2019 FINA World Championships Predictions: The Wide Open Battle in the Men’s 200 Breaststroke

Russia's Anton Chupkov is looking to repeat his 200 breast gold from 2017 this year. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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The men’s 200 breaststroke looks to have a number of strong contenders, with Anton Chupkov leading the way. The Russian won the world title in 2017 and had the fastest time in the world last year. Chupkov currently sits second all-time behind world record holder Ippei Watanabe of Japan. In fact, four of the five fastest performers will be swimming the event in Gwangju. Along with Watanabe and Chupkov, Australia’s Matthew Wilson and USA’s Josh Prenot sit in the top five all-time in this event.

Chupkov seems to be the favorite because of how well he is able to kick it into another gear. He is able to stay long and strong throughout the first 100 and then shift his tempo to be much quicker on the final 50 without slipping. He is able to hold water better than any breaststroker in the world.

But Chupkov is only .02 seconds quicker than Watanabe, who holds the world record at 2:06.67. Watanabe was a 2:07.02 in April, just two days before Chupkov swam a 2:07.00. Watanabe broke the world record in January 2017 at a low key meet in Japan. He hasn’t been under 2:07 since, but he was still able to capture bronze at the 2017 Worlds as well as gold at the 2018 Pan Pacs. He had the second fastest time out of any of the major meets last year so he is definitely a gold medal contender. Japan has a rich history in the 200 breast, but hasn’t won a world title since Kosuke Kitajima prevailed in 2007.

USA’s Prenot is another medal favorite. He won the silver medal in the 2016 Olympic Games but did not make the Worlds team in 2017. Prenot was able to shake off that disappointment with a 2:07.28 last summer at US Nationals before falling off the podium at Pan Pacs. His 2:07.28 was the second fastest time of anyone last summer and he showed that he is still in great shape to get back on the podium at a major meet. His season best this year is only a 2:09.96, which is not far off his best in-season time of his career, which is a 2:09.30 from 2015. Prenot will have his hands full with this stacked field, but he is someone who should not be counted out.

Australia’s Wilson is another name to keep an eye on. He swam a 2:07 for the first time in his career in April. He missed the Australian Olympic team by not making the qualifying standard. In 2017, he made his Worlds debut with an eighth place finish in Budapest. A year later, he won the bronze in this event at the Commonwealth Games and at the Pan Pacs. He has been steadily rising the last few years after having a solid junior career, winning the silver medal behind Chupkov at the 2015 World Juniors. Australia has not won a medal in this event at Worlds since Christian Sprenger won bronze in 2009.

Great Britain showed some very strong performances at its national meet earlier this year with James Wilby and Ross Murdoch each posting 2:07s in April. Wilby had a big breakthrough in 2018 at the Commonwealth Games when he won the 200 breast, using a monster 1:05 on his second 100 to win the gold medal over Wilson and Murdoch. He proved that was not a fluke when he won the silver behind Adam Peaty in the 100 breast at Europeans later in the summer, moving up to fourth all-time in the event. Peaty is likely going to win the 100 breast at Worlds so it would definitely be special for British Swimming if it could sweep the breaststroke events in Gwangju (assuming Peaty wins the 50 as well).

Murdoch is another one to have a shot at a medal here. He had the fastest time in the world in 2014 but has struggled to return to that form. He didn’t make Great Britain’s team in the 200 at either the 2015 Worlds or 2016 Olympics, but he returned in 2017 with a fourth place finish. He was second at Commonwealth Games in 2018 and will have a chance to represent Great Britain at Worlds this year.

Germany’s Marco Koch is the sixth swimmer to go a 2:07 this year. He was a 2:07.96 at the Setti Colli in June and is looking as good as he did before the 2016 Olympics. Koch was the European Champion in 2014 and the world champion in 2015. He was one of the favorites to win gold in Rio but wound up in seventh place. Koch was 11th in Budapest and did not swim in Glasgow at Europeans last summer. He has put himself back in the running for a medal with a 2:07.

Another outside chance at a medal is American Andrew Wilson. He made his first USA team last year with Pan Pacs and he is one of the few – if not the only – Division III swimmer to make a major US team. Wilson swam at Emory University and is now one of the best breaststrokers in the United States. He has only been a 2:11.70 this year, but if he can get down to a 2:08 like he was last year and the year before, then he could have an outside shot at a medal.

Current Records:

World Record: 2:06.67, Ippei Watanabe, JPN – 2017
Championships Record: 2:06.96, Anton Chupkov, RUS – 2017
American Record: 2:07.17, Josh Prenot – 2016

2017 World Champion: Anton Chupkov, RUS – 2:06.96
2018 Virtual World Champion: Anton Chupkov, RUS – 2:06.80 (Europeans)
2019 Fastest Times:

  1. 2:07.00, Anton Chupkov, RUS
  2. 2:07.02, Ippei Watanabe, JPN
  3. 2:07.16, Matthew Wilson, AUS
  4. 2:07.49, James Wilby, GBR
  5. 2:07.96, Marco Koch, GER
  6. 2:07.96, Ross Murdoch, GBR
  7. 2:08.31, Qin Haiyang, CHN
  8. 2:08.38, Zac Stubblety-Cook, AUS

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. Anton Chupkov
  2. Ippei Watanabe
  3. James Wilby

Dan’s Picks:

  1. Anton Chupkov
  2. Ippei Watanabe
  3. Matthew Wilson

David’s Picks:

  1. Anton Chupkov
  2. Ippei Watanabe
  3. Matthew Wilson

Diana’s Picks:

  1. Anton Chupkov
  2. Ippei Watanabe
  3. Matthew Wilson

Taylor’s Picks:

  1. Anton Chupkov
  2. Ippei Watanabe
  3. Josh Prenot

2019 FINA World Championships Predictions:

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  1. Mattias Löwe

    Given so many doping violations from Russian athletes, can we assume that Russian athletes who are competing are clean, or just haven’t been caught.

    • avatar
      Doping Truth

      The problem here is mainstream media is only covering doping by Russians. If you want the truth I suggest you google USOC doping cover up.

    • avatar

      There are also Russian athletes who train & live for most of the time in the US etc. And only occasionally travel back to Russia. Good to make a distinction there, since these are the ones, I guess… are caught up in the crossfire.