Disclaimer: HardCore Swim of the Week is not meant to be a conclusive selection of the best overall swim of the week. HardCore Swim is an opportunity to take a closer look at the context of one of the many hard-core swims this week, perhaps a swim that slipped through the cracks some as others grabbed the headlines.
The men’s 200 breast is fast becoming the most unpredictable of races on the international level. It seems like a nearly monthly occurrence that a new name jumps into contention for the world record, which has been teetering on the edge of 2:07 for some time now.
Current record-holder Akihiro Yamaguchi has struggled since setting the mark in 2012. Germany’s European champ Marco Koch has gotten close. Scottish Commonwealth Games champ Ross Murdoch threw his name in the hat with a big summer, overtaking his British teammate Michael Jamieson, an Olympic medalist and yet another contender. Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta has been the most consistent 200 breaststroker over the past few years, and blasted a huge short course 200 after skipping the event last summer. There’s Japan’s Yasuhiro Kosecki, young American Kevin Cordes, aging Australian Christian Sprenger… the list goes on and on.
Add another name after today’s Asian Games final. Kazakhstan’s Dimitry Balandin came from legitimately out of nowhere to shock a field that included the best of the continent.
Balandin went 2:07.67, getting just over half a second away from that world record, but what’s most impressive is how significantly he dropped to get there.
Balandin was 2:13.53 at last summer’s World Championships. But in just over a year, Balandin has dropped a whopping 6 seconds to put himself into the world record hunt.
Just 19, Balandin might have the most true upside of any of the swimmers we listed in that second paragraph. Could he wind up becoming the first man under 2:07 in the event? With this many contenders right on the cusp of the world record (currently a 2:07.01), it seems like a matter of when, not if, a man cracks into the 2:06s.
One thing is for certain, though. In winning what is just Kazakhstan’s third swimming gold medal in Asian Games history, Balandin has made next summer’s World Champs 200 breast event even more exciting.
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