2024 Worlds Preview: No Ledecky & Titmus Leaves Distance Golds Quadarella’s To Lose


In the strangest World Championships in several generations, we will do our best to pick the medalists and finalists for the 2024 World Championships. It’s going to be weird and fun, all at the same time. Let’s dive in.

The women’s distance events are a sad preview of the future (hopefully one 20+  years away), A future without Katie Ledecky. Cue gasps here. Yes, folks, a sad but true reality will be occurring eventually: a time when SwimSwam writers can’t pencil in Ledecky’s name atop the list and get away with just naming seven other finalists and a dark horse.

Yet, after enough scrutiny, one can always find a silver lining, and not only does Ledecky’s absence give us a glimpse at the future, but it also means that there are going to be some of the most competitive 800 and 1500s that we have seen in over a decade and on that uplifting thought, let’s prepare to squabble in the comments about the picks.

800 Free: The ‘sprint distance’


The Field:

Returning Finalists – 2023 World Championships Absent Finalists – 2023 World Championships
4. Simona Quadarella (ITA) – 8:16.46 Gold – Katie Ledecky (USA) – 8:08.87
5. Isabel Gose (GER) – 8:17.95 Silver – Li Bingjie (CHN) – 8:13.31
8. Erika Fairweather (NZL) – 8:28.21 Bronze – Ariarne Titmus (AUS) – 8:13.59
6. Jillian Cox (USA) – 8:19.73
7. Lani Pallister (AUS) – 8:21.33

“The Final Countdown” – (Europe)

Whelp! That’s a decimated field. Five-eighths of the field and all of the medalists are not entered in the event this go around. However, that is not to say that the field is without talent. In fact, it is the only swimmer not named Katie Ledecky to win a gold medal in a distance event since 2011, an accolade that can only be awarded to the Italian distance star Simona Quadarella.

Quadarella won the gold medal in the 1500 at the 2019 World Champs in Gwangju (and before you come after me, saying that Katie Ledecky would have probably won had she not withdrawn from the race due to sickness, a fact is a fact). The Italian has to be a near lock to medal and amongst the favorites to win the 800 and complete her set of distance golds. Entered as the top seed with a time of 8:16.46 (from her 4th place finish in 2023), Quadarella is clear of the field by over a second and has a personal best of 8:14.99; A time that ranks her as the 6th fastest performer ever and clear by over ten spots to the next swimmer on the list.

(Photo by Patrick B. Kraemer / MAGICPBK)

My hesitation in giving the gold medal away right now is twofold: 1) while there is a modicum of uncertainty in all meets, preparations/readiness for these World Champs are off the charts, and all of the swimmers named below could be aiming to medal or use it to train for Paris and 2) looking to swim before a new home crowd on the international stage is double European Champion Anastasiia Kirpichnikova.

Kirpichnikova, who this past summer transferred sporting nationalities from Russia to France, placed just 9th in the 800 in Fukuoka in a time of 8:22.74 but was less than a second off of the final and may have just misjudged how much effort to put into the prelims swim. The Frenchwoman has a PB of 8:18.77 from the Tokyo Olympics and could approach that time again, with recent results taken into account. Swimming at the European Short Course Champs, Kirpichnikova convincingly won two golds, taking the title in the 800 by over six seconds and in the 1500 by over 16 seconds (both times ahead of Quadarella).

One could argue that the difference between short and long-course pools is more significant in distance events. The Italian is much more of a “big pool” specialist than Kirpichnikova, so the results don’t mean too much. Still, the results do speak for themselves, but again, as mentioned above and in every article previewing this meet, we just really don’t know where anyone is in their training cycles for this meet, making all of these speculations so frustrating much more fun.

Looking to break through the log jam and make a name (and win a medal) for herself on the World stage is Isabel Gose. The German swimmer placed 5th in the finals of the 800 in 2023 after placing 6th in 2022 (8:23.78). Between the two meets, however, Gose won the silver medal at the 2022 European Championships behind the aforementioned Quadarella. More recently, Gose swam to a 4th place finish at her home stop in Berlin on the World Cup Tour this past fall.

Like Gose swimming well in the 800 in front of a home audience, Ajna Kesely showed up at the Budapest stop to claim 3rd in a time of 8:28.87, which was nearly identical to the 8:28.23 she swam to place 10th at Worlds. Like Gose, Kesely has been unable to break through and medal on the World stage. Still, a four-time individual medalist at the European Champs (including a silver in the 800), the Hungarian is undoubtedly no stranger to tough competition and may find this is her best chance (#6 seed) to grab that elusive World’s medal.

“Down Under”

Forgive me, Kiwis, I don’t know of a song that references the antipodes together. 

The only other returning finalist besides those mentioned above is New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather. Swimming fans can be forgiven for overlooking the Kiwi’s results in the 800 after her Herculean effort to not only join the sub 4:00- 400 club but also to medal in the much-hyped Ledecky-Titmus-McIntosh race. Despite finishing 8th  and more than six seconds back of 6th, Fairweather did qualify for the final with a time of 8:21.06, which ranked her 3rd out of prelims.

Fairweather, keeping the New Zealand tradition of strength in the freestyles and following in the footsteps of Lauren Boyle, has kept at the 800, placing 2nd at both the Berlin (8:21.23) and Budapest (8:22.30) stops of the World Cup. It should also be noted that in addition to those silvers, Fairweather swept the 400 free at all three stops of the World Cup.

Looking to join Fairweather in winning a medal in the distance freestyle events is fellow New Zealander Eve Thomas. Thomas placed 12th at Worlds in 2023 in 8:31.72 but has an entry time of 8:24.98 from April 2023. While her best time would not have made the final, last year, Thomas is seeded 5th and could contest for the minor medals should someone withdraw or falter.

Getting to the point of this section’s name are the two Australians in the field. Despite the gargantuan absences of Ariarne Titmus and Lani Pallister, the Aussies still manage to place two swimmers into the top 8. The pair of Maddy Gough and Kiah Melverton sit as the 7th and 8th seeds, entered just .2 apart at 8:26.08 and 8:26.28, respectively. Gough, a 2020 Olympian in the 1500, has not swam the 800 for the Aussies in an international meet. Still, Melverton has a wealth of experience in the event, having won silver at both Worlds and the Commonwealth Games in 2022 in 8:18.77 and 8:16.79, respectively. The latter of which ranks her as the 16th fastest ever in the event.

“Young Folks”

In an attempt to highlight the opportunities provided by the lack of Ledecky and Titmus, this section will look at a group of four youngsters who will be looking to use this meet as the cornerstone of their careers. Despite winning the bronze, as compared to Kayla Han’s gold at the World Juniors, the Argentinian Agostina Hein finds herself seeded one spot ahead of the American in 9th. The pair, born in 2008, will still be 15 by the time the meet starts and find themselves in an excellent position to make the final.

Looking to fill the big gap left by the absence of Li Bingjie are a pair of young Chinese swimmers. Yang Peiqi, 16, finished 20th last summer but sits now in 11th place, one spot ahead of her 17-year-old compatriot Ma Yonghui. Both will look to contest for a spot on the Olympic roster behind perennial medal contender Li.

A note on times: The 8th seeded time in 2023 was 8:20.34, and the 8th fastest time out of prelims was 8:22.20 .This year, the 8th seeded time is 8:26.28, but due to the field size and experience in it, that time could be around there, or it could be slower, it really just depends on everyone’s training level, hence all the disclaimers. 

SwimSwam’s Picks:

Place Name Entry Time Best Time
1 Simona Quadarella (ITA) 8:16.46 8:14.99
2 Erika Fairweather (NZL) 8:18.00 8:18.00
3 Anastasiia Kirpichnikova (FRA) 8:22.74 8:18.77
4 Isabel Gose (GER) 8:17.95 8:17.95
5 Kiah Melverton 8:26.28 8:16.79
6 Eve Thomas (NZL) 8:24.98 8:24.98
7 Anja Kesely (HUN) 8:26.04 8:22.01
8 Kayla Han (USA) 8:29.66 8:29.66

Dark Horse–  Merve Tuncel (TUR) – Seeded just 18th and finishing 22nd last year in Fukuoka, Tuncel will still have her work cut out for her to try to capitalize on the opportunity presented to her here. But, as with all of the swimmers, it will depend on where Tuncel is in her training. Can she return to the 8:21.91 that she swam in 2021, or will she be closer to the 8:39.47 from Worlds?

1500 Free: The “distance distance’


The Field:

Returning Finalists – 2023 World Championships Absent Finalists – 2023 World Championships
Silver – Simona Quadarella (ITA) – 15:43.31 Gold – Katie Ledecky (USA) – 15:26.27
Bronze – Li Bingjie (CHN) – 15:45.71 5. Lani Pallister (AUS) – 15:49.17
4. Anastasiia Kirpichnikova (FRA) – 15:48.53 8. Katie Grimes (USA) – 16:04.21
6.  Isabel Gose (GER) – 15:54.58  
7. Beatriz Dizotti (BRA) – 16:03.70  

It’s a bit of a reversal in the 1500, with five finalists from last year returning and two medalists. Leading the way again is Italy’s Quadarella, who has a personal best time from her gold medal-winning performance in 2019 of 15:40.89 and will be looking to get back to the time that ranks her as the #4 fastest performer. Quadarella, like in the 800, did place second to Kirpichnikova at the European Short Course Champs but will face much stiffer competition in the 1500 by way of Li Bingjie.

“New Faces”

Li Bingjie 2017 World Championships Budapest, Hungary (photo: Mike Lewis)

Li Bingjie, opting not to swim the 800, will instead focus on the 200, 400, and this race. Li grabbed the bronze medal in Fukuoka behind Quadarella but in a personal best time of 15:45.71. If she can get closer to that time as opposed to the 15:51.18 she swam to win the Asian Games last fall, then Li will undoubtedly be in an excellent position to not only battle for the gold but also to try to take down Wang Jianjiahe’s Chinese and Asian record of 15:41.49.

While Li is a new face appearing in this article, American Kate Hurst is a new face not only in this preview but also on the senior international stage. Hurst placed 10th at US Nationals this past summer in 16:28.64 but hit a massive personal best in early Septemeber to take gold at World Juniors. Her time there, 16:09.37, enters her as the 7th seed between the Australian Maddy Gough, who, as mentioned, is more orientated towards the 1500 than the 800, and the Chinese swimmer Yang Peiqi.

(Foto de Dragomir Yankovic/Santiago 2023 v’a Photosport)

Returning finalist Beatriz Dizotti of Brazil is seeded just 13th in the 800 but finds herself as the 5th seed in the 1500. The Brazilian marks the cut-off of those entered with a sub-16 minute time, as she is entered with a time of 16:01.95, her prelims time from Fukuoka. Since this past summer, Dizotti swam the 1500 at the Pan-Am games, placing 4th in a time of 16:24.65.

Also, a new face appearing in this article, but one that should be familiar to most fans of distance swimming, is Kristel Kobrich. A bronze medalist at the 2010 Pan-Pacs in the 1500, the Chilean will be competing in her 12th World Championships, a record that dates back to 2023. Kobrich is coming off of a silver medal at this past fall’s Pan-Am Games and will look to try to replicate that success in Doha. Seeded 9th in 16:10.85, Kobrich is less than a second off Yang’s 8th seeded time but also has to worry about others behind her moving up.

“It’s the Same Old Song”

Much like in the 800, many of the top competitors are the top entrants in the 1500. Kirpichnikova finds herself as the 2nd seed in the 1500, showing perhaps more of an inclination towards the longer distance events, as evidenced by her open-water swimming successes. The Frenchwomen and the Italian above her are the only two swimmers with entries sub-15:50, as Gose appears as the 3rd seed in 15:54.58, and while on paper it may appear to come down to the two swimmers, Li’s entry time is 11 seconds slower than what she swam this summer so looks can be deceiving.

New Zealand’s Eve Thomas, Argentina’s Agostina Hein, and USA’s Kayla Han also appear in the 1500 entries but will have their work cut out for them to make the final as the trio are seeded 10th, 11th, and 13th, respectively.

A note on times: The 8th seeded time in 2023 was 16:01.13, and the 8th fastest time out of prelims was 16:01.95.This year, the 8th-seeded time is 16:09.37, but due to the field size and experience, it could be around 16:09, or it could be slower. 

SwimSwam’s Picks:

Rank Swimmer Entry time Personal Best
1 Simona Quadarella (ITA) 15:43.31 15:40.89
2 Li Bingjie (CHN) 15:56.04 15:45.71
3 Anastasiia Kirpichnikova (FRA) 15:48.53 15:48.53
4 Isabel Gose (GER) 15:54.58 15:54.58
5 Maddy Gough (AUS) 16:08.76 15:46.13
6 Beatriz Dizotti (BRA) 16:01.95 16:01.95
7 Kate Hurst (USA) 16:09.37 16:09.37
8 Kristel Kobrich (CHI) 16:10.58 15:54.30

Dark Horse–  Tamila Holub (POR) – A Portuguese Olympian and former NCAA Qualifier for NC State, Holub finds herself as the 12th seed, entered with a time of 16.16.29 and has a best time of 16:15.50 from 2021. If she gets back close to those times, she has an outside chance of making the final but depends upon the form of all the other swimmers, an issue that will often be raised in these previews.

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jimmy DeSnuts
2 months ago

honestly I kind of pity Quadarella. Such a talented swimmer, consistently top of the field, really solid PB’s, but she’s stuck in the wake of Ledecky. Must be a mentally tough position to manage. Makes me wonder if female distance swimmers sometimes just rule out Ledecky as a competitor before the race and mentally consider the silver to be the gold. I know that sounds horrible, but with Ledecky’s dominance, you have to wonder…

2 months ago

Not to take credit away from the swimmers participating at Doha 2024, but Katie could probably rock up without a taper, swim her races, and win.

Bryant V
Reply to  petriasfan
2 months ago

Well, obviously.

Awsi Dooger
2 months ago

I don’t think it’s fair to say Ledecky probably would have won the 1500 in 2019. She was subpar to the point she had to rally and fight off Quadarella in the 800 final on Saturday. Rowdy was going nuts because he was resigned to Ledecky’s defeat a minute earlier.

Ledecky lost on day one to Titmus. She dropped out of the 200 after qualifying for the 1500 final. So what is this “probably” proposing, that Ledecky swim the 1500 final only? What about the heat and semifinal of the 200, which were scheduled for the same day? It’s overboard convenience to ignore or forget the situational influence of the time frame and say yeah she’s the best at 1500… Read more »

2 months ago

‘Ledecky’ might be mentioned during both races more than any other swimmer name. And she has earned every bit of it. But I want to sidetrack a moment and compliment the excellent writing in this article. Sometimes my grouchy critique mentality takes over, and I bristle at every inconsequential grammar, spelling and phrasing gaffe. You and I both are better off when I don’t write a snarky comment about it.

I didn’t notice at first, but I loved that understated line “… so frustrating much more fun.” It made me go back and review how well laid out and delivered the entire article was. Lots of times, names, and storylines to deliver. Yet all organized, witty, clear and supported with… Read more »

Nick the biased Aussie
2 months ago

@mark here’s a New Zealand song for you

Slice of heaven – Dave Dobbin

Last edited 2 months ago by Nick the biased Aussie
Reply to  Nick the biased Aussie
2 months ago

I was just gonna suggest that – Kiwi song for an Aussie movie. Or something by Split Enz/Crowded House (since they are often claimed as Aussie acts).

2 months ago

Basically few countries worry about the 800 and 1500. 1500 doesnt even make TV in full in the USA. Olympics or not.

Pau Hana
Reply to  peter
2 months ago

1500 does make TV now that Ledecky is swimming it. I think NBC’s desire to show her swimming was one of the factors in the IOC agreeing to add the W1500/M800.

peter robinson
Reply to  Pau Hana
2 months ago

Not in full or live.

Pau Hanna
Reply to  peter robinson
2 months ago

I’m pretty sure it was full and live in last Olympics.

Reply to  peter
2 months ago

It makes it onto the TV in just about every country that televises swimming. And most of those countries don’t interrupt the races to go to a commercial break.

It doesn’t mean ‘few countries’ if it’s just something the US does.

Bryant V
Reply to  peter
2 months ago


Only USA doesn’t televise 800/1500 fully.

Most other countries that televise do.

Please don’t project American tradition to the rest of the world.

Last edited 2 months ago by Bryant V
Raymond Woods
2 months ago

1500&500 are middle distance

Sun Yangs Hammer
Reply to  Raymond Woods
2 months ago

100s are middle distance.

2 months ago

The women’s distance events are a sad preview of the future (hopefully one 20+ years away), A future without Katie Ledecky. Cue gasps here. Yes, folks, a sad but true reality will be occurring eventually: a time when SwimSwam writers can’t pencil in Ledecky’s name atop the list and get away with just naming seven other finalists and a dark horse.

Hopefully by then others will be able to equal what is “Ledecky level”.