2019 FINA World Championships Predictions: Ryan Murphy vs. Xu Jiayu; Battle Between Two Fastest 100 Backstrokers Ever

Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

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It is hard to believe world record holder Ryan Murphy has yet to win a World Championship gold medal individually. Murphy made his Worlds debut in 2015 at 20 years old when he placed fifth in the 200 back. In 2017, just one year after sweeping the backstroke gold medals and breaking the 100 back world record, he was second in the 200 and third in the 100 in Budapest.

Murphy, like fellow American Kathleen Baker, is searching for his first individual gold medal at the World Championships and he will look to take down reigning world champion Xu Jiayu of China in the process. Xu got the upper hand over Murphy in Budapest two years ago, and again has the number one time in the world in 2019. Xu sits second all-time behind Murphy with his 51.86 from Chinese Nationals in April and also had the second fastest time out of the four international meets last summer.

Australia’s Mitch Larkin has enjoyed a resurgence this year after he finished sixth in the 2017 Worlds in this event. Larkin was the 2015 world champion in the 100 and 200 back and was the favorite to end the Americans’ Olympic gold medal streak in 2016, but ultimately fell short, placing second in the 200 back and fourth in the 100. Larkin’s 52.38 that he had in June was his fastest 100 back since 2015 when he won Swimming World’s Pacific Rim Swimmer of the Year award.

The Russian duo of Evgeny Rylov and Kliment Kolesnikov should also not be counted out. Rylov currently sits third in the world with a 52.81 while Kolesnikov sits fifth at 53.03. Rylov is the reigning world champion in the 200 back and will definitely be a player there, but could also factor into the medals in the 100. Rylov was beat by Kolesnikov at Europeans last summer after the former went out too slow and didn’t have enough to catch the 2018 Youth Olympic Games gold medalist.

Murphy, Xu, Larkin and Kolesnikov all raced each other in the 100 back final at the World Short Course Championships in December, where Murphy took down Xu for the gold medal in front of the Chinese crowd. USA’s Matt Grevers is also a dark horse to win a medal. The 34-year-old Olympic Champion has won a medal in the 100 back at every Worlds since 2013. He won gold in 2013, bronze in 2015 and silver in 2017, so he is looking to win his fourth straight medal. Japan’s Ryosuke Irie will be more dangerous in the 200 back, but has made five straight finals in the 100 back at Worlds, dating to 2009 when he finished fourth.

Other swimmers to watch could be the Italian duo of Simone Sabbioni and Thomas Ceccon. Ceccon recently won the gold at the European Juniors with a 54.13 and has been a 53.60 this year. Ceccon might not be a medal contender yet, but could be in a few years.

Current Records:

World Record: 51.85, Ryan Murphy, USA – 2016
Championships Record: 52.19, Aaron Peirsol, USA – 2009
American Record: 51.85, Ryan Murphy – 2016

2017 World Champion: Xu Jiayu, CHN – 52.44
2018 Virtual World Champion: Ryan Murphy, USA – 51.94 (Pan Pacs)
2019 Fastest Times:

  1. 52.27, Xu Jiayu, CHN
  2. 52.38, Mitch Larkin, AUS
  3. 52.81, Evgeny Rylov, RUS
  4. 52.99, Ryan Murphy, USA
  5. 53.03, Kliment Kolesnikov, RUS
  6. 53.09, Matt Grevers, USA
  7. 53.25, Ryosuke Irie, JPN
  8. 53.35, Markus Thormeyer, CAN

*Grigory Tarasevich was a 53.29 in April but will not be swimming the 100 back at World Championships.

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

Andy’s Picks:

  1. Ryan Murphy
  2. Mitch Larkin
  3. Xu Jiayu

Dan’s Picks:

  1. Ryan Murphy
  2. Mitch Larkin
  3. Xu Jiayu

David’s Picks:

  1. Ryan Murphy
  2. Xu Jiayu
  3. Mitch Larkin

Diana’s Picks:

  1. Xu Jiayu
  2. Ryan Murphy
  3. Mitch Larkin

Taylor’s Picks:

  1. Ryan Muprhy
  2. Xu Jiayu
  3. Mitch Larkin

2019 FINA World Championships Predictions:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:

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