2022 World Champs Previews: Teenage Stars On the Rise in Women’s 200 Free

2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

By The Numbers: 

This is another event where key absences loom large. Tokyo gold medalist Ariarne Titmus is forgoing World Championships in favor of the Commonwealth Games. Katie Ledecky will be in Budapest, but after winning the 200 free at U.S Trials she’s withdrawn from the individual event.  Federica Pellegrini, the world record holder and two-time defending champion retired last year. Olympic silver medalist (‘16) and Worlds bronze medalist (‘19) Sarah Sjostrom also will not be in the race this year. In March, Sjostrom told SwimSwam that she’d be focusing on the 50 fly, 50 free, and 100 free in Budapest. 

Because these big names are missing, the door is wide open for some of the young rising stars to breakthrough, and many of them have a real shot at the podium. This is one of the events where the podium will have total turnover–none of the medalists from 2019 are returning to race in Budapest this year.

READY TO STEP UP

Olympic silver medalist Siobhan Haughey seems like a logical pick to climb up the podium in the absence of other big names. In Tokyo, she led through the 150 and though Titmus passed her for gold, she still cracked a lifetime best 1:53.92, making her just the fifth woman in history to go under 1:54. She was on fire in SC, winning 22 races in the ISL and breaking the SC 200 free world record with a 1:50.31 at SC Worlds. 

However, she pulled out of Mare Nostrum due to an ankle injury she sustained outside of training. Her coach, Tom Rushton, said that the injury didn’t cause her to miss any training and her focus is still on Worlds, but it’s still something to keep an eye on through the rounds. 

Penny Oleksiak won bronze in Tokyo in a personal best 1:54.70. With a pair of relay bronzes and a lifetime best in the 100 as well, Oleksiak had a strong Olympics. Now, she’ll look to bring that momentum into Budapest. After longtime coach Ben Titley’s contract at HPC-Ontario didn’t get renewed, Oleksiak and the other athletes who train in Toronto have been under Ryan Mallete’s leadership. This will be her first major championship under Mallete’s leadership. Oleksiak was 1:57.01 to finish second at Canadian Trials. Expect her to be faster in Budapest, as she’s proven she’ll show up in the big moments. 

TEEN PHENOMS 

Repeating on the podium is easier said than done though; Haughey and Oleksiak will have their hands full with a group of teenagers eager to assert themselves in this event. 

15-year-old Summer McIntosh, who trains at the Ontario HPC as well, is on an insane improvement trajectory and has had an impressive year. In the 200 free, she swam a lifetime best at Canadian Trials of 1:55.39 to win the race, leading a field that included seven international medalists the entire way. That time places her fourth this season among the women who will be racing at Worlds. Even if she doesn’t swim every event she qualified for, McIntosh has a busy schedule in Budapest. It’s something to note, but McIntosh is still squarely in the medal conversation here. 

Like McIntosh, Mollie O’Callaghan will have a lot of racing to do at Worlds, though she’s already lightened her load a little by forgoing the backstroke events. At Australian Trials, she swam 1:54.94 to get under 1:55 for the first time. The 18-year-old clearly has a high ceiling in a multitude of events, and she’s shown that at least for Worlds, her focus is here on the freestyle, which makes her a very dangerous threat for the podium. 

With the second fastest time in the world this year behind Titmus, Tang Muhan comes to Budapest with the best time in the field. At the National Games, she blasted a 1:54.26 to set a new Chinese record. A member of the gold-medal winning, world-record setting 4×200 free relay–where she split 1:55.00–Tang has become a crucial part of China’s international team at just 18 years old. 

Kiwi Erika Fairweather set a best time of 1:57.26 in the Olympic heats before adding almost two seconds in the semifinals to finish 16th. At New Zealand’s Championships in April, the 18-year-old set a national age group record, stopping the clock in 1:57.80. She’ll likely be more of a factor in the 400, but it’s a good sign that she’s back within a half-second of her best as she looks to improve upon that 16th place and grab a lane in the final. 

OLYMPIC FINALISTS 

Yang Junxuan got China’s electric 4×200 free relay started, leading off in a lifetime best and (then) National record 1:54.37. Earlier in the meet, she finished fourth in the individual event. This season, Yang has been right on her best, going 1:54.48 for second at the National Games. That’s the third best time in the world this season, and second among Worlds athletes. She’s in prime position to claim her first individual medal at a major championship. 

 

Madi Wilson (photo: Mike Lewis)

Madi Wilson is Australia’s carryover from the Olympics here. The 27-year-old finished eighth in the final, off her best 1:55.68 from Australia’s Olympic Trials. At their World Trials this year, she got close to that time with a 1:55.86. With that swim, she’s put herself back into the conversation not only for the final, but potentially a medal. 

The last returner from Tokyo’s Olympic final is Barbora Seemanová. She finished sixth in a personal best 1:55.45. We don’t have a registered time on her in this event in LC this season, but during the ISL season she swam a lifetime best of 1:53.23 in the SC pool. She’ll try to translate that to the big pool in Budapest and get back in the final. 

OTHER CONTENDERS 

Germany is bringing a roster less than half the size of their 2019 squad, but Isabel Gose will suit up. In Tokyo, she went a lifetime best 1:56.80 in the heats and finished 11th in the semifinals. She medaled in the 400 and 800 freestyles at the 2021 SC Euros in November. In long course, she’s been 1:57.47 this season. It’ll almost certainly take a faster time than that to final, but after a successful SC campaign, Gose could be ready to take the next step in the big pool.

Charlotte Bonnet’s been a solid 1:56.47 this season. Her lifetime best 1:54.95 is from 2018 though, and she hasn’t been close to that in a couple years. If she can get back down there though, she’ll vault into the finals fray. In Gwangju, she was seventh in the final, so we know she’s capable of getting there. 

SWIMSWAM PICKS

Place  Name Nation Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Siobhan Haughey Hong Kong 1:53.92
2 Mollie O’Callaghan Australia 1:54.94 1:54.94
3 Tang Muhan China 1:54.26 1:54.26
4 Summer McIntosh Canada 1:55.39 1:55.39
5 Yang Junxuan China 1:54.58 1:54.37
6 Penny Oleksiak Canada 1:57.01 1:54.70
7 Madi Wilson Australia 1:55.86 1:55.68
8 Barbora Seemanová Czechia 1:55.45

DARK HORSES: Claire Weinstein and Leah Smith (USA) – The 15-year-old Weinstein surprised the field in Greensboro by surging on the final 50 meters to pass three Olympians to claim second behind Ledecky. On that swim, she clocked 1:57.08 for a new lifetime best, becoming the third fastest in the 15-16 age group. As it currently stands she’s on the outside of the final looking in, but she’s proven that she’s capable of running down some of the best 200 freestylers, so don’t count her out.

Leah Smith has been added to the event in Ledecky’s absence; she had a strong U.S Trials to make the Worlds team after missing out on the Tokyo Olympics. Smith was 1:57.44 in Greensboro, and her lifetime best 1:55.97 comes from leading off the 4×200 free relay at 2017 Worlds. It will be interesting to see if she can ride the momentum from getting back on the senior international squad to get back down to that time in an individual swim. 

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AnEn
11 days ago

My prediction:
O’Callaghan
Haughey
Oleksiak
Yang
Wilson
Tang
Ruck
Weinstein

Bonnet
Anderson
Smith
Padar
Gose
Fairweather

Troyy
Reply to  AnEn
11 days ago

I hope you’re right about O’Callaghan.

Boobstroke
15 days ago

Czechia 💀

KRB
16 days ago

Could be any combination of the favorites, but going with:

  1. Haughey
  2. McIntosh
  3. O’Callaghan
M d e
Reply to  KRB
16 days ago

I think Mollie has a bit too much speed for Summer on the 200 personally. Should be a great race this year!

Hooked on Chlorine
16 days ago

I’m not even going to give my picks because, frankly, I wouldn’t have a clue. It will all come down to who is in form on the day and who is going to parlay the absence of certain swimming stars into the kind of performance-boosting confidence that will see her touch the wall ahead of the rest.

Sub13
16 days ago

This is probably the hardest event to pick. The 3 fastest in the last 12 months (Haughey, Tang, Yang) all have big question marks over them because we haven’t seen them recently. MOC and McIntosh are the next two fastest and both are prime age for a time drop (and MOC dropped significant time between trials and Olympics last year). Oleksiak is the Tokyo bronze medallist but was slow at trials, so who knows what she could produce,

Honestly the gold medal could come from any of these six (with Oleksiak being the least likely in my mind) and I imagine silver and bronze will both also come from this group. But I have no idea how it will shake… Read more »

Troyy
16 days ago
  1. Haughey
  2. Tang
  3. McIntosh or O’Callaghan

Can’t say I’m particularly confident in my picks

Melanie
16 days ago

Come on Summer, we all know you are capable of this easily. Don’t be shy, have fun and be in form!

Tracy Kosinski
16 days ago

Come on guys! Whatcha doing putting SM fourth again? There’s no fourth place finishes for SM on the horizon.

Troyy
Reply to  Tracy Kosinski
16 days ago

Fifth place finish incoming …

Tracy Kosinski
Reply to  Troyy
16 days ago

Pfffft, no way Mr. Troyy 🙂

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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