Commonwealth Countdown: World Champions Collide In Women’s Backstroke


Women’s backstroke may be the most stacked discipline of all at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. It will feature reigning 100m world champion (and world record holder) Kylie Masse of Canada, reigning two-time 200m world champion Emily Seebohm of Australia, along with the world’s #1 200 backstroker in 2018 Taylor Ruck and a host of others who are among the world’s best. Take a look at the three events closer below:

Women’s 50m Backstroke

The 50 back is relatively wide open compared to the 100 and 200, with six women in the field sub-28 in 2017. Leading the way is Seebohm, who broke the Commonwealth Record en route to a 4th place finish at the World Championships in 27.37. Her teammate Holly Barratt made that final thanks to a best of 27.51 in the semis, and the third Australian Minna Atherton has been as fast as 27.49 back in 2016. The 17-year-old stacked six medals at the 2015 World Juniors, and appears to be on track to get back down to her bests from a few years ago.

Joining the Australians in the 27-second range are Masse, fellow Canadian Jade Hannah, and defending champion Georgia Davies of Wales. Masse missed the final in this event at World’s after setting the 100m world record, clearly putting more of an emphasis on the 200. Still, she’ll be good for a 27-mid, and showed good speed at the Canadian University Championships in February, lowering her SC National Record by two tenths. Hannah tied for gold at the World Juniors last summer in 27.93, and will gain some senior international experience against some of the world’s best with a finals berth within her grasp.

The 27-year-old Davies went a best time of 27.56 to win the Games four years ago in Glasgow, and didn’t go another PB until last summer at the World Championships. Getting through to the final in 27.49, Davies is sub-28 again in 2018, topping the world rankings in 27.75. While she may be flying under the radar with Seebohm and Masse in the field, she could easily defend her title.

Others expected to contend for a spot in the final are the Scottish trio of Kathleen DawsonLucy Hope and Cassie Wild, England’s Anna Maine, and former member of the NC State Wolfpack Alexia Zevnik of Canada.


Place Swimmer Country 2017 Best All-Time Best
1 Emily Seebohm Australia 27.37 27.37
2 Georgia Davies Wales 27.49 27.49
3 Kylie Masse Canada 27.64 27.64
4 Holly Barratt Australia 27.51 27.51
5 Minna Atherton Australia 27.80 27.49
6 Kathleen Dawson Scotland 28.11 28.11
7 Jade Hannah Canada 27.93 27.93
8 Lucy Hope Scotland 28.18 28.18

Women’s 100m Backstroke

The 100 back shapes up to be a direct head-to-head showdown between Masse, the reigning world champion, and Seebohm, the 2015 world champion and defending Commonwealth champion. The superstar Canadian broke the world record last summer in Budapest in 58.10, and with no reason to taper thus far in 2018, has already gone 58.54. We could very well see the first woman go under 58 seconds.

Seebohm has been putting up 58-second swims since 2009, and was a very solid 58.59 to win bronze last summer. I think we’ll see her dip into the 58-lows once again, but can’t see her getting by Masse.

Those two seem to have a lock on gold and silver, but if there’s one swimmer who can jump up and join them in the 58s it’s Canadian Taylor Ruck. After rattling off a pair of 59.2 swims to ultimately win silver at the World Juniors in August, Ruck established a new personal best at the Atlanta Pro Swim in 59.13. That puts her third in the world this year behind only Masse and Seebohm, and a 58 looks to be coming.

Including Ruck, there are seven swimmers who have been 59 in either 2017 or 2018, meaning one will miss out on the final. Australian Kaylee McKeown got under a minute for the first time at the New South Wales Championships in January (59.67), but wasn’t quite able to match it at their Trials (1:00.09). The third Aussie Hayley Baker got back under the mark at Trials (59.95) after failing to do so last year. Neither has proven to consistently get under a minute yet (McKeown is just 16, by the way), so they’ll have to be on their ‘A’ game in such a stacked event.

England, Scotland and Wales have one major contender each in Elizabeth SimmondsKathleen Dawson and Georgia Davies, with Jessica Fullalove (England) and Cassie Wild (Scotland) looking to break the minute barrier for the first time and get in the mix as well. Canadian Jade Hannah will also be a factor after taking bronze at World Juniors in 59.62.


Place Swimmer Country 2017 Best All-Time Best
1 Kylie Masse Canada 58.10 58.10
2 Emily Seebohm Australia 58.53 58.23
3 Taylor Ruck Canada 59.23 59.13
4 Georgia Davies Wales 59.34 59.34
5 Kaylee McKeown Australia 1:00.03 59.67
6 Jade Hannah Canada 59.62 59.62
7 Kathleen Dawson Scotland 59.82 59.68
8 Elizabeth Simmonds England 59.72 59.43

Women’s 200m Backstroke

  • Commonwealth Record: 2:05.68, Emily Seebohm (AUS), 2017
  • Commonwealth Games Record: 2:07.24, Belinda Hocking (AUS), 2014
  • 2014 Commonwealth Record: Belinda Hocking (AUS)

Like the 100, the 200 shapes up to be a showdown between Seebohm and Masse. However, unlike the 100 where Ruck is looming in the distance, there are three swimmers right there within reach.

The 17-year-old Ruck put on a clinic in this event in Atlanta, winning by nearly five seconds in a lifetime best 2:06.36. Given the steady improvements she’s made in this event since breaking out last summer in 2:07, she looks to be setting up to go 2:05 and challenge for the gold medal.

Also in the hunt is the third Canadian, Hilary Caldwell, and Australia’s McKeown. Caldwell, the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, took 6th at the World Championships last year with McKeown taking 4th. Both own bests of 2:06-high, but will be hard-pressed to medal in this stacked event. The field features four of the top-six finishers in Budapest, along with Ruck who ranks #1 in the world this year. Wow.

As for the battle between Seebohm and Masse, Seebohm’s ability to close the last 50 seems to be her deadly weapon in this event, pulling off come from behind wins both in Kazan and Budapest en route to back-to-back world titles. The funny thing is she’s gotten the better of Masse in both the 50 and the 200 so far in her career, but not the 100. Masse seems to be able to put the 100 together perfectly, and if she can translate that over to the 200 in the final, we may see her down into the 2:04s. She did see improvement over the short course season in this event, knocking over six tenths off her time at the Canadian University Championships in 2:02.18.

Also figuring into the finals picture here are some of the names from the 100 such as Baker, Simmonds, and Fullalove, and England’s Chloe Golding is another to watch for as she was under 2:10 last year.


Place Swimmer Country 2017 Best All-Time Best
1 Kylie Masse Canada 2:05.97 2:05.97
2 Taylor Ruck Canada 2:06.87 2:06.36
3 Emily Seebohm Australia 2:05.68 2:05.68
4 Hilary Caldwell Canada 2:07.15 2:06.80
5 Kaylee McKeown Australia 2:06.76 2:06.76
6 Elizabeth Simmonds England 2:08.86 2:06.79
7 Hayley Baker Australia 2:09.26 2:08.21
8 Jessica Fullalove England 2:10.05 2:10.01

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6 years ago

Will be interesting to see how they all go swimming outdoors without a roof, apparently Seebohm is having issues with the lane ropes!

Sum Ting Wong
6 years ago

Outdoor pool & dependent on the time of day , wind factor , lights , all are open events .if earlier in the evening with sunset even more so .

Reply to  Sum Ting Wong
6 years ago

That’s a good point- Similar to the Aussies, Ruck has swum outdoors for her entire career until moving to Toronto this past year.

Reply to  Sum Ting Wong
6 years ago

For backstroke- these variables especially make it a challenge. Without wind, the swimmer can approach the wall with confidence- but the wind changes that with flags bowing up to a body length in the direction of the wind.

6 years ago

Hilary Caldwell is only swimming the 200, and has been training in AUS since January, the veteran shouldn’t be underestimated. She said it’s possible this could be her last competitive meet.

6 years ago

Whatever happens can we pls have a race video after?

6 years ago

Masse will set WR as first woman sub-58. Seebohm silver getting close to her PB. Ruck bronze with a sub-59.

As for the 200, bet on Ruck. Masse doesn’t quite have the 200 pacing (yet) though she will hit a PB. Seebohm will run down Masse on the last 50 and push Ruck but Ruck will be too far ahead by then. No, Ruck won’t break the world record but she will hit a 2:05 flat or so. Ruck’s upside is crazy because you can see the skills she has to clean up. Race of the champs.

6 years ago

That 200 back line up is insane. My money’s on Ruck.

6 years ago

Putting this in perspective, and why I’m very interested in this race…I don’t believe any woman has been 2.04 since Missy…looks like she did it twice…and nobody else has at least since 2012 London. If one of these girls goes 2.04 anything it will be historic and it will be interesting if once of them can challenge Missy’s record…it is certainly one of the greatest woman’s swimming world records out there as that London swim was nuts.

Reply to  MasterSwim
6 years ago

At this point the biggest challenge to Missy’s 2:04.06 is looking like it might be Regan Smith

6 years ago

Ruck will be 2:04

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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