2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS
- June 18-25, 2022 (pool swimming)
- Budapest, Hungary
- Duna Arena
- LCM (50-meter format)
- Meet Central
- SwimSwam Preview Index
By The Numbers:
- World Record: 23.71, Hunter Armstrong (USA), 2022 U.S. International Team Trials
- World Junior Record: 24.00, Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS), 2018 European Championships
- 2020 Olympic Champion: N/A
- 2019 World Champion: Zane Waddell (RSA), 24.43
If you’re a magician, you best be wowing your audience with something unexpected every now and then to live up to that moniker. And Hunter Armstrong did just that at the U.S. International Team Trials in late April.
Armstrong, dubbed the “Magic Man” by his ever-growing fanbase, produced a jaw-dropping world record in the men’s 50 backstroke at the Trials, clocking 23.71 to crack the previous mark of 23.80 held by Russian Kliment Kolesnikov.
Armstrong’s performances in Greensboro were certainly better than anticipated, though it wasn’t a surprise to see him make the U.S. World Championship team. The Ohio State University product broke out to make the Olympic team last summer, ultimately tying for ninth in the 100 back in Tokyo, and had a strong collegiate season for the Buckeyes before having an explosive showing at World Trials.
In addition to the 50 back record, Armstrong also upended Ryan Murphy to win the 100 back, and qualified to swim on the U.S. 400 free relay as well.
AMERICANS LEAD THE WAY
The men’s 50 back in Greensboro was historic, not only because Armstrong broke the world record, but it also saw Justin Ress become just the third man in history under 24 seconds, clocking 23.92. On top of that, third-place finisher Shaine Casas swam a time of 24.00, ranking him fourth all-time. Up until 13 months ago, 24.00 stood as the world record.
If you watch that 50 back race, Armstrong and Ress are relatively even with about 10 meters left, and then Armstrong just pours on the stroke rate without slipping in his stroke at all, pulling away from Ress for the victory.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise, given Armstrong trains for the 100, and we can’t forget he also produced a 24.01 in the prelims at the meet, which at the time was a new American Record and ranked him #2 all-time.
Ress is more of a pure sprinter than Armstrong, having generally found more success in the 50 than the 100 back. Ress represented the U.S. in the 50 at the 2017 World Championships, placing sixth, and tied for gold with Zane Waddell, who would go on to win the world title a few weeks later, at the 2019 World University Games.
Armstrong and Ress are the clear 1-2 heading into Budapest. Kolesnikov ranks third in the world, .01 back of Ress in 23.93, but he won’t be in attendance to the Russian ban. Casas is fourth with his 24-flat, but obviously he’s out since we’ve already got two Americans in the fold.
The next-fastest swimmer this year? More than a half-second back of Ress, which is a massive gap in a 50-meter race.
An American hasn’t won the World Championship title in the men’s 50 back since the inaugural racing of the event in 2001, when Randall Bal claimed the gold, and it seems like a lock that it will happen again in 2022. The only question is if it will be Armstrong or Ress. Right now, it’s hard to bet against the Magic Man.
Trailing Armstrong and Ress, the third-fastest swimmer in terms of best times expected to be competing in Budapest is Romanian Robert Glinta, who had a cup of coffee in the NCAA with USC (2017-18) before heading back to Europe to train full-time as a professional.
Glinta put up a blazing time of 24.12 in the 2018 European Championship semi-finals, but hasn’t been sub-24.4 since. The 25-year-old has been a consistent presence in this event, winning silver at both the 2018 and 2021 Euros behind Kolesnikov, and was also a finalist at the 2019 Worlds (seventh).
This season, Glinta ranks fourth among Worlds entrants with a time of 24.49 from the Swim Open Stockholm in April, good for the third-fastest of his career.
In addition to Glinta, some other Europeans who will be in the mix for a medal include some lesser-known names, such as Germany’s Ole Braunschweig and Poland’s Ksawery Masiuk, along with some established swimmers like Apostolos Christou and Hugo Gonzalez.
Braunschweig was a German Olympian last year in the 100 back, and had a strong 2021 short course season that included making a pair of finals in both sprint backstroke events at SC Euros in November. At April’s Berlin Open, the 24-year-old made big strides in the long course 50 back, notching the first two sub-25 swims of his career, including a 24.67 to rank ninth in the world this season (and fifth among World Championship entrants).
Masiuk, just 17, recently set a new Polish Record in the event with a time of 24.68 in early May, and was also the gold medalist in the 100 and 200 back (silver in the 50) at the 2021 European Juniors.
Gonzalez won bronze at the 2021 Euros with a Spanish Record of 24.47, just ahead of Christou (24.59), who was 24.49 for a new Greek Record in the semis. Gonzalez remains a pretty big question mark in this event given his wide array of talents and whether or not he’ll opt to focus more in the medley events.
Italians Michele Lamberti (24.95) and Thomas Ceccon (24.99) snuck under 25 seconds at the Italian Championships in April, but will likely need to be about half a second quicker in Budapest to have a shot at a medal.
Lamberti has proven to be dynamite in the short course pool, but loses a bit of steam without the underwaters in long course. His LC PB sits at 24.75 from last year.
With the field being relatively wide open behind the two Americans, Australian Isaac Cooper put himself into podium contention in late May at the country’s selection meet in South Australia, setting a new National Record in a time of 24.44.
Cooper, just 18, had previously been 24.59 in December, and made his Olympic debut last summer in Tokyo, advancing through to the semis of the 100 back where he finished 12th in 53.43.
Another youngster on the come-up is South African Pieter Coetze, also 18, who was 24th in that 100 back last summer.
Coetze swam a personal best time of 24.74 at the South African Nationals in April, ranking 12th in the world and seventh among Worlds contenders, and then last month on the Mare Nostrum Tour, he broke 25 seconds four more times. That level of consistency should pay dividends through the three rounds at Worlds.
New Zealand’s Andrew Jeffcoat has been on career-best form of late, highlighted by his Kiwi Record of 24.83 in the event back in February. Set to make his LC World Championship debut, the 22-year-old sits tied for 15th in the world with the ageless Japanese wonder, Ryosuke Irie.
Irie, 32, swam his fastest 50 back since 2009 (!) in March, and while he’s never stood on a major international podium in this event, it would be tough to bet against him missing the final eight.
Darkhorse: Yohann Ndoye-Brouard (FRA) – The Frenchman is better in the 100 and 200 back, but he’s a rising talent who has been 24.9 at least once in each of the last four years. Most recently a PB of 24.91 in January, Ndoye-Brouard should have the ability to join the 24-mid crowd and fight for a medal if everything clicks in Budapest. He has flipped in 25-point something eight times in the 100 back as well.