2019 FINA World Championships Predictions: Is Cesar Cielo’s World Record Under Threat in 50 Free?

Caeleb Dressel is aiming for a second straight 50 free gold medal. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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The battle for the world’s fastest man will unfold on day seven of the World Championships. Reigning world champion Caeleb Dressel of the United States is a favorite to repeat his gold medal from 2017 as he sits third in the world at 21.51. Dressel hasn’t been known to be a great in-season swimmer but swam his third-fastest time ever with that 21.51 at the Swim Meet of Champions in June. Before this year, his best in-season 50 free was a 22.06 from 2016 and that 21.5 was also faster than anything he swam in 2018.

Dressel had been hurt last summer and almost missed qualifying for the Pan Pacs and Worlds team altogether, but got himself on the team in his three best events – 50 free, 100 free, 100 fly. Dressel has put 2018 behind him and is looking better than ever this year so he is a popular pick to win the 50 free. He will have his hands full with a tough field, including Great Britain’s Ben Proud.

Proud won the bronze medal in the 50 free behind Dressel in 2017. He can match Dressel’s speed and has one of the best starts of anyone in the world. Proud swam a 21.11 last summer at the European Championships and showed serious signs of swimming under 21 seconds. Only two men in history have ever broken 21 seconds in this event with Cesar Cielo (20.91) and Fred Bousquet (20.94) doing so in 2009, the assistance of super suits playing a major role. Proud is the fastest man in textile as his 21.11 ranks him ahead of Dressel’s 21.15 from 2017. Those two have only raced once since Budapest, with Proud drawing a DQ at the Short Course World Championships in December. Could they push each other to a world record? Could someone else join the sub-21 club?

Brazil’s Bruno Fratus actually has the fastest time in the world this year. He was a 21.31 at the Mare Nostrum in Monaco and is one of the most consistent performers in this event. Fratus was the silver medalist in Budapest two years ago and sits 11th all-time. He sat out Pan Pacs last year to undergo shoulder surgery and he has come back better than ever in 2019. His 21.31 from June is not far off his best time of 21.27 and he is looking like a potential spoiler to win the gold medal over Dressel or Proud.

Russia’s Vladimir Morozov has been a consistent performer on the international circuit the last few years but has only one individual medal at the world level – a silver from the 50 free in 2013. He is sixth in the world this year with a 21.55, but he already took down Dressel and company at the World Short Course Championships in December, just missing the world record. Morozov has never seemed to be able to put together a good swim in the final of the World Championships (LCM). He was fourth in Budapest and could find himself on the podium in Gwangju.

Greece’s Kristian Gkolomeev could be the spoiler in Gwangju. He finished behind Proud at the European Championships last summer as he swam a 21.44 in the final to Proud’s 21.34. Gkolomeev was a quick 21.54 at the Mare Nostrum in June and has the pedigree to be competitive in this event. He was the 2014 NCAA Champion in this event for Alabama and also placed seventh in Budapest two years ago. Gkolomeev seems to have gotten better with age and those improvements could see him on the podium in Gwangju.

USA’s Michael Andrew, arguably one of the best age group swimmers ever, will be making his Worlds debut this summer. He had a major breakthrough last summer when he won the gold medal at Pan Pacs in the 50 free. That meet gave him some valuable senior experience racing some of the best in the world at the long course level. Andrew’s season best this year is a 21.83, which is slower than his 21.69 in-season time from last summer. But Andrew has been having a good year. He and his family moved to California recently and he has been improving in other events. Andrew will need to put together a near-perfect swim though to get a medal.

The 50 free at the 2019 Worlds will not see the return of France’s Florent Manaudou to the world stage, but he is certainly of note. Manaudou was the world champion in 2015 and the Olympic champion in 2012. Manaudou left swimming after winning the Olympic silver medal in 2016 behind Anthony Ervin, but has since returned and is in great form. He was a 21.72 at the Sette Colli in Rome. Even with minimal training, that is not far off his in-season best of 21.55 from 2013. He has been training at Energy Standard alongside Proud and other great sprinters.

Current Records:

World Record: 20.91, Cesar Cielo, BRA – 2009
Championships Record: 20.91, Cesar Cielo, BRA – 2009
American Record: 21.15, Caeleb Dressel – 2017

2017 World Champion: Caeleb Dressel, USA – 21.15
2018 Virtual World Champion: Ben Proud, GBR – 21.34 (Europeans)
2019 Fastest Times:

  1. 21.31, Bruno Fratus, BRA
  2. 21.48, Ben Proud, GBR
  3. 21.51, Caeleb Dressel, USA
  4. 21.53, Andrea Vergani, ITA
  5. 21.54, Kristian Gkolomeev, GRE
  6. 21.55, Vladimir Morozov, RUS
  7. 21.67, Shinri Shioura, JPN
  8. 21.71, Pawel Juraszek, POL

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

Andy’s Picks:

  1. Ben Proud
  2. Caeleb Dressel
  3. Bruno Fratus

Dan’s Picks:

  1. Caeleb Dressel
  2. Ben Proud
  3. Bruno Fratus

David’s Picks:

  1. Caeleb Dressel
  2. Ben Proud
  3. Bruno Fratus

Diana’s Picks:

  1. Ben Proud
  2. Caeleb Dressel
  3. Bruno Fratus

Taylor’s Picks:

  1. Caeleb Dressel
  2. Ben Proud
  3. Bruno Fratus

2019 FINA World Championships Predictions:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

Day 4:

Day 5:

Day 6:

Day 7:


  1. Eney Jones

    Go Gators! Florida Gators Swimming & Diving

    • Paul Noble

      no way Dressel for the win

    • James Hooper

      Ben Proud 21.06 for gold, Dressel with a 21.11 and Fratus with a 21.22.

    • Dave Hoover

      I agree, Fratus no way. I think he’ll be lucky just to medal. I don’t know if Dressel will get the record or the win but I think both him and Proud will be under 21.00. Whoever has the better reaction time will get the win…

  2. Josef Bittman

    Caeleb will go 20.7. Look how much time he dropped in the 50 yard free since 2017. He went 18.23 in 2017 and 17.63 in 2018. He’s older and stronger now too.