2022 World Champs Preview: Sjöström Leads a Depleted 50 Free Field

2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

Click here to see all of our 2022 World Championship Previews.

By The Numbers: 

  • World Record: Sarah Sjöström (SWE) – 23.67 (2017)
  • World Junior Record: Claire Curzan (USA) – 24.17 (2021)
  • 2020 Olympic Champion: Emma McKeon (AUS) – 23.81
  • 2019 World Champion: Simone Manuel (USA) – 24.05

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: this race will be missing some big names in Budapest. We’ve seen that be true up and down the schedule this year, as swimmers–for a variety of reasons–forgo this year’s Worlds. 

That said, the women’s 50 free might be the event missing the most star power in the entire meet. 2020 Olympic gold medalist Emma McKeon is skipping Worlds. Neither Cate nor Bronte Campbell will be there either. Rio gold medalist and Tokyo bronze medalist Pernille Blume is skipping to recover after competing on a Danish dance show. Rikako Ikee won’t be there after missing Japan’s speedy qualifying times. Ranomi Kromowidjojo and Femke Heemskerk are retired. Liu Xiang, the only woman to break 24 seconds so far this season, is not on China’s roster. 2019 World Champion Simone Manuel didn’t race at U.S World Trials, and Abbey Weitzeil missed the team. 

So, who will be in the field this year? 

Well, the world record holder, Sarah Sjöström, for one. After breaking her elbow last February, Sjöström had a mixed Olympics. She had the most success in this event, winning the silver medal. Since then, she’s had a superlative SC season. At SC Worlds, she won seven medals, including gold in the 50 free. Her best time in long course this season came in Monaco at Mare Nostrum, where she clocked 24.06 for the win there as well. While she’s yet to crack 24 seconds this season, she’s the only one in this field who has. Sjöström seems to be rounding into form at the right time which, when added to her track record in this event and the depleted field, makes her the favorite. 

THE CHALLENGERS

The next fastest time in the field belongs to Australia’s Shayna Jack. Jack returned to the sport in December after serving a two-year suspension for testing positive for a banned substance. She’s riding momentum into her first major championship since then thanks to a strong Australian Trials, where she posted lifetime bests in both the 50 and 100 free. In the 50, she posted a 24.11 to touch first, becoming the first non-Campbell to win the event at World Trials since 2011.

Besides Sjöström, Kasia Wasick is the only other Olympic finalist who will be in the race in Budapest. Wasick’s personal best stands at 24.17, which she swam at last spring’s European Championship. This year, she clocked a 24.37 at May’s Speedo Grand Challenge, which is this season’s fifth fastest time. With so many of the women who finished ahead of her in Tokyo not swimming at Worlds, the door is open for Wasick to climb onto the podium. 

You may know Zhang Yufei as purely the butterflier who won the 200 fly Olympic gold in the fastest time we’ve seen since 2009, but she’s also capable of throwing down competitive times in the 50 free. In Tokyo, she actually tied for eighth in the 50 free in 24.32 out of the semis with countrymate Wu Qingfeng but withdrew. She was faster than that at the National Games, setting a personal best 24.29 and putting herself into medal contention.  

THE 24-MID CLUB

There’s a group of swimmers who’ve been 24-mid this season, which means they’re hanging around as fifth through ninth fastest in the field this season. That puts them right on the bubble for the final. Depending on how fast the field–particularly those seeded behind them–swim during earlier rounds, it’s possible that they all make the final, but just as conceivable that more than one of them gets locked out of a third swim.

Cheng Yujie set a lifetime best of 24.41 at the National Games. With so many meets canceled for the Chinese swimmers due to the ongoing pandemic, it’s hard to know what form many of them will be bringing to Budapest, simply because we haven’t seen them race as recently as some of the other swimmers. However, 24.41 puts Cheng into a good position for this event. Replicating or bettering that swim should put her through to the final. 

The two Americans were within two hundredths of each other in Greensboro. Erika Brown popped a personal best 24.48 in prelims, which would have won finals. As it was, she went 24.52 at night to finish second behind Torri Huske

Torrie Huske (photo: Jack Spitser)

As for Huske, she won U.S Trials in 24.50, which is just off her best of 24.44. Huske has a much busier schedule this summer than she did at the Olympics; she’s qualified in four individual events and will also have relays to swim. The 50 free final is on the last day, along with the 4×100 medley relay, which Huske will almost certainly be on. It will have been a long meet for Huske, so in order for her to perform well here it’ll be crucial for her to manage herself well over the eight days. 

Meg Harris clocked 24.50 at Australian Trials, knocking a hundredth off the lifetime best she set at Olympic Trials last year. Great Britain’s Anna Hopkin swam 24.85 at British Championships, then bettered that by swimming 24.65 at Mare Nostrum’s Barcelona stop. That’s a positive sign for her heading into Budapest. Her lifetime best sits at 24.34, fourth fastest in the field.

FINALS THREATS

The French will field the duo of Marie Wattel and Mélanie Henique. Wattel’s been the faster of the two this season with a 24.75, but Henique is just behind her with a 24.75. It’s Henique who holds the national record though, with a 24.34 from December 2020. Wattel has the same individual event lineup as Huske, so it will be important for her to manage herself well too, as she looks to rebound after not making the Olympic final last summer. 

Valerie van Roon is one of the Dutch sprinters trying to fill the massive gap left by Kromowidjojo and Heemskerk. She’s been 24.81 this season and her best sits at 24.63, so she’ll likely need to drop in order to make the final. 

This could be the perfect opportunity for Canada’s Kayla Sanchez to break out on an individual level. She’s been huge for Canada on the relays, and scratched the 100 free semis in Tokyo to be fresh for the relay. She was 24.82 at Canadian Trials, but has been as fast as 24.68. Like van Roon, she’ll likely have to drop time to final, but probably less than she’d have to in another year. 

Place Name Nation Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Sarah Sjöström Sweden 24.06 23.67
2 Shayna Jack Australia 24.14 24.14
3 Kasia Wasick Poland 24.37 24.17
4 Zhang Yufei China 24.29 24.29
5 Anna Hopkin Great Britain 24.65 24.34
6 Torri Huske USA 24.50 24.44
7 Cheng Yujie China 24.41 24.41
8 Erika Brown USA 24.48 24.48

DARK HORSE: Siobhan Haughey (HKG) – Haughey holds a lifetime best 24.59, and made it through to semifinals in Tokyo, but scratched citing a hip injury. Given her current ankle injury, she might choose to lighten her load by scratching this event to focus on the 100 and 200 free where she has a much better shot at a medal. She might scratch it because it’s at the end of a long meet and her ankle hurts. But if she swims, her best puts her right in the middle of the field which puts the final within reach.

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AnEn
12 days ago

My prediction:
Sjöstrom
Jack
Wasick
Zhang
Huske
Harris
Hopkin
Cheng

Robbos
15 days ago

Yeah I’m tipping Sjorstrom to win, this is one she really wants. Jack it would be great for a 2nd.

ArtVanDeLegh10
Reply to  Robbos
14 days ago

My guess is that Sjostrom isn’t the only one that really wants to win this event.

Robbos
Reply to  ArtVanDeLegh10
14 days ago

My thinking was more that Sjostrom is the WR holder in 3 events, she missed out on Tokyo, well she wasn’t at her best, due to injury at Tokyo. She is getting older & the 50 is the one that is least affected by age.

Stephen
15 days ago

Depleted wow…….no credit to the next gen.
Sjorstrom Fav ……..But definitely not as hot as Dressel.

Gymswim
15 days ago

Do we have any info on streaming yet?

Admin
Reply to  Gymswim
15 days ago

They said Tuesday.

Still haven’t seen anything. Will keep looking.

SwimReason
Reply to  Braden Keith
15 days ago

Olympic Channel and Peacock. Finals only.

https://olympics.nbcsports.com/2022/06/13/swimming-world-championships-tv-live-stream-schedule/

9Now offers a free service and will stream all sessions. Sign-up (free) and Australian VPN required.
https://www.9now.com.au/fina-world-championships-swimming

SwimReason
Reply to  Braden Keith
15 days ago

I did post streaming info here, don’t know where it went… can’t see it so I’ll try again.

Peacock and Olympic Channel (finals only):
https://olympics.nbcsports.com/2022/06/13/swimming-world-championships-tv-live-stream-schedule/

A free account on Nine and an Australian VPN connection will give you full streaming:
https://www.9now.com.au/fina-world-championships-swimming

Awsi Dooger
Reply to  Gymswim
15 days ago

I saw the schedule for Olympic Channel. There were roughly 100 telecasts listed although obviously the vast majority are replays. It looked like the original telecast was daily at 12 PM to 2 PM Eastern Time. Then replayed at 6 PM and midnight and the following morning.

Mike
15 days ago

Any psych sheet available yet???

Admin
Reply to  Mike
15 days ago

Nada

Jamesabc
15 days ago

Worlds is 4 days away and still 15+ events without articles. I’m expecting some juicy content this week! Haha

Hooked on Chlorine
15 days ago

I’m going with Shayna Jack if only in the hope that the race will be a lot closer than predicted.

Calvin
15 days ago

This is off topic but I saw Taylor Ruck graduating from Stanford yesterday and Team Canada is in Budapest already. Is that normal, is she still going?

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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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