2022 World Champs Previews: After Olympic Bronze, Lilly King Eyeing 100 BR Gold


By The Numbers: 

Olympic Roundup

Despite many swimmers abstaining from competing at these World Championships, and Russia being barred from competing in the meet, many of the women’s 100 breast Tokyo 2020 Olympians are slated to be key players in the event in Budapest. There is a very notable exception – Tokyo Gold medalist Lydia Jacoby (USA) didn’t qualify for the U.S. team this year. Russia’s Evgeniia Chikunova and Yuliya Efimova were 4th and 5th in Tokyo last summer, but are banned from competing in FINA events currently. Additionally, Ireland’s Mona McSharry, another Tokyo finalist, will not be competing as Ireland has chosen to focus on European Championships this summer.

Also out of the mix is Tokyo Olympic Silver medalist Tatjana Schoenmaker out of South Africa. Schoenmaker had the breakout Olympic performance both she and South Africa needed last summer, taking Silver in the 100 breast and winning Gold in the 200 breast, setting a new World Record to boot. In the 100 breast in Tokyo, Schoenmaker led the field in prelims and semifinals, setting a new South African Record in prelims with a 1:04.82. While finals would actually be her slowest performance of the 3 rounds, she still swam a 1:05.22, just 0.40 off her prelims swim.

Schoenmaker announced she won’t be at these World Championships and will instead be focusing on the Commonwealth Games this summer.

In terms of swimmers who will actually be competing, naturally we’ll start with Lilly King. King is the World Record holder, World Championships Record holder, and the 2x defending World Champion in the event. Once seemingly untouchable in the LCM 100 breast, it appears as though the world is beginning to catch up to King. She was a bit off in the final in Tokyo last summer, swimming a 1:05.54, which was good for Bronze. Although King has reached new heights in the LCM 200 breaststroke, winning Silver in Tokyo, we’ve also seen her World Record in the 50 breast go down at the hands of Italian youngster Benedetta Pilato in recent years.

At this point, King’s performance in the Olympic final should be considered an outlier. At the U.S. Olympic Trials last summer, King clocked a 1:04.72 in semifinals and 1:04.79 in finals, both of which would have been fast enough for Gold in Tokyo, and would have actually been a new Olympic Record. While King failed to crack 1:05 in any of the 3 rounds in Tokyo, her 200 breast performance later in the meet is enough to prove her career isn’t yet on the decline. Moreover, King swam well at the U.S. International Trials in late April. She won all 3 breaststroke events, swimming a 1:05.67 in the 100 breast. While that isn’t a jaw-dropping performance from King, it was enough to get the job done, and her 29.76 she swam in the 50 breast at the meet should be enough to dispel any worries that she’s lost her speed as a result of improving her 200 breast.

Sweden’s Sophie Hansson took 6th in Tokyo last summer, swimming a 1:06.07. Hansson has been as fast as 1:05.66, which she swam in prelims in Tokyo to establish the Swedish Record. This past season she made great strides in the SCY (yards) 100 breast during the collegiate season, getting down to 56.72, which makes her the 3rd-fastest yards performer all-time in the event.

Germany’s Anna Elendt made it to semifinals in Tokyo, but finished 13th, missing out on the final. Elendt has been on a tear this past year, however, exploding in her SCY (yards) racing with the University of Texas this NCAA season and throwing down a German Record 1:05.58 LCM 100 breast in late March at a Pro Swim Series meet. Elendt also went to the Barcelona stop of the Mare Nostrum, where she clocked a new German Record 30.10 50 breast. Given her new personal best of 1:05.58 and how well she’s consistently been racing over the last year, Elendt is very much alive to be a finalist in Budapest, and it’s certainly not out of the question that she could end up with a medal when all is said and done.

We might be cheating a little bit by putting Annie Lazor in this section, since she didn’t swim the 100 breast at the Tokyo Olympics, but since she won Bronze in the 200 breast in Tokyo, we’ll make an exception. Although Lazor is at her best in the 200 breast, she has been 1:05.37 in the 100 breast before, a time which she swam at the U.S. Olympic Trials last summer. That time would have been fast enough for Bronze in Tokyo, so she has demonstrated the ability to win a major international medal in the event. Lazor was only 1:06.12 at the U.S. International Team Trials in late April, but she swam a 1:05.91 at a meet in May as well.

Japan’s Reona Aoki clocked a 1:05.19 at the Japanese Trials meet in March, which puts her at #1 in the World this year. That’s incredibly encouraging for Aoki, especially after a pretty disappointing performance at the Tokyo Olympics in her country last summer. Aoki finished 19th in prelims, failing to advance to semifinals with a time of 1:07.29. These World Championships present an opportunity for Aoki to rectify her Olympic performance in the 100 breast, and having already swum a low 1:05, she could end up winning a medal without a doubt.

Rising Stars

Chinese 18-year-old Tang Qianting is another swimmer who made it into semifinals in Tokyo, but didn’t advance to finals. Qianting was 10th in both prelims and semifinals in Tokyo, swimming 1:06.47 and 1:06.63 respectively. However, in September of 2021, Qianting clocked a 1:05.82 at the Chinese National Games, marking a new personal best.

Fellow Chinese swimmer, Yu Jingyao was also exceptional at the Chinese National Games this past September, swimming a 1:05.63. Between Qianting and Jingyao, China potentially has two finalists for these World Championships, in an event where they had no finalists in Tokyo last summer.

South Africa’s Lara Van Niekerk is an 18-year-old rising star in a now incredibly formidable South African women’s breaststroke group. After not sending a single women’s swimmer to the 2016 Olympics, South Africa saw Schoenmaker win Gold, Silver, and set a new World Record in the women’s breast events in Tokyo, and Kaylene Corbett took 5th in the women’s 200 breast. Then, Van Niekerk broke through this spring with a 1:05.67 100 breast at the South African Championships, stunning Schoenmaker for Gold.

Van Niekerk is a speedster, and a rapidly improving one at that. She clocked a 29.72 50 breast at the South African Championships, breaking her own South African Record in the event. Her 50 speed means she’ll be able to go out with the likes of World Record holder Benedetta Pilato, King, and Arianna Castiglioni.

Eneli Jefimova, a 15-year-old out of Estonia, is another rising star on the women’s breaststroke scene. As a Tokyo Olympic semifinalist at just 14 years of age, Jefimova has proven herself to be the real deal. She advanced out of prelims with a 14th place finish in a time of 1:06.79, but would go on to finish 16th in semifinals. Her personal best of 1:06.47 was set last May, and while it will likely take a faster time than that to make the final in Budapest, at such a young age it’s very possible we see her with a huge swim to make the final.

The Italian Duo

Both have already been mentioned, but Italian’s Benedetta Pilato and Arianna Castiglioni are both contenders here in Budapest. Starting with Pilato, who at 17 years old is one of the youngest swimmers in the field, this could be her chance to emerge as a top 100 breaststroker in the world. Pilato is the World Record holder in the women’s LCM 50 breast, having clocked a blistering 29.30. That makes her the fastest breaststroker in the field in the pure sense of the word, but she hasn’t yet been able to fully extend that speed through a 100. That’s not say she hasn’t reached an elite level in the LCM 100 breast, in fact she just clocked a personal best of 1:05.70 at the Italian Championships, which puts her 6th in the world this year. Now 17 years old, this is as good a chance as any for Pilato to have a Lydia Jacoby-esque performance in the 100 breast and establish herself in the 100 breast.

At 22 years old, Castiglioni is in a similar boat as Pilato. Castiglioni is also a speedster, having swum a 29.86 in the 50 breast just this year. She set the Italian Record in the LCM 100 breast last summer, swimming a 1:05.67. That puts Castiglioni just ahead of Pilato in terms of personal bests. That give Italy a pair of swimmers in the event who definitely have a chance at making the final, and either could potentially end up grabbing a medal with a good performance.

She’s Back: Ruta Meilutyte

Lithuanian superstar Ruta Meilutyte is slated to swim the 100 breast at these World Championships, providing possibly one of the most interesting storylines of the meet. Since her return to competition last year, Meilutyte has been able to put up some solid performances. At the Lithuanian Championships in late April, Meilutyte was 30.24 in the 50 breast and 1:07.07 in the 100 breast. As a former World Record holder in the event (1:04.35), Meilutyte’s presence can’t be ignored here. That being said, it’s still unclear just how fast we can expect the once fastest women’s breaststroker in the world to be this summer. Before her retirement, Meilutyte had plateaued in her breaststroke events. She swam 3 1:04-point LCM 100 breaststrokes in 2013, but hasn’t been under 1:05 since then.

SwimSwam’s Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Country Lifetime Best 2022 Best
1 Lilly King USA 1:04.13 1:05.32
2 Reona Aoki JPN 1:05.19 1:05.19
3 Benedetta Pilato ITA 1:05.70 1:05.70
4 Anna Elendt GER 1:05.58 1:05.58
5 Lara Van Niekerk RSA 1:05.67 1:05.67
6 Sophie Hansson SWE 1:05.66 1:05.66
7 Annie Lazor USA 1:05.91 1:05.37
8 Arianna Castiglioni ITA 1:05.67 1:05.67


In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 months ago

My prediction:
Van Niekerk


5 months ago

People are sleeping on Tang. She won the SC title last year.

5 months ago

Lilly King, v. 1.0, 2016-2020: I know I am cocky, I back it up. I like to stare down, scare and intimidate opponents. I win that way even before the race starts.
Lilly King, v. 2.0, 2021 loses at Tokyo: Hey, why is everyone bashing my silver and bronze?

Alex Dragovich
5 months ago

King’s 100 breast at these WCs has the same feel to me as Dressel’s 100 free. It feels like the last WCs where a gold is possible before the younger challengers catch up and overtake for good. Can be totally wrong of course. Just hoping for great races all around.

1) King
2) Elendt
3) Pilato

5 months ago

Depends on which Lily King is in attendance.

1.04 low-mid LK = its her’s.

1.04.9 – 1.05low = it gets interesting. Even with Schoenmaker/Jacoby and others absent; there are still other players in the game

1.05 mid = royal rumble = anyone’s guess, we have a rugby scrum of contenders in this range.

All potential scenarios could be in play here. It still has to read Adv King but her air of invincibility has certainly taken a knock.

5 months ago

I don’t understand this statement: “Despite many swimmers abstaining from competing at these World Championships, and Russia being barred from competing in the meet, many of the women’s 100 breast Tokyo 2020 Olympians are slated to be key players in the event in Budapest.“

The 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 8th placed finalists aren’t even going to be in Budapest…

Sherry Smit
5 months ago

Ok if Pilato can go 29.3 in the 50, she can go sub 1:05 in the 100. 30.2, 34.7. I think if she can carry her speed into the second 50, I see her being a potential candidate for gold.

Donkey Kong and Chlorine Diddy
Reply to  Sherry Smit
5 months ago

I love to watch Lilly “Croc Collector” King lose.

Reply to  Donkey Kong and Chlorine Diddy
5 months ago

I’m sorry your life is so miserable. Hope things improve.

5 months ago

I don’t think Ireland is part of the Commonwealth Games swimming

Reply to  Verram
5 months ago

Perhaps she’s competing as Northern Ireland but then the article should say that.

Reply to  Troyy
5 months ago

i think there would be WW3 if she competed for Northern Ireland haha .. they just edited the article now anyway, quietly on the side

Reply to  Verram
5 months ago

This guy competes for both Ireland and Northern Ireland and WW3 hasn’t started and I’m sure there are other examples.


Last edited 5 months ago by Troyy
Reply to  Troyy
5 months ago

According to that link you sent me ..

In 2022 McClenaghan, along with fellow gymnasts Eamon Montgomery and Ewan McAteer, was banned from competing for Northern Ireland at the 2022 Commonwealth Games by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) as he had previously competed internationally for Ireland.[24] The FIG suggested the trio should renounce their Irish nationality on their gymnastics licences, or that the Commonwealth Games Federation remove the relevant event from that summer’s Games programme. The decision was met with backlash from politicians including Brandon Lewis, Deirdre Hargey and Leo Varadkar, as well as from Commonwealth Games NI, which accused the FIG of “completely disregarding” the Good Friday Agreement (which gave Northern Irish people the right to be both… Read more »

Reply to  Verram
5 months ago

Yep, that’s why I knew about him. Prior to this new ban they’ve been allowed to compete for either Ireland or Northern Ireland and the ban only applies to gymnastics anyway.

Last edited 5 months ago by Troyy
Reply to  Verram
5 months ago

Yeah I was going to say I think Ireland is pretty fluid with its citizenship. I’m not Irish but lived in the UK and have lots of very close Irish friends, and my understanding was that basically everyone born in Ireland (either country) is considered Irish and granted Irish citizenship. But it may be that external parties (eg FIG) are strict about letting one person compete for two different countries?

I don’t think citizens of ROI would care if one of their athletes competed at Comm Games for NI. But I’m not sure ROI citizens would want to do that.

Reply to  Jamesabc
5 months ago

In Ireland, you have birthright citizenship if you were:
1) Born in Ireland before 2005 (auto citizen)
2) Born in Northern Ireland before 2005 (entitled to claim)
3) If you were born in Ireland in 2005 or later, and either of your parents was an Irish OR UK citizen (auto citizen)
4) If you were born in Northern Ireland in 2005 or later, and either of your parents was an Irish OR UK citizen (entitled to claim)
5) Above two points apply also if your UK or Irish citizen parent died before your birth
6) If you were born in Ireland in 2005 or later, one of your parents must have lived in Ireland/N.… Read more »

Reply to  Troyy
5 months ago

And it’s a farce that the gymnastics governing body have banned him from the Northern Ireland team at the CG as he’s competed internationally for Ireland.

Gymnastics is the only sport affected by this decision and there have been plenty of boxers who have competed for both. Really frustrating too for NI as McClenaghan was their only gold medal in 2018.