2023 World Champs Preview: Americans Aiming for 1-2 Finish in Women’s 100 Breast


By The Numbers: 

It’s been difficult to predict Lilly King’s performance in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke over the past year.

We picked the 26-year-old American to win the world title again last year in Budapest, but she missed the podium entirely. Then at U.S. Trials a few weeks ago, we were swayed by Lydia Jacoby’s recent momentum and picked the 19-year-old Texas Longhorn to upset King. Well, that didn’t happen — King triumphed in front of her home crowd in Indiana, clocking her fastest time (1:04.75) since the 2021 Olympic Trials (1:04.72). Jacoby wasn’t far behind, posting her second-fastest time ever (1:05.16) behind only her Olympic win two summers ago in Tokyo (1:04.95).

After her Trials victory, King said she hadn’t felt like herself in that race in a while. That’s music to the ears of U.S. swimming fans hoping for a 1-2 American finish in this event for the second time ever (King and Katie Meili took gold and silver at the 2017 World Championships). But while King and Jacoby may be favorites on paper to top the podium next week, they’ll be up against one of the fastest 100 breast fields in history.

Tons of Veteran Talent

Tatjana Schoenmaker leads a loaded group of experienced swimmers who will be ready to pounce if the Americans are off their game. The 26-year-old South African won silver at the Tokyo Olympics, behind Jacoby but ahead of King, before skipping last year’s World Championships. Schoenmaker lost to 20-year-old countrywoman Lara van Niekerk at the Commonwealth Games last August, but she bounced back to beat her at April’s South African Championships with a season-best 1:05.89. Her lifetime best is just about a second faster, an African record 1:04.82 from the Tokyo Olympic heats two summers ago.

As if this race wasn’t already hard enough to pick, Reona Aoki comes into Fukuoka with an identical season-best time of 1:05.89 from April’s Japanese Championships, tied for sixth in the world this season. The 28-year-old is seeking her first Worlds medal after placing 5th last year and 4th in 2019. Aoki’s best time is her Japanese record of 1:05.19 from last year’s Japanese Trials, which she couldn’t quite replicate at Worlds with a 1:06.07 in semis and 1:06.38 in the final.

This will be the fifth World Championships for 26-year-old Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte, who has occupied a different spot in the top four of the 100 breast during her previous trips. After winning the event in 2013, she placed 2nd in 2015, 4th in 2017, and 3rd last year. She went 1:06.02 for bronze last year after entering the meet with a season best of only 1:07.07. This season, Meilutyte’s best time is a 1:06.38 in May, signaling that she should be even faster at Worlds this year. Her lifetime best still sits at 1:04.35 from her world title in 2013.

There’s also 24-year-old Swede Sophie Hansson, who has placed 6th at both the last Olympics and World Championships. Her season-best time of 1:05.99 from May ranks eighth in the world this season.

Youngsters Eye an Upset

22-year-old Tes Schouten has been on a tear this year, blazing a Dutch record of 1:05.92 in March before lowering her own national standard to 1:05.71 in April. It was the top time in the world this season at the time, but now it ranks fifth (third among competitors in Fukuoka, though). At last year’s Worlds, Schouten placed 15th in the semifinals (1:07.20) after clocking a 1:07.18 in prelims.

Anna Elendt is only 21 years old and entering her senior year at the University of Texas, but the German native could already qualify as a veteran in this race with multiple medals on the world stage. She took silver last year in Budapest (1:05.98) before bagging bronze at Short Course Worlds last December. Elendt ranks just 18th this season with a 1:06.59 from April’s Pro Swim Series stop in Westmont, and her lifetime best sits at 1:05.58 from March’s Pro Swim Series stop in San Antonio.

Lara van Niekerk also brings plenty of international experience at just 20 years old. She didn’t make the Worlds final last year, placing 13th in the semifinals (1:06.75), before beating Schoenmaker for the Commonwealth Games gold with a personal-best 1:05.47. This season, though, van Niekerk earned a runner-up finish at April’s South African Championships (1:06.75) behind Schoenmaker (1:05.89), but didn’t get back under 1:07 at any of the three Mare Nostrum Tour stops in May.

Tang Qiating is a bit of a question mark since she doesn’t appear to have swum the 100 breast so far this season, but her 1:05.97 from last year’s Worlds semifinals has her seeded eighth in the entry book. The 19-year-old Chinese standout ended up placing 7th in Budapest with a 1:06.41. Qiating owns a lifetime best of 1:05.82 from 2021.

The field will be missing a pair of promising 18-year-olds. Defending champion Benedetta Pilato didn’t qualify for Italy’s team in the 100 breast, with the two spots going to Lisa Angiolini (1:06.18 from April) and reigning Olympic finalist Martina Carraro (1:06.37 from February). Pilato will still contest the 50 breast, where she holds the world record. Meanwhile, 200 breast world record holder Evgeniia Chikunova is barred from international competition along with the rest of the Russian and Belarusian swimmers. Chikunova is ranked second this season with a 1:04.92 from April’s Russian Championships.

SwimSwam’s Picks

Rank Swimmer Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Lilly King (USA) 1:04.75 1:04.13
2 Lydia Jacoby (USA) 1:05.16 1:04.95
3 Tatjana Schoenmaker (RSA) 1:05.89 1:04.82
4 Reona Aoki (JPN) 1:05.89 1:05.19
5 Tes Schouten (NED) 1:05.71 1:05.71
6 Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) 1:06.38 1:04.35
7 Lara van Niekerk (RSA) 1:06.74 1:05.47
8 Anna Elendt (GER) 1:06.59 1:05.58


In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 months ago


Reply to  Weinstein-Smith-Ledecky-Sims
4 months ago

That was my Pick ‘Ems

Scuncan Dott v2
4 months ago

You guys completely forgot about Mona McSharry – she’s improving all the time and set a new PB of 1:06.04 this year and had a pretty good NCAAs. She can make the final, maybe even challenge for the podium.

Last edited 4 months ago by Scuncan Dott v2
4 months ago

There’s going to be hugge upset by the 16.y Jefimova… mark my words

4 months ago

Can swimswam please publish 2025 recruit rankings?

Reply to  smithrc
4 months ago

Focus dude. World champs are about to start. No other swimming matters.

4 months ago


4 months ago

Lily WR??

4 months ago

do you guys have a dark horse pick for this event?

Last edited 4 months ago by bubbles
Reply to  bubbles
4 months ago

Maybe Sophie Hansson? PB 1:05.67, SB 1:06.85
Or Jefimova? PB/SB 1:06.36

Reply to  Splash
4 months ago

yeah, they’re both definitely contenders for the final since hansson’s made multiple finals and jefimova has momentum

Last edited 4 months ago by bubbles
Reply to  Splash
4 months ago

Hansson has been mentioned, so she isn’t “eligible”. McSharry could be seen as a dark horse.

4 months ago

Lily and Lydia have separated from the pack here. 1-2 finish for US.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

Read More »