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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8 years ago

I really want Sun to swim the 200 free. If only. There is more to come from him in short distance, or at least I hope and predict so.
Also I would feel upset if Angel fail defending his title. He owns it.
So I am with either of them two.

Reply to  nothtolose
8 years ago

Agnel went 1.45.9 a couple of months ago although he complained of lacking “umph”. He recently withdrew from a meet due to illness which had affected his training. So it is unclear in what shape he will be. But he is a fighter and a gifted swimmer. He also is quicker than Sun Yang, so who knows.

8 years ago

I think you’ve under estimated James guy, that man will drop nicely.

8 years ago

I wouldn’t be surprised if no one goes under 145 not to mention 144. Theoretically angel is the best of the field but he could bomb this time. I don’t see lochte getting a medal unless the race is over 145 then he could sneak in. Dwyer won’t win but he could be on the podium if he stays close in the first 100. Hagino could be a threat but his ambitious schedule might cost him again. I think this race is a little too long for Mcevoy and biederman would be lucky to medal so much win.

8 years ago

1) It’s hard for me to pick Lochte beating Dwyer, let alone medaling. I think Dwyer has a better shot at the podium, although I believe both will put up great times.

2) I can’t wait to see the preview for the men’s 200 breast: “Well, like 8 dudes have been 2:07 in the past year so uh… Gyurta? Balandin? I dunno, whatever. Check in next week for the 200 back.”

Justin Thompson
8 years ago

I think Agnel will take it, but I don’t see him going a 1:43 based on what he’s done the past couple of years. Lochte, Yang, and Le Clos will be 1:45-1:45.5 along with a pack of other swimmers. Here’s my top 5:

1) Agnel 1:44.25
2) Biedermann 1:44.50
3) Hagino 1:44.75
4) Dwyer 1:44.90
5) McEvoy 1:45.00

8 years ago

Crawler it depends on what you mean by an exceptional swimmer. In the men,s 200 free, a time of 1:44 is an exceptional swim anytime and anywhere and swimmers like agnel, sun yang, kosuke hagino and a few others can swim 1:44. In the women,s 200 free, a time of 1:54 is exceptional anytime and anywhere and swimmers like feemke heemskerk, missy franklin and Sarah sjostrom can swim a 1:54.

Reply to  carlo
8 years ago

To me an exceptional swimmer not only goes fast but dominates the competition, and does so consistently over time: Thorpe in the 200 free, Popov in the 100 free, Hackett in the 1500. Agnel’s 200 in London was an exceptional performance given both the time and margin of victory; time will tell if he belongs in the company of the above names.

8 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
8 years ago

McEvoy too.

8 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
8 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
8 years ago

They will be broken one day, have no fear

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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