2019 FINA World Championships Predictions: Gabriele Detti Returns From Injury to Defend in 800 Free

gabriele-detti-ita-2017-world-champs
Gabriele Detti is going for his 2nd straight Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

Editorial content for the 2019 World Championships coverage is sponsored by FORM Swim Goggles. See full event coverage. Follow FORM on Instagram at @FORMSwim #swimwithform FORM Swim-Logo

Italy’s Gabriele Detti is the reigning world champion in the 800 free and is going for his second straight gold. Detti sat out the 2018 European Championships to nurse a shoulder injury but has picked up right where he left off in 2019. The Italian has the third fastest time in the world this year with a 7:43.83. He has some work to do to get back to his 2017 form where he was a 7:40, but he has shown that the shoulder injury will not deter him. Detti is only swimming the 400 and 800 (no 1500) so he will be able to put all his eggs into this basket on day four.

Ukraine’s Mykhailo Romanchuk won the European title last summer in Detti’s absence with a 7:42.96 and he has been quicker than that already this year. Romanchuk burst on to the scene in 2017 when he made his first final at the world level, winning the silver medal in the 1500. He won two golds and a silver at Europeans last summer. The Europeans have the six fastest times in the world this year and the winner of the gold is likely to come from that continent. Romanchuk seems best fit for the 800 free, but will have his hands full with Detti and Germany’s Florian Wellbrock.

Wellbrock gets better the longer the events go so he will be a bigger favorite at the end of the week in the 1500. He was the bronze medalist in the 800 at Europeans last summer behind Romanchuk and Italy’s Gregorio Paltrinieri, who also gets better as the races get longer. Wellbrock is currently ranked second in the world with a 7:43.03. He also burst on to the scene last year at Europeans when he scored a gold in the 1500 over Romanchuk and Paltrinieri, moving up to fourth all-time in the event. The 21-year-old was seventh in Budapest in the 800 so he has a taste of what it is like to swim on that stage.

One cannot talk about men’s distance freestyle without bringing up Paltrinieri, who has won the last two World titles in the 1500 and is the reigning Olympic Champion as well. The 800 might be a little short for Paltrinieri, who won the bronze in 2017 and silver in 2015. Paltrinieri does not have the last 100 that Detti and Romanchuk possess, so if he is caught in a race at the finish then it might not go his way. Paltrinieri currently sits fifth in the world rankings with a 7:45. He will be a bigger medal favorite in the 1500 at the end of the meet, but should not be counted out in the 800.

Norway’s Henrik Christiansen is also a medal contender in this event as he sits 16th all-time. Christiansen has yet to win a medal at the world level; he was fifth in Kazan in this event and was fourth in Budapest. Christiansen, now 22, is reaching his prime in this event and will have to really fight to win a medal.

Another swimmer who has emerged the last few years is Australia’s Jack McLoughlin. The Australians have a long history in the distance freestyle events with the likes of Kieren Perkins and Grant Hackett winning multiple world titles. But recently the Aussies have struggled to return to the top of the podium. Mack Horton was the gold medalist in the 400 in Rio but has indicated he will be focusing more on the 200 and 400 over the 800 and 1500. McLoughlin seems to be the answer to the call for the Aussies, who have not won a gold in a distance event since Hackett won the 800 and 1500 in 2005. McLoughlin currently sits seventh in the world rankings in the 800, but had a stellar 2018, winning a gold and a silver at the Commonwealth Games. He also won three medals at Pan Pacs after a long summer of competing.

The Americans have never won a gold medal in this event at the World Championships and they might be able to change that this year. Zane Grothe had the second fastest time in the world last year with his 7:43 from Pan Pacs. Grothe was a 7:53 in May, but is certainly capable of a big drop on a full rest. The other American is Jordan Wilimovsky, who was a 7:55 in March. If both Grothe and Wilimovsky are on, then they are medal possibilities.

The wildcard in the 800 free is Sun Yang, who won the 2011, 2013 and 2015 world titles. Sun is now 27 and is losing his touch in this event, fading to fifth at the 2017 Worlds. Sun was a 7:48 in March and if he decides to swim it in Gwangju, then he shouldn’t be counted out.

Current Records:

World Record: 7:32.12, Zhang Lin, CHN – 2009
Championships Record: 7:32.12, Zhang Lin, CHN – 2009
American Record: 7:43.60, Michael McBroom – 2013

2017 World Champion: Gabriele Detti, ITA, 7:40.77
2018 Virtual World Champion: Mykhailo Romanchuk, UKR, 7:42.96 (Europeans)
2019 Fastest Times:

  1. 7:42.49, Mykhailo Romanchuk, UKR
  2. 7:43.03, Florian Wellbrock, GER
  3. 7:43.83, Gabriele Detti, ITA
  4. 7:45.11, Henrik Christiansen, NOR
  5. 7:45.35, Gregorio Paltrinieri, ITA
  6. 7:46.30, David Aubry, FRA
  7. 7:46.79, Jack McLoughlin, AUS
  8. 7:48.03,  Sun Yang, CHN

*Domenico Acerenza was a 7:47.20 in April but will not swim this event at Worlds.

Swimming World’s team of Andy RossDan D’AddonaDavid RiederDiana Pimer and Taylor Covington will be selecting their picks for the medalists in each event at the World Championships. Read below who everybody picked.

Andy’s Picks:

  1. Gabriele Detti
  2. Mykhailo Romanchuk
  3. Zane Grothe

Dan’s Picks:

  1. Gabriele Detti
  2. Mykhailo Romanchuk
  3. Gregorio Paltrinieri

David’s Picks:

  1. Gabriele Detti
  2. Mykhailo Romanchuk
  3. Florian Wellbrock

Diana’s Picks:

  1. Gabriele Detti
  2. Gregorio Paltrinieri
  3. Mykhailo Romanchuk

Taylor’s Picks:

  1. Gabriele Detti
  2. Mykhailo Romanchuk
  3. Gregorio Paltrinieri

2019 FINA World Championships Predictions:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3: