2019 FINA World Championships Predictions: Ryan Murphy vs. Evgeny Rylov For Men’s 200 Back Crown

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Evgeny Rylov will be looking to repeat his 200 back gold from 2017 this year. Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

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USA’s Ryan Murphy and Russia’s Evgeny Rylov have been the two best 200 backstrokers in the world the last few years, with Murphy winning the 2016 Olympic crown and Rylov taking the 2017 World title. Both Murphy and Rylov lowered their best times last summer to win their respective regional meets, with Rylov taking the European gold and Murphy winning the Pan Pac title. Rylov swam a 1:53.36 in Glasgow to sit fifth all-time while Murphy’s 1:53.57 puts him seventh.

Rylov currently has the number one time in the world this year with a 1:54.00 from April. The 22-year-old seems to be gradually improving every year and is over a second ahead of second place Mitch Larkin of Australia in the world rankings. Rylov made a breakthrough at the 2015 Worlds when the then-18-year-old stole the bronze medal away from Murphy in front of the ecstatic Russian crowd. He followed that up in 2016 with a bronze at the Olympics and then won the gold at Worlds in 2017. He also got a win over Murphy in December at the Short Course World Championships in China.

It has been a while since someone has shown a serious challenge at taking down Aaron Peirsol’s world record from 2009. Murphy was under Peirsol’s pace through 100 meters last summer and was within four tenths at the 150 before falling off the last 50. The United States team was not as acclimated to the Japanese time zone as they probably could have been last summer so it could have had an impact on some of the performances at Pan Pacs. Murphy should be better prepared this year for the World Championships as his 1:55.77 season best came from the Stanford-Cal meet in June. Murphy’s best in-season swim is a 1:54.94 from before the 2016 Olympic Trials so he seems to be in good shape to get down to a 1:53 or faster.

The United States had won eight straight world titles in the men’s 200 back from 1998 to 2013 but the streak was halted when Larkin won in 2015. Murphy has yet to win a gold medal at the World Championships, and he will definitely want to start another streak for the US in this event.

Larkin is another medal favorite in this event. Although he hasn’t shown signs of going a 1:53 in four years, he is still a medal favorite. He was a 1:56 last summer at Pan Pacs and was 1:55.03 in June. He is looking a lot better this year than he has in years past so that could mean good things. But Larkin has the 200 IM, which is the day before the 200 back final. He will have the 200 back semifinal after the 200 IM final on Day 5. It shouldn’t be an issue, since Ryan Lochte had no issues with that double, but Larkin has never attempted the double at Worlds.

China’s Xu Jiayu is a wildcard. He was a 1:53.99 at Asian Games last summer, which put him eighth all-time. He looked like a sure bet for the gold in 2017 after the semifinals but ended up a disappointing fifth in the final. Xu has shown he is capable of a 1:53, it’s just a matter of putting it together in the final. He is probably better fit for the 100 back, but he will be a contender in the 200.

Japan’s Ryosuke Irie has made the final in this event at every major long course meet since 2008, but has never won a gold medal. He was the silver medalist in 2012 at the Olympics and also was the runner-up in 2009 and 2011 at Worlds. Irie is now 29 years old and is still competitive on the world level in both backstrokes. He sits second all-time with his 1:52.51 from 2009. He is probably a longshot to win the gold medal in 2019, but he definitely has a chance at a medal. He was a 1:55.79 in April and won silver at the Asian Games and Pan Pacs last year behind Xu and Murphy, respectively.

Another potential medalist is USA’s Jacob Pebley. He beat Murphy for the first time in five years at the FINA Champions Series in Indianapolis, which has to be a huge confidence boost moving forward. He was a 1:56.35 at that meet in Indianapolis, which puts him just outside the top eight in the world this year. He has been faster in-season in years prior, but he recently made the move from Berkeley to San Diego to swim for David Marsh at Team Elite. There are growing pains with any coaching change and Pebley could be just shaking those off as we inch closer to the World Championships.

Current Records:

World Record: 1:51.92, Aaron Peirsol, USA – 2009
Championships Record: 1:51.92, Aaron Peirsol, USA – 2009
American Record: 1:51.92, Aaron Peirsol – 2009

2017 World Champion: Evgeny Rylov, RUS – 1:53.61
2018 Virtual World Champion: Evgeny Rylov, RUS – 1:53.36 (Europeans)
2019 Fastest Times:

  1. 1:54.00, Evgeny Rylov, RUS
  2. 1:55.03, Mitch Larkin, AUS
  3. 1:55.24, Xu Jiayu, CHN
  4. 1:55.77, Ryan Murphy, USA
  5. 1:55.79, Ryosuke Irie, JPN
  6. 1:55.89, Luke Greenbank, GBR
  7. 1:56.06, Keita Sunama, JPN
  8. 1:56.26, Brodie Williams, GBR

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. Ryan Murphy
  2. Evgeny Rylov
  3. Mitch Larkin

Dan’s Picks:

  1. Ryan Murphy
  2. Evgeny Rylov
  3. Mitch Larkin

David’s Picks:

  1. Evgeny Rylov
  2. Ryan Murphy
  3. Mitch Larkin

Diana’s Picks:

  1. Ryan Murphy
  2. Evgeny Rylov
  3. Mitch Larkin

Taylor’s Picks:

  1. Evgeny Rylov
  2. Ryan Murphy
  3. Xu Jiayu

2019 FINA World Championships Predictions:

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