Men’s 200m Freestyle World Championship Preview: Will Olympic and World Champion Yannick Agnel Defend His Title?


  • Day 3, Tuesday, August 4th
  • 2013 World Champion: Yannick Agnel, FRA – 1:44.20 (SEE RACE VIDEO ABOVE)
  • 2013 Silver Medalist: Conor Dwyer, USA – 1:45.32
  • 2013 Bronze Medalist: Danila Izotov, RUS – 1:45.59

The 200 freestyle saw incredible drops in time during the suit era, perhaps even more drastically than most events. However, since 2009 the event has reverted back to 1:44 and 1:45 performances being good enough for winning gold and winning a medal. After Michael Phelps’ breakthrough 1:43.86 in 2007, and then Paul Biedermann’s earth shattering 1:42.00 in 2009, the event has not come close to those standards the last two championship meets. Yannick Agnel broke through at the 2012 Olympics with a 1:43.14, but has failed to show that type of form since.

James Sutherland - 2015 200m free world championship preview

It is time for this event to move forward, and continue to get faster rather than stagnate. The silver and bronze medal performances actually got significantly slower from 2011 to 2013. I expect the event to be quicker than it has been in the past, by not by much. The times just don’t indicate we should expect it.

Take a look at the top times from around the world this season:

2014-2015 LCM Men 200 Free

View Top 26»

I feel that Yannick Agnel is too talented in this event to relinquish the title he earned in 2013. After moving back to France for training, I think we will see him back under the 1:44 mark this summer. Paul Biedermann has the top time in the world this year, and with this event being his primary focus, unlike a lot of the competition who have multiple events to swim, I think he will be right there in the medal race.

The 2011 champion Ryan Lochte has a much lighter schedule than he usually would, and has been doing a lot more freestyle work this year in Charlotte so I think he will put together a great race. The 200 freestyle may not be Kosuke Hagino or Sun Yang’s best event, but both are incredibly talented and probably are the two fastest swimmers come the last 50 meters, so they will be in the hunt.

Conor Dwyer proved he can have a big international swim after netting silver in this event in 2013, however he had a setback last summer and wasn’t happy with his results. I believe he will be back on his game in Kazan.

Cameron McEvoy and Sebastiaan Verschuren are primarily 100m swimmers but have shown their versatility in moving up to the 200 and have both been fast this season.

In terms of a dark horse selection, Chad Le Clos is someone to consider. He has never really swum the event at a major international long course meet, but he has shown his versatility and ability in the freestyle events on the world cup circuit over the last few years, and then won gold against a loaded field in the event at the 2014 Short Course Worlds. Le Clos is slated to swim five individual events at the championships, which is a much heavier load than he had two years ago in Barcelona. Despite his reputation, he would still be considered a dark horse in the event simply because he has never proved himself over a long course 200 freestyle, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in the fight of things coming down the last 50m in the final.

Others to watch for in this event include David McKeon of Australia, James Guy and Robbie Renwick of Great Britain, and Joao De Lucca of Brazil.


1. Yannick Agnel,FRA                             1:43.79
2. Paul Biedermann,GER                       1:44.38
3. Ryan Lochte,USA                                 1:44.57
4. Kosuke Hagino,JPN                            1:44.92
5. Sun Yang,CHN                                      1:44.96
6. Conor Dwyer,USA                                1:45.25
7. Sebastiaan Verschuren, NED             1:45.28
8. Cameron McEvoy, AUS                      1:45.39

Darkhorse: Chad Le Clos,RSA            1:45.62


Day 1, Sun August 2nd (Day 9)

  • M 400 Free
  • M 400 Free
  • W 4×100 Free Relay
  • M 4×100 Free Relay

Day 2, Mon August 3rd (Day 10)

  • M 100 Breast
  • W 100 Fly
  • M 50 Fly
  • W 200 IM

Day 3, Tue August 4th (Day 11)

  • M 200 Free
  • W 100 Back
  • W 1500 Free
  • M 100 Back
  • W 100 Breast

Day 4, Wed August 5th (Day 12)

Day 5, Thur August 6th (Day 13)

  • M 200 IM
  • M 100 Free
  • W 200 Fly
  • W 50 Back
  • W 4×200 Free Relay

Day 6, Fri August 7th (Day 14)

Day 7, Sat August 8th (Day 15)

  • W 50 Fly
  • M 50 Free
  • W 200 Back
  • M 100 Fly
  • W 800 Free
  • MIXED 4×100 Free Relay

Day 8, Sun August 9th (Day 16)

  • M 50 Back
  • W 50 Breast
  • M 400 IM
  • W 50 Free
  • M 1500 Free
  • W 400 IM
  • M 4×100 Medley Relay
  • W 4×100 Medley Relay

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Icy Hot
6 years ago

Don’t forget about Christian Quintero..we will get a teaser of what he can do during the pan am games.

6 years ago

I agree that Agnel is by far the most talented on 200 m LCM, but I am at a loss as to why he has struggled so much since 2012. Is it mental? He has a great coach though and is back in France where he must feel more at ease. ‘hope he has a great meet.

samuel huntington
Reply to  crawler
6 years ago

Yannick won the gold at 2013 worlds in the 200 so I am not sure why you think he has struggled..

Reply to  samuel huntington
6 years ago

if you remember, he struggled in the heats and semis, and by his own admission in the post race interview, he went for broke in the final with some expectation to get on the podium, but he was surprised he won. He also did ok but not great (for him) in the 4×100 free relay.

Reply to  crawler
6 years ago

Post Olympic depression? Or even if it wasn’t as severe to call it depression, I’m sure he needed time to find motivation after his Olympic gold medal.

lane 0
6 years ago

I’d call Lochte a long shot to medal here. You made no mention of double European champion velimir stjepanovic. I hope Conor Dwyer Can get in for a medal.

Justin Thompson
Reply to  lane 0
6 years ago

I agree it’s very optimistic. Has Lochte been a 1:44 since 2011? From what I can tell his best time since 2011 was a 1:45.04 in the 2012 games.

I would put money on him over Le Clos though. He’s a dark horse to even final in this event.

Swimmer A
6 years ago

I agree with Lane 0, Velimir Stjepanovic should be worth some mention here. He beat Biedermann head-to-head at Euros last summer and then torched the field in the 4 free. Even if he’s not a real medal contender he’s a lotta fun to watch, takes it out super fast and tries to hold on. Some other euro swimmers like Dominik Kozma and Pieter Timmers could sneak into the final, they’re always up there.

But I feel like the real race is gonna come down to Agnel, Hagino, McEvoy, Yang, and Lochte. Le Clos is a complete wild card, could straight up win it, could miss out on semi finals, could scratch the event… idk, I feel like the guy can… Read more »

6 years ago

I feel like we should remember the threat Sun Yang may present to the rest of the field. While he may be primarily focusing on the 400m and 1500m, it should be remembered that he has some speed behind him. Sun was 1:44.47 in 2013 flat start and split a blistering 1:43-low in the 4×200 in Barcelona 2013. Needless to say he definitely shouldn’t be taken out of medal contention.

Reply to  TheCBay
6 years ago

For most of us, he is not in the competition. His de-juiced times are not that good.

6 years ago

I do not agree with many people saying Angel is going to be 1:43, but I could be wrong. My predictions:

1) Kosuke Hagino 1:44.68
2) Sun Yang 1:44.70
3) Yannick Angel or Paul Biedermann 1:45.1

6 years ago

according to the author the 200 freestyle can only move forward if the swimmers swim faster. This is one of the reasons why swimming struggles to gain fans. world records are hard to come by and a lot of swimming fans only look to world records. It,s hard for me to imagine the 200 free record for both men and women to be broken with a textile suit. Those records were set by swimmers using “tech” suits and to expect swimmers today to break those records is makes no sense in my opinion.

Just take a look at all the tech or semi tech suit records that swimming fans expect to be broken with swimmers using a textile suit.

men,s… Read more »

Reply to  carlo
6 years ago

I think that to appreciate swimming you have to be a swimmer yourself, unless of course you see an exceptional swimmer in action. I remember in Athens my father in law, who knew nothing about swimming, marveling at Thorpe’s seemingly effortless swim in the 200m semi.

The problem is that there is no exceptional swimmer right now, and media hype can’t make up for that. Another more insidious threat is that doping is far more present than most of us think.

But a race, especially a relay, can be very exciting if it is closely contested, whether a record is broken or not. And records will be broken, although I agree that the 200 free is a very tough one.

Reply to  carlo
6 years ago

They will be broken one day, have no fear

6 years ago

Another possibility is that with the possible exception of Agnel, the upper echelon of 200 freestylers is crowded with amazing swimmers who are past their prime because of age or other factors. Biedermann is supersuitless and 28; Sun Yang and Park are dopeless; Lochte’s age will make it hard to regain the conditioning he had in 2011; and Phelps, besides pushing 30, evidently doesn’t think he can beat a rested Agnel (I’m guessing that’s the main reason he skipped this event in London). Agnel’s recent dominance may also have made the event a less attractive specialty to others.

However, Izotov has been extremely fast, is still young, and has an improveable stroke. And Le Clos is young, improveable, has incredible… Read more »

Reply to  ML
6 years ago

McEvoy too.

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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