Worlds Previews: A Young Japanese Contender for Lochte in the Men’s 200 IM

Coming into this year’s World Championships in the men’s 200 IM, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps have the 13 best times in history in the event.

One of those swimmers, one (Phelps) is retired, which means the man left with the title as the best by fair margin is the World Record holder Lochte.

But suddenly, a new contender enters the fray. Though Lochte was a full second faster at the Olympics than any other returning swimmer, Japan’s Kosuke Hagino has shown this year that he is more-than-capable of contending with a Lochte who, while still very good, keeps trying to convince us all that he’s not in good shape.

Those two currently sit 1-2 in the world this year, and along with Hungary’s defending Olympic bronze medalist Laszlo Cseh, are the three big medal favorites. Of the three, the 18-year old Hagino and Lochte are the two most likely to get down to a 1:54.

Looking at the specialties of the three, they’re all very good at the same things: butterfly and backstroke. That’s not to say, though, that the three will be even at the halfway mark of this 200 IM.

Lochte and Hagino will very-likely be even at the halfway mark. As Lochte’s breaststroke continues to improve, Hagino really struggles on that leg, which would give Lochte an advantage.

One would think that Cseh would be even as well, given how good he is in the backstroke and butterfly events by themselves. He takes a different tact than his competitors, though; instead of really hammering away at his best strokes, he relies on “easy speed” and goes after his breaststroke leg. Fortunately for him, there’s not the same issues of wake in breaststroke as there is in other strokes if he gets caught behind.

The other really big medal contender in this event is Brazil’s Thiago Pereira. He’s waffled about what events are his focus a few times this year, but when the dust settled, he came out looking pretty good in this 200 IM. He was a 1:57.4 at Maria Lenk this year. He, though, isn’t the fastest Brazilian in 2013. That title goes to Henrique Rodrigues, who was a 1:57.3 at Maria Lenk (and ranks 3rd in the world behind Lochte and Hagino). The question for Rodrigues is can he hold that through to Worlds? He didn’t make it out of the semi-finals in London; he can probably final in Barcelona, but is unlikely to medal.

The wildcard in this race is South Africa’s Chad le Clos. He hasn’t swum the race all that well in 2013, but he did qualify for the final in London, before withdrawing to focus on the prelims and semi-finals of the 100 fly instead.

In Barcelona, the 200 IM final wouldn’t have any conflict for him, though the 200 IM semi-final would come after the 200 fly final. We’ll count him as not swimming the 200 IM for now, but keep him in the back of your mind.

The rest of the race is probably a battle for relay spots. The 2nd American, Conor Dwyer, has been looking very good since training with Bob Bowman, and was a 1:57.7 at U.S. Trials. he’d need another second for a medal.

The Australian champion is Daniel Tranter, who was a best time of 1:47.5 at his country’s trials. Wang Shun was a best time at China’s Trials as well with a 1:57.50, part of the sudden explosion of IM’ers from the Asian continent.

There’s been a lot of 200 IM’ers dipping down to new levels this year; a 1:58 doesn’t quite mean what it used to. We still don’t have a full idea of which French swimmers will do what, but their Jeremy Stravius was a 1:57.8 at French Nationals – a meet where he was clearly the star swimmer on the men’s side. Britain’s Roberto Pavoni went a best time of 1:58.1 at British Nationals, too.

Daiya Seto will replace Olympic finalist Ken Takakuwa on this year’s roster as the second Japanese swimmer. He was 1:58.1 at Japan’s Nationals. Germany’s Philip Heintz was 1:58.3, and even Kenneth To from Australia got down to a 1:58.72 – despite having never broken two minutes at a Trials meet before.

I really have a good feeling about Germany’s Markus Deibler in this race. Every year, he gets better and better as a swimmer (he’s only 23), but with the relative leniency afforded by the Germans relaxing their qualifying standards, and making their qualifying meet much earlier, he should be able to peak at Worlds. He hasn’t even come close to that since the European Championships in 2010, and so his 1:57-mid is probably good enough for a top 6 finish, if not higher (things could end up with him on the podium).

Top 8 picks are below, with best times from January 1, 2010 onward.

1. Ryan Lochte, USA, 1:54.00
2. Kosuke Hagino, Japan, 1:55.74
3. Wang Shun, China, 1:57.50
4. Thiago Pereira, Brazil, 1:56.74
5. Laszlo Cseh, Hungary, 1:56.22
6. Markus Deibler, Germany, 1:57.82
7. Conor Dwyer, USA, 1:57.74
8. Daniel Tranter, Australia, 1:57.55
Darkhorse: Philip Heintz, Germany, 1:58.34

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10 years ago

lochte has a far easier schedule this year compared to last year and 2011. the 4.05 in the 400 IM and training for that event took way too much out of him physically and the 4th place in the 200 free and 2nd in the 4 x 1 took out of him some psychologically. then we had to deal with the difficult schedule of the 200 im and 200 back finals less than 30 mins apart. if he went high 154 last year less 30 mins after 154 in the 200 back then it is certainly expected he will be closer to 154 low since this will be his only final that night. hagino could go 155 flat, but how… Read more »

10 years ago

Good picks. Owing to his experience Lochte takes a victory. He will oversee and control the field from his line which is number 4 in the final. Chinese are impossible to predict until heats and semis so I must leave Wang Shun out and replace him with the well tested and proven Hungarian, Laszlo Cseh, who comes 3rd spot. Laszlo is on his way of achieving quite impressive number of minor medals at the Olympic and Championship-level.

10 years ago

I have a feeling that Jeremy Stravius is going to surprise a lot of people in this event and pick up a medal.

Reply to  Josh
10 years ago

Is Stravius confirmed to swim 200 IM?

bobo gigi
Reply to  aswimfan
10 years ago

Stravius will swim this race. If everything is normal he swims the 4X100 relay, the 4X200 free relay, the 4X100 medley relay, the 100 back and the 200 IM.
He can swim 1.57 low but even if it has improved, his breaststroke is still too weak to play a podium.

Reply to  bobo gigi
10 years ago

Stravius is not going to swim 200 free???

10 years ago

Cseh has found a way to nab a minor medal at every major competition he’s contested 200IM in (besides getting touched out – .04 by Bovell in Athens). London (3rd), ’11 Worlds (3rd), ’09 Worlds (3rd), Beijing (2nd), ’07 Worlds (3rd) & ’05 Worlds (2nd). Why now with his focus on sprint races specifically the 100 backstroke here in Barcelona has he not been considered a medal threat? 1:56.2 from London is nothing to scoff at especially considering his performances in other races. I don’t think he can beat Lochte but he should be on form for another decent performance.

Reply to  ZouTiger
10 years ago

I agree.

in 200 IM, olders swimmers like Lochte and Cseh will bnot decline as fast as they are in 400 IM, so I still favor Cseh for bronze, with Pereira to upset.

Lochte and Hagino for gold and silver.

10 years ago

I think Ryan Lochte will win the race but he will not break the WR. I call either Laszlo or Thiago for 2nd place.

Reply to  Manyi Eta-Okang
10 years ago

Can´t see Cseh or Pereira going 1:55 while Kosuke will probably did 1:55 low or even break this barrier..

10 years ago

Kenneth To actually made the final of the 200 IM at the 2011 World Champs, going 1:59.0 at the meet (if I recall correctly he was 3rd through prelims) he’s been under 2:00 for a couple of years now, not just at trials

10 years ago

Lochte will win 200IM… He is not going to race 400 IM.. And he will break the WR again..

Reply to  Yuri Lopes
10 years ago

swimming 400 IM would have no consequences, because unlike olympics, 400 IM in Barcelona falls on the last day.

Lochte dropped it because he wants to swim in the medley relay, which he’s never done.

10 years ago

The 200 I.M. should be Lochte’s focus for this World Championships (though many of us hopes he brings his talents to the relays as well). He is the current world record holder in the event. He was well off his world record at the Olympics, and was slightly embarrassed by his loss to Phelps (as echoed by LIQUIDASSETS). He was ahead of world record pace for most of his swim at World Championship Trials. Of all the events he swims, this one is the closest he has to “in the bag” against international competition.

It appears that Lochte’s “lack of training” has afforded him more speed in the shorter events. He seems to really be able to explode early in… Read more »

Reply to  H2Opinion
10 years ago

It has to be his focus for the worlds… if he wants a gold medal on worlds, this is his chance

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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