfortunate that SC GOAT Caeleb Dressel won’t be there. (In a 26 hour period in Dec. 2020, he set the current SC WRs in the 50 free, 100 fly and 100 IM — and squeezed an impressive 50 fly, 100 free and some relays.)

Alex
1 month ago

Popovici said in a recent interview that he will compete in Melbourne to learn from the best in SC, so I wouldn’t say this WC is his main focus, but he always surprises us…

Sub13
1 month ago

Would love to see Kyle medal in all 3 and ideally take (at least) the 100. There appear to be quite a few men with triple individual medal potential including Chalmers, Casas, Sates, Carter, Fink etc

Craig
1 month ago

Would’ve liked to see Matt Richards have a go at the 100… but he’s not in it.

Admin
Reply to  Craig
1 month ago

His new training seems to really be working for him. Just proved it a bit too late.

Scuncan Dott v2
Reply to  Craig
1 month ago

Honestly his omission is probably justified after the disappointing year he’s had (before his British record last week), but he’s racing at the Scottish nationals from tomorrow to Sunday (along with big names like Duncan Scott, James Guy, Paige Madden, Felix Auboeck and Freya Anderson), the 100 is tomorrow and he’ll have another chance to better his 45.8 British record from last week.

Scuncan Dott v2
1 month ago

I don’t see popovici being on the podium in either event, short course really isn’t his thing. Chalmers, Grousset, Pan in the 100 and Hwang, Chalmers and Sates in the 200 are my predicted medalists (in that order).

Noah
1 month ago

Popovici isn’t touching the podium in 1 fr and 2 fr he isn’t winning.

Davide
Reply to  Noah
1 month ago

Idk about the 100, but on the 200 he’s definitely the favorite, last year he went 1.42.12 after swimming 1.44.68 during summer, so a 2.56 seconds gap.

Looking at this season 1.42.97 you’d get a 1.40.41 which is likely enough to win

Last edited 1 month ago by Davide
Joel
Reply to  Davide
1 month ago

It doesn’t work like that. Chalmers for the win

BigBoiJohnson
Reply to  Noah
1 month ago

Heavily bookmarked this comment.

Last edited 1 month ago by BigBoiJohnson
eliemsy
Reply to  Noah
1 month ago

I think he might be on the podium for 200 fr but no way in 100 fr.