2023 World Champs Preview: Can Aussies Continue Dominance in Women’s 100 Free?

2023 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

BY THE NUMBERS: WOMEN’S 100 FREESTYLE

  • World Record: Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden, – 51.71 (2017)
  • Championships Record: Sarah Sjostrom, Sweden, – 51.71 (2017)
  • World Junior Record: Penny Oleksiak, Canada – 52.70 (2016)
  • 2020 Olympic Champion: Emma McKeon, Australia – 51.96
  • 2022 World Champion: Mollie O’Callahgan, Australia – 52.67

This year’s women’s 100 freestyle will be a tight race, with only three of the top eight finishers from last year’s Championships set to race this event this year. Of those three swimmers, defending World Champion Mollie O’Callaghan is the only medalist racing this year, leaving the podium wide open for some new faces to step up.

Aussie Sprint Dominance

There are multiple swimmers in the field owning Olympic medals, World Championship medals, and National Records in this event. Most notably is the Australian duo of the aforementioned O’Callaghan and Emma McKeon.

O’Callaghan enters the meet as the top seed following her performance at Australian Trials where she swam a time of 52.48, earning a chance to defend her gold medal from last year. Despite the strong year she’s had, O’Callaghan’s status going into these World Championships is questionable as she suffered a knee injury just after the Australian Trials meet. Due to this injury, she reduced her schedule for Worlds, primarily focusing on the sprint freestyle events and relays. O’Callaghan’s teammate McKeon is also a huge threat in this event. The 2021 Olympic Champion, McKeon is one of only a handful of women to have gone 51-point in the 100 freestyle. At the Olympics, she posted a time of 51.96 to win the gold medal, coming in well ahead of the field. After winning a record-breaking seven medals at the Olympics, McKeon didn’t compete at last year’s World Championships, instead focusing on the Commonwealth Games, where she fell to bronze in the 100 freestyle. McKeon seemed to be in better form at the 2022 SC World Championships, where she won the 100 freestyle.

At their best, O’Callaghan and McKeon seem like a lock for the gold and silver medals. However, given McKeon’s performances over the past year and O’Callaghan’s injury, it’s hard to tell what form they’ll be in.

International Challengers

Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey also sat out last year’s World Championships following an injury. Haughey posted a 52.50 in May, indicating that she is back after what she considers a “rebuilding year” in 2022. The Michigan graduate won the silver medal in this event at the 2021 Olympic Games, becoming Hong Kong’s first ever Olympic medalist in swimming. Her personal best of 52.27 from the Olympics and her season best are faster than the 52.67 that O’Callaghan swam to win this event last year, putting her right in the conversion for gold.

Americans Kate Douglass and Abbey Weitzeil are also looking to upset the Australians in this event. Douglass, the reigning NCAA champion in the 100 freestyle, swam a best time of 52.57 to win US Trials, a huge improvement for her. She has a loaded schedule for Worlds, also being a medal favorite in the 200 IM and 200 breaststroke. Despite her schedule, Douglass showed at US Trials that she is far from just a short course swimmer. Weitzeil is also in contention after a huge rebound at US Trials. After representing the US at the 2021 Olympic Games, Weitzeil missed making the team at the 2022 World Championships Trials, leaving her at home for the first time in several years. Despite this setback and the loss of her coach Teri McKeever, who was fired from Cal in late January after allegations of abuse, Weitzeil managed to qualify for the World Championships in both the 50 and 100 freestyle with best times in both events. Though her best chance of medaling is in the 50 freestyle, Weitzeil should be a lock to make the final in this race as well.

The only other swimmers returning from last year’s final are Cheng Yujie of China and Frenchwoman Marie Wattel, who finished 5th and 7th last year, respectively. Yujie recently swam a time of 53.26 to rank herself 7th entering the meet. Notably, that time is nearly .3 faster than her time from last year’s World Championships. Wattel, likewise, has already matched her time from last year, swimming a 53.60 last month. It’s worthy to note that Wattel’s best chance of medaling is probably in the 100 butterfly, where she won the silver medal last year, so it’s possible she focuses more on that event.

Wattel’s teammate Beryl Gastaldello could also find herself in the final, holding a season best of 53.60, identical to Wattel’s time. Gastaldello has been at the front of the international swimming scene for almost a decade now. However, she still doesn’t hold an individual long course World Championships medal, meaning this could be an opportunity for her to finally grab one.

The Netherlands have a contender in the form of Marrit Steenbergen, who dipped under the 53 second mark back in January with a 52.98 to rank just behind Weitzeil on the psych sheet. Great Britain’s Anna Hopkin and China’s Junxuan Yang are also names to watch.

Keep an eye out for Japanese star Rikako Ikee, who is right in the mix to qualify for the final. Ikee returned to the international swimming scene during the 2021 Olympic Games following her 2019 diagnosis, and subsequent battle with leukemia. Ikee didn’t swim any individual events at the 2021 Olympic Games or 2022 World Championships, meaning this is her first shot at an individual LC Worlds medal.

SwimSwam’s Picks

Place Swimmer Nation Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Emma McKeon AUS 52.52 51.96
2 Siobhan Haughey HGK 52.5 52.27
3 Kate Douglass USA 52.57 52.57
4 Mollie O’Callaghan AUS 52.48 52.48
5 Abbey Weitzeil USA 52.92 52.92
6 Marrit Steenbergen NED 52.98 52.98
7 Cheng Yujie CHN 53.26 53.26
8 Marie Wattel FRA 53.6 53.53

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Katrina Rusan
8 months ago

Mollie we will be saying our prayers for u that you have a great swimming day from Croatia where your roots began (Alexa’s Aunty Katica Rusan)

commonwomnat
8 months ago

Another case of “four into three” don’t go. A cogent.argument can be made for all4 main contenders
.
Of McKeon were on Tokyo/SC Worlds form then its hers but just where is shd?

Is Haughey back to Tokyo level ?

What IS the scope of MOC kner issue ?

Does Douglas have another drop ?

Think its MvKeon v Haughey

R

Last edited 8 months ago by commonwomnat
Oceanian
8 months ago

Hmmmmm… some seem to be taking that knee injury report very seriously. Most swimmers compete with some kind of niggle..

Torchbearer
8 months ago

MOC is Australian, Commonwealth and World Champion- she knows how to get her hand on the wall first. Count her out at your peril!

Gladi
8 months ago

Siobhan is underrated, her consistency and mentality is just incredible that I trust her is capable to win this. And 200m free is her strongest and favourite event, so surprised she is out of podium in the prediction.

‘Murica
8 months ago

Chokestrailia

Jimmyswim
Reply to  ‘Murica
8 months ago

It’s amusing how threatened you are by a country 1/13th of your size. It’s the equivalent of Australia bragging about beating Gabon or Lesotho lol.

Hooked on Chlorine
Reply to  ‘Murica
8 months ago

There’s only one “i” in Australia. You couldn’t even get that right. Next time ask your mum to teach you all about spell-check.

Aussie Crawl
Reply to  ‘Murica
8 months ago

Use spell check next time……

Troyy
8 months ago

Pretty sure Mollie dropped the 100 back because of a clash with the 200 free semi rather than because of her knee.

20:51 10 Women’s 100m Backstroke Final
20:59 11 Men’s 100m Backstroke Final
21:06 14 Women’s 1500m Freestyle Medal Ceremony
21:13 16 Women’s 200m Freestyle Semifinals

I think Haughey’s gonna win this.

Last edited 8 months ago by Troyy
Anything but 50 BR
8 months ago

I could be way wrong here, but isn’t it Douglass with the 52.57 and O’Callaghan with the 52.48?
I think these are switched in the bottom table.

About Nicole Miller

Nicole Miller

Nicole has been with SwimSwam since April 2020, as both a reporter and social media contributor. Prior to joining the SwimSwam platform, Nicole also managed a successful Instagram platform, amassing over 20,000 followers. Currently, Nicole is pursuing her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. After competing for the swim …

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