2023 World Championships: Day 3 Finals Live Recap


Day 3 Finals Start List

The third finals session of the 2023 World Championships is upon us. After a quick prelims session, tonight’s finals is packed with eight events–including five medal rounds.

Order of Events

  • Men’s 200 Freestyle — Final
  • Women’s 1500 Freestyle — Final
  • Men’s 50 Breaststroke — Semifinal
  • Women’s 100 Backstroke — Final
  • Men’s 100 Backstroke — Final
  • Women’s 200 Freestyle — Semifinal
  • Men’s 200 Butterfly — Semifinal
  • Women’s 100 Breaststroke — Final

Let’s take a look at the finals we’ve got ahead of us. The session kicks off with the men’s 200 freestyle final. Lane 4 is the defending world champion David Popovici, who swam 1:44.70 to lead the field. It’s a stacked field, and all three of last year’s medalists return: Popovici, Hwang Sunwooand Tom DeanThere’s also a crowd of newcomers looking to make their mark including Matt Richards and Luke Hobson, the latter of whom pushed Popovici through the heats and semis.

Then, we’ll shoot upwards in distance to the women’s 1500 freestyle. As expected, Katie Ledecky led the way through prelims. If she wins, it will be her fifth world title in the event. While the field may be hard pressed to challenge Ledecky, Simona Quadarella looked strong in prelims as did Lani Pallister and Li Bingjieall of whom were sub-16:00.

In the women’s 100 backstroke, we’ll get the first showdown between Regan Smith and Kaylee McKeown. Smith has led the way through the rounds, but McKeown inched closer to her in the semifinals, promising a great race. Behind them, Katharine Berkoff and Kylie Masse seem locked in a battle for bronze.

It’s the men’s 100 backstroke next. World record holder and defending champion Thomas Ceccon qualified in first, turning the jets on in the semis after coasting through the heats. He’s followed by Xu Jiayu and Ryan Murphy. Further back, 2022 bronze medalist Hunter Armstrong just snuck into the final so we’ll see if he saved up something to challenge for the podium.

The last final (and event) of the session is the women’s 100 breaststroke. There, we’ll be treated to the last three Olympic champions facing off: Ruta Meilutyte (2012), Lilly King (2016), and Lydia Jacoby (2020). Meilutyte has looked great through the rounds, and looks set to upgrade from bronze last year. 200 breast Olympic champion Tatjana Schoenmaker aims to break up the party, as does Mona McSharry who became Ireland’s first woman sub-1:06 in prelims.


  • World Record: Paul Biedermann, Germany – 1:42.00 (2009)
  • World Junior Record: David Popovici, Romania – 1:42.97 (2022)
  • Championship Record: Paul Biedermann, Germany – 1:42.00 (2009)
  • 2022 World Champion: David Popovici, Romania – 1:44.40
  • 2022 Time to Medal: 1:44.98

Top 8:

  1. Matt Richards (GBR) — 1:44.30
  2. Tom Dean (GBR) — 1:44.32
  3. Hwang Sunwoo (KOR) — 1:44.42
  4. David Popovici (ROU) — 1:44.90
  5. Luke Hobson (USA) — 1:45.09
  6. Lee Hojoon (KOR) — 1:46.04
  7. Kieran Smith (USA) — 1:46.10
  8. Felix Auboeck (AUT) — 1:46.40

The Brits have done it again. They replicated their 1-2 finish from the Tokyo Olympics here in Fukuoka, with Matt Richards earning gold in a personal best 1:44.30 and Tom Dean following just two-hundredths behind. Despite the fact that we’ve come to associate the British men with 200 freestyle depth, this this the first time that they’ve had two swimmers finish on the Worlds podium.

This race handed us perhaps the biggest surprise of the meet so far: David Popovici missed out on the medals. On paper, he was the big favorite coming into the race since he owns the fastest textile time in history (1:42.97). Popovici took the race out fast, splitting 23.74/26.44/26/20 on the first three 50s to lead the field around at 150 meters.

But then, Popovici started to fade, while Matt Richards, Hwang Sunwoo, and Tom Dean were surging. Swimming right next to Popovici, Richards charged home in 26.53. He pushed past Popovici and got his hand on the wall first, snagging his first individual medal at the Worlds/Olympic level.

It was Dean who had the fastest closing split, clocking a 26.42 to move through the field from fifth into second. He and Richards were together at the wall, but Dean swung a little bit on his last stroke, which made the difference as Dean took silver in a season-best 1:44.32.

While it might just be the fact that Popovici blasting out so fast made Hwang’s opening seem more controlled, but it looked like Hwang switched up his strategy in the final. Typically, he tends to blast out to the lead from the start and try to hang on. But this time, he came on strong at the end, earning bronze in 1:44.42, shaving five-hundredths off his personal best for a new Korean record.

Popovici came home in 28.12–the slowest closing split in the field by almost a second–and finished outside the medals in fourth. He clocked 1:44.90, two-tenths off his semifinals times.


  • World Record: Katie Ledecky, United States – 15:20.48 (2018)
  • World Junior Record: Katie Ledecky, United States – 15:28.36 (2014)
  • Championship Record: Katie Ledecky, United States – 15:25.48 (2015)
  • 2022 World Champion: Katie Ledecky, United States – 15:30.15
  • 2022 Time to Medal: 15:48.96

Top 8:

  1. Katie Ledecky (USA) — 15:26.27
  2. Simona Quadarella (ITA) — 15:43.31
  3. Li Bingjie (CHN) — 15:45.71
  4. Anastasiia Kipichnikova (FRA) — 15:48.53
  5. Lani Pallister (AUS) — 15:49.17
  6. Isabel Gose (GER) — 15:54.58
  7. Beatriz Dizotti (BRA) — 16:03.70
  8. Kate Grimes (USA) — 16:04.21

At this point, it’s expected that Katie Ledecky does Katie Ledecky things, but watching her put on a show never gets any less special. Ledecky swam the #3 performance of all-time (15:26.27) en route to her fifth gold medal in this event and her 24th World Championship medal.

Ledecky separated herself from the field early and didn’t look back. She closed her race in 29.17, challenging her own championship record, which she set at 15:25.48 eight years ago in 2015.

Simona Quadarella was about 25 meters behind Ledecky, but she had silver locked up from the 300 meter mark onwards. That’s not too far off her personal best (and Italian record) of 15:40.89, a mark she set 2019 Worlds, where she won gold (Ledecky was sick at the meet and didn’t race this event).

Lani Pallister was holding onto third for the majority of the race but fell off her pace in the last 200 meters or so, which allowed both Li Bingjie and Anastasiia Kipichnikova to pass her. Li grabbed the brone medal with a 15:45.71, well ahead of Kipichnikova (15:48.53).

Six of the eight finalists were under the 16 minute mark, as Isabel Gose touched sixth in 15:54.58.


  • World Record: Adam Peaty, Great Britain – 25.95 (2017)
  • World Junior Record: Nicolo Martinenghi, Italy – 26.97 (2017)
  • Championship Record: Adam Peaty, Great Britain – 25.95 (2017)
  • 2022 World Champion: Nic Fink, United States – 26.45
  • 2022 Time to Final: 27.20

Finals Qualifiers:

  1. Qin Haiyang (CHN) — 26.20
  2. Nicolo Martinenghi (ITA) — 26.74
  3. Sun Jiajun (CHN) — 26.78
  4. Lucas Matzerath (GER) — 26.89
  5. Joao Gomes Hr (BRA) – -26.90
  6. Nic Fink (USA) — 26.95
  7. Peter Stevens (SLO) — 27.04
  8. Sam Williamson (AUS) — 27.06

Qin Haiyang continues to set himself apart from the men’s breaststroke field here in Fukuoka. In the semifinals of the men’s 50 breaststroke, he set another Asian record, lowering 26.34 mark that he set in prelims to a 26.20. That’s the #7 performance of all-time, and makes Qin the #2 performer behind only Adam Peaty.

Qin has set an Asian record every time that he’s swum so far at Worlds. Given that he paced himself very well through the rounds of the 100 breaststroke dropping time through prelims to finals, there’s a good chance we’ll see him lower this record once again tomorrow.

Nicolo Martinenghi qualified for the final in second, well back of Qin with a 26.74. It’s Sun JiajunQin’s teammate, who’s qualified next in third with a 26.78. Lucas Matzerath continues to have a strong week, swimming a new personal best of 26.89. That takes a tenth off his personal best.

All three of the four 100 breaststroke medallists who competed in this race made it back for the final, as Nic Fink–the 2022 World champion–moved through in sixth (26.95).


  • World Record: Kaylee McKeown, Australia – 57.45 (2021)
  • World Junior Record: Regan Smith, United States – 57.57 (2019)
  • Championship Record: Regan Smith, United States – 57.57 (2019)
  • 2022 World Champion: Regan Smith, United States – 58.22
  • 2022 Time to Medal: 58.67

Top 8:

  1. Kaylee McKeown (AUS) — 57.53 (Championship Record)
  2. Regan Smith (USA) — 57.78
  3. Katharine Berkoff (USA) — 58.25
  4. Kylie Masse (CAN) — 59.09
  5. Ingrid Wilm (CAN) — 59.31
  6. Pauline Mahieu (FRA) — 59.72
  7. Medi Harris (GBR) — 59.84
  8. Wan Letian (CHN) — 1:00.39

It didn’t end in the world record that many were expecting, but we were still treated to another great race between Kaylee McKeown and Regan Smith. Smith had led the way through prelims and semifinals, and she continued to lead through the first 50 meters of this race.

Smith turned in 27.95, while McKeown following closely in 28.03. Then, Smith had a strong underwater that seemed to separate her from McKeown, but only for a moment as McKeown came charging home. By the time McKeown lunged for the wall it was clear the win was hers–she touched in a new championship record on 57.53. That’s the #4 performance all-time, and a strong bounce-back for McKeown after she was disqualified in the 200 IM semis.

Smith earned silver in 57.78, just off the 57.71 that she swam to win U.S. Trials. It’s a 2-3 finish for the Americans, as Katharine Berkoff earned bronze in her first 100 backstroke final. She was also off the time she posted at U.S. Trials, but 58.25 was more than enough to earn a medal, as Kylie Masse clocked 59.09 for a distant fourth.


  • World Record: Thomas Ceccon, Italy – 51.60 (2022)
  • World Junior Record: Kliment Kolesnikov, Russia – 52.53 (2018)
  • Championship Record: Thomas Ceccon, Italy – 51.60 (2022)
  • 2022 World Champion: Thomas Ceccon, Italy – 51.60
  • 2022 Time to Medal: 51.98

Top 8:

  1. Ryan Murphy (USA) — 52.22
  2. Thomas Ceccon (ITA) — 52.27
  3. Hunter Armstrong (USA) — 52.58
  4. Xu Jiayu (CHN) — 52.64
  5. Yohann Ndoye-Brouard (FRA) — 52.83
  6. Ksawery Masiuk (POL) — 52.92
  7. Hubert Kos (HUN) — 53.11
  8. Mewen Tomac (FRA) — 53.16

It was a slower final that 2022, but we came away with the same swimmers on the podium, albeit in a slightly different order. This time, it was Ryan Murphy topping the podium with a 52.22. This is just his second individual Worlds gold, and his first in the 100 backstroke.

Murphy was fourth at the turn (25.53), but had the fastest second 50 in the field (26.69), which powered him through the rest of the field and into the lead. Coming into the wall, it looked like Thomas Ceccon might get his second win in a row (in both this event and the meet) but he tightened up at the finish. That gave Murphy, who’s been so consistent in his career at “finding a way”, all the room he needed to get the gold medal.

Ceccon took silver in 52.27, five-hundredths behind Murphy. Meanwhile, Hunter Amstrong repeated as the bronze medalist. Even though the time may not have been where he wanted it to be–he was faster at U.S. Trials–it’s still an encouraging performance for him as he snuck into the semifinal in 16th and the final in 8th.

Xu Jiayu wrapped up a fourth place finish in 52.64, while Ksawery Masiuk fell off after a blazing first 50 (25.00) to finish sixth. Just behind him, Hubert Kos cut .01 off his Hungarian record, finishing in seventh with a 53.11.

WOMEN’S 200 FREESTYLE – Semifinal

  • World Record: Federica Pellegrini, Italy -1:52.98 (2009)
  • World Junior Record: Summer McIntosh, Canada – 1:53.91 (2023)
  • Championship Record: Federica Pellegrini, Italy -1:52.98 (2009)
  • 2022 World Champion: Yang Junxuan, China – 1:54.92
  • 2022 Time to Final: 1:56.87

Finals Qualifiers:

  1. Ariarne Titmus (AUS) — 1:54.64
  2. Summer McIntosh (CAN) — 1:54.67
  3. Mollie O’Callaghan (AUS) — 1:54.91
  4. Bella Sims (USA) — 1:55.45
  5. Siobhan Haughey (HKG) — 1:55.48
  6. Freya Anderson (GBR) — 1:55.85
  7. Liu Yaxin (CHN) — 1:56.34
  8. Marrit Steenbergen (NED) — 1:56.49

It’s set to be a stacked 200 free for tomorrow as four of the eight women who have been sub-1:54 are set to be in this field: Ariarne Titmus, Summer McIntosh, Mollie O’Callaghan, and Siobhan Haughey.

Titmus will be the one in lane 4, as she swam a 1:54.64 to just better the time McIntosh swam in the first semi-final. Titmus and McIntosh are separated by three-hundredths, but they swam their two races quite differently. Where Titmus waited until the back-half to make her move, McIntosh charged ahead from the start then seemed to shut it down with about 30 meters to go.

Post-race, McIntosh said that she did shut it down a bit, but that she didn’t want to take too much of a risk given how stacked this field is. O’Callaghan finished second behind Titmus, touching in a 1:54.91. Those were the three swimmers all under 1:55, as Bella Sims qualified fourth in 1:55.45. That’s a huge personal best for Sims and the first time she’s gone under 1:56.

The other two main contenders to watch in this field are Haughey and Freya Anderson. Haughey is the defending Olympic silver medalist and owns the Asian record. It’s a solid swim for her after a 2022 fraught with injury, and she should have something left in the tank for tomorrow.

MEN’S 200 BUTTERFLY – Semifinal

  • World Record: Kristof Milak, Hungary – 1:50.34 (2022)
  • World Junior Record: Kristof Milak, Hungary – 1:53.79 (2017)
  • Championship Record: Kristof Milak, Hungary – 1:50.34 (2022)
  • 2022 World Champion: Kristof Milak, Hungary – 1:50.34
  • 2022 Time to Final: 1:06.40

Finals Qualifiers: 

  1. Carson Foster (USA) — 1:53.85
  2. Leon Marchand (FRA) — 1:54.21
  3. Ilya Kharun (CAN) — 1:54.28
  4. Krzysztof Chmielewski (POL) — 1:54.36
  5. Tomoru Honda (JPN) — 1:54.43
  6. Richard Marton (HUN) — 1:54.54
  7. Thomas Heilman (USA) — 1:54.57
  8. Wang Kuan-Hung  (TPE) — 1:54.97

It was a tight race to get into the men’s 200 butterfly final. Carson Foster leads the way in a 1:53.85, just off his personal best of 1:53.67. He’s the only one who got under 1:54 in the semifinals, as Leon Marchand is sitting second with a 1:54.21. Marchand won the second semifinal, but it was close.

On the final 50, Ilya Kharun barreled through the field and ended up touching second in 1:54.28, just seven-hundredths behind Marchand. The teenager broke his own Canadian record in the event, lowering the mark from 1:54.49 to 1:54.28. He’s the fifth Canadian man to final in this event, and the first since 1986.

Behind Foster, the rest of the field is separated by just .76 seconds, which promises an incredibly tight race in the final. One thing to keep an eye on there is that we’re expecting both Foster and Marchand to make the 200 IM semifinals, which will race just after this final tomorrow night.

Tomoru Honda, who many picked as the favorite to win this race in the absence of Kristof Milak, is safely through to final in fifth (1:54.43). He’ll be one of the older swimmers in the final, as the field is full of youngsters. Not only is there Kharun, but there’s also Poland’s Krzysztof Chmielewski and the U.S.’s Thomas Heilman, both teens, making it into the final.


  • World Record: Lilly King, United States – 1:04.13 (2017)
  • World Junior Record: Ruta Meilutyte, Lithuania – 1:04.35 (2013)
  • Championship Record: Lilly King, United States – 1:04.13 (2017)
  • 2022 World Champion: Benedetta Pilato, Italy – 1:05.93
  • 2022 Time to Medal: 1:06.02

Top 8:

  1. Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) — 1:04.62
  2. Tatjana Schoenmaker (RSA) — 1:05.84
  3. Lydia Jacoby (USA) — 1:05.94
  4. Lilly King (USA) — 1:06.02
  5. Mona McSharry (IRL) — 1:06.07
  6. Eneli Jefimova (EST) — 1:06.36
  7. Sophie Hansson (SWE) — 1:06.61
  8. Satomi Suzuki (JPN) — 1:06.67

Ruta Meilutyte just continues to impress in her comeback to the sport. She returned last summer and walked away with hardware from both Worlds and European Championships. Then, she had a successful run in SCM on the World Cup tour. Now, she’s back in long-course and she’s upgraded from 100 breast bronze in Budapest to gold here in Fukuoka.

Many thought that Meilutyte would challenge the world record and she was under the pace at the first turn, splitting 29.78. The world record line got away from her down the stretch, but she kept herself clear of her competitors, clocking 1:04.62. That improves the #8 fastest performance ever, which she originally claimed back in prelims. It’s the closest she’s been to her 1:04.35 best since 2013.

All-Time Top Performances, Women’s 100-Meter Breaststroke:

  1. Lilly King, United States — 1:04.13 (2017)
  2. Ruta Meilutyte, Lithuania — 1:04.35 (2013)
  3. Yulia Efimova, Russia — 1:04.36 (2017)
  4. Ruta Meilutyte, Lithuania — 1:04.42 (2013)
  5. Jessica Hardy, United States — 1:04.45 (2009)
  6. Ruta Meilutyte, Lithuania — 1:04.52 (2013)
  7. Lilly King, United States — 1:04.53 (2017)
  8. Ruta Meilutyte, Lithuania — 1:04.62 (2023)
  9. Ruta Meilutyte, Lithuania — 1:04.67 (2023)

It was tight at the touch for the silver and bronze medals. Coming down in the closing meters, it looked like Lilly King and Mona McSharry for the two medals, with McSharry pushing King for silver. However, Tatjana Schoenmaker and Lydia Jacoby charged home and at the touch, it was the two of them who claimed the medals. Schoenmaker grabbed silver in 1:05.84, with Jacoby a tenth behind in 1:05.94.

King settled for fourth, a repeat of her finish in 2022, and almost the same time–she was five-hundredths faster here in Fukuoka.

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2 months ago

David who? Chlorine what?

2 months ago

When the Women’s 100 Breast is a battle of the last 3 Olympic Champions (2021, 2016, 2012)…
… and the 2012 champ wins.

2 months ago

Should have been the Aussie girls second gold.

Reply to  Peter
2 months ago

Which event the 100 breast?

2 months ago

Why did Rita go missing for a few years. Looks like she spent these years in the Gym

Reply to  Peter
2 months ago

2-year suspension for non-compliance with anti-doping laws.

m d e
2 months ago

Titmus went 0.11 slower at a meet she went 3:56.90 in the 400 free in. WHich at the time was a big PB. She went 3:55.38 the other night.

The WR is 100% in play.

2 months ago

I wouldn’t disagree fully (we do have them), but maybe amend that statement to “longer term” superstars.
I watched “The Legends of Fukuoka” last night that FINA (or sorry World Aquatics) has just put out. And I have to say, it definitely made me remember back to a time where there not only was a glut of true superstars in the sport, but most of them had great longevity (for swimming). Phelps, Thorpe, Hackett, Coughlin, Earvin, Hoogie and the list kind of goes on. These were swimmers who came up in the late 90’s and were still going strong into the mid-00’s at least and in some cases the 12’s and 16’s. We had great consistancy at the very… Read more »

Sweet Sweet Peter Rosen
2 months ago

Massive win for Murphy. Stud. And needed for America

Awsi Dooger
2 months ago

The Regan Smith 15 meter wall is one of the most dependable trends in sports.

Bella Sims continues to demonstrate that she has vastly more potential than the other Sandpipers because she understands the style necessary to succeed at elite level. Take it out. Hit it hard like Arnold Palmer’s dad taught him to do. The details will come later.

Watch Bella’s feet on turns. It’s not merely the launch. Her flips are rapid fire. I’ve never understood why female swimmers are so leisurely in that regard. Every women’s record is rightfully lower if they simply blasted the flips like Bella.

Reply to  Awsi Dooger
2 months ago

Bella’s last flip! Was amazing help kept her in the race

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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