2022 World Champs Previews: Strong Field Despite Many Absences In Women’s 100 Fly

2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

By The Numbers:

From Adam Peaty to Ariarne Titmus, it’s been well-documented that many of the world’s greatest swimmers will be absent from the 2022 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. The widespread absences from this meet will impact each event differently, with some fields being thinned out quite significantly.

The women’s 800 freestyle, for example, will feature only 3 of the finalists from Tokyo 2020 considering that Titmus, Katie Grimes, Wang Jianjiahe, Sarah Wellbrock, and Anastasiia Kirpichnikova will all be sitting out. Another event that will be missing several of its key contenders during the Tokyo 2020 final is the women’s 100 butterfly.

The only two active Olympic champions in the event, Maggie MacNeil (2020) and Sarah Sjostrom (2016), are both going to be racing at the meet, but neither will be swimming the 100 fly individually. MacNeil and Sjostrom finished 1st and seventh, respectively, in Tokyo, though Sjostrom’s showing came on the heels of an elbow injury that led her to be in doubt if she was even going to race the event at all.

At the last edition of the World Championships, MacNeil upset Sjostrom for the victory, ending the Swede’s run of three straight titles in the event.

Emma McKeon of Australia, who won bronze in this event both at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and at the 2019 World Championships, is sitting out of this meet altogether. As a result, along with MacNeil and Sjostrom, the entire podium from 2019 will be absent.

The fourth Olympic finalist who won’t be swimming in Budapest this summer is eighth-place finisher Anastasiya Shkurdai of Belarus, due to the fact her home nation has been banned from racing altogether. With MacNeil, Sjostrom, McKeon and Shkrudai out of the picture, let’s take a look at the eight women we project to final among those racing in Budapest.

Two women who placed in the top four last year are expected to race this event this summer: Zhang Yufei and Torri Huske. The top four in the 100 fly in Tokyo was one of the closest races at the Olympics, as MacNeil, Zhang, McKeon and Huske finished just 0.14 seconds apart from one another.

MacNeil won in 55.59, Zhang came in 0.05 seconds later in a 55.64, followed by McKeon (55.72) and Huske (55.73), leaving the American on the outside looking in when it was time to hand out the medals.

Zhang’s 55.64 from the Olympic final is currently the second-fastest swim by any woman since January 2021 (behind MacNeil’s 55.59) and Huske actually holds the #3 time worldwide in that time period with her 55.66 from the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials. That means that apart from MacNeil, Zhang and Huske are the quickest women in the world over the last two years.

Between the two, Zhang has been more consistently able to crack 56 seconds, having swum under the barrier three times at the Olympics, once in April 2021 (55.96), and once in May 2021 (55.73). She hasn’t swum a 55 since the Olympics, but in September 2021 Zhang put up a 56.24 at the Chinese National Games, which is the top time in the world for 2021-2022.

Zhang is the top contender here with numerous sub-56 swims, an Olympic silver medal in the event, and the leading time this season. But Huske isn’t far off with her trio of 55s (55.66, 55.73, and 55.78) in 2021 and her recent swim of 56.28 at the 2022 Trials. Huske is our pick for silver, but after her multi-event-winning performance at U.S. Trials and a dominant two years of competing, the rising Stanford sophomore could certainly be on track to collect an individual world title here.

With Zhang and Huske set to vie for gold, another two finalists from Tokyo will be in the mix as well.

Louise Hanson (photo: Peter Sukenik)

Sweden’s Louise Hansson swam her way to a fifth-place finish at Tokyo 2020, swimming a personal best of 56.22 in the final. Hansson has been diversifying her portfolio this year with new 50 backstroke and 100 backstroke Swedish records during the fall of 2021. That doesn’t mean she’s not still focused on the butterfly, though.

Hansson recently won silver in this event at the 2021 Short Course World Championships in Abu Dhabi, putting up a time of 55.10, and followed that up a few months later with a long course swim of 56.89 for #5 in the world this season.

Sixth-place finisher in Tokyo, France’s Marie Wattel, has been a bit slower this season, having placed eighth at Short Course World Championships (57.29). She’s the 10th-best woman this season in the long course pool with a 57.75 at Mare Nostrum. While Wattel is a good bet for the final, it looks like she’ll need to get faster heading into Budapest if she wants to snag a medal.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably surprised that we have yet to mention the long course world junior record holding, 2021 Short Course bronze medalist Claire Curzan. Curzan raced this event for the USA during her Olympic debut, finishing 10th overall in a time of 57.42. A 57-mid is not enough to get her into medal contention at any major international meet, but things change when you realize that that semi-finals swim is currently her seventh-fastest swim in history.

Curzan was basically a second faster than that the semi-final showing when she qualified for the Olympics with a 56.43 at the Olympic Trials in Omaha, and she was even faster at 56.20 in April 2021. Her 56.35 from the 2022 US Trials makes her the #3 performer worldwide this year.

Curzan has an incredibly busy schedule at World Championships, having qualified for four individual events and several relays. But the 100 fly is her first solo event of the meet and the final is in the cozy position of Night 2, Event 2. That gives her the ability to start strong with the 100 fly and makes her our pick for bronze behind Zhang and teammate Huske.

Another contender here who missed the final in Tokyo is Australia’s Brianna Throssell. Throssell swam a 57.59 during the semi-finals at the Olympics to place 12th overall. Fast forward to this year at Australia’s World Championship Trials and Throssell got down to 57.31 to win the event and qualify for Budapest. Both of those swims are slower than her all-time best time of 57.02 from Gwangju 2019, where she finished fifth place overall.

Throssell is #7 in the world this season with her 57.31 and she’s #5 in the world among those racing in Budapest. Having never been under 57 in the event, it’s hard to pick her as a favorite, but she could give hope to Australian fans who would like to see the green and gold represented in an Emma McKeon-less 100 butterfly final.

The final two picks for this 100 butterfly final come down to three women: Katerine Savard of Canada, Anna Ntountounaki of Greece, and Elena di Liddo of Italy. All three of these women made the semi-final at Tokyo 2020 and have swum times between 57.84 and 57.93 this year. Di Liddo swam a 57.84 in March, Savard a 57.86 in April, and Ntountounaki a 57.93 in May.

ELENA DI LIDDO

Elena di Liddo (photo: Giorgio Scala Deepbluemedia Inside)

We’ll pick di Liddo as #7 on this list because of her 57.04 PB from back in 2019, giving her the highest historical ceiling of these three women. Her quickest time since then is a 57.41 at the Tokyo Olympics, but a recent near-PB swim in the short course event (56.21 in December 2021 compared to her 56.06 2018 PB) indicates that she might leave this summer as a sub-57 swimmer.

Savard and Ntountounaki are separated by hundredths of a second both in their season bests and lifetime bests. Savard has been 57.86 this season compared to Ntountounaki’s 57.93, but Ntountounaki has the better lifetime best with a 57.25 to Savard’s 57.27. With little to distinguish the two, we’ll pick Ntountounaki for #8 but with a strong asterisk, indicating that Savard could just as likely get into the final.

Savard is also an interesting case in this event, having been Canada’s go-to 100 flyer from 2012 to 2015, and then after she was overtaken by Penny Oleksiak in 2016, found more success as a member of the freestyle relays. But Savard has made a resurgence in the 100 fly over the 14 months, making the Tokyo semis last year and then securing a runner-up finish to MacNeil at Canadian Trials this year. 13 of Savard’s 15 fastest swims in the event have come between 2011 and 2016, and then there’s a five-year gap before one came in 2021 and then another this year.

If she can continue to find the magic in this race, Savard’s got a shot at a top-five finish with such a pared-down field, something she did back in Barcelona (2013) and Kazan (2015).

One final name to mention is up-and-coming Bosnia and Herzegovinian swimmer Lana Pudar who re-wrote the national record book in the butterflies last year. In 2021, Pudar set new NRs in the short course and long course versions of the 50, 100, and 200 butterflies, including a 57.37 100 butterfly. She recently swam a 58.32 in the event in April 2022, but if she’s in the pool in Budapest will definitely be a contender to join the sub-57 club and could find a way to work herself into the final.

SWIMSWAM’S PICKS

PLACE SWIMMER COUNTRY SEASON-BEST LIFETIME BEST
1 Zhang Yufei CHN 56.24 55.62
2 Torri Huske USA 56.28 55.66
3 Claire Curzan USA 56.35 56.35
4 Louise Hansson SWE 56.89 56.22
5 Brianna Throssell AUS 57.31 57.31
6 Marie Wattel FRA 57.75 56.16
7 Elena di Liddo ITA 57.84 57.04
8 Anna Ntountounaki GRE 57.93 57.25

In This Story

37
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of
37 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
AnEn
12 days ago

My prediction:
Zhang
Huske
Curzan
Hansson
Wattel
Pudar
Throssell
Savard

Scott Bonney
20 days ago

I hope Claire wins and Louise makes podium

Pacific Whirl
20 days ago

Curzan can best Huske in this event.

Torri Stan
Reply to  Pacific Whirl
20 days ago

By my count, Torri has beat Claire in 12 of 14 times they went head to head in finals going back to 2019. Of course, it is possible that Claire might beat her, but my money is on Torri.

(Also Torri was coming off Covid at Trials. I think she will be a faster at Worlds.)

commonwombat
20 days ago

Zhang has to be favoured.

Huske has immense possibilities ….. once she learns to pace her races better and finish rather than die 1000 deaths in the final 10m. Will this come to fruition in Budapest remains to be seen but she clearly has to favoured for a medal at least.

Final podium spot looks very open. Strong case to be made for Curzan but certainly would not rule out Hansson.

Robbos
20 days ago

While not saying they are winning this event, because Yufei is that good, I have a feeling that this is the time to shine for these 2 young talented Americans, they have speed to burn, especially Huske, she was winning that gold in Tokyo with 10 metres to go.
Yep big breakout meet for Huske & Curzan.

Stephen
20 days ago

I feel Sarah is past a 55.8 to win this title. 50 fly odds on but 100m….nah

M d e
Reply to  Stephen
20 days ago

Feel like it will be difficult for her to win without racing.

Jamesabc
20 days ago

Agree with the top 3. I think Yufei is definitely the favourite but the Americans could always drop some time. Hansson seems like the mostly likely podium spoiler, but I will be surprised if anyone other than those 4 is up there.

Armstrong 100 back gold in Fukuoka
Reply to  Jamesabc
20 days ago

Huske and Curzan didn’t drop time from trials to Olympics last year.

Jamesabc

True. But they are the prime age for a time drop so I guess we’ll see.

Splash
20 days ago

P.S Throssell’s PB in 100fly is 57.02 from 2019 Worlds

dave
Reply to  Splash
20 days ago

She also swam the prelims leg of the fly in Tokyo, splitting 57.11.

Troyy
Reply to  dave
20 days ago

It was actually 57.51.

Splash
Reply to  Troyy
20 days ago

She did 57.11 at Olympic trials though to just miss the QT.