The Biggest Locks & Most Wide Open Events At The 2022 World Championships

2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

The myriad of absences at the 2022 World Championships can do one of two things to an event: make it completely wide open or advance the current favorite into near-lock status for the victory.

Such is the case with plenty of races in Budapest, but there are also some races (hello Katie Ledecky) where it doesn’t matter who’s not racing, the event is a lock regardless.

Below find a list of the eight biggest locks of the meet, followed by some of the most wide-open races at the World Championships:

BIGGEST LOCKS

Women’s 1500 Freestyle – Katie Ledecky (USA)

Ledecky is more than 18 seconds faster than any other swimmer in history, and over 20 clear of the next-fastest swimmer in the field. She was forced to pull out of this race at the 2019 World Championships, and things got a little close last summer in Tokyo (if you consider four seconds close), so expect her to stamp her authority on this race once again with a monster swim.

Women’s 800 Freestyle – Katie Ledecky (USA)

Same story as the mile. Ledecky edged out Ariarne Titmus by just over a second for the win in the 800 free in Tokyo, and Titmus won’t be in Budapest. Despite being relatively off form, Ledecky beat the next-fastest finisher (Simona Quadarella) by nearly six seconds, and she also won over Quadarella despite being ill in 2019. Ledecky has already been sub-8:10 this year, and we can expect her to be at least a few seconds quicker at Worlds.

Men’s 200 Butterfly – Kristof Milak (HUN)

Milak breaking Michael Phelps‘ decade-old world record in the men’s 200 fly was nothing short of extraordinary at the 2019 Worlds, and the Hungarian has made the event his own over the past few years. There are just 20 swims in history sub-1:53, and Milak owns nine of them. Since the beginning of 2020, among swimmers who will be in the field next week, the next fastest is Japan’s Tomoru Honda at 1:53.73—exactly three seconds shy of Milak’s personal best.

Women’s 400 Freestyle – Katie Ledecky (USA)

After falling to Titmus at both the 2019 World Championships and 2021 Olympic Games, Ledecky is now the huge favorite to reclaim the world title in the 400 free with the Australian absent. Ledecky was over three and a half seconds quicker than the next-fastest swimmer in Tokyo (Li Bingjie), and holds a two-second gap this year on Summer McIntosh. McIntosh joining the sub-4:00 club wouldn’t be a shock given the progress she’s made of late, but it’s hard to imagine the 15-year-old wrestling this one away from Ledecky.

Men’s 200 Breaststroke – Zac Stubblety-Cook (AUS)

After Russia’s Anton Chupkov was dominant en route to breaking and re-breaking the world record in this event while winning back-to-back world titles, the men’s 200 breaststroke was seemingly anyone’s race coming into last summer’s Olympics. In Tokyo, it was Australia’s Zac Stubblety-Cook who took control and roared home to the win in 2:06.38, and just last month, he broke Chupkov’s world record with the first sub-2:06 swim in history (2:05.95). Now, with Chupkov absent, Stubblety-Cook’s biggest challenger in Budapest will be Dutchman Arno Kamminga, who has cracked 2:07 just once and holds a best time nine-tenths slower than the Aussie.

Women’s 50 Butterfly – Sarah Sjostrom (SWE)

Sjostrom is the only woman who has broken 25 seconds in the 50 fly, and she’s done so 12 times. Even in an ‘off’ swim, she should win comfortably. Her world-leading time this season, 25.05, is also faster than anyone has ever been in history.

Men’s 400 Medley Relay – United States

Great Britain’s key weapon that led them to winning the men’s 400 medley relay over the United States at the 2019 World Championships and making things somewhat close in Tokyo was Adam Peaty, who picked up two seconds on the U.S. breaststroker at the Games and almost 1.5 in Gwangju. Without Peaty, the Americans appear virtually unbeatable, barring a disqualification. Coming in they’ve got the two fastest swimmers in the world in the 100 back, the two fastest in the 100 breast, and the fastest in the 100 fly.

Men’s 50 Free – Caeleb Dressel (USA)

Of course, it’s hard to put the shortest event on the entire program on the list given that anything can happen. But Dressel has shown he’s a step ahead of everyone consistently over the last number of years, and now has seven swims sub-21.3. The only men in the field who have ever been under that mark are Ben Proud (twice in 2018) and Florent Manaudou (once in 2015).

Honorable Mention: Women’s 200 fly, Zhang Yufei (CHN) – Zhang dominated the field in Tokyo last summer, ripping the third-fastest swim ever in 2:03.86. Having only been sub-2:05 one other time, this race doesn’t crack the list, with Hali Flickinger, Regan Smith and Summer McIntosh all not far behind.

MOST WIDE OPEN

Note: “Most wide open” is meant to include events where any number of swimmers could conceivably pull out the win, at least four or more. In an instance where we know it will come down to two or three, we haven’t included it.

Women’s 100 Free

There have generally been several swimmers with a shot at gold in the women’s 100 free, but that seems to have only escalated this year without Olympic champion Emma McKeon in the field. Sarah SjostromSiobhan HaugheyMollie O’Callaghan and Shayna Jack are all primary contenders, as is Penny Oleksiak.

Women’s 200 Free

No Ariarne Titmus blows this event wide open (also no Katie Ledecky), though many would pencil in Haughey as the new favorite. However, an ankle injury has thrown her status into enough doubt that this race is certainly ripe for the taking, with China’s Tang Muhan and Yang Junxuan coming in on unknown form after clocking 1:54s back in September. O’Callaghan was 1:54.9 last month as well, and Oleksiak was 1:54.7 to win bronze in Tokyo. We also can’t overlook Taylor Ruck, who won the NCAA title this year and appears back on form.

Men’s 200 Free

The men’s 200 free was an absolute shootout at the Tokyo Games, with four men finishing within .46 of one another for gold. In addition to those four in the final, we also saw two others break 1:45 either in an earlier round of the individual event or on a relay lead-off. With silver medalist Duncan Scott out, things are pretty open with gold medalist Tom Dean, bronze medalist Fernando Scheffer, young stars David Popovici and Hwang Sunwoo, and American Kieran Smith all capable of pulling out the victory.

Men’s 400 IM

Scott’s withdrawal makes China’s Wang Shun the clear favorite in the men’s 200 IM, but the 400 IM just got a lot more interesting. Daiya Seto and Carson Foster have both been 4:09 this year, but Seto is coming off a disastrous Olympics while Foster has yet to prove himself on a stage as big as this (though U.S. Trials answered a lot of questions). Then there’s the veteran Chase Kalisz and the rising star Leon Marchand lurking behind, and it feels like someone in this field will get this event back on track and be in the 4:07 range. We just don’t know who.

South Africa’s Matt Sates should not be slept on in either the 200 free or 400 IM, though we do know he’s been dealing with an illness in the lead-up.

Men’s Distance Freestyle

The men’s 400, 800 and 1500 freestyle all kind of toe the line of being wide open. The 400 free ended up being incredibly open in Tokyo, evidenced by the stunning upset victory from Ahmed Hafnaoui, but has a clear favorite this year in Germany’s Lukas Märtens. While Märtens is unproven relative to some of his competitors, only Australian Elijah Winnington—who was in a very similar position to Märtens (in this event specifically) coming into the Olympics before falling out of the medals—has been within two seconds of the German this season. If someone else is going to win this, it’s probably Winnington.

The 800 and 1500 are a different story. Any one of four swimmers could’ve won in Tokyo: Bobby FinkeFlorian WellbrockGregorio Paltrinieri and Mykhailo Romanchuk. Now throw Märtens into that mix, as he currently leads the world rankings in both. How Märtens fares in the 400 free, which is on the opening day of the meet, will tell us a lot about what he might do in the 800 and 1500 later, but right now any one of these five could win either race.

If we had to pick one, the 800 is probably more open, given that Paltrinieri fell off the pace in the 1500 in Tokyo, and that the longer event is on the last day of the meet, which works against Märtens. The 20-year-old is also scheduled to race the 200 free, meaning there’s a strong possibility he’ll have raced 4500 meters in individual events in seven days when he steps onto the blocks for the 1500 final.

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Flipperz
2 months ago

The heats for the first session are now available on the Omega site.

Chalmers and Milak aren’t listed in the 50m fly heats.

Sub13
Reply to  Flipperz
2 months ago

Omg. After all that drama he’s not even swimming 1 of his 2 events. Ridiculous.

Troyy
Reply to  Sub13
2 months ago

The controversy wasn’t about the 50 fly. Probably dropped the 50 fly because he’s gonna have to carry the 4×100 free out of the prelims and then try carry it onto the podium in the final (can’t see it happening tho).

Scuncan Dott
Reply to  Sub13
2 months ago

He had to drop the 50 for the relay, Cody doesn’t even have the Fina standard in the 50 Fly so he couldn’t have swum it anyway.

Scuncan Dott
2 months ago

Not relevant to article but Scottish Comm Games team was announced today:

https://www.scottishswimming.com/newsroom/news/2022/06/gold-coast-medallists-named-in-strong-team-scotland-aquatics-selection.aspx
Dunks is in the team and Dawson as expected is out due to her Back injury. (sidenote: European medalist Cassie Wild is listed as Cassie Wild-Richards so I assume she got married).

Steve Nolan
2 months ago

Does anyone think Huske or Curzan could sneak into the 100 free fold? Going through that list I was like, dang no Americans in a wide open field, rough. But both have the ability to final, and feel like the wide-openness could at least get one of them on the podium.

Wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for the Aussies to be slower than their trials meet, Haughey’s got the ankle, Oleksiak seems fairly hot/cold and Sjostrom has never actually won a 100 free gold at the Olympics/Worlds.

Last edited 2 months ago by Steve Nolan
Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
Reply to  Steve Nolan
2 months ago

Nope!

swim fan 77
Reply to  Steve Nolan
2 months ago

Huske or Curzan might sneak in to get a medal but there’s way they’re beating out that field. They’re seeded over a second slower than the top-seed.

Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
Reply to  swim fan 77
2 months ago

Curzan and Huske might not even final especially if Haughey is in form.

Sub13
Reply to  Steve Nolan
2 months ago

No. I mean anything is possible. But this is about as likely as Liendo dropping over a second to win the men’s 100 free.

Justhereforfun
2 months ago

I think the Australia women in the 4×100 freestyle relay should be on the “lock” list, given they have the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th fastest times in the world, plus the 3rd fastest swimmer (Sjostrom) doesn’t have a good relay team?

Scuncan Dott
Reply to  Justhereforfun
2 months ago

Sweden aren’t even racing the 4×100 free relay since Coleman isn’t racing.

Sub13
Reply to  Justhereforfun
2 months ago

Yeah I tend to agree with this, but they’re a lot weaker than Tokyo and we know Canada will swim faster than their times suggest.

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
2 months ago

Regarding the photo caption, I believe Sjostrom and Milak are bigger locks than Ledecky.

AUS W 4×100 is a lock.

redradiant
Reply to  SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
2 months ago

Certainly they both have a solid lock on their races but seriously who’s gonna beat ledecky in the 800. She was sick last time and they still couldn’t touch her. The only legitimate scenario in which I can see her loosing is that she actually passes away in the middle of the race and is thus unable to finish

SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
Reply to  redradiant
2 months ago

Quadarella or Pallister mayyyyybe (like <1% chance). I agree with you about Ledecky but just think Sjostrom and Milak have an even bigger edge.

Smith-King-Huske-Curzan
Reply to  redradiant
2 months ago

Katie Ledecky will win the women’s 800 meter freestyle by 5 seconds and the women’s 1500 meter freestyle by 10 seconds. The total number of swims has been reduced from 10 to 7 since the last time Katie Ledecky was completely healthy at the FINA World Aquatics Championships.

2 x W 400 FR
2 x W 1500 FR
1 x W 4 x 200 FR-R
2 X W 800 FR

torchbearer
Reply to  SAMUEL HUNTINGTON
2 months ago

Regarding the photo….it makes Katie looks 50 in that pic! :0

Last edited 2 months ago by torchbearer
commonwombat
2 months ago

Agree with your “open” calls

Regarding “locks”; agree with Ledecky at 800/1500, Milak 200fly, Sjostrom 50fly, Dressel 50free & USA M4XMED

Would put Ledecky at 400 at a level below; that of solid favourite. Titmus’ absence certainly strengthens her hand but the reality is that she has lost her air of invicibility at this distance. ZSC is a borderline call between this and “lock”; ditto Zhang 200fly

I have 2 credible contenders for “locks” that appear to have been curiously overlooked:

  • USA M4100 – with weakened competition, the only way they lose is via “by their own hand”
  • AUS W4X100 – minus McKeon & Campbells, one would think this is an opening to pull an upset but they do
… Read more »

Stephen
Reply to  commonwombat
2 months ago

The Wombat is spot on again.

Calvin
2 months ago

Zhang Yufei should be higher.

Stephen
2 months ago

Australia’s 4×1 Free Women’s – Harris Wilson Campbell, McKeon (Tokyo) 52.8 52.8 52.0 52.2 v Harris Wilson O’Callaghan Jack – 52.8 52.8 52.3 52.5
won by 2 sec – .6 =1.4 sec win …That’s a lock to me.
Casey Wunsch O’Callaghan Czajko would make the final

Last edited 2 months ago by Stephen
Sub13
Reply to  Stephen
2 months ago

I agree with the overall point but I’m confused about your numbers/info here…

1. Aus won by over 3 seconds, not 2.

2. Wilson didn’t swim the final in Tokyo. That was Bronte. Harris is the only returning member.

3. Harris swam a 53.08, not 52.8, in Tokyo which is much slower than she is capable of given her flat start PB of 52.9.

4. Cate swam a 52.2, not 52.0 in the relay.

5. Emma swam a 51.3, not a 52.0 in the relay

Not sure what you were trying to say but the info basically seems all incorrect.
Tokyo winning time was 3:29.69 and runners up were 3:32.78. Adding up just flat starts from trials is 3:31.37.… Read more »

Troyy
Reply to  Sub13
2 months ago

I really hope Wilson and Harris will deliver splits faster than their trials flat start this time. Wilson in particular added a sh-tload of time in Tokyo.

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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