SwimSwam Pulse: 53.9% Favor Marchand To Win 200 Fly World Title In Milak’s Absence

SwimSwam Pulse is a recurring feature tracking and analyzing the results of our periodic A3 Performance Polls. You can cast your vote in our newest poll on the SwimSwam homepage, about halfway down the page on the right side.

Our most recent poll asked SwimSwam readers who takes over as the man to beat in the men’s 200 butterfly at the World Championships this summer after Kristof Milak dropped out:

Question: With Milak’s withdrawal, who is your pick for gold in the men’s 200 fly at the World Championships?


Outside of Katie Ledecky in the women’s distance events, there has been no swimmer more of a lock to win an event on the major international stage over the last four years than Kristof Milak in the men’s 200 butterfly.

After breaking the World Junior Record in 2017 (1:53.79) and lowering it to 1:52.71 in 2018, Milak blew everyone away at the 2019 World Championships, shattering Michael Phelps‘ decade-old super-suited world record by almost eight-tenths of a second in 1:50.73.

Since then, it’s been all Milak in the 200 fly on the international scene, cruising to victory at the Tokyo Olympics by nearly two and a half seconds in 1:51.25, and then winning the world title last summer by more than three seconds in a new world record of 1:50.34.

However, the landscape in the men’s 200 fly at the upcoming World Championships in Fukuoka has been turned on its head with Milak’s surprising withdrawal from the competition, as the 23-year-old expressed physical and mental fatigue in deciding to sit out.

All of a sudden, the event is wide open—at least in a sense.

With Milak in the field, the medals were seemingly already claimed, with Tomoru Honda and Leon Marchand battling it out for silver behind Milak.

Now, with the Hungarian out of the fold, Honda and Marchand are expected to battle for gold, while the third spot on the podium has opened up and could go any which way.

Marchand (1:53.37) edged out Honda (1:53.61) to win silver last summer, and Honda followed up by becoming the first swimmer not named Milak to break 1:53 in the event in nearly three years in December, clocking 1:52.70.

Honda, 21, also obliterated the SCM world record last October, while Marchand, also 21, is coming off an otherworldly collegiate season in the U.S. that saw him breaking records nearly every time he hit the water.

More than half of SwimSwam readers, 53.9 percent, are picking Marchand to win the world title in the event, while Honda picked up 36.6 percent of votes.

Although Marchand is coming off a relatively pedestrian performance at the French Elite Championships earlier this month in the 200 fly, where he put up a time of 1:55.79, it’s hard to doubt the process of his coach Bob Bowman, who not only led Phelps to an unprecedented run of success in the event over his career, but also helped push American Regan Smith to one of the fastest swims ever in the women’s event in early June.

The only swimmer outside of Milak, Honda and Marchand to have broken 1:54 in the 200 fly over the last three years is Carson Foster, who won the U.S. National title in 1:54.32 earlier this week to qualify for the World Championships.

Foster registered a time of 1:53.67 last July, and will be an interesting addition to the 200 fly field this summer, especially given the competitive rivalry he’s developed with Marchand in the medley events.

Just under seven percent of readers voted for “An American”—we just didn’t know at the time who would be representing the U.S. in Fukuoka.

We now know it will be Foster and breakout youngster Thomas Heilman, who lowered Phelps’ 15-16 NAG record that had stood for 22 years in 1:54.54.

It’s certainly early to suggest Heilman is among the favorites to win the world title this year, but the 16-year-old has entered the medal conversation, no doubt.

Other swimmers who figure to be in medal contention include Switzerland’s Noe Ponti, China’s Chen Juner and Canada’s Ilya Kharun.

Below, vote in our new A3 Performance Pollwhich asks: What was the biggest early surprise of U.S. Nationals:

What was the biggest surprise through the first two nights at Nationals?

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Willem Coetzee
7 months ago

No mention of Chad Le Clos. That’s funny, I think you are all in for a surprise 😉

7 months ago

The disrespect to Tomoru Honda is just silly.

Reply to  mclovin
7 months ago

He was the second most voted person…

7 months ago

Call me crazy, but I think Ilya Kharun wins it all. He went a 1:41 200 fly at altitude at an untapered club meet, plus he went 1:54 at a pro swim. I think he takes it in 1:52

Reply to  Anon
7 months ago

Next you’ll tell me he had a 10 pound weight vest and was fighting a current both ways.

“Nobody’s ever tapered”

Reply to  Swim2win
7 months ago

i mean a he’s a sandpiper… i would not be surprised

7 months ago

Idk Marchands fly LC this year hasn’t looked super strong so far this season compared to the IMs and breast. Think the podium will be some combo of Marchand, Honda, and Foster but it’s a coin flip between them all and Honda might have the slight edge with a 1:52

7 months ago

A 16 year old American butterfly prodigy at a world championships in Fukuoka Japan, hmmmm…..

Reply to  Swim2win
7 months ago

I think I’ve heard of this exact story before about 22 years ago.

7 months ago

Background, more details of Milak’s absence (in Hungarian):

Reply to  MZ/X
7 months ago

Dang dude basically just burned out to a high degree and it came to a head after nationals. Says he’s going to be taking until September off…should be able to get back into very competitive shape but probably shouldn’t expect WRs as a given from him

7 months ago

Even I’m a fan of Marchand, I’m pretty sure that Honda will win the race. His PB is better than Marchand’s. In front of his crowd, he will be pushed by his fans, highly motivated. As I wrote in others posts, I see 1. HONDA 2.FOSTER 3.MARCHAND

7 months ago

Bold predictions
Honda – Gold, 1:52.4
Marchand – Silver 1:52.6
Heilman – Bronze 1:53.4

Reply to  Coldwater33
7 months ago

I think those are at the optimistic end of reasonable tbh.

Reply to  Coldwater33
7 months ago

I would love for Heilman to go 1:53.4 this summer.

However, I think that’s incredibly unlikely.

Reply to  Coldwater33
7 months ago

That would take Heilman under Milak’s WJR.

He’s a hell of a swimmer and could do stupendous things, but Milak’s a generational 200 butterflyer who was 18 when he swam that time, it’s probably too much of a stretch. Next summer perhaps.

Reply to  Togger
7 months ago

Milak was 17 when he swam that time. He went 1:52.8 at 18 but it is an unratified time so not the wjr.

But that is also how this sport has always worked.

15 year old Thorpe, 16 year old Phelps, 17 year old Popovici…all were proceeded but guys who were considered generational and very fast…and they were considered too young to break any records…and then they did anyways.

Not saying Heilman is going to do it, but the sport moves on. Eventually there is someone who is faster and younger. Sometimes it’s very quickly. Sometimes it takes 2 decades. But somebody comes along eventually.

Last edited 7 months ago by Swim2win
Reply to  Swim2win
7 months ago

I’m not doubting anyone anymore at this point for all we know Heilman could drop another 2 seconds and pull off a major upset I mean I don’t think it’s too likely but it’s something you have to consider with him despite the competition.

Wonder what fans were saying with the rise of Phelps 23 years ago.

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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