Photo Courtesy: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
By Andy Ross, Swimming World contributor.
We have about five more weeks until the World Championships go off in Budapest. The so-called “encore Olympics” are usually hit or miss when it comes to fast times. In 2013 in Barcelona, six world records went down, all on the women’s side. We all know what happened in 2009 when world records fell quicker than autumn leaves. In 2005 in Montreal, nine world records went down. In 2001 in Fukuoka, six world records fell. What will that number look like this summer in Budapest?
The Mare Nostrum this month produced some very fast times from Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom and Russia’s Yulia Efimova. Sjostrom flirted with a few world records this past month with a 55.76 in the 100 fly (55.48 is her WR), a 23.85 in the 50 free (23.73 is Britta Steffen’s WR) and a 52.08 in the 100 free (52.06 is Cate Campbell’s WR). Efimova also swam a 1:04.82 in the 100 breast (1:04.35 is Ruta Meilutyte’s WR) and a 2:19.83 in the 200 breast (2:19.11 is Rikke Moeller Pedersen’s WR). Russian Anton Chupkov even put together a 2:07.46 in the 200 breast (2:06.67 is Ippei Watanabe’s WR) on Sunday in Canet.
2017 has already been a fast year. Watanabe broke the 200 breast world record at a low key non-national level meet in January, and there have been several close calls already from the swimmers mentioned above. A lot of swimmers decided to retire after the Olympics last summer and a lot of swimmers decided to take the summer off of racing in preparation for meets in 2018. Nonetheless, 2017 has been a lot faster than expected. How fast could we get?
Worlds will be in Budapest, so Hungary is expected to have a good showing in front of their home fans. Veteran stars Katinka Hosszu and Laszlo Cseh will be eager to compete in front of their home country’s fans as well as young up and coming stars Tamas Kenderesi and Boglarka Kapas. But Cseh and Hosszu have not been putting up stellar times like they have in-season in the past. Regardless, you never know what Hosszu can pull together.
The women’s 100 back has been rattled time and time again since Gemma Spofforth initially put up the 58.12 in 2009. Canada’s Kylie Masse (58.21), Australia’s Emily Seebohm (58.62) and China’s Fu Yuanhui (58.72) lead the world rankings in 2017 and all have a chance to drop enough time to get under Spofforth’s record. USA’s Kathleen Baker and Olympic gold medalist Hosszu could also factor into the world record chase in Budapest as we inch closer and closer to the start of the championships.
Singapore’s Joseph Schooling has also indicated that he wants to take down Michael Phelps’ 100 fly world record that stands at 49.82. Schooling swam a 50.39 to win Olympic gold last summer and is currently the third fastest performer all-time in the event behind Phelps and Milorad Cavic. It will be a tall task but if anyone can do it, Schooling definitely can. But it won’t be easy. South Africa’s Chad Le Clos, China’s Li Zhuhao as well as Hungary’s Cseh will be formidable competitors in that event in Budapest.
The 50 stroke events could also see some people get under the existing world records. Sjostrom has also been quick in her 50 fly in the Mare Nostrum series and Adam Peaty flirted with his world record at the British Trials, finishing 0.06 seconds away from his WR from 2015. Fu also set a best time in the 100 back at the Chinese Nationals and is currently the second fastest performer all-time in the 50 back (27.11) behind her countrywoman Zhao Jing (27.06) from 2009. Fu has been 27.36 this year in the 50 back.
China’s Xu Jiayu also got dangerously close to Ryan Murphy’s WR in the 100 back in April at the Chinese Nationals, where he finished just 0.01 behind Murphy’s record from last summer. Xu also has a chance to get under Liam Tancock’s 24.04 from 2009 in the 50 back. To top it all off, the women’s 50 breast WR of 29.43 held by Ruta Meilutyte is definitely in jeopardy to either Efimova or American Lilly King, assuming King makes the U.S. Worlds team.
That is a lot of events where people have rattled world records this year alone. If I had to guess, I would say the women’s 100 back, all six breaststroke events, and the women’s sprint freestyle events have the best chances of going down. But who knows what Katie Ledecky, Schooling, Murphy and others have up their sleeves.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.