Faster than Rio Gold: 7 Women Who “Would Have Won” the 100 Backstroke in 2016

Between the European Championships, the Atlanta Classic, the 2021 Sydney Open, and the Indianapolis stop of the 2021 Pro Swim Series, May showcased intense competition among the world’s top female backstrokers. Though they were dispersed throughout multiple competitions and continents, four of the the times posted were faster than Katinka Hosszu‘s gold medal performance at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where Hosszu won in 58.45.

This article is not meant to be a speculation on who is most likely to win gold in Tokyo–you have to wait another month or so for that one. Rather, this article is focused on the speed and depth that has developed in the women’s 100 backstroke since the 2016 Rio Olympics. Let’s take a look.

Australia’s Kaylee McKeown blasted a 57.63 in the 100 LCM backstroke, just missing Regan Smith‘s 2019 World Record by 0.06. Five months earlier in December 2020, McKeown became just the second woman in history to dip under 58 seconds with a 57.93 in the 100 back. Smith has been hitting 58s casually for years now though has only been under 58 once. Since setting the World Record in 2019, Smith’s fastest 100 backstroke has been a 58.18 in March 2020, which is tied as the 11th-fastest performance in history.

In Atlanta, Olivia Smoliga and Rhyan White blasted new lifetime bests of 58.31 and 58.43, respectively. Smoliga and White currently rank 3rd and 4th in the world following this performance. Adding to the onslaught of American depth in the event, Smith posted a 58.77 in Indianapolis, and 16-year-old Claire Curzan dropped a 58.82 in North Carolina.

For further comparison, Kathleen Baker won the Olympic silver in 2016 with a 58.75, while Kylie Masse and China’s Fu Yuanhui tied for bronze in 58.76.

At British Trials in April, Kathleen Dawson put up a 58.24 in the 100 backstroke, making her the 7th-fastest performer all-time. Dawson then swam the 100 backstroke 6 times at the European Championships in Budapest, producing 4 efforts that were faster than Hosszu’s 2016 gold-medal swim. Dawson ended the European Championships with a 58.08 lead-off for Britain’s 400 medley relay, shooting her up the ranks to the 4th-fastest performer all-time.

The table below shows only the fastest performance by each of the women that have been faster than Hosszu’s 58.45 in 2016. Smith, McKeown, Masse, and Baker have each been faster 58.45 on numerous occasions. Up to 5 of the women listed below could face off in the final of the 100 backstroke in Tokyo. Four of them–Smith, Baker, Smoliga, and White–are American, and the herd will be thinned in Omaha.

Time Swimmer Date
57.57 Regan Smith (USA) 07/2019
57.63 Kaylee McKeown (AUS) 05/2021
58.00 Kathleen Baker (USA) 07/2018
58.08 Kathleen Dawson (GBR) 05/2021
58.10 Kylie Masse (CAN) 07/2017
58.31 Olivia Smoliga (USA) 05/2021
58.43 Rhyan White (USA) 05/2021

Taylor Ruck (58.55 — CAN), Minna Atherton (58.60 — AUS), Phoebe Bacon (58.63 — USA), Kira Toussaint (58.65 — NED), and Fu Yuanhui (58.72 — CHN), have also all been faster than the silver and bronze medal-winning performances in Rio since the Olympics 5 years ago.

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Yozhik
1 month ago

The 2016 final Olympic race in 100BK was very strange. Baker and Masse won silver and bronze medals with slow 58.76, 58.76 results. They became world record holders next seasons.

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
1 month ago

Regan Smith would have tied Katinka Hosszu’s performance at the 2016 Summer Olympics with her performance in the final of the women’s 100 meter backstroke at the 2019 Counsilman Classic.

https://swimswam.com/regan-smith-lowers-100-back-junior-world-record-again-58-45/

Regan Smith would have won the women’s 100 meter backstroke at the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships with her performance in the final of the women’s 100 meter backstroke at the 2019 Counsilman Classic.

Fresh Cuts
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
1 month ago

So?

Swimfan
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
1 month ago

😉I’m sure everyone knows how to use Wikipedia

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
1 month ago
Fresh Cuts
Reply to  Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
1 month ago

Peaty has been under 57 *only once*

your point?

Drewbrewsbeer
1 month ago

Somehow the 4 seconds lopped off the women’s WR in the 100 BK in my lifetime seems more impressive than the 4 seconds in the men’s. Probably because Natalie Coughlin did what she did…

Last edited 1 month ago by Drewbrewsbeer
Khachaturian
1 month ago

Same story for the men’s 100 free lately, where people now are going times that are faster than the 2016 gold medalist. This meet is going to be the fastest in the history of swimming. Overall, even faster than the 2009 world champs. I am hyping myself way too early but the thing is I have been hyped since 2019 world champs ended.

Drewbrewsbeer
Reply to  Khachaturian
1 month ago

Same

John26
Reply to  Khachaturian
1 month ago

My general expectations are that the sprints will be fast across the board because covid has given short distance swimmers more time to experiment with rest/taper. However, we might see slow results in longer events or at least results that show lack of depth (e.g 16min making the finals in the women’s 1500, or fast finals but slow semis in certain events)

RCP
1 month ago

Prediction: four girls break 58 at US trials and winner sets world record. Probably the most competitive race of the meet.

Swim nerd
Reply to  RCP
1 month ago

I have a feeling like the men’s 200 free might be slightly more competitive, as so many men can qualify this year and there is no real favorite, which is something the women’s 100 back definitely has. But this will probably be the most competitive race on the women’s side.

CACrushers
Reply to  Swim nerd
1 month ago

I’m on the side of the womens 100 back here. I think it matters that they’re better than the 200 free men. Smith is the favourite but I don’t think that counts for very much in this race.

maybe?
Reply to  RCP
1 month ago

4 under 58? Only regan smith would go under 58, I don’t see anyone else doing it

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  maybe?
1 month ago

The best time Kathleen Baker has posted in the women’s 100 meter backstroke is 58.56 since 01 Jan 2019.

swimgeek
Reply to  maybe?
1 month ago

You don’t think Smoliga drops 0.3 from a meet 5 weeks out?

Swimfan
1 month ago

Could we see the Olympic record go down about four or five times (three or four times in the prelims and semis and then once in the final)

Jonny Davis
1 month ago

Im just baffled that Kaylee isnt swimming the 400 medley……weak in comparison, Hosszu is done. And should have no problems backing up for the 100 at her age and stature. No way if she was American she wouldnt be swimming and winning that 400. Aussie swimming has turned soft

Old Man Chalmers
Reply to  Jonny Davis
1 month ago

if you want a better comparison, agnel dropped the 400 free for the same reason

Jonny Davis
Reply to  Old Man Chalmers
1 month ago

How in any way is that a comparison

Joel
Reply to  Jonny Davis
1 month ago

It’s her first olympics . She has brilliant chances to medal,and perhaps win, three other events. Plus be on two medaling relays possibly. Let it go

Jonny Davis
Reply to  Joel
1 month ago

Let what go? 400 medley is the weakest of the events as Ive already mentioned

anon
Reply to  Jonny Davis
1 month ago

how did multiple events go for “female michael phelps” Katie Hoff at her first Olympics?
3 individual events + multiple relays is more than enough

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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