Men’s 800m Freestyle World Championship Preview: Can The Distance Stars Get Back Under 7:40 This Year?


  • Day 4, Wednesday, August 4th
  • 2013 World Champion: Sun Yang, CHN – 7:41.36 (SEE RACE VIDEO ABOVE)
  • 2013 Silver Medalist: Michael McBroom, USA – 7:43.60
  • 2013 Bronze Medalist: Ryan Cochrane, CAN – 7:43.70

The men’s 800 free, not being swum at the Olympics and not regularly swum by men at all at most meets, is a difficult event to predict. In the past five world championships there has been a wide range of performances, including a world record performance in 2005 by Grant Hackett, a relatively slow field in 2007, and an absolutely incredible performance in 2009 by Zhang Lin, who broke the world record by over six seconds, smashing Hackett’s 7:38.65 all the way down to a 7:32.12. Based on recent performances, it is hard to imagine Zhang’s record being erased any time soon. At the last two championships, a performance ranging from 7:38-7:44 has been the requirement to stand on the medal podium. 

James Sutherland - Men's 800m freestyle World Championship preview

Sun Yang has claimed gold at the last two championships, with Ryan Cochrane always hot on his tail. I expect the event won’t get much faster than it has been in the recent past, but with a new generation of distance swimmers coming onto the scene, the names at the top have potential to change. This field is incredibly hard to predict and has the potential to be a very close race. I suspect a cat and mouse type final may occur because of how talented so many of the swimmers are.

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

2014-2015 LCM Men 800 Free

View Top 26»

Sun Yang will look to improve China’s streak in this event to four this summer, after he has won the last two and Zhang Lin won in 2009. The quality of Sun’s distance training this year remains to be seen, but the fact he is one of the most talented distance swimmers of all time and I don’t think he will let anyone get away from him in this race.

Gregorio Paltrinieri and Mack Horton have both been on fire recently, and will certainly give Sun a challenge. Gabrielle Detti had the top time in this event last year at 7:42.74, and if he returns to that form again this summer, will certainly be in the mix.

In 2013 I felt like Sun did what was necessary to stay ahead and win, but this year I think the field will be faster and because of that, push him to go faster. Paltrinieri and Horton in particular I feel can go lower than 7:41 and will force Sun to go with them and be faster than 2 years ago.

Ryan Cochrane is always near the top, and Americans Connor Jaeger and Michael McBroom have looked strong this year and performed well in the event two years ago.

Peter Bernek had his breakout performance at the short course world championships in the 400, and also has already been 7:50 this year, so look for him to be there as well.

British swimmer Stephen Milne is my dark horse pick. Milne has recently burst onto the scene, posting fast times each of the last two years, including British national records in the 800 and 1500 last year in 7:50.64 and 14:53.83. Milne is young and certainly talented enough to really have a breakout performance. This summer could be his coming out party. Other swimmers who will be in the mix in this event are Damien Joly of France, Pal Joensen of the Faroe Islands, and Yosuke Miyamoto and Kohei Yamamoto of Japan.


  1. Sun Yang, CHN                                 7:38.68
  2. Gregorio Paltrinieri, ITA                 7:39.63
  3. Mack Horton, AUS                           7:40.64
  4. Gabrielle Detti, ITA                          7:40.97
  5. Ryan Cochrane, CAN                       7:41.84
  6. Peter Bernek, HUN                          7:44.26
  7. Connor Jaeger, USA                        7:44.61
  8. Michael McBroom, USA                 7:45.08

Darkhorse: Stephen Milne, GBR         7:47.23


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

In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Gina Rhinestone
8 years ago

No Belgiums on that list . phew! Belgium just froze all Russian state assets over some hometown brussels court decision . I wonder if Belgium will have the Gaul to send a team now .

in between Grexit & Brexit & sanctions here there & everywhere , I am warming up to the little orphan 800 mt event . Something completely pointless is just what we need.

Carry on boys .

8 years ago

Cochrane at fifth? Give me a break. Yang is off, but he’ll probably still win, then Cochrane and third is a toss up, Jaeger, Horton, Paltrineiri, and even McBroom will be in there for that

8 years ago

I know this is random but what is the fastest last 50 split for the 800m of all time ? I know Lin went something like 25.9 when he went 7:32 but wasn’t sure if Yang or Thorpe went faster

James Sutherland
Reply to  Crannman
8 years ago

Sun has not been that fast in an 800, but he has been 25.9 and 25.6 in a 1500. Could only find Thorpe’s final 100 splits for his best 800’s but he has been 53.2 and 53.7, so have to figure there’s a good chance he came home faster than 25.99 when he went 53.2.

Swimmer A
8 years ago

Man, you have been doin Jaeger dirty in these past two predictions. You have him hitting around best times in the 4 and 8 for 7th place in both. Jaeger has quietly been having a good season. He was a 3:46 and 14:58 in Charlotte, both in season bests. He broke the AR in the 1650 at winter nationals. By all measures he’s been swimming well, and I expect him to carry that through Worlds. I think he’s gotta be in the medal conversation in the for the 4, 8, and 15.

It’ll be interesting what you say tomorrow for the 15, but come on, Jaeger is definitely up with these guys.

Reply to  Swimmer A
8 years ago

Totally agree with u . Jaeger is a great talent on the rise , he is thirsty for Big meets to see up to which level he could go . I would count him in for the 800 and 1500 to be close to podium /

8 years ago

I dont know about Paltrinieri, he seems to lack the speed base to really shine in any distance under the 1500. The guy doesn’t have a single fast fiber in his muscles.

8 years ago

Zhang Lin’s 7:32.12 from Rome is probably one of the greatest Super Suit Records left on the books. Don’t see anyone going 3:46 twice in a row for any time soon. Hard to believe that people are the 400m Freestyle FINAL with 3:46 let alone doing twice in an 800m

bobo gigi
Reply to  Crannman
8 years ago

I wouldn’t say greatest. 😆
I would say most stupid suited world record.
Kukors’ 200 IM and Biedermann’s 200 free are also in the conversation.

Reply to  bobo gigi
8 years ago

Liu Zige, women’s 200m fly: 2:01.81.

That one’s going to take a while.

Reply to  bobo gigi
8 years ago

At least Biedermann is someone who was consistently at the top anyway, and still is. The others retired or weren’t much heard from again after the supersuits were banned

Reply to  Flyin'
8 years ago

weren’t much heard from again? Liu Zige 2013 World Champ in the 200fly textile over Belmonte Garcia? Ariana Kukors 3rd in 2011, 5th in 2012. these are hardly ‘low-profile’ swimmers

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 …

Read More »