2022 World Champs Previews: Key Absences Leave Women’s 100 Free Up For Grabs

2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

  • June 18-25, 2022 (pool swimming)
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Duna Arena
  • LCM (50-meter format)
  • Meet Central

By The Numbers:

Defending world champion Simone Manuel’s 100 freestyle crown is up for grabs in Budapest now that she is not competing at Worlds this year. The absence of two of the event’s 2021 Olympic medalists from Australia makes the event even more unpredictable.

Aussie Dominance Despite Absences

11-time Olympic medalist Emma McKeon won gold in this event in Tokyo and would be the favorite to win—if she was going to the meet. McKeon is among three big Australian sprint names absent from the psych sheets, alongside Tokyo bronze medalist Cate Campbell and 2015 world champion Bronte Campbell.

Australians Shayna Jack and Mollie O’Callaghan have stepped up in their places. 18-year-old O’Callaghan posted the fastest time in the world this season with a 52.49 at the Australian Championships in May. Jack had the second-fastest time and is the only other swimmer to crack 53 this season at 52.60. This barrier is a significant example of Aussie sprint dominance. Only 24 women have ever gone sub-53 in the 100-meter free and eight of them are Australian.

O’Callaghan will have a busy schedule in Budapest, which is something to keep in mind. She qualified for a total of seven events (including at least three relays) and this heavy load could affect her in this race since the 100 free is scheduled for the middle of the meet.

Jack led off Australia’s silver medal-winning 400 free relay at the 2017 World Championships, but she missed the 2019 World Championships after testing positive for a banned substance. She was dealt a two-year suspension by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS), which just ended in December 2021. Budapest will be the biggest international meet since her comeback and her first shot at the individual 100 free at the World Championships. The 23-year-old is in the hunt for a medal after lowering her lifetime best by a significant margin in May.

Siobhan and Sjostrom

Siobhan Haughey is the next-highest finisher from Tokyo after winning silver with a lifetime best time of 52.27. The two-time Olympian made history for Hong Kong in Tokyo by winning their first Olympic medal ever in the 200 free, claiming silver. Then she repeated the feat days later with another runner-up finish in the 100 free.

There is a level of uncertainty with Haughey’s upcoming performance at Worlds, though. She recently suffered an ankle injury and withdrew from the Mare Nostrum Tour. Despite this, she and her coach Tom Rushton are optimistic about her plan to race in Budapest. She hasn’t missed any training due to the injury. And while she doesn’t have a 100 free time logged this season, her lifetime best from Tokyo ranks her above the fastest times of everyone in the field, minus world record holder Sarah Sjostrom.

Haughey was also a dominant force in the short course event in late 2021, setting a new Asian Record of 50.79 in the ISL Final before winning the SC World title in 50.98.

Sweden’s sprinting legend Sjostrom is stronger than ever, making a comeback from an elbow injury prior to the Tokyo Olympics. She is fresh off a gold medal win in this event at the Mare Nostrum Tour—a race that was a sneak peek of the battle we’ll see in Budapest. She fended off Canada’s Penny Oleksiak and Kayla Sanchez to win with a time of 53.05. While this time is a ways off her world record from the 2017 World Championships (51.71), it is a season-best time for Sjostrom.

Sjostrom has lightened her usual Worlds lineup this year. She dropped one of her signature events, the 100 fly, to focus on the 100 free alongside the 50 fly and 50 free. This focus and conservation of energy may be enough for her to throw down with the Australians.

The 28-year-old has won four medals in the 100 free over the years at the World Championships (three silver, one bronze), but has yet to reach the top of the podium. Even after setting the world record leading off Sweden’s 400 free relay in 2017, American Simone Manuel out-touched her in the individual final. Sjostrom is also a four-time European champion in the event, and given that she’s finished in the silver medal position five times in the 100 free if we combined LC and SC Worlds, it might just be her time.

Great Britain’s Anna Hopkin, who finished in seventh place in Tokyo, is also in the mix. Hopkin was on the British mixed 400 medley relay that won gold in Tokyo and she cracked the qualifying cut with a 53.45 at the British Swimming trials.

One other absence from Tokyo finalists will further separate Haughey and Sjostrom from the competition: the Netherlands’ Femke Heemskerk, who placed sixth in Tokyo, recently retired.

The North Americans

Canada’s Penny Oleksiak, the 2016 Olympic champion, placed fourth in Tokyo and has the 11th fastest time in the world this season: 53.64. It’s been five years since Oleksiak swam the 100 free at the World Championships, placing sixth in 2017 before scratching the event in Gwangju to focus on relays.

Oleksiak’s Canadian teammate and fellow 21-year-old Kayla Sanchez has the 12th-fastest time of the season at 53.68.

Oleksiak and Sanchez swam much faster in Tokyo, posting lifetime best times of 52.59 and 53.12, respectively. That puts Oleksiak in a position to rival Jack’s and Sjostrom’s current season-best times and vie for a spot on the podium.

America is also bringing young blood to Budapest in this event: Tokyo Olympians 19-year-old Torri Huske and 17-year-old Claire Curzan. Huske blasted a lifetime best of 53.35 at the U.S. Trials and was also the silver medalist in this event at the 2019 World Junior Championships.

It will be a tight race between Curzan and Sanchez, who have been right on each other’s heels with season-bests of 53.58 and 53.68, respectively. Curzan has been consistent, coming within .03 of her best time from 2021, but Sanchez’s lifetime best time from Tokyo edges out Curzan. A similar battle is set up between Jack and Oleksiak, whose lifetime bests are separated by .01.

Notably, Team USA is missing both Manuel and two-time Olympian Abbey Weitzeil, who failed to qualify for the U.S. World Championship team for the first time since 2013. Weitzeil placed eighth in this event in Tokyo.

Other Contenders

China’s Yang Junxuan has been 53.4 this season, a time that makes her competitive against Oleksiak, Huske, Sanchez, and Curzan. Yang swam a lifetime best of 53.02 in Tokyo to make the semifinals, but she scratched to focus on racing in China’s 4×200 free relay which ended up breaking the world record.

France is sending two Tokyo semi-finalists in this event in the form of two-time Olympian Marie Wattel and three-time Olympian Charlotte Bonnet. Their lifetime best times of 53.12 and 52.74, respectively, make them powerful competitors in this race, but neither of them has gone sub-53.7 this season. Wattel competed recently on the Mare Nostrum Tour, placing fifth in Barcelona (54.70) and fourth in Canet (54.16).

Another key absence to note is Denmark’s Pernille Blume, who is better in the 50 free (2016 Olympic champion, 2021 Olympic bronze medalist) but is a strong 100 swimmer, evidenced by the fact she’s cracked 53 seconds six times, most recently clocking 52.96 in Tokyo.

SwimSwam’s Picks

Place Swimmer Country Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Mollie O’Callaghan AUS 52.49 52.49
2 Siobhan Haughey HKG n/a 52.27
3 Sarah Sjostrom SWE 53.05 51.71
4 Penny Oleksiak CAN 53.64 52.59
5 Shayna Jack AUS 52.60 52.60
6 Torri Huske USA 53.35 53.35
7 Anna Hopkin GBR 53.45 52.75
8 Yang Junxuan CHN 53.42 53.02

Dark Horse: Zhang Yufei (CHN) – Zhang, a two-time Olympic medalist in butterfly, is on China’s unconfirmed roster. The catch is that the roster does not specify which events she’ll swim and, typically, if Zhang competes in freestyle at an international meet it’s on China’s relays. But, if she does race the 100 free in Budapest, her lifetime best time of 52.90 puts her into the finals conversation and possibly even a medal.

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AnEn
12 days ago

My prediction:
O’Callaghan
Sjöstrom
Haughey
Oleksiak
Jack
Huske
Hopkin
Yang

Sanchez
Anderson
Wattel
Curzan
Cheng

Dan
27 days ago

MOC!!!

Awsi Dooger
27 days ago

The ideal scenario is Haughey out front, Sjostrom as stalker and O’Callaghan desperately trying to get up in time. Should be 6 furlongs.

Scotty
27 days ago

Penny oleisak is capable of anything

Swimswamswum
Reply to  Scotty
27 days ago

So is everyone else

NB1
Reply to  Scotty
27 days ago

I bet she can spell

Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
Reply to  Scotty
26 days ago

Oleksiak?

Kate
27 days ago

Who can tell me which events zhang will swim

Scuncan Dott
27 days ago

Hopkin is swimming individuals and will probably final, stop spreading false information.

Scuncan Dott
Reply to  Scuncan Dott
27 days ago

They’ve fixed it now.

Last edited 27 days ago by Scuncan Dott
Troyy
Reply to  Scuncan Dott
27 days ago

She should be ranked ahead of Huske.

Scuncan Dott
Reply to  Troyy
27 days ago

true.

Blake pierogi
27 days ago

While I like mollie loads, I feel like her big load is going to effect her it factor, I am going with Jack to win in 52.2-52.0

Troyy
Reply to  Blake pierogi
27 days ago

Jack in 52 low is a bold prediction.

Jamesabc
Reply to  Blake pierogi
27 days ago

It’s gone. They just posted an article saying she dropped all 3 backstroke events. So her only individuals are the 100 and 200. But she is still likely to swim minimum 3 and up to 5 relays.

Assuming she doesn’t swim any heats, the relays still create two clashes though. Mixed medley relay clashes with the 200 free and 200 relay clashes with the 100 semis. If she kept the back events she would have a double (or triple) in almost every single session.

Jamesabc
27 days ago

This is another that could go any which way. Sjostrom has the WR and her top 3 times are faster than anyone else in the field has ever been. However, her fastest time in the last 12 months (52.62) is very unlikely to be fast enough to win. But she is swimming fast in-season times right now.

Haughey has the fastest time in the last 12 months (52.27) of the people competing. But she is injured and we’ve seen nothing of her this year so it’s hard to know where she’s at.

MOC has the fastest time this year, but Sjostrom and Haughey have both been faster. MOC dropped significant time between trials and Tokyo for both the 100 and… Read more »

Last edited 27 days ago by Jamesabc
Robbos
Reply to  Jamesabc
27 days ago

Hard to disagree with anything you said there.

About Annika Johnson

Annika Johnson

Annika came into the sport competitively at age eight, following in the footsteps of her twin sister and older brother. The sibling rivalry was further fueled when all three began focusing on distance freestyle, forcing the family to buy two lap counters. Annika is a three-time Futures finalist in the 200 …

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