2023 World Champs Previews: Men’s 200 IM Sees Leon Marchand Aiming To Keep Control



  • World Record: Ryan Lochte, United States — 1:54.00 (2011)
  • World Junior Record: Hubert Kos, Hungary — 1:56.00 (2021)
  • Championship Record: Ryan Lochte, United States — 1:54.00 (2011)
  • 2022 World Champion: Leon Marchand, France — 1:55.22

The men’s 200 IM was one of the events that saw a complete turnover from the Tokyo Olympic podium. All six are expected to be back in action in Fukuoka, which means that it will be a fight just to even make the final. That’s because along with the six, there are plenty of rising stars in the event that are hoping to spoil the party in Fukuoka.

A Rivalry Renewed

If everything goes as expected, the 200 IM will be the third match-up of the meet between Leon Marchand and Carson Foster. They’ll have raced in the 400 IM, and the day before this race in the 200 fly so we’ll have a good sense of both their forms.

As fast rising stars of the sport with similar event line-ups, there’s a healthy rivalry developing between Marchand and Foster. They’ve faced off for the last two years in the NCAA, and now return to long-course for the next edition. Marchand won this race last year in a French record of 1:55.22.

Given that he won the 400 IM earlier in the meet by over two seconds, this race was closer than many expected. Marchand was seventh after the fly leg and third at the halfway mark. He took the lead on breaststroke, and held off Foster for gold by .49 seconds.

If Marchand sticks to his 2022 lineup, he’ll still have to deal with the 200 fly final/200 IM semifinal double the day before the 200 IM final. He’s had another full year of training, but one major difference from 2022 is that Foster now has that same individual event schedule to manage.

Foster had a busy schedule at U.S. Trials, but this will be a new challenge for him. He hasn’t had to manage conflicting semifinals/finals at a senior level international meet before. It shouldn’t be a major problem for him, but it is something to keep in mind.

The two are separated by less than a second in the season’s world rankings. Marchand is at #2, courtesy of the 1:55.68 he swam at the Westmont Pro Series, which is less than a half-second off his personal best. Meanwhile, Foster sits at #4 with his 1:56.19 from winning U.S. Trials, also within a half second of his personal best. They’re poised to return to the podium, but with a crowded field of stars returned to form, it could be an even tighter race than last year.

Tokyo Medalists Strike Back

Another difference maker could be the 2020 Olympic medallists. Silver medalist Duncan Scott withdrew from 2022 Worlds due to COVID-19, and neither gold medalist Wang Shun nor bronze medalist Jeremy Desplanches advanced past the semifinals.

In Tokyo, Wang won Olympic gold in 1:55.00, scorching a new Asian record and becoming the #3 performer in history. He had a disappointing showing the following year in Budapest at 2022 Worlds, but has reportedly “found [his] motivation and purpose again.”

That’s shown in his early season results, as he’s the fastest in the world this season. At Chinese Nationals, he clocked 1:55.55, just .55 seconds of his personal best. So, it seems that he’s ready to reassert himself on the world stage and challenge for gold.

It’s a little harder to read Scott’s form. He missed an individual berth in the 200 free at British Championships and has since dropped the 100 free, leaving the 200 IM as his sole individual event. The 200 IM and 100 free are direct conflicts so it’s not surprising that he dropped one. However, having just one individual event is practically unheard of for Scott, who’s known for his versatility. That said, it will almost certainly mean that he comes into the 200 IM final with much more energy than usual.

Scott’s already said that “[his] entire training is centered on Paris. Anything [he] do here [in Fukuoka] is a bonus on top of what [he does] in Paris.” The 26-year-old should still be a factor in the final, but it will look a lot different than his last 200 IM final on the international stage as he’s never raced either Marchand or Foster in this event at a meet of this level. He’s coming into the meet with a season-best 1:56.72 that checks in at #8 in the world.

Meanwhile, Desplanches sits further back in the rankings with a season-best of 1:58.70, so he has some work to do if he wants to make it back to the final. He holds the Swiss national record at 1:56.17 from the Tokyo Olympics. That would have earned bronze in Budapest last year, but given the times the field has already produced this season, he’ll need a personal best to medal.

Daiya Seto didn’t medal at the Tokyo Olympics (he finished fourth, five-tenths behind Desplanches) but he’s found his form in the last year, so we’re including him in this section. After finishing outside the medals in Tokyo, Seto got back on the 200 IM podium in Budapest, sneaking past Chase Kalisz for bronze (1:56.22).

The 2019 World Champion has already neared that time this season, swimming 1:56.62 at the 2023 Japan Swim. It’s going to be an uphill battle for Seto to return to the podium in Fukuoka, especially if Wang is on form, but he’s proven he’s got a chance.

Pushing the Pace

Last year, Tom Dean took on the 200 IM. It was surprising to see the defending 200 free Olympic champion take the race on but it worked out well for him–he finished fifth and broke 1:57 for the first time (1:56.77). He was just off that time when he won silver at the 2022 Commonwealth Games (1:57.01) but he fired off a wicked breaststroke split of 32.97. The only person faster than that in the Worlds final was Kalisz, who split 32.86.

Obviously, it doesn’t work like this, but if you swap his Commonwealth Games into his 2022 Worlds swim, you get 1:56.13. He’s already swum a personal best this season with a 1:56.65 (33.46 breast split). So, if he brings a similar form to Fukuoka as he had last summer, watch for him to be in the heart of the action in the final.

Hungary’s Hubert Kos finished #6 at 2022 Worlds and holds the world junior record with his 1:56.00 from the 2021 European Championships. At that meet last year, he swam 1:57.72 for gold–his first win on the international scene. Since then, he’s moved to the U.S., training with Bob Bowman at ASU and trying out the NCAA.

Bowman’s had a lot of success with IMers, and after a solid NCAA debut, it will be interesting to see how training at ASU has affected his long-course speed. He hasn’t been there for a long time, but this will be a good look at the early returns. Kos hasn’t raced long-course much since moving to the U.S., competing only at the Westmont Pro Series where he didn’t race the 200 IM. His form is a big question mark, but don’t be shocked to see him back in the final.

Another young swimmer to pay attention to is Finlay Knox. Now 22 years old, he’s broken the Canadian record in the 200 IM four times in the last two years. He’s the only Canadian to break 1:59, and he’s lowered the record all the way to the 1:57.26 he swam at 2023 Canadian Trials.

Last year, Knox was off his best in prelims. He swam a 1:59.60 and missed semifinals, placing 17th. He won’t want to repeat that mistake. He’s been improving rapidly and at 2022 SC Worlds in Melbourne, he won bronze in both the 100 and 200 IM. He’s a long shot for a medal in Fukuoka, but if he plays his cards right, could end up in the final.

More Names to Watch

In this field, there’s about 12 names that you could argue have a shot at the final. Two of those swimmers that you don’t want to forget are Lewis Clareburt and Alberto Razzetti.

Clareburt made the final last year, taking seventh (1:58.11). He followed that up with bronze at the Commonwealth Games, behind Scott and Dean. He won bronze in Birmingham in 1:57.59, which got him closer to his personal best 1:57.27 from Tokyo, where he finished eighth.

The 24-year-old Kiwi has been 1:59.14 this season. So, he has some work to do in Fukuoka, but the time isn’t worth reading too much into–he’s had no reason to show his speed yet this season.

Razzetti earned silver at the 2022 European Championships in 1:57.82. It was a strong swim for the now 24-year-old Italian, who’d won gold in the 400 IM earlier in the meet. Razzetti’s lifetime best is a 1:57.13 from the 2021 Italian Championships. It took 1:57.74 to make the Worlds final last year, so he doesn’t have much wiggle room if he wants to move up from his 10th place last year and into the final.

SwimSwam’s Top 8 Picks

Place Swimmer Nation Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Leon Marchand France 1:55.68 1:55.22
2 Wang Shun China 1:55.55 1:55.00
3 Carson Foster United States 1:56.19 1:55.71
4 Daiya Seto Japan 1:56.62 1:55.55
5 Tom Dean Great Britain 1:56.65 1:56.65
6 Duncan Scott Great Britain 1:56.72 1:55.28
7 Hubert Kos Hungary 1:56.00
8 Finlay Knox Canada 1:57.26 1:57.26

Dark Horse: Shaine Casas, United States — It feels odd to pick the person ranked third in the world this season as the dark horse, but Shaine Casas had a fraught road to Fukuoka. He had strong swims at the Westmont Pro Series, including his season-best 1:56.06 200 IM. However, he struggled at 2023 U.S. Trials, missing the team in several events where he was a big contender. He made the team on the last day in the 200 IM, touching second in 1:57.47. It’s hard to know what to expect from him now in Fukuoka, but if he’s back on 1:56 form, he’ll be a factor in the final.

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4 months ago

While not trying to do a SCY – LCM conversion, which would likely cause a total meltdown of half, or more, of the worldwide SwimSwam commentariat, it is still instructive to follow along Marchand’s progress across the last 4 times he has done an end of season rest in the 200 IM.

Pre ASU LCM bests: French Nationals 1:58.03 6-19-21
Olympics 1:58.30 7-23-21

2022 NCAA SCY record and win: 1:37.69 3-24-22

2022 FINA LCM win 1:55.22 6-21-22

2023 NCAA SCY record and win 1:36.34 3-23-23

He improved 1.35 in SCY across a year, 3-24-22 to 3-23-23.
He dropped 2.81 seconds in LCM from 6-19-21 to 6-21-22.

Without making the argument that 1:36.34 SCY is equivalent to any particular… Read more »

4 months ago

I’m certainly hoping Kos finals and even possibly is on the podium, but there are a couple of factual corrections to the article needed, one a plus and one a minus.

His PB is not 1:56.00, but instead 1:56.99 WJR LCM.

He did have another significant LCM meet in the US beyond Westmont. The Sun Devil Open, the same meet in which Regan Smith went her American Record 2:03.87 LCM 200 fly, also produced some fine male swims including several by Kos.

He swam LCM events:
100 Free :50.08p PB (split : 23.88, a 50 PB to feet, per SwimCloud); 6th in prelim, :51.04 8th in Final
100 Back :54.00 (Kos won over J Dolan :54.04.)(Kos 0.17 off… Read more »

4 months ago

don’t ever count Dean Farris out….

4 months ago

everybody Wang Shun tonight

Thamos Hailmen
4 months ago

Marchand 1.55 flat, Shun 1.55 low, Fostah 1.56.0

4 months ago

I sense on of the two Brits will medal, and it may not be as quick as people think.

Alison England
4 months ago

Tom Dean might surprise us.
Also, don’t count Scott out.

4 months ago

Different question: Marchand is entered in the 200 Breast, do you think he will swim it or scratch?

Reply to  Philipp
4 months ago


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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