5 Storylines for the Budapest Stop of the 2019 FINA Champions Series


The 2nd stop of the inaugural FINA Champions Series will be held in Budapest’s Duna Arena this weekend. As a refresher, see below the format for this meet.


Each race will have only four swimmers competing in a timed final format. Initially, the four athletes invited to compete in each event were:

  • the reigning Olympic champion
  • the reigning World Champion
  • the current world record holder
  • the #1 ranked swimmer in the world this season

If any of those swimmers declined their invite (or were duplicates, retired, etc), they would follow with the Olympic and World silver and bronze medalists, and then the next highest ranked athletes in the world until the four spots were filled.


Europe has a very impressive contingent set to race, and the 200 free on the women’s side is one of the best showcases of their continental talent. The race features Italy’s Federica Pellegrini, the 2017 World Champion and World Record holder, Sarah Sjöström, the 2016 Rio silver medalist, Veronika Popova, the Russian record holder. China’s Li Bingjie is the 4th entrant, though she’s more of a factor in the longer races.

Pellegrini (1st) and Popova (4th) return after making the 200 free final at the 2017 World Championships, while Sjöström’s 1:55.39 from the 2018 Stockholm Open last month makes her the highest-ranked swimmer in the field. Pellegrini has been 1:56.60 from the Italian Nationals in April, while Popova hasn’t made the world top 25 yet this season.

Both Pellegrini and Sjöström have said they were done with this event at major international championships, but talk is cheap (Pellegrini swam it at the 2018 SC Worlds, and both she and Sjöström have been racing this event in 2019 in non-major meets). Eyes will be on the two of them for a showdown we don’t get to see very often between two titans of the sport.


Olympic champion Matt Grevers is entered in both the 50 back and 100 back, while Justin Ress will race the 50 back and Jacob Pebley the 200 back.

Grevers is a seasoned pro, and he’ll be up against Russians Kliment Kolesnikov and Evgeny Rylov as well as China’s Xu Jiayu in what should be an electric 100 backstroke. Xu (52.27), Rylov (53.00), Kolesnikov (53.03) rank 1-2-3 in the world this season. Grevers is back at 15th, but his time (53.81) isn’t all that far off of the Russians.

Kolesnikov’s 24.40 leads the 50 back world rankings and Rylov’s 1:54.00 the 200 back rankings, while the former is also the WR holder. Pebley’s been 1:56.96, ranking 10th in the world in the 200. Ress is finished with his career at NC State, and this will be his first pro meet (and first LCM race since last summer).


Kristof Milak, one of the most exciting names in butterfly right now, and Laszlo Cseh, a veteran who has medaled at every LC World Champs since 2003, will add some excitement for the home crowd in the butterfly races. They both enter the 100 and 200 fly after not swimming in Guangzhou.

Neither rank in the world’s top 5 this year in the 100 fly, but Milak’s 1:53.12 from March leads the world and Cseh is #6 (1:55.81). Chad Le Clos will be a huge obstacle in both of these races, while Italian record holder Piero Codia will race in the 100 fly and Japan’s Masato Sakai will race the 200 fly.


American IM juggernaut Chase Kalisz has been fairly quiet since last summer’s Pan Pacific Championships. He’s only raced in two meets since then: the Pro Swim Series stops in Knoxville in January and then in Richmond in April (the most recent PSS stop).

Kalisz is only invited to swim the 200 IM (there is no 400 IM in this program). He was 1:57.68 in the 200 IM in Knoxville, which sits 8th in the world this season’s rankings, but was just 1:59.02 in Richmond a month ago. Without any 200’s of stroke or the 400 IM on his schedule (and no prelims, mind you), one would expect a strong swim from him here.

He’ll be racing China’s Wang Shun, Switzerland’s Jeremy Desplanches, and Germany’s Philip Heintz in Budapest. Wang is #2 in the world with his 1:56.66 from March’s Chinese Nationals, while Desplanches has been 1:56.89 to rank 5th and Heintz 1:58.35 (T-11th).


There were a handful of new names set to race in Budapest who were not present in Guangzhou.

On the men’s side, Brazil’s Bruno Fratus (50 free), France’s Mehdy Metella (100 free), Russia’s Aleksandr Krasnykh (200/400 free), USA’s Kevin Cordes (100 breast) and Josh Prenot (200 breast), and Great Britain’s Ross Murdoch (100 breast) are some of the biggest new names.

For the women, the biggest new names not already mentioned in this article are Canada’s Penny Oleksiak (100 free/50 fly/100 fly), Egypt’s Farida Osman (50 free/50 fly/100 fly), Brazil’s Etiene Medeiros (50 free/50 back), Great Britain’s Holly Hibbott (400 free), Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas (200 fly) and Ajna Kesely (400 free), Anastasia Fesikova (50 back), Italy’s Margherita Panziera (200 back), Russia’s Yulia Efimova (50/100/200 breast), USA’s Katie Meili (50/100/200 breast), Great Britain’s Siobhan Marie O’Connor (100 breast/200 IM) and Alys Thomas (200 fly), and Germany’s Franziska Hentke (200 fly).

Sun Yang and Fu Yuanhui of China, Kathleen Baker of the USA, Mireia Belmonte of Spain, and Charlotte Bonnet of France all showed up on initial entry lists, but have since been replaced by Hungarian national team swimmers. We already knew Sun and Fu had withdrawn from the remaining FINA stops.

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Is Kalisz training with NBAC or Georgia right now? Too lazy to investigate. Either way I bet he’s in some seriously heavy training. Being a 400IMer this would be the year to put in some serious yardage to prep for Tokyo. How does he not have a suit deal??


he’s in Georgia full time. for the time being anyways.

SUM Ting Wong

Zero charisma .


So quite a bit more than you

SUM Ting Wong

Less than zero is Negative Charisma . That is going to be big if DJT wins in 2020.


Gina, you and I have been watching different post race videos then if you think he has zero charisma.


Chase has been wearing “MP” suits lately so my guess is he is going in that direction (others not interested or he thinks he is worth more than being offered?). He was a diehard Mizuno person.

Ol' Longhorn

He puts in serious yardage every year.


he does and he is still the Guy to bet on both IM races comes Tokyo


I don’t understand why European leading swimmers like Belmonte or Bonnet are not participating at European stop of so called “Champions Series”. They don’t even have to stay in Budapest overnight. Just one hour flight to collect the prize and go home to spend this free money with friends same night. Just 3-4 hours (including commuting) business of $5000.
I hope they are just not available this weekend or generously gave their Hungarian friends the opportunity to earn some money.
But if it is about stupid professional integrity of not being ready yet to compete at respectful level then they definitely need a professional help or should take 101 class of “Iron Course”.


It is a 2 hour flight between Nice and Budapest 16 h 30 – 18 h 20 with wizz Air. No direct flight coming back 🙂


Thanks for traveling details. Looks like staying in hotel is unavoidable. So it isn’t same as having business trip of meeting someone at lunch in New York and getting back home for the supper in Chicago.

Ol' Longhorn

You really need to give the Hosszu bashing a rest. It’s pathetic.


There is a question that i cannot find answer to. You may do it.
Imagine the situation when all swimmers, from freshmen to seniors of our local high school decided to invite Olympic Champion in IM events to race against their best relay teams. They saved on their monthly allowances, restricting themself in everything for several months to make prize fund.


What is your problem? Seriously…


“I can’t find the explanation. It bothers me …” Lieutenant Columbo. 😀


Thank you for being interested in my wellbeing.
Can you explain me why Swimswam strongly associates FINA’s Champions Series with Hosszu. (See the picture https://swimswam.com/fina-champions-swim-series-set-to-kick-off-this-weekend-in-china/)
Is it because she is always there where the easy or free money is. She can race at any event from 50 to 1500 against swimmers to whom to be FINA “B” qualified Is unfulfilled dream. Doesn’t matter. She will take the prize. But to make this greed to look nicely she will wrap it in “Iron Lady” cover so you can swallow it and say thank you.

Ol' Longhorn

It’s easy money because she’s the best in the world at what she does.


I hope that as super star she will improve the super quality of her races bringing the average ranking from above #200 to under #100. It is hard to disagree with her about having fun of being paid for such a performance almost 50 thousands dollars.
P.S. Ranking was measured against results of 2018 season.


Her master pays peanuts, that’s what he gets.


Sarah keeps saying she is not going to do the 200 at WC or OG and I think the only chance we would see her race the 200 Free is if she does it as part of an 800 Free Relay. Think that adding an additional 3×200 at race pace takes a little to much out of her for her other events.


So we don’t have to take her words literally, do we?. She is flexible depending on the level of competition. Should it happen that the field gets weak at WC or OG then why not to pick up something that nobody’s taken.
I’d like to see Sarah at 800 at some World Cup stop. She was good as Hosszu in 400. So, why not. It will make an unprecedented legacy “FROM 50 TO 800”
P.S. I’m a big fan of this unique talent. Just teasing.


Well it’s her words so yeah we do have to take it literally

Ol' Longhorn

“She was as good as Hosszu in 400?” You’ve completely lost your mind, which is saying something.


We all getting weaker with our cognitive capacity by age. So as the person who is still good with the second grade arithmetic can you help me please to calculate the difference between two personal bests: 4:05 and 4:06. Thank you in advance.


In maths could be. In racing sport?
The three closest WRC wins were 0.2, 0.3 and 0.7 (two times) second after more then 300 km.
Close? Definitely.
As good as?


All this 800 stuff was a joke and I explicitly underlined this. I just was surprised that OL’ LONGHORN wasn’t aware of Sjostrom’s personal best in 400. It caught him/ her so much off guard that he/she found nothing better in response than personal attack.


That was her time from 2014. I doubt that Sarah intends to compete in 400 – except against schoolgirls you mention in one of your posts.


Sjostrom’s bests
By 1/1/2015:
23.98 – 52.67 – 1:55.04 – 4:06.04
23.67 – 51.71 – 1:54.08 – ???

Ol' Longhorn

I’m guessing 4:15.


meditation creates wonders with cognitive capacity – even with age .

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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