2022 World Champs Previews: Dressel Takes Aim At 21-Second Barrier In 50 Free


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By The Numbers:

  • World Record: César Cielo (BRA) – 20.91 (2009)
  • World Junior Record: Michael Andrew (USA) – 21.75 (2017)
  • 2020 Olympic Champion: Caeleb Dressel (USA) – 21.07
  • 2019 World Champion: Caeleb Dressel (USA) – 21.04

Four of the five-fastest textile performers will be in the field of the men’s 50 freestyle at the 2022 World Championships, led by two-time defending champion Caeleb Dressel.


Dressel, whose lifetime best of 21.04, is the fastest swimmer in history in a textile suit, and third-fastest overall. He’s coming off three individual gold medals at the Olympics and is the two-time defending world champion here. In Tokyo, he won this event by nearly half a second (.48) and he has the fastest time in the world this season at 21.29, making him once again look like the man to beat.

One thing to keep in mind is that all three rounds of this event and the 100 fly are on the same days, but that’s something he’s dealt with flawlessly in both 2017 and 2019.

Ben Proud. Photo: Mike Lewis

One of the best pure sprinters in the world, Ben Proud’s lifetime best stands at 21.11 from 2018. In Tokyo, he tied for fifth in 21.72. The 27-year-old Brit had a big short course season, breaking his British Record in this event (20.40) and eventually winning gold at SC Worlds (20.45). In the long course pool this season, Proud swam 21.72 at the Edinburgh Invitational, exactly what he went in the Olympic final. Pre-qualified for Worlds, Proud was 21.91 at British Trials to finish second behind Lewis Burras. Now he’ll look to translate his season’s success in short course to the big pool and contend for a medal.

After briefly retiring from the sport, Frenchman Florent Manaudou grabbed the Tokyo silver medal to land on the Olympic podium for the third straight Olympics. In the semifinal, he clocked his fastest time in five years: 21.53. Many Europeans have to juggle multiple meets this summer, and Manaudou has said that he views this year as a “transition” year, and his focus is on Worlds. This season, his best-registered swim is 22.04 from the Marseille stop of the FFN Golden Tour, but expect him to be much faster in Budapest.

Florent Manaudou and Bruno Fratus. Photo: Satiro Sodré/SSPress/CBDA

There are two questions we have about Bruno Fratus coming into Worlds. First, can he continue his streak of World Championship podiums, which he’s been on three straight times? And second, is he going to hit 100 sub-22 LCM 50 frees? Currently, he’s sitting at 97. It’s certainly possible for him, especially given that it took a sub-22 to advance through each round at the Olympics. Similarly, the medal outlook is positive for Fratus. The Tokyo bronze medalist has the third-fastest time in the world this year at 21.49, which he went at the Monaco stop of Mare Nostrum. That’s an encouraging time heading into Worlds, and puts him on the right path to stay on the podium.


Michael Andrew had a strong U.S. Trials meet, including breaking the American Record in the 50 breaststroke. The key for Andrew at Worlds will be to match the times he put up in late April. Heading into the Olympics, his times at Trials made him a medal contender in his three individual events (including the #1 time in the world in the 200 IM) but he didn’t make the podium in any of them, unable to repeat his times from Omaha. With five individual events plus relays, Andrew will have as busy a schedule as anyone in Budapest, including a 50 free/100 fly double. He’s shown that a crowded schedule doesn’t scare him–he swam 18 races in 2 days in Monaco at Mare Nostrum–but Worlds is a bigger stage. If he can repeat his lifetime best of 21.45 from Greensboro, he’ll remain a huge threat for a medal.

19-year-old Josh Liendo had a sensational Canadian Trials, winning three events. Not only did he win the 50 free, he also broke Brent Hayden’s super-suited Canadian Record, blasting a 21.63. He didn’t shave for Trials, which indicates he could be even faster at Worlds. Liendo has the same 100 fly conflict as Dressel and Andrew, and he’s a strong threat to medal in that event, so it will be interesting to see how he manages himself through the rounds.

Emerging British sprint star Lewis Burras won this event at British Trials in a lifetime best 21.77, bettering the mark he set in December. He’s now the second-fastest Brit ever in this event behind Proud. He’ll most likely have to drop again if he wants to be in medal contention, but given his recent trajectory, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

2021 marked a huge breakout for Dutchman Thom de Boer. After having never qualified for an Olympic or World Championship team, de Boer qualified for Tokyo by breaking his national record multiple times, lowering it to 21.58. In Tokyo, he made the Olympic final. This season, he’s been 21.70. He’s set himself up nicely to continue his 2021 success this year and improve upon his eighth-place finish in the final.


Kristian Gkolomeev tied for fifth in Tokyo (21.72) and tied for the silver medal at 2019 Worlds with Fratus in 21.45. His lifetime best is a hundredth faster than that medaling time, which he went in 2018. This season, the fastest registered time on him is a 22.22 from May’s Acropolis Swim Open, but expect him to get back under 22 seconds in Budapest.

Maxime Grousset (France) and Jesse Puts (Netherlands) could also be factors in this race. Neither of them have been under 22 seconds this season, putting them off their bests of 21.74 and 21.82, respectively. They’ll need to find their form before Worlds to have a shot at a later round.

Italy’s Luca Dotto has been right on his lifetime best (21.84) this season with a 21.86. That’s a promising sign heading into Budapest and he’ll be someone to watch, as if he drops he could have a shot at the final.


Place Name Nation Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Caeleb Dressel United States 21.29 21.04
2 Bruno Fratus Brazil 21.49 21.27
3 Josh Liendo Canada 21.63 21.63
4 Michael Andrew United States 21.45 21.45
5 Florent Manadou France 22.04 21.19
6 Ben Proud Great Britain 21.72 21.11
7 Kristian Gkolomeev Greece 22.22 21.44
8 Thom de Boer Netherlands 21.70 21.58

Dark Horse: Szebásztian Szabó (HUN) – Szabó broke the 22-second barrier for the first time at the Hungarian Championships, just getting under with a 21.99. The 26-year-old will likely need to be faster than that to move through the rounds, but given how explosive he’s proven to be in the 50 fly, it’s well within reach.

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5 months ago

My prediction:
De Boer


5 months ago

Manaudou 5th?? I just don’t see it. He has gold and two silvers in the 50 from the last three Olympics. Dude knows how to swim this event and get his hand on the wall for a medal when the big lights are on.

5 months ago

It always staggers me just how dominant Dressel has been in the 50 free over the years. He surely has a 20.xx swim in him. I think he’s significantly more likely to hit a 20.xx in his career than a sub-46.91 in the 100.

5 months ago


Last edited 5 months ago by Troyy
Fobby Binke
5 months ago

Not even SWIMSWAM pick Michael Andrew to win medal lol

5 months ago

MA goes 20.90 in prelims
Fratus drops a 20.89 in semis
Dressel 🥇20.88

Reply to  Drewbrewsbeer
5 months ago

MA 20,90 21,3 22,7 each round perfectly andrew style

Blake pierogi
5 months ago

I am liking Ari-Pekka Liukkonen to final with the one dolphin kick technique

5 months ago

Just win baby time don’t matter. He can do another meet in August and chase the record. It would be a nice time to train for the 50 only. Is he doing that duel thing in Australia?

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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