2023 World Champs Previews: Qin Haiyang Leads New Generation in Men’s 100 Breaststroke

2023 World Aquatics Championships

By The Numbers:

Click here to see all of our 2023 World Championship Previews.

Key Absences

World Record holder, two-time Olympic champion, and three-time LCM world champion Adam Peaty will not compete at the 2023 World Championships in Fukuoka. Peaty withdrew from the 2023 British Swimming Championships, stating that he would direct his focus towards his mental health and the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Peaty had a rough go in 2022 as well; in Birmingham last summer, Peaty missed the podium at a major international competition for the first time since 2014 when he captured Commonwealth gold. Peaty’s World Record of 56.88 stands as the most dominant in men’s swimming (LCM), from a statistical standpoint, as it is 2.98% faster than the next-fastest in history, Arno Kamminga, who holds a personal best of 57.80 from the prelims of the Tokyo Olympics.

Team USA’s Michael Andrew missed qualifying for the 2023 World Championship team after representing the United States at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 World Championships. Andrew is the American Record holder and the 4th-fastest performer all-time. Though he did not make the podium in the 100 breast in either meet, he has been a vital member of Team USA’s relays.

Major Medal Contenders

After becoming the third-fastest performer in history, and only the third man ever to break the 58-second barrier in the 100 breaststroke in May, China’s Qin Haiyang has the hot hand going into Worlds next week. The 24-year-old Haiyang’s lifetime best is not quite as fast as Dutchman Arno Kamminga‘s, but he is the fastest in the world this year by a full 0.43, leading American Nic Fink. Haiyang’s ascent to the top of the world rankings follows his dominance at the junior level. In 2017, Haiyang broke World Junior Records in the 200 breaststroke (2:07.35) and the 200 IM (1:57.06). Though neither records were ratified, and the 200 IM has since been lowered (1:56.99, Hubert Kos, Hungary), whereas World Aquatics officially recognizes the 200 breaststroke WJR as belonging to China’s Zhihao Dong in a 2:08.83 from earlier this year, his breakthrough at the senior level is intuitive. Blasting a 57.93 when his previous lifetime best had stood at 58.66 is quite a shocker, though. Haiyang will swim all three individual breaststroke races in Fukuoka and should be considered a medal contender in each of them, though the 100 represents his best chance at gold. With the Asian Games coming up in October, an event China puts a great amount of emphasis on, there is a chance Haiyang and the Chinese federation might prefer to see him peak on home soil in Hangzhou. That said, it’s hard to bet against the only guy who’s been sub-58 this season.

It is worth noting that Haiyang didn’t race the 100 breast at Worlds in 2022 — instead, China was represented by the former Asian Record holder in the 100 breaststroke, Yan Zibei. Zibei has been as fast as 58.79 this season and will also be a medal contender, though with the way the men’s 100 breaststroke is trending, Zibei will have to go faster than his lifetime best of 58.63 to make the podium.

American Nic Fink has been on a tear since making his first Olympic team in 2021. Though Fink did not win a medal in Tokyo, he captured gold in the 50 breast at the 2022 World Championships, as well as bronze in the 100 breast, and also placed 5th in the 200 breast in Budapest. Fink lowered his own lifetime best by 0.01 at US Trials in Indianapolis, swimming a hair faster than he went to win bronze at Worlds the year prior. Fink won the 50 and 100 breaststrokes at the 2022 short course World Championships, and finished 2nd in the 200 breaststroke. Despite being the second-oldest man in the field, Fink is both Team USA’s best shot for a medal in the 100 breaststroke, and within striking distance of gold.

The second-fastest man in history, Arno Kamminga of the Netherlands, enters the meet with the 6th-fastest time in the world in 2023. Kamminga is the 2022 worlds silver medalist and the Tokyo Olympic silver medalist in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Kamminga holds the fastest lifetime best of the field with a 57.80 from the Tokyo Olympics, and it’s likely he will need to replicate his 58.00 from Tokyo, which won him silver, in order to get the gold in Fukuoka. Kamminga is the only man in history not named Adam Peaty who has been sub-58 more than once.

Italian Nicolo Martinenghi, the 2022 World Champion (LC) and Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist, will have his work cut out for him to defend his 2022 world title with the likes of Haiying, Fink, and Kamminga, though Martinenghi has been racing the best in the world since he first made a name for himself on the senior international stage in 2017 when he lowered the World Junior Record in the 100 breaststroke to its current mark of 59.01. Martinenghi’s season best stands at a 59.06, meaning he will have to seriously improve upon that to make the championship final. Entering the World Championships in 2022, Martinenghi boasted a season best of 58.57, meaning he had to drop another 0.31 to top the podium in Budapest. This year, Martinenghi will have to drop a full 0.80 to match his lifetime best, and o.33 to equal the season best of fellow countryman Federico Poggio.

2023 Breakout Performers

Italy’s Federico Poggio made a name for himself when we captured gold in the 100 breaststroke at the 2023 Italian Swimming Championships, throwing down a time of 58.73 to punch his ticket to Budapest and out-race the likes of Martingenghi and Simone Cerasuolo. Poggio is currently ranked 4th in the world this year, though third among swimmers who will be competing in Fukuoka (Belarusian Ilya Shymanovich will not swim at Worlds due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine). Poggio, who is 25-years-old, is a year older than Martinenghi and a Tokyo 2020 Olympian, and the 100 breaststroke will be his only individual event at Worlds. At the 2022 European Championships, Martinenghi and Poggio went 1-2 for Italy in front of a home crowd. While Poggio has been in the game for a while, 2023 is on track to be his best season on the world stage to-date.

Team USA’s Josh Matheny had a breakout performance at the 2023 US International Team Trials, making the team in both the 100 and 200 breaststrokes. Though Matheny has been better known for his prowess in the 200 breast, his 59.20 at US Trials rocketed him up to the 9th seed going into Worlds. If Matheny can crack the 59-second barrier in the 100 breaststroke, he will become just the 6th American to ever do so. Matheny is already the 9th-fastest American all-time in the 100 breast.

Lucas Matzerath crushed a 59.09 while representing Germany at the AP Race International Meet, named for and hosted by the greatest sprint breaststroker of all time, making himself the second-fastest German performer in the event in history. Matzerath placed 17th in the 100 breaststroke in Tokyo and 6th in Budapest last summer. If Matzerath can dip under the 59-second barrier in Fukuoka, he should be guaranteed a spot in the championship final.

Though not as dramatic of a personal best, Turkey’s Berkay Ogretir shaved 0.03 from his lifetime best from the 2021 European Championships in April, punching his ticket to Fukuoka. What’s notable is that Ogretir represent Turkey in the 100 breaststroke and Emre Sakci will not. Ogretir only finished in 19th at Worlds last summer, though he is showing the form necessary to earn a second and possibly even a third swim in Japan this summer.

The 200 Breaststrokers

Zac Stubblety-Cook is the World Record holder and Tokyo Olympic gold medalist in the 200 breaststroke, though despite his dominance in that distance, the Australian has struggled (relatively speaking) with the 100 breast. Last year at Worlds in Budapest, Stubblety-Cook won gold in the 200 breast by over a second, though only finished 7th in the 100 breast. If Stubblety-Cook can replicate his best time of 59.51, he will be a lock for the semifinals and potentially the championship final, though he is not a serious medal contender.

Ippei Watanabe, Japan’s former World Record holder in the 200 breaststroke, will also race the 100 in Fukuoka. Swimming in front of a home crowd will certainly be a boost for Watanabe, though he will be far more of a threat in the 200 than the 100. Watanabe did not the 2022 World Championships or the Tokyo Olympics, and enters the competition in Fukuoka with a 59.52, good for the 13th seed. Like Stubblety-Cook, Watanabe is probably a lock for a second swim, but the championship final will be a stretch for the 26-year-old.

The Nordic countries have been a hotbed for world-class breaststrokers since the beginning of the 2017-2020 Olympic quad. Perhaps most prominently, among men, is Finland’s Matti Mattson has achieved international success in the 200 breaststroke, who won the bronze medal in the 200 breaststroke at the Tokyo Olympics. The 2022 World Championships were tougher for Mattson, as he finished in 8th in the 200, and 16th in the 100. At the 2022 European Championships, Mattson placed second in the 200 breaststroke behind Great Britain’s James Wilby, though he did not advance beyond the semifinals in the 100.

Wilby, for his part, has been excellent in both the 100 and 200 breaststrokes in years past, and boasts a lifetime best of 58.45 in the 100 breaststroke from 2018. In 2023, Wilby’s season best stands at 59.94, putting him just out of the top-25 performers in the world this year, though he goes into Worlds seeded 7th with his 58.93 from the 100 breaststroke final at last summer’s World Championships.

Also in 2022, Sweden’s Erik Persson tied for silver at the long course World Championships in the 200, though he only placed 15th in the 100. Persson also placed 8th in the Tokyo Olympics in the 200 breaststroke but did not even swim the 100 at the Tokyo Games. Rounding out the Nordic contingent is Iceland’s Anton McKee. McKee placed 6th in the 200 breast last summer in Budapest, though he only tied for 17th in the 100.

SwimSwam’s Top 8 Picks

Rank Swimmer Nation Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Qin Haiyang CHN 57.93 57.93
2 Nic Fink USA 58.36 58.36
3 Arno Kamminga NED 58.90 57.80
4 Yan Zibei CHN 58.79 58.66
5 Nicolo Martinenghi ITA 59.06 58.26
6 Federico Poggio ITA 58.73 58.73
7 Lucas Matzerath GER 59.09 59.09
8 Josh Matheny USA 59.20 59.20


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4 months ago

Have a feeling Qin’s gonna go another PB and win comfortably and then the Americans will be sh-tting bricks about the medley relays for the rest of the meet.

Last edited 4 months ago by Troyy
Swim Alchemist
4 months ago

Just an FYI, “Qin” (pronounced much more closely to “chin” than “kin”), “Dong”, and “Yan” are the family names / surnames.

1. Qin
2. Fink
3. Kamminga

4 months ago

Will be interesting to see what version of the Chinese team shows up.

4 months ago

Leading a new generation at “24” years old

Reply to  ‘Murica
4 months ago

‘New generation’ in terms of relevance at the highest level.

4 months ago

Matzerath should definitely make the final. I have a slim hope that he might actually challenge for a medal. Too bad that Imoudu won’t compete. He also could/should have made the final.

4 months ago

How many sub 57 and sub 58 swims are we predicting in the final?

Reply to  Francois
4 months ago

Zero sub 57’s. Two sub 58’s.

Reply to  Francois
4 months ago

I think 1 sub 58 and 0 sub 57

4 months ago

Qin looks head and shoulders above everyone based on current form (0.4 over 100 is a solid gap) and is seemingly getting quicker and quicker with every swim – he hadn’t even been sub 59 before this year.

Fink is a good bet to get the silver with a 58.5.

Kamminga still looks far from his 2021 best (his illness from last year has really had long term consequences for his swimming speed) but might nick a bronze in a 58 high.

As for Martinenghi, I understand he has had some physical difficulties this year (knees?) Impacting his training. He is in danger of not even being the top Italian.

Would love to see Wilby suprise… Read more »

Alison England
Reply to  Jay
4 months ago

Re: Wilby…there must be a reason why he is not swimming the 200. I wonder whether his focus this year is on the 100?

Reply to  Alison England
4 months ago

Maybe, but I think its to make sure his schedule is not to packed so he is relatively fresh for the medley relay. GB really don’t want to miss the Paris qualifying time here and have to send a team to the World’s next Feb.

Reply to  Alison England
4 months ago

On the propulsion podcast they said it’s to keep him fresh for relays. Same with Abbie Wood skipping the 200IM and another 1 or 2.

GBR swimmers skipped individual events in Tokyo for relays so I guess they’re doing it here as well. GBR absolutely does not want to send a team to Doha and if they can at least final in all the relays here they don’t have to

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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