Roadmaps 2.0 – Mapping International Swim Stars: Women’s 200 Back

In our new series, Roadmaps – Mapping the Journey of US Swimming Stars, we will explore how modern-day Olympians climbed their way to the top, starting from as early as 8 years old all the way to their elite level today. In Roadmaps 2.0, we are expanding to international swim stars.

In 2011 and 2013, American teenager Missy Franklin stormed to back-to-back world 200 back titles, spaced by her 2012 Olympic title. After that, six years went by where a teenage woman had yet to top a major international 200 back final. That all changed at the 2019 World Championships, where 17-year-old American Regan Smith was crowned the world 200 back champion after breaking Franklin’s 2012 world record in the semi-finals. Yet what made the final all the more historic was 18-year-old Aussie Kaylee McKeown‘s finish, who touched out veterans Kylie Masse (Canada) and Margherita Panziera (Italy) for world runner-up, creating a teen 1-2 event sweep.

What could make the women’s 200 back more historic in 2021? What about an entire teen podium sweep plus a world record? In this installment of Roadmaps 2.0, we will explore a new limit the LCM women’s 200 back that could make headlines in 2021: hitting 1:59. How has this Roadmaps group progressed over the years past the 2:10 barrier to their career best? Do teens Smith and McKeown have a 1:59 in their sights based on their current progression? Read on to find out more.

2016-2021 Olympic Cycle: International Women’s 200 BK LCM

Rank Swimmer Country Time Meet
1 Regan Smith USA 2:03.35 2019 World Championships
2 Emily Seebohm AUS 2:05.68 2017 World Championships
3 Margherita Panziera ITA 2:05.72 2019 Italian Nationals
4 Kaylee McKeown AUS 2:05.83 2020 South Australia Championships
5 Katinka Hosszu HUN 2:05.85 2017 World Championships
6 Kylie Masse CAN 2:05.94 2019 Canadian Swimming Trials
7 Kathleen Baker USA 2:06.14 2018 Pan Pacific Championships
8 Taylor Ruck CAN 2:06.36 2018 Pro Swim Series – Atlanta

Who is “Most Improved”?

Another table talking about who broke 2:10 first would be boring, so instead we broke down who has been improving the most in the 200-meter back. A yearly time-drop average was calculated after selecting a five-year period when each swimmer broke (or neared) 2:10 to when they set their current career best. If a swimmer did not drop time one year, a zero was put in place of a time drop. Looking at the below table from afar, the teen/college swimmers have a higher time drop average than their adult counter-parts.

Since her first swim in the 200 back, Regan Smith has consistently dropped time every year (with the exception of 2020). Her world record (2:03.35) set at the 2019 World Championships chopped 2.66 seconds from her then-world junior record (2:06.01) from prelims, which gave Smith a yearly average time drop of 2.59 seconds. Kaylee McKeown hit the 2:10 barrier at 14 years old, however, her yearly time drop average has been 0.92 seconds.

Canadian Taylor Ruck, who is currently 19, and Kathleen Baker, now post-grad age (23), both have not broken their career bests in 3 years. Despite this, Ruck and Baker’s time drop averages were at least 1 second each year during their high school/NCAA careers. The averages of the four adult swimmers (24+) in the group (Margherita Panziera, Kylie Masse, Emily Seebohm, Katinka Hosszu) was -0.83 seconds each year. Notably, each of these swimmers had at least one year where they did not drop from their personal best.

Yearly Average Age Range
July 2020 Age
Regan Smith -2.59 13-17 18
Kaylee McKeown -0.92 14-18 19
Taylor Ruck -1.29 13-17 20
Kathleen Baker -1.02 16-20 23
Margherita Panziera -0.95 19-23 24
Kylie Masse -0.94 19-23 24
Emily Seebohm -0.65 21-25 28
Katinka Hosszu -0.77 23-27 31

Name
Regan Smith 2:13.72 2:11.41 2:07.19 2:06.43 2:03.35 Average
-2.31 -4.22 -0.76 -3.08 -2.59
Kaylee McKeown 2:09.60 2:08.98 2:06.76 2:06.35 2:05.83 Average
-0.62 -2.22 -0.31 -0.52 -0.92
Taylor Ruck 2:10.22 2:09.49 2:06.36 Average
-0.73 0 -3.13 -1.29
Kathleen Baker 2:10.23 2:09.36 2:06.38 2:06.14 Average
0 -0.87 -2.98 -0.24 -1.02
Margherita Panziera 2:09.54 2:09.43 2:06.18 2:05.72 Average
0 -0.09 -3.25 -0.46 -0.95
Kylie Masse 2:09.70 2:08.79 2:05.97 2:05.94 Average
-0.91 -2.82 0 -0.03 -0.94
Emily Seebohm 2:08.28 2:06.69 2:05.81 2:05.68 Average
-1.59 -0.88 0 -0.13 -0.65
Katinka Hosszu 2:08.93 2:06.18 2:06.03 2:05.85 Average
0 -2.75 -0.15 -0.18 -0.77

Who Will Swim 1:59 First?

At the 2011 Berlin World Cup, Missy Franklin swam a then-world record 2:00.03 in the short course meters pool. Three years later at the 2014 SCM World Championships, Katinka Hosszu became the first woman to break 2:00 in the SCM 200 back at 1:59.23. In theory, Regan Smith‘s 2019 world record of 2:03.35 may indicate a 1:59 could happen in the LCM pool in 3-4 years.

If we apply the adult group’s yearly time drop average (-0.83s) to 2020 teens Regan Smith, Kaylee McKeown, and Taylor Ruck, we could predict their progress into their early 20s. Since any of these swimmers could encounter a big swim or a tough hurdle, this theory is the next closest step to making a prediction before making hypothetical theories in their progress. Fast forwarding four years from now to the 2024 Olympics, 22-year-old Regan Smith, 23-year-old Kaylee McKeown, and 24-year-old Taylor Ruck would all have swum under the 2019 world record, nearly surpassing the 2:03-barrier.

At the current pace Smith is going at, especially with a 4-year Stanford career ahead of her, she could potentially hit 1:59 earlier than we think. Simply applying the 0.83-second time drop per year to Smith’s world record, she would hit 2:00.03 by 2024.

2020 Best 2021 2022 2023 2024
Age in 2024
Regan Smith 2:03.35 2:02.52 2:01.69 2:00.86 2:00.03 22
Kaylee McKeown 2:05.83 2:05.00 2:04.17 2:03.34 2:02.51 23
Taylor Ruck 2:06.36 2:05.53 2:04.70 2:03.87 2:03.04 24

Who’s Bubbling Up Right Now?

It would be rather plain to predict this outcome for the 2021 Olympic 200 back final: Regan Smith wins with a sub-2:00 world record while Kaylee McKeown and Taylor Ruck take silver and bronze with respective national records. However, the outcomes of the 2017 World final versus the 2019 World final morphed a new international women’s 200 back scene where US/Aussie teens are now dominating the world top 10 in 2020. Only 3 Olympians make up the top 10 times in the world alongside 6 teenagers (yes, six).

Kaylee McKeown currently leads the 2020 world rankings with her sub-2:06 January lifetime best swim of 2:05.83, followed by another sub-2:06 swim from No. 2 Regan Smith (2:05.94). Kathleen Baker, who won Olympic silver in the 100 back, and Marghertia Panziera, who just missed the 2019 World podium, are also in the top five times. Olympic medalists Taylor Ruck and Emily Seebohm also make the top 10 times in the 200 back while Kylie Masse, more of a 100 specialist, and Katinka Hosszu, who literally swims everything, are currently outside of the top 10.

Swimmer 2020 Season 2019 Worlds 2017 Worlds
Kaylee McKeown 1st 2nd 4th
Regan Smith 2nd 1st 8th
Kathleen Baker 3rd 9th 3rd
Margherita Panziera 4th 4th 14th
Taylor Ruck 7th 5th N/A
Emily Seebohm 8th N/A 1st
Kylie Masse 12th 3rd 5th
Katinka Hosszu 17th 8th 2nd

Hold Up… What About Minna Atherton?

Revisiting the 2016-2021 Olympic cycle, sitting right outside the top eight 200 back times is another Aussie teen, Minna Atherton. At the 2019 Australian World Championship Trials, Atherton took an upset win in the 100 back and second in the 200 back behind McKeown. At the 2019 World Championships, Atherton was unable to repeat her 2:06.82 lifetime best from Aussie Trials and placed 6th in the final. After her breakout swims in summer 2019, Atherton only began to shoot upwards when debuting with the ISL’s London Roar in fall 2019.

Women’s 200 BK LCM
Name Country 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Minna Atherton AUS 2:17.01 2:14.54 2:12.52 2:08.23 2:08.00 2:12.49 2:08.75 2:06.82

Once Atherton was with the Roar, she instantly became a successful backstroker for the squad. At ISL London (European Derbies), Atherton swam her second sub-2:00 SCM 200 back of her career with a 1:59.25, just missing Hosszu’s 2014 world record by 0.02s. Her current SCM best would translate to a 2:01.65, but of course she had 4 extra underwaters in the short pool. This season, she is 9th in the world at 2:08.59.

Single Age Progression: International Women’s 200 BK LCM (Ages 12-27)

Name Country 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Regan Smith USA 2:21.60 2:13.72 2:11.41 2:07.19 2:06.43 2:03.35 2:05.94
Emily Seebohm AUS 2:13.64 2:09.60 2:10.59 2:11.52 2:08.28 2:06.69 2:05.81 2:07.03 2:05.68 2:07.12 2:08.45
Margherita Panziera ITA 2:30.85 2:18.27 2:15.69 2:15.34 2:12.31 2:10.15 2:09.54 2:09.76 2:09.43 2:06.18 2:05.72
Kaylee McKeown AUS 2:21.94 2:12.04 2:09.60 2:08.98 2:06.76 2:06.35 2:05.83
Katinka Hosszu HUN 2:29.67 2:22.81 2:13.50 2:08.93 2:10.12 2:06.18 2:06.03 2:05.85
Kylie Masse CAN 2:33.70 2:27.45 2:26.49 2:20.93 2:17.06 2:09.70 2:08.79 2:05.97 2:05.98 2:05.94 2:10.17
Kathleen Baker USA 2:26.18 2:18.46 2:13.83 2:12.81 2:10.23 2:10.42 2:09.36 2:06.38 2:06.14 2:07.22 2:06.46
Taylor Ruck CAN 2:28.69 2:19.31 2:10.22 2:09.49 2:13.46 2:06.36 2:06.41 2:07.50

_________________________________________________________

2016-2021 Olympic Cycle: US Women’s 200 BK LCM

Rank

Swimmer World Rank Time Meet
1 Regan Smith 1 2:03.35 2019 World Championships
2 Kathleen Baker 7 2:06.14 2018 Pan Pacific Championships
3 Lisa Bratton 17 2:07.91 2019 World University Games
4 Isabelle Stadden 19 2:08.16 2020 Pro Swim Series – Greensboro
5 Alex Walsh 20 2:08.30 2019 Pan American Games
6 Hali Flickinger 22 2:08.36 2019 Atlanta Classic
7 Asia Seidt 23 2:08.56 2019 World University Games
8 Olivia Smoliga 24 2:08.58 2018 Summer US Nationals

 

Single Age Progression: US Women’s 200 BK LCM (Ages 12-25)

Name 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
Regan Smith 2:21.60 2:13.72 2:11.41 2:07.19 2:06.43 2:03.35 2:06.16
Kathleen Baker 2:26.18 2:18.46 2:13.83 2:12.81 2:10.23 2:10.42 2:09.36 2:06.38 2:06.14 2:07.22 2:06.46
Lisa Bratton 2:45.34 2:28.49 2:16.81 2:13.57 2:11.54 2:10.61 2:09.31 2:08.20 2:08.78 2:08.37 2:07.91
Isabelle Stadden 2:43.78 2:24.24 2:17.94 2:08.37 2:08.24 2:08.16
Alex Walsh 2:21.46 2:12.49 2:10.55 2:10.71 2:09.36 2:10.03 2:08.30
Hali Flickinger 2:44.45 2:28.46 2:20.50 2:17.42 2:17.50 2:14.37 2:22.33 2:17.64 2:11.55 2:10.60 2:10.21 2:12.34 2:08.36 2:10.54
Asia Seidt 2:33.17 2:24.31 2:17.76 2:17.16 2:15.05 2:11.96 2:12.05 2:08.99 2:08.91 2:08.56 2:10.37
Olivia Smoliga 2:36.30 2:26.08 2:22.27 2:16.39 2:26.85 2:15.88 2:15.89 2:08.58 2:10.64

Single Age Progression: US Women’s 200 BK SCY (Ages 11-22)

Name 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22
Regan Smith 2:03.82 2:00.62 1:55.94 1:51.79 1:51.30 1:48.30 1:47.16
Kathleen Baker 2:16.20 2:01.48 1:59.07 1:56.22 1:54.31 1:54.30 1:50.74 1:48.33 1:48.27 1:47.30
Lisa Bratton 2:14.76 2:03.00 1:58.23 1:58.02 1:53.64 1:52.11 1:50.64 1:51.68 1:49.83 1:49.17
Isabelle Stadden 2:46.97 2:16.58 2:02.42 1:58.71 1:52.04 1:50.37 1:50.50
Alex Walsh 1:58.31 1:57.92 1:52.07 1:53.70 1:51.42 1:53.19
Hali Flickinger 2:09.73 2:03.43 1:58.92 1:57.64 1:58.19 1:55.82 1:51.68 1:50.95
Asia Seidt 2:13.43 2:03.25 1:58.67 1:55.77 1:55.19 1:55.14 1:53.79 1:49.63 1:49.24 1:48.65 1:48.86
Olivia Smoliga 2:25.96 2:10.59 2:02.09 1:56.81 2:05.23 2:01.47 2:03.93 2:02.50

More from U.S. Roadmaps:

More from Roadmaps 2.0:

In This Story

33
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of
33 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
FlyNDie
4 months ago

Eh I’m not sure you can apply that methodology to Regan Smith’s 200 back. I think the law of diminishing returns strikes pretty hard in this scenario. Instead of dropping 0.83 seconds per year, repeatedly, I bet that it would look more like 0.83, 0.4, 0.15, 0.04 in 4 years. This is simply considering that Missy Franklin and Regan Smith are the only ones to accomplish the feat of 2:03. I’m doubtful 3 seconds will come off that, so quickly.

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  FlyNDie
4 months ago

There are some thresholds that are just not broken. No one has swam under 2:05.68 in the women’s 200m backstroke wearing a textile suit except for Missy Franklin and Regan Smith.

USA Swimming (usaswimming.org)
Times
The Data Hub & General Information
U.S. and World Lists
All Time Top Performances
Gender: Women
Course: LCM
Event: 200 BK
Show Details

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  FlyNDie
4 months ago

Factoid: While you may be correct about the law of diminishing returns, only Regan Smith has been under 2:04 LCM.

FlyNDie
Reply to  Coach Mike 1952
4 months ago

Thank you for the correction, that’s my mistake for not checking my facts.

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  FlyNDie
4 months ago

Missy Franklin’s top performances in the women’s 200m backstroke: 2:04.06, 2:04.76, 2:05.10, 2:05.68, 2:05.90

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
4 months ago

**It would be rather plain to predict this outcome for the 2021 Olympic 200 back final: Regan Smith wins with a sub-2:00 world record**

This prediction is not “plain” by any means, in fact it may be the most out-there prediction I’ve ever seen on this site.

Smith-King-Dahlia-Manuel
Reply to  SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
4 months ago

Barring illness or injury, Regan Smith will win the gold medal in the women’s 100m backstroke in a sub 00:58 perfornance and the women’s 200m backstroke in a sub 2:04 performance at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. However, a sub 2:03 performance in the women’s 200m backstroke is not out of the realm of possibility.

Pvdh
Reply to  SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
4 months ago

If she goes sub 2 id $hit a brick

Konner Scott
Reply to  SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
4 months ago

The question is whether it’s even remotely possible. She’s on a steep improvement curve; if, in a Peaty-esque manner, she *somehow* whittled her 100 back down to 56 mid, could she go out 58 mid and come back 1:01 low?

Nswim
4 months ago

I’d really like to see Regan Smith try her hand at SCM swimming. She’s great at LC and SC so I think it would be a good transition

About Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro

Nick Pecoraro has had a huge passion for swimming since his first dive in the pool, instantly becoming drawn to the sport. He was a breaststroker and IMer when competing, but still uses the sport as his go-to cardio. SwimSwam has become an outlet for him to continue showing his …

Read More »