2022 World Champs Previews: Murphy Aims for First Men’s 200 Back World Title

2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

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

By The Numbers: 

  • World Record: Aaron Piersol (USA) – 1:51.92 (2009)
  • World Junior Record: Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS) – 1:55.14 (2017)
  • 2020 Olympic Champion: Evgeny Rylov (ROC) – 1:53.27 
  • 2019 World Champion: Evgeny Rylov (RUS) – 1:53.40

The Americans have long been leaders of the international backstroke scene. That was disrupted somewhat in Tokyo, when Evgeny Rylov became the first non-American to win the men’s 200 back in six Olympics, taking down Tyler Clary’s Olympic Record in the process. 

But Rylov (and Russia) are banned from competition, which gives 2016 Olympic gold medalist Ryan Murphy the opportunity to reclaim the highest step on the podium. There’s also a number of other key absences that open the door for up-and-coming stars to break through and claim not only a lane in the final, but potentially a medal. 

THE AMERICANS

Ryan Murphy dominated the Rio Olympics, sweeping the 100 and 200 backstrokes and breaking the world record in the 100 back en route to an American win in the 4×100 medley to close out the meet. In the six years since, he hasn’t won an individual gold medal at the Olympics or LC Worlds. That’s not to say that this last cycle was a bad one; he won silver in Budapest (‘17), Gwangju (‘19), and Tokyo (‘21) in the 200 back, and bronze in the 100 back in Budapest and Tokyo. He’s been a consistent gold medal threat for years now. 

This season, he owns the top time in the world at 1:55.01 and is in prime position to grab his first long course individual world title. 

While Murphy has been a mainstay on international podiums for the last six years, Shaine Casas is new to the scene. This is his first senior long course international team, with his only prior international experience coming at SC Worlds in December. He put on a performance there, earning six medals, including silver in the 200 back in 1:48.81. Then in Greensboro, he went a lifetime best 1:55.46 to book his ticket to Budapest. It’s still early, but so far his move to train with Eddie Reese and the University of Texas pro group has returned positive results. With the second fastest time this season and a high ceiling, he’s put himself into the medal conversation. 

 

RETURNING OLYMPIC FINALISTS

We’re expecting four others from last year’s Olympic final to be racing in Budapest. That list includes Great Britain’s Luke Greenbank. Greenbank won bronze in Gwangju in a lifetime best, which he reset multiple times in 2021 to break the British Record and then won bronze in Tokyo. He’s been sub 1:55 on numerous occasions, and the only other man in this field who can say that is Murphy. That fact alone makes him a contender for a medal of any color this summer. 

Pre-qualified for Worlds, he clocked 1:57.57 at British Trials. He then followed that up with a win at Mare Nostrum’s Barcelona stop in a season-best 1:56.88, though his results were inconsistent over the three stops. Coming off what he described as “one of the best training blocks [he’s] ever done,” he seems to have set himself on a good course heading to Budapest. 

Adam Telegdy swam a personal best 1:56.15 to place fifth in Tokyo. This season, he’s been 1:57.96, which he swam in Barcelona, where he finished third behind Greenbank and Pieter Coetze. That improved on the 1:58.61 he clocked at the  Hungarian National Championships. It’s possible Telegdy, like many other swimmers, is all-in for another big meet like the European Championships but he’ll need to get closer to his best to be in the Worlds’ final. 

At SC Worlds, Radoslaw Kawecki won his fifth medal–and fourth gold–in the 200 back, and is the SC European Champion as well. In long course, he placed sixth in Tokyo in 1:56.15 and his best sits at 1:54.24 from 2013.  The 30-year-old’s best registered time this season is a 1:58.64 from the Gran Prix Polski. There are some usual faces from this event missing which gives a little leeway, but with many young swimmers looking to breakthrough this summer in Budapest, Kawecki will need to be much closer to his best to be a true contender. 

Ryosuke Irie Courtesy of Mine Kasapoglu for ISL With permission

Courtesy of Mine Kasapoglu for ISL With permission

Irie Ryosuke of Japan is the fourth Olympic finalist who will be competing in Budapest. He’s been on the Mare Nostrum tour this spring, and his season best 1:56.36 ranks third in the world. Irie is the second fastest performer of all time in this event, with his super-suited 1:52.51 from 2009 World Championships. He’s been a consistent contender for over ten years, and he’ll look to continue that here. 

Nicolas Garcia Saiz, the eighth Olympic finalist, was confirmed on Spain’s official roster for European Championships, but is not on the roster for Worlds

NEW PERSONAL BESTS 

A trio of young athletes raced to new personal bests at their respective selection meets. 19 year-old Joshua Edwards-Smith clocked 1:56.74 at Australian Trials to touch first and make his first ever senior international team. The swim was a breakthrough for him, his previous best sat at 1:57.82 and his fastest since the pandemic began was 1:59.20. Now, he’s vaulted himself into contention for a lane in the finals.

Mewen Tomac sits three hundredths behind Edwards-Smith with his new best of 1:56.74 from French Championships. That’s the fifth fastest time this season among the Worlds field so like Edwards-Smith, the 20 year-old has swum himself right into the heart of the field. 

Courtesy of Swimming South Africa

The youngest of the three is 18 year-old Pieter Coetze, who went 1:56.92 at South African Championships for his new personal best. Not only does that rank him as the second fastest South African of all time, it is a huge swim for him, as he’d never broken the 1:58 threshold before. He’s still young, and a highly versatile swimmer with untapped potential–this summer could be a big one for him. 

OTHER CONTENDERS 

Courtesy of Peter Sukenik

After opting for the 200 IM over the 200 back at the Olympics, Australian veteran Mitch Larkin will be back in this field in Budapest. At Australian Trials, he didn’t qualify for the 200 IM and here he finished second behind Edwards-Smith in 1:56.79. Larkin’s best is a 1:53.17, fourth fastest all time and second-fastest textile performer of all time. Even if he doesn’t get close to that time this summer, he’ll likely still be in the fight for a medal. 

Of late, Xu Jiayu seems to be more of a threat in the 100 back than in the 200, but he shouldn’t still be discounted. In Tokyo, he finished 15th, well off his lifetime best 1:53.99 from 2018, so he’ll be looking to rebound from that disappointment. This season, he’s been 1:56.89, which ranks eighth among swimmers heading to Budapest, so he’s sitting right on the bubble. 

Benedek Kovacs (Hungary), Yohann Ndoye Brouard (France), and Brodie Williams (Great Britain) are all sitting on 1:57 high’s as their season bests. Ndoye Brouard and Williams both have lifetime bests of 1:56 low. To be in contention for the final, all three will have to be at their bests. 

Place Name  Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Ryan Murphy 1:55.01 1:53.57
2 Luke Greenbank 1:56.88 1:54.53
3 Shaine Casas 1:55.46 1:55.46
4 Joshua Edwards-Smith 1:56.71 1:56.71
5 Irie Ryosuke 1:56.36 1:52.51
6 Mitch Larkin 1:56.79 1:53.17
7 Pieter Coetze 1:56.92 1:56.92
8 Adam Telegdy 1:57.96 1:56.15

DARK HORSE: Oleksander Zheltyakov (UKR) – Zheltyakov is one of the Ukrainian junior swimmers living and training in Hungary to escape the ongoing Russian invasion. This season, Zheltyakov has been 1:57.18. At Hungarian Championships, he said that he’s targeting European Junior Championships. That throws his attendance at Worlds into question, but if he’s there, he could play spoiler. 

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AnEn
5 months ago

My prediction:
Murphy
Greenbank
Casas
Ndoye Brouard
Larkin
Edwards-Smith
Telegdy
Zheltiakov

Mityukov
Lee
Tomac

Tony
5 months ago

I wonder if Murphy (due to his 2016 gold medal and his WR) has been the reason for Team USA using women for breaststroke in the mixed medley relays. Has he been pressuring the coaches?

Robbos
5 months ago

Anyone but bad loser Murphy.

Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
Reply to  Robbos
5 months ago

Australian hyprocrisy at its finest!

Does the name Sun Yang ring a bell?

Robbos
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
5 months ago

I think you will find Sun Yang has been caught twice & banned twice.
The ones that have beaten Murphy has not been banned for taking illegal substances.
LOGIC, you should try it.

Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
Reply to  Robbos
5 months ago

Russia was busted for state sponsored doping. Does 2014 ring a bell?

Robbos
Reply to  Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
5 months ago

So did all the other swimmers who lost to Russian swimmers complain?

Robbos a jobber
Reply to  Robbos
5 months ago

You do realize that so many athletes are on PEDs of some sort and never get caught. ARod, TJ Dillashaw and Jon Jones never got caught until later in their professional sports careers

Robbos
Reply to  Robbos a jobber
5 months ago

Very aware of it, Flo Jo, Carl Lewis never got caught at all, plus many others.

Jamesabc
Reply to  Robbos a jobber
5 months ago

If you take that attitude, you really just have to assume that the people winning medals are the ones who are the best at juicing.

Jamesabc
Reply to  Robbos
5 months ago

Shall we bet? If he loses again, will Murphy imply that the winner cheated somehow (again)?

Robbos
Reply to  Jamesabc
5 months ago

Lets hope it happens!!!!

Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
5 months ago

No Russians, No Excuses!

oxyswim
5 months ago

Larkin was so far from his best at trials. Wouldn’t be shocked if he doesn’t final.

Think this is the weakest event in the whole meet.

commonwombat
5 months ago

Can go along with the podium names; order …..TBD.

Would like see Irie score one for “those of advancing years” but that’s somewhat uncertain. Would be a pleasant surprise if either Australian makes the final.

Jamesabc
Reply to  commonwombat
5 months ago

Why would you be surprised for either Australian to make the final? JES is 4th in the field this year. I’m absolutely not expecting him to medal but I wouldn’t call a final from him a ‘surprise’. Larkin on the other hand is so far from his best I actually am not expecting a final from him.

commonwombat
Reply to  Jamesabc
5 months ago

Why a pleasant surprise rather than an expectation ? Quite simply due to him being a senior team rookie; a commodity that doesn’t have the greatest strike rate as regards replicating impressive domestic perforance in their first senior outings, particularly at World/Olympic level. I hope he does perform well, and I would certainly take making the final as a pass mark, but I don’t see it as a sure thing.

Larkin …. enuff sed

IM FAN
5 months ago

Rylov has been dominating this event for the past 5 years. Hard to pick against him….

Oh nevermind

ddd
5 months ago

Very unfortunately, Ryosuke Irie may not be able to participate because he has not cut the selection time at the selection

NathenDrake
Reply to  ddd
5 months ago

This kind of stupid rules by Japan or Italy are complete joke to say the least.

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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