Compelling stats-driven storylines for the sixth and final night of the 16th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) 2022.
Women’s 100m Butterfly
USA’s Torri Huske and Canada’s Maggie MacNeil shared the gold medal in the 50m – this final will most probably be a showdown between the two. Between the nations, the United States and Australia both have four titles apiece.
Mac Neil is the titleholder and she already bagged two golds in a bit unusual – for her it’s very much usual though – combination, winning the 50m fly and the 50m back (and has two bronzes from the 4x100m free and 4x50m medley relays).
Should Mac Neil win, should also become the fourth swimmer in history who does the following
- • …retains the 100m fly title after USA’s Jenny Thompson (1997-99-2000), Slovakia’s Martina Moravcova (2002, 2004) and Aussie Felicity Galvez (2008-2010)
- • …completes the 50-100m fly double after Thompson (1999, 2000), Galvez (2008) and Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom (2014). Naturally, this latter one also refers on Huske provided she wins the event.
Lousie Hansson may spoil the North American party, the Swedish finished runner-up last year – and may be the second European female who wins a title here since so far only Marrit Steenbergen (NED) took gold in the 100m IM (note that European women did not claim any gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics).
So far, a World Record was set at the World Championship five times (1995, 1997, 2000, 2008, 2014). The current one, 54.59 was set by USA’s Kelsi Dahlia a year ago, in Eindhoven.
Men’s 100m Butterfly
Last year, in the clash of the veterans (both are 30+ now), Matteo Rivolta prevented Chad le Clos from tying Michael Hickman’s record-winning streak of five victories (in the 200m IM). The South African won four in a row (2012-14-16-18), but the Italian pipped him by 0.17sec for the 2021 title. Le Clos now came first in the 200m fly, it was his 7th medal in the event (though not at consecutive editions), so now he is set to make the 100-200m fly double for the third time after 2014 and 2016. No one else achieved that feat (to win at least once these two titles in the same edition).
In case Rivolta wins the event once more, he has the second qualifying time, and he would retain his title – in the past, before Le Clos’ poker, Sweden’s Lars Frolander had a three-peat (1997-99-2000), but only these two greats were able to grab back-to-back golds in this event.
Keep an eye on Noe Ponti, the Swiss is the only one in the field who took a medal both in the 50m (silver) and 200m (bronze) here in Melbourne. If he could claim a medal in this final, he becomes the third swimmer who finished on the podium in all three fly events at the same edition. Le Clos achieved that feat three times, at three consecutive meets (2014: three golds, 2016: three golds, 2018: one gold (100m), two silvers). USA’s Tom Shields had three silvers in 2016 (and also finished runner-up three times a row in 2012-14-16.
After Frolanders’ double WR-beating in Athens 2000 (in the semis, then in the final), Le Clos was the next one with a gold + WR combo, in 2014, then in 2016, however, it’s the event’s reigning Olympic champion Caeleb Dressel who set the last global mark in November 2020 and became the first one to go under 48sec (47.78).
Women’s 50m Breaststroke
USA’s Lilly King (gold in the 100m, silver in the 200m) and the Netherlands’ Tes Schouten (silver and bronze in the same events) both have a chance to medal in all three breaststroke events. Since the 50m events debuted at the meet in 1999, five swimmers were able to reach the podium in all three events at the same championships: 1999: Masami Tanaka (JPN, 3 golds), Penny Heyns (RSA, 3 silvers) – 2002: Emma Ingelstrom (SWE, 2 gold, 1 silver) – 2004: Brooke Hanson (AUS, 3 golds) – 2010: Rebecca Soni (USA, 3 golds).
King can also follow in the footsteps (strokes) of Tanaka, Ingelstrom, Hanson and Soni by making the 50-100m double.
However, that won’t be easy as Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte, the reigning long-course world champion (she won in Budapest this June) and also as the former winner of the dash (2012, 2014), set a new world record in the semis (28.37). Though this world record is one of the most frequently improved marks (it was betted 22 times so far), Meilutyte’s new WR is only the third one which was swum at the Worlds (2002, 2008).
And don’t forget Benedetta Pilato on lane 7: the Italian holds the long-course world record since 2021.
The title holder, Israel’s Anastasia Gorbenko is not here, so a new champion will be crowned – or, in the case of Meilutyte, an old-new as she had already won the event in 2012 and 2014, she is also the only one to win back-to-back titles in this event. King was also the queen of the 50m in 2016.
Men’s 50m Breaststroke
It looks like another Nic v Nicolo duel – Adam Peaty, swimming on lane 1, is yet to find the right gears (and he is rather for the long-course version). Nic Fink and Nicolo Martinenghi posted the best times in the semis, so they are ready for a re-match as Fink pipped the Italian by 0.02sec for the title last year – and by 0.19sec in the 100m final here in Melbourne.
Fink can be the third man who retains his title in this event after Ukraine’s Oleh Lisogor (2006-08) and Cameron van den Burgh (2016-18).
Fink may also repeat last’s year's feat of claiming medals in all three breast finals. Before him, it occurred only once, though in 2004 two swimmers appeared on the podium three times and it was all the same after each event: Brendan Hansen (USA) won, and Brenton Rickart (USA) came second. And in 2021 Fink had two golds and one bronze.
Martinenghi may continue Italy’s march here as their men's team already delivered three individual titles and two in relays.
In case Peaty, winning this event in the 50m pool at four consecutive Worlds and four consecutive Europeans, could finish atop, then he would win his first s/c world title (has only a tied silver from 2014).
Since Peaty graced the scene, he was busy with bettering the WRs – smashed the 50m mark four times for example, just all this over long-course. He never appeared among the short-course trend- and time-setters, though, here Cameron van den Burgh lowered the best time four times in the shiny suit era, then his last effort was equalled by Ilya Shymanovich (BLR) last November, after 12 years, and then Emre Sakci (TUR) managed to go under 25sec (24.95).
Women’s 200m Backstroke
Australia’s Kaylee McKeown is ready to complete the 100-200m double – this would be the fifth time in this event to have the same winner for these two distances: 1999: Mai Nakamura (JPN), 2008: Natalie Coughlin (USA), 2014&2016: Katinka Hosszu (HUN).
Fellow Aussie Mollie O’Callaghan and USA Claire Curzan bagged two medals in the 50m and 100m finals, however, only Curzan will be part of the 200m show. Clocking the best time in the morning, she has a strong chance to join the circle of ‘three medals at one edition in backstroke’: Japan’s Mai Nakamura (1999: 2 gold, 1 silver), Germany’s Antje Buschschulte (2000: 2 gold, 1 bronze), Aussie Tayliah Zimmer (2006: 3 silver), Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (2014: 2 gold, 1 bronze; 2016: 2 gold, 1 silver), Aussie Emily Seebohm (2014: 3 silver), Kylie Masse (2021: 3 silver).
Curzan already has five medals in her hotel room (she is a constant feature in the US relays), and she is one shy of her Abu Dhabi tally of six podiums.
2021 champion Rhyan White is not back to retain her title, so a new champion will emerge. Kylie Masse of Canada is looking for some kind of consolation as she bagged three silver medals in Abu Dhabi, perhaps here is the time for her to step up.
Two years ago McKeown managed to go even under 1:59min to set a new WR (1:58.94), a huge feat as only five more swimmers have dipped under 2 minutes ever and none of them will be in the final, apart from McKeown.
Men’s 200m Backstroke
Radoslaw Kawecki is back – he won the event four times in the last five editions. Claimed gold in the first three editions (2012-14-16), finished tied third in 2018, and returned to the top of the podium last December, at the age of 30, to stun many.
However, he faces two American greats – above all Ryan Murphy, one of the silver medallists from 2018, who already bagged the 50m and 100m title here in Melbourne. Should he win the 200m, he would repeat his 2018 feat of bagging medals in all three events. So far, among the men, no one could ever claim three golds at one edition and before Murphy took a gold and two silvers in Hangzhou, only Aussie Matt Welsh (2002: 3 silver; 2004: 2 gold, 1 bronze) could come up with this brilliant achievement.
There is one spectacular run, which is unparalleled across all the events: the US claimed the silver medal in the last 7 championships – and won the event only once during all the years, it was a 1-2 for them in 2010. Though they had 5 golds in this event, they are waiting for the next one for 12 years now.
The last silver went to Shaine Casas in Abu Dhabi, where he amassed six medals – now, before the final day, he had three relay medals (one colour each), but no individual yet.
The World Record in this event is 7 years old (kind of middle-aged in swimming terms) – Aussie Mitch Larkin managed to bring down the 2009 record to 1:45.63, a dream time as he is the only one to date to go under 1:46min. Three more swimmers had clocked a time under 1:47 but none of them were active any longer, so beating the WR would require a hack of improvement from anyone in the current field.
Women’s 200m Freestyle
Marrit Steenbergen, the only individual female gold medallist from Europe over the first five days, may go for a second title after winning the 100m IM. The Dutch was one of the heroes of the long-course Europeans in Rome, she was the most decorated swimmer of the meet with seven medals.
Second-ranked in the heats, Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong is going for retaining her title. That would be a tremendous feat as only Claudia Poll of Costa Rica, Olympic champion in 1996, could win back-to-back golds in 1995 and 1997. Since then 12 different swimmers finished first in the respective finals, including Olympic gold medallists of the distance, like Federica Pellegrini (ITA, 2008 – won in 2016), Allison Schmitt (USA, 2012, won the same year), Ariarne Titmus (2021 – won three years earlier), and other distance’s champion, like Camille Muffat of France and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden. But none of them could win this event twice – so that would make Haughey’s title defence so special.
There will be two Aussies in the final, though Leah Neale (6th time) and Madison Wilson (8th) need to dig deep if either of them wishes to complete an unprecedented sweep of all freestyle titles by the same nation. The Aussies had five in hand so far: Emma McKeon doubled down the 50-100m, while Lina Pallister had the treble (400-800-1500m), so only the 200m is missing.
Unlike the long-course WR, which is still from the shiny suit era (set by Pellegrini in 2009),
the short-course mark was bettered three times since the textile came back, and twice it happened at the Worlds. First in 2014 by Sjostrom, then last year by Haughey (1:50.31) – she got closer to the dream barrier of 1:50 minutes – maybe this time.
Men’s 200m Freestyle
Anyone winning this event, his name will appear on a list which features two of the greatest ones of this sport: Aussie Ian Thorpe, champion in 1999, and USA’s Michael Phelps, gold medallist in 2004. Both legends took part in one edition and they left one golden mark respectively – both of them in the 200m free.
Olympic title-holder Tom Dean clocked the best time, so he is set to claim his first ever short-course world medal (had only one s/c European silver from Glasgow 2019, claimed in the 400m free). This would not only be his first medal, but also for Great Britain in this event.
Japan’s Katsuhiro Matsumoto may cause an upset, ranked second in the heats, he also seeks his first individual medal at the short-course Worlds. At the majors, he has a silver from Gwangju (200m) and was part of Japan’s runner-up 4x200m relay in Windsor 2016.
Maxime Grousset has gone for the real sprinting distances, the Frenchman finished runner-up in the 100m and got gold with the French 4x50m mixed free relay – now he may rise to the occasion in this event too.
Swimmers with a ‘richer’ history finished in the second half of the heats. One of them is Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys, who claimed medals in 200-400m free both in 2018 and in 2021 and already bagged his 400m bronze here, so a third straight podium in this event is a realistic target for him.
Don’t forget the reigning long-course World and European champion, David Popovic either. Though the Romanian teenage sensation seems to need more time to finetune himself for the short-course version, he may have something in his bag for this last swim of the year.
Last but not least there is the title-holder, Sunwoo Hwang, who just made the cut, by 0.1sec – now it’s a new race and the Korean can go for it (he won by 0.03sec in Abu Dhabi). Clinching back-to-back titles was a rarity in this event – Brazil’s Gustavo Borges achieved it in 1995-97 and the USA’s Ryan Lochte in 2010-12.
This World Record is one of the two on the men’s list which has been frozen since the end of the shiny suit era (the 800m free is the other). German phenomenon Paul Biedermann’s monstrous times hang like ‘long shadows’ both in the long-course and short-course record-seekers.
As a comparison: Thorpe, who was arguably the greatest 200m racer in the pre-shiny era, set a handful of WRs in both pools. His last long course World Record stood at 1:44.06, his last short course WR was 1:41.10. Phelps got inside 1:44, and in a textile suit he swam 1:43.86 here in Melbourne in 2007. Then came the supersuits: Biedermann clocked 1:42.00 in Rome, and he could go well under 1:40 while swimming 1:39.37 at the Berlin Swimming World Cup leg in 2009.
Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay
In case the previous trends prevail, this gold should go to Australia. Since the 4x50m version was inaugurated, the winner of the shorter medley event went on adding the 4x100m title too – and here in Melbourne, the Aussies hit the wall first in that event.
And if we take the trends at these championships, this also should be a world record swim – the Aussies won three relays among the women so far and all came with a new global mark.
Title defence became a frequent feature in this event. Sweden was the first one (2000-2002), followed by the Aussies (2004-2006), then came Denmark’s super-talented ladies (2012-14), and finally, the USA could also prove themselves (2016-18). Now it can be Sweden’s time, though without Sjostrom that might be challenging.
Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay
As for the men’s relays so far in Melbourne, Italy and Australia stand 4-4 in terms of medals, though the Italians’ collection is a bit shinier (2-1-1 v 1-2-1).
Unlike among the ladies, the winner of the shorter event was the same in 2014 (Brazil) and 2016 (Russia), but not in the last two editions.
Early on there were two three-peats; first by the Aussies (1995-97-99), then immediately by the Americans (2000-2002-2004). The USA had one more double (2010-12), but the last four titles went to four different champions (Brazil, Russia, USA, Italy).
The USA had a brilliant run in the past (something usual, as they had overwhelming dominance at the long-course Worlds and at the Olympics). They medalled on eight consecutive occasions, finishing either 1st or 2nd, then in Windsor 2016 a disqualification halted this series – which restarted in 2018, first with gold, then came another silver last year, so in the last eleven editions, the USA had 6 gold and 4 silvers.
On contrary, last year’s title was not only the first gold for Italy in this event but the very first medal they’ve ever won.
The relay World Records were falling in Melbourne like the rain – but to down this one would be the hit of the meet as here the 3:19.16 is still from the shiny suit era, set by the Russians over the very last day of that period, on 20 December at the Salnikov Cup (suits were banned from 1 January 2010). Let’s see if the Melbourne WR wave can hit this mark too.