World Championships Preview: Women’s 50 Backstroke


  • Day 8, Sun August 9th
  • 2013 World Champion: Zhao Jing, CHN – 27.29
  • 2013 Silver Medalist: Fu Yuanhui, CHN – 27.39
  • 2013 Bronze Medalist: Aya Terakawa, JPN – 27.53

The women’s 50 backstroke has to be one of the most difficult to predict. With the names at the top of the world constantly changing and everyone so close, anyone could win the gold medal on the day. The Chinese have become a force in the event, after Jing Zhao set the world record and won the world title in 2009 they have had swimmers at the top of the world ever since. The Chinese went 1-2 at the 2013 world championships, and have potential to do so again this year with two swimmers in the world’s top 5 for 2015. However, there are a number of international competitors that will give them a run for their money in Kazan. The speed of the women’s 50 back had a huge drop from the 2007 championships to the 2009 championships, with the 2007 title being won in 28.16, and 2009 it dropped 1.1 seconds all the way down to 27.06. The 2013 championships was almost as fast as 2009, with all the medalists swimming 27.5 or better. The race this year should be just as fast as two years ago, as there has already been eight women swim sub-28 this year.

2014-2015 LCM Women 50 Back

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Etiene Medeiros of Brazil has recently burst onto the swimming scene, posting some incredible times in the 50 back. After a 4th place finish at the 2013 world championships, she really established herself in 2014. She had a world record breaking performance at the short course world championships, winning gold over some superstar names such as Emily Seebohm, Katinka Hosszu and Daryna Zevina. Not only that, Medeiros also held the top time in the world for long course with a time of 27.37. She has shown the same form this year, sitting atop the world rankings once again.

Emily Seebohm has been a fixture on the international swimming scene for many years, seeing most of her success come in the 100 backstroke. She has 6 long course world championship medals to her name, but has none in the 50 back. She will look to change that this year, as the Australian had a great performance at the short course world championships in December, winning silver in the 50. After a 7th place in the world rankings in 2014, Seebohm now sits 2nd in the world for 2015 and will look to challenge for a medal in Kazan.

Fu Yuanhui has consistently been a top performer in the 50 backstroke the last few years. She won silver at the 2013 world championships, and followed up with a gold medal at the 2014 Asian games and the 2nd fastest time in the world. She is ranked 4th this year and looks primed to go for a second straight world championship medal. She is the second fastest woman in history with a best time of 27.22.

At just 18 years old, Denmark’s Mie Neilsen already has a lot of international experience under her belt. She has won a total of 20 medals spanning over the last four years from the short course world championships, long and short course European championships and the European Junior championships combined. She also competed for her country at the 2012 Olympics at just 15 years of age. She has seen most of her success come from relays and the 100 back, but she has also shown prowess in the 50. She swam to a bronze medal at the 2014 European championships with a ranking of 5th in the world. This year she sits 8th in the world, and will likely need to improve her personal best of 27.76 if she wants a shot at the podium.

A relatively unknown swimmer, Liu Xiang of China has the potential to surprise in Kazan. Liu has really come onto the scene this year, as last year she was essentially unheard of. She didn’t win any medals at the 2014 Asian games and held just the 23rd ranked time in the world in the 50 back. However, this year she has made some drastic improvements. She won the 50 freestyle at Chinese nationals and was runner up to countrywoman Fu Yuanhui in the 50 back. This year she is ranked 5th in the world with a clocking of 27.73 and should be capable of making the final in Kazan. The thing working against her is her lack of experience, so it will be interesting to see if nerves get the best of her or not at the biggest competition of her life.

Australian Madison Wilson is another swimmer who has made incredible strides over the span of just one year. After a 3rd place finish in the 50 backtroke at the 2014 Australian championships and an 8th place at the Commonwealth games, she has improved her 2014 ranking of 14th up to 7th this year clocking a lifetime best 27.90. If past championships are any indication, another sub-28 swim should see Wilson in her first world championship final.

More well known for her abilities in the sprint freestyle and butterfly, Francesca Halsall has recently added the 50 back to her repertoire. She surprised many when she won gold at the European championships last year over some backstroke specialists, launching her into 6th in the world rankings. If she can swim up to the standard she set for herself last year she should be able to make the final in Kazan. Her personal best stands at 27.81 from those European championships.

The other British competitor in this race will be Lauren Quigley. After making the final at the 2013 world championships (8th place) at just 18 years old, Quigley had a fantastic 2014 that saw her win three medals at the Commonwealth games including a silver in the 50 back. She was ranked 4th in the world last year with a time of 27.69, and with a similar performance she could be in the fight for a medal. With such small margins separating these swimmers, any one of the eight that make the final have a chance to medal.

My darkhorse in this race would be Katinka Hosszu of Hungary. There is no questioning Hosszu’s ability in this race, as she won bronze at the short course world championships last year going 25.96. The real question is whether or not she will swim the 50 back, and if she does whether she will swim it all the way through to the final (if she makes it) or scratch in favour of other events. Where the women’s 50 back is on the schedule, there is possibility she drops it in favour of the 200 fly. All we know at this point is Hosszu is extremely capable and has swum her fastest ever long course 50 back this season with a 14th ranked 28.16. If she swims it, look for her to make some noise in this race.

One big name missing here is Great Britain’s Georgia Davies. Not using the 50 back as a selection event at their championships, Davies failed to qualify for the British world championship team. The 2014 Commonwealth champion who was ranked 3rd in the world last year and 6th this year leaves a hole on the team that fellow Brits Fran Halsall and Lauren Quigley will look to fill.

Another name missing is American Natalie Coughlin who failed to qualify for the team last summer and is instead swam at the Pan American games in Toronto. Coughlin broke the American record earlier this year in the 50 back swimming a 27.51 which ranks 3rd in the world this year.

Others to watch for in this race include Elena Gemo of Italy, Anastasia Fesikova of Russia, Rachel Bootsma of the United States and Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe.


  1. Etiene Medeiros, BRA                   27.16
  2. Emily Seebohm, AUS                    27.37
  3. Fu Yuanhui, CHN                          27.44
  4. Mie Neilsen, DEN                          27.61
  5. Liu Xiang, CHN                              27.69
  6. Madison Wilson, AUS                  27.76
  7. Francesca Halsall, GBR               27.84
  8. Lauren Quigley, GBR                   27.90

Darkhorse: Katinka Hosszu, HUN             27.79


Day 1, Sun August 2nd (Day 9)

Day 2, Mon August 3rd (Day 10)

Day 3, Tue August 4th (Day 11)

Day 4, Wed August 5th (Day 12)

Day 5, Thur August 6th (Day 13)

Day 6, Fri August 7th (Day 14)

Day 7, Sat August 8th (Day 15)

Day 8, Sun August 9th (Day 16)

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CT Swim Fan
8 years ago

If there is only 1 American entered in the 50 Back, why would Coughlin not be able to slide into the open slot? (Who was supposed to swim it?)She certainly has the qualifying time. Makes no sense for the U.S. to only put one person in an event.

Reply to  CT Swim Fan
8 years ago

Natalie did not qualify for Worlds last year. If she was already on the roster for another event, then they could and probably would’ve added her to the 50 back (if she wanted to swim it).

Reply to  Swimmer
8 years ago

with Missy Franklin dropping the 50 BK it would seem that second position could have been filled by the USA by Kathleen Baker think USAswimming dropped the goggles on this one.

8 years ago

Liu Xiang has been down in Australia training with Matt Brown earlier this year from January thru till early March and has enormous potential
Good luck to her further improvement

8 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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