2023 World Champs Preview: Tomoru Honda Readies For 200 Fly Takeover

2023 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

BY THE NUMBERS — MEN’S 200 BUTTERFLY

  • 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

The fact that 23-year-old Kristof Milak of Hungary is not competing in Fukuoka means we’ll be seeing a new world champion in the men’s 200m butterfly.

The World Record holder and the 2019 and 2022 world champion announced that he would be forgoing the World Championships, seeking to tend to his mental and physical health after ‘hitting rock bottom’.

Milak’s absence opens the door for those who have been chasing the Hungarian for the past four years, including Japan’s Olympic silver medalist Tomoru Honda.

Japan’s Butterfly Rock Star

21-year-old Honda was a shining light in an otherwise dim display by the host nation of Japan at the 2020 Olympic Games.

Along with two-time gold medalist teammate Yui Ohashi, Honda represented the only other individual Japanese medalist in Tokyo, taking silver in the 200m fly behind Milak in a time of 1:53.73.

Honda carried that momentum into 2022, claiming bronze in the 200m fly at the World Championships in a similar result of 1:53.61.

Later in 2022, however, Honda unleashed a monster new World Record in the short course meters 200 butterfly.

Competing at the Japanese National Short Course Championships last October, Honda smashed a mark of 1:46.85, obliterating the previous World Record time of 1:48.24 teammate Daiya Seto put on the books in 2018.

To cap off 2022, Honda fired off the fastest LCM 200 butterfly of his career while racing at the Japan Open in December. Honda blasted a big lifetime best of 1:52.70 to become the 4th-fastest swimmer in history in the event.

That outing currently ranks Honda as the 2nd-swiftest man on the planet this season, sitting only behind Milak’s season-best of 1:52.58.

Honda remains the only active swimmer of the potential World Championships field who has delved under the 1:53 barrier, giving him the nod as the 2fly favorite on his home soil.

Enter French Phenom Leon Marchand

Frenchman Leon Marchand owns a personal best of 1:53.37 from when he earned silver last year behind Milak and ahead of Honda in Budapest.

Since then, the 21-year-old Arizona State University star hit a time of 1:55.58 at the Westmont Pro Swim Series and a mark of 1:55.79 at last month’s French Elite Championships.

LEON MARCHAND

Swimming
FINA 19th World Championships Budapest 2022
Budapest, Duna Arena 18/06/22
Photo Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Although Marchand ranks just 16th in the world with that latter performance, he has proven he can deliver breakthrough performances when under the big lights.

Marchand has immense versatility, slated to race this 200m fly along with the 200m free, 200m IM and 400m IM individual events. His packed schedule may put him at a slight disadvantage in this particular 200m fly race, however.

Both Marchand and Honda will have already dived in for the 400m IM on day one of the World Championships but Marchand will also have already competed in the heats and semi-final of the 200m free by the time the 2fly rolls around.

In fact, the 200m free final and the 200m fly semi-final both fall in the same session on night three, meaning Marchand could potentially have just 5 events in between these two contests.

While Marchand is going to be a popular pick here, as the likely swimmer-of-the-championship, it still feels like Honda’s class in this event is tops in the world – for now, anyway.

Stars n’ Stripes Standouts

The Americans have two entirely new 200m fly medal-seeking candidates in Carson Foster and Thomas HeilmanThe 21-year-old Cincinnati-born Foster and 16-year-old national age group record holder Heilman replace Luca Urlando and Trenton Julian who represented the stars n’ stripes in this event last year in Budapest.

Foster and Heilman finished 1-2 at last month’s U.S. National Championships (World Championships Trials), with University of Texas’ Foster clocking 1:54.32 while Heilman was just a fingernail behind in 1:54.54.

As for Foster, he owns a lifetime best of 1:53.67, a time he produced at the 2022 Southern Sectionals. Youngster Heilman, on the other hand, hit his PB with that runner-up swim in Indianapolis, tearing up his previous swiftest outing of 1:56.52 from last year.

Foster has experience on the world stage, having represented the United States at both Short Course and Long Course World Championships while Heilman is untested in the senior international arena.

Additional All-Stars

  • While Federico Burdisso was the Italian who claimed 200m fly silver in Tokyo it’s been teammate Alberto Razzetti who has been the standout since the 2020 Olympic Games. The 24-year-old notched a Fukuoka-worthy time of 1:54.98 at the Italian Championships, just .11 off his own personal best. However, that’s still far off the aforementioned 1:52/1:53-caliber of performances that it will most likely take to sniff a medal this month.
  • China’s Chen Juner scored a lifetime best of 1:54.16 at May’s Chinese National Championships to establish a new national record. That was a vast improvement from the 1:58.31 he posted for 21st place last year in Budapest. Chinese swimmers historically have been known to crush their quickest efforts on home soil, so the 19-year-old’s outcome in Fukuoka is somewhat of a wild card.
  • Canada’s Ilya Kharun enters Fukuoka ranked 5th in the world on the season, with his Canadian Record 1:54.49 having come from the Pro Swim Series in Fort Lauderdale this past March. At the Canadian Swim Trials, he punched another solid result of 1:54.74 to take the national title by nearly 5 seconds. The Arizona State University commit has his work cut out for him to be in the gold medal conversation but he has a shot at a minor medal if he can carry his momentum into the final.
  • Bronze medalist in the 100m fly at the Tokyo Olympic Games, Swiss swimmer Noe Ponti also ranks among contenders for a minor medal. The former NC State commit logged a season-best of 1:55.39 just last month at the Sette Colli Trophy but has been as swift as 1:54.20 from last year’s World Championships as the national record holder.

SWIMSWAM’S TOP 8 PICKS

PLACE SWIMMER NATION SEASON BEST LIFETIME BEST
1 Tomoru Honda JPN 1:52.70 1:52.70
2 Leon Marchand FRA 1:55.58 1:53.37
3 Carson Foster USA 1:54.30 1:53.67
4 Chen Juner CHN 1:54.16 1:54.16
5 Ilya Kharun CAN 1:54.49 1:54.49
6 Alberto Razzetti ITA 1:54.98 1:54.87
7 Noe Ponti SUI 1:55.39 1:54.20
8 Leonardo De Deus BRA 1:55.47 1:54.83

 

Dark Horse: Krzysztof Chmielewski (POL) — The 19-year-old World Junior Championships multi-gold medalist carries a season-best of 1:55.04 into Fukuoka. He achieved the result at the Monaco stop of the Mare Nostrum Tour, coming within .03 of his career-quickest time of 1:55.01 which garnered him 9th place in Budapest last year, just .10 short of making the final. If he can muster into another gear, he’ll be right in the mix with the host of other 1:54-level swimmers set to compete.

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TerrificLéon
7 months ago

Barring a last-minute change (unlikely), Léon Marchand explained at the end of the French championships that he wouldn’t be swimming the 200 free, nor, certainly, the 200 breaststroke (unless he takes the gamble of linking the 200 breaststroke semi-final with the 200IM final, but that will be the day after the 200m fly final anyway).

Who will be world champion in the 200m butterfly in 2023? For me, it’s 50/50 between Marchand and Honda, with perhaps a slight advantage for Honda who has already gone under 1’53. I think it all depends on Léon Marchand’s ability to recover from the 400IM, but he’ll have had a rest day on day 2. If he recovers well, I see him under 1’53… Read more »

Aquajosh
7 months ago

Honda will win, but I’d keep your eye on Ponti to make a big drop as he has the highest 100 speed ceiling of the field.

Admin
Reply to  Aquajosh
7 months ago

I think that’s a good sleeper pick for a medal.

Taa
7 months ago

Honda Foster Kharun in that order. I’m going against the grain with my expectations for Leon at this meet. Not enough walls and some really stiff competition and in this race I think you see a lot of variance in performance as its not that easy to drop a 1:53 on your 3rd swim in 2 days.

Wow
Reply to  Taa
7 months ago

I think Kharun is going to have a great meet. Might be a year or two too early for Heilman, but I don’t think it’s too early for Kharun.

HeGetsItDoneAgain
Reply to  Wow
7 months ago

Kharun and Heilman have basically the same pb in the 200, Heilman is faster in the 100 and Heilman is faster in the 100/200 in yards. If anyone’s gonna make a sizable drop it’s going to be the 16 year old not the 18 year old lol.

Wow
Reply to  HeGetsItDoneAgain
7 months ago

I think it’s fairly reasonable that a 16 and an 18 year old can make a sizable drop. Plus Kharun did his current PB at a random Pro Swim Series meet. I think they’ll both be much faster than their current PBs come Paris…

1650 Onetrick
7 months ago

I have absolutely no idea how anyone could think Marchand won’t win this. I’m not making any bets about places 2-8, but first will be Marchand.

Noah
Reply to  1650 Onetrick
7 months ago

Maybe because Honda has a faster PB and has been consistently faster than Marchand this year, even in-season….not even mentioning Honda’s 1:46.

Joel
Reply to  Noah
7 months ago

Exactly

Paul Thomas
Reply to  Noah
7 months ago

Plus competing at home. Admittedly most guys will have enough time to adjust to the new time zone but being on another continent still makes a difference.

mds
Reply to  Paul Thomas
7 months ago

Seto

TerrificLéon
Reply to  1650 Onetrick
7 months ago

The same goes for me: I think a lot of people are influenced by the average performance of Léon Marchand in the French trials (over 1’55), where he wasn’t in top form, with nothing really at stake, and tired after 2 days of competition. Well prepared as he usually is, and with his “killer” mentality when he’s in the water (as Lilly King says), I think he’ll be at the same level as Honda and maybe even ahead.

Last edited 7 months ago by TerrificLéon
peterpete
7 months ago

Is Le Clos not competing?
He has been 152 as well.

USA
Reply to  peterpete
7 months ago

He hasn’t been 1:52 in 11 years

peterpete
Reply to  USA
7 months ago

True, it doesn’t matter anyway because Le Clos ain’t competing.

Swimlove
Reply to  peterpete
7 months ago

Think about being olympic champion and your name is not even mentioned. But no the boss of Frankfurt said he’s not in shape for worlds so he’ll not go https://www.fr.de/sport/le-clos-nicht-zur-wm-92393438.html

Swimlove
Reply to  Swimlove
7 months ago

And ofc it’s because of “illness”

peterpete
Reply to  Swimlove
7 months ago

I wouldn’t count him out just yet. Unless he retires.
He did post a pb in the 200m scm 200 fly recently.

Greenangel
7 months ago

Retta, Marchand will not race the 200 free. He’ll take part in the final of the 200 fly (I hope so) juste before the semi-final of the 200 IM.
As I said I’m pretty sure that Honda will win the race ahead of Foster, silver and Marchand, bronze.

KSW
7 months ago

comment image

Leon Marchand:

HeGetsItDoneAgain
7 months ago

Keep on ignoring the ascent of Thomas Heilman at your own peril.

PFA
Reply to  HeGetsItDoneAgain
7 months ago

Their setting up for the “He’s breaking a WR 6 months after worlds” moment. History is about to repeat itself.

Paul Thomas
Reply to  HeGetsItDoneAgain
7 months ago

I think this is one year too early for him, but Phelps had a forgettable first Olympics too.

Joel
Reply to  Paul Thomas
7 months ago

Forgettable? He Came 5th at 15 I think. You are tough to please

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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