2023 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
- July 23 – 30, 2023 (pool swimming)
- Fukuoka, Japan
- Marine Messe Fukuoka
- LCM (50m)
- Meet Central
- SwimSwam Preview Index
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.
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 Heilman. The 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.
- 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
|Leonardo De Deus
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.