Could Daniel Gyurta, Yuliya Efimova Make Breaststroke History At Worlds?

gyurta-efimova

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Pre-coverage of the World Championships is sponsored by Wylas Timing. Each week leading up to the start of the swimming competition at the FINA world championships, Swimming World will offer medal predictions for the 42 events set to be contested in Kazan, Russia.

Commentary by Jeff Commings, Swimming World Senior Writer

No man or woman has ever won all three breaststroke events at the world championships in one year, but Yuliya Efimova is primed to get the home crowd cheering with the chance to take a gold medal sweep in Kazan next month.

On the men’s side, history could also be made if Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta can win the 200 breast and join Grant Hackett as the only four-time consecutive winners in individual events. Like Efimova, Gyurta will have a lot of competition on his march toward history.

Wylas Timing

Photo Courtesy: Wylas Timing

Men’s breaststroke at the world championships

50 breaststroke

The 50 breaststroke is a source of pride for non-Americans, as they swim the race often. That gives them the advantage over the Americans, who will put Kevin Cordes and Brendan McHugh in the event.

The man at the top of the list in the event is Great Britain’s Adam Peaty, who set the world record of 26.62 at last year’s European championships and is the prohibitive favorite. But in a race that is over in a flash, the gold medal could still be decided by mere tenths of a second.

Look for reigning world champion and former world record holder Cameron Van der Burgh of South Africa to be a big factor in the race. He ranks second in the world right now behind Peaty with a 27.01, and will definitely be in the 26-second range next month. Van der Burgh has the pure strength to blast his way down the pool, but it might not be enough to overcome Peaty’s speed.

The bronze medalist is tough to predict. Giulio Zorzi was third in 2013, but he did not make the South African team this year. Brazil has a powerful duo of Felipe Silva (the 2011 world champion) and Felipe Lima, both of whom could find themselves in the final. Of the two, Silva has the experience, and could find himself back on the medal podium in Russia.

If the Americans are to be in the hunt, they will need to break 27 seconds. McHugh set the U.S. Open record of 27.10 at nationals last summer, while Cordes’ best time is 27.33. It took a 27.44 to make the world championship final in 2013, so the Americans looks safe on paper to get at least into the top eight.

Men’s 50 breast medal predictions

Gold: Adam Peaty
Silver: Cameron Van der Burgh
Bronze: Felipe Silva

Adam Peaty

Photo Courtesy: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com

100 breast

No one can beat Adam Peaty in the 100 breast final, barring a catastrophic event. His barrier-busting 57.92 world record from last April is so much faster than anyone else can imagine swimming at the moment, so he’s safe for gold if can at least get within a few tenths of that time.

Though Cameron Van der Burgh (again, the former world record holder) is going to be tough, he might have a dogfight for silver. Japan’s Yasuhiro Koseki is improving each year, from 1:00.00 in 2013 to 59.62 last year. His 59.73 from the Japanese nationals is just prelude to what he can uncork in Russia. He’ll have to be in the 59-low range to be in the medal hunt, or become the second Japanese man under 59 seconds. Ross Murdoch, who swam a lifetime best of 59.13 behind Peaty’s world record, will have to replicate that swim if he wants to join Peaty on the medal stand.

As for the Americans, Cody Miller and Nic Fink will first need to get themselves into the final, then have the swims of their lives to put themselves in the medal mix. Miller’s 59.51 from Santa Clara currently sits third in the world, but don’t expect that standing to last once the race begins. Miller’s improvement in less than a year has been stellar, and he has the potential to drop a few more tenths, but only if the pressure of swimming in his first world championship final does not affect him. Fink was a part of the 2013 final but faltered and finished eighth.

Felipe Lima was a surprise bronze medalist in the 100 breast at the 2013 worlds, and he could be in the mix again if he can get through a talented field into the final. Teammate Felipe Silva is also a contender.

Men’s 100 breast medal predictions

Gold: Adam Peaty
Silver: Cameron Van der Burgh
Bronze: Ross Murdoch

Cameron van der Burgh Doha 2014

Photo Courtesy: FINA Doha 2014

200 breast

As mentioned above, Daniel Gyurta is going for world championship history and the chance to win four consecutive 200 breast titles. He won in 2009 in world record time, then repeated that in 2011 and 2013. If Gyurta, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist, hadn’t skipped out on the 2005 worlds, he might already have that distinction and would be chasing a record-breaking fifth title.

Adam Peaty of Great Britain will have the speed in the opening half, and Germany’s Marco Koch will have the consistency throughout the race, but no one can match Gyurta’s second half. Since winning that Olympic medal in 2004, he’s been famous for his back-half speed that makes any attempts to catch him in the final stretch nearly impossible.

Yasuhiro Koseki is the most likely challenger. He’s the only swimmer who has been under 2:08 this year (2:07.77), but he’ll have to get over the Japanese team’s issues of not swimming as fast or faster in the top meet of the year. If Koseki can improve on that time, he’ll be neck and neck with Gyurta. Koch, the silver medalist from 2013, has the potential to get under 2:08 as well. Peaty has the same capability, but could be the only one of the 200 breast medal contenders to race in all three rounds of all three breaststroke events. The 200 breast is the last men’s breaststroke event on the program, so we’ll see if fatigue keeps Peaty out of the 200 breast medal hunt.

Kevin Cordes has the ability to get the United States back on the medal podium. Training in Singapore, as well as the sting of missing the final in 2013, could give him a boost and finally put him in contention for the 2:07-low swim we’ve been waiting for since 2013. The U.S. could get two Americans in the final, and Nic Fink will also need to drop some time to get into the top five.

Can anyone break Akihiro Yamaguchi’s world record of 2:07.01? It would take an astounding final 50 meters to do it. Gyurta had the world record of 2:07.28 from his gold medal swim at the 2012 Olympics, and was 2:07.23 on the way to gold in 2013.

Men’s 200 breast medal predictions

Gold: Daniel Gyurta
Silver: Yasuhiro Koseki
Bronze: Marco Koch

Daniel Gyurta Doha 2014

Photo Courtesy: FINA Doha 2014

Women’s breaststroke at the world championships

50 breaststroke

Alia Atkinson of Jamaica didn’t earn a spot in the 50 breast final at the 2013 world championships, but expect her to not only be in the top eight next month, but be in the medal chase. Her pure speed is needed to get past world record holder Ruta Meilutyte of Lithuania, and the two could be reaching for the wall at nearly the same time in the final. Meilutyte is the only woman to have broken 30 seconds so far this year, which likely bodes well for her confidence.

The American entrants in this event, Jessica Hardy and Micah Lawrence, could be in the mix as well. Hardy is the former world record holder and 2011 world champion, so she knows what it takes to win this event. Lawrence is known mostly for her 200 breaststroke, and a race that last 30 seconds might be extremely short for her. Though Lawrence deserves the privilege of swimming the 50 breast in Russia, the American coaches might have done well to suggest to Lawrence that she skip the 50 and give her spot to speedster Breeja Larson. Hardy and Larson were under 30 seconds in the 2013 world final, finishing third and fourth, respectively. For any American to find themselves on the medal stand, they will have to be in the 29.6 range.

And then there’s reigning world champion Yulia Efimova. Spurred on by the home crowd, she could find herself successfully defending her title. The 50 final breaststroke event on the schedule, with the final on the eighth and final day. She’s the only one of the major contenders in the 50 breast who will find herself in the championship final of all three distances, but finishing up with a 50 breast is not likely to affect her speed. If she goes into the 50 breast final having won the 100 and 200 breaststrokes, she’ll be chasing the historic achievement of being the first man or woman to win all three breaststroke races at one world championships.

Sweden’s Jennie Johanssen and Great Britain’s Sophie Taylor could be in the final eight, but are not likely to break 30 seconds.

Women’s 50 breast medal predictions

Gold: Ruta Meilutyte
Silver: Yulia Efimova
Bronze: Alia Atkinson

Ruta Meilutyte

Photo Courtesy: Gian Mattia Dalberto/Lapresse

100 breaststroke

Though Yuliya Efimova has the perfect mix of speed and endurance, it will be tough for her to get past world record holder Ruta Meilutyte in the 100 breast. Sure, the Russian crowd will help Efimova through the entire race, but Meilutyte looks unstoppable. She has not, however, been under 1:05 since winning the 2013 world championship title, so that could give Efimova a little bit of confidence. If Meilutyte can’t replicate her 2013 strategy and keep Efimova at bay, the Russia will find herself with the 100 breast gold medal.

Could Jessica Hardy once again find herself on the medal podium? She was third in 2013 behind Trojan Swim club teammate Efimova, and she has been swimming well in the 100. The key to Hardy staying with Meilutyte and Efimova is staying controlled in the first 50 and not spinning her wheels on the final 15 meters. The medalists will all be under 1:06, and Hardy has the chops to do that. So does American teammate Micah Lawrence, who will swim the 100 breast for the first time at a world championships.

Alia Atkinson’s history-making win in the 100 breast last December at the short course world championships should carry the Jamaican not only to the long course final, but a shot at a medal. Atkinson’s best time is 1:06.79, which she swam earlier this year, but that won’t be enough to get in the top three in Russia. She’ll need to be at least a full second faster than that, and will need to rely on her speed to stay with the leaders through 50 meters.

No one else in the world is likely to break 1:06. Japan’s Kanako Watanabe and Denmark’s Rikke Pedersen will be in the top eight, but will need a major slip-up from the aforementioned swimmers to find themselves on the podium.

Women’s 100 breast medal predictions

Gold: Yuliya Efimova
Silver: Ruta Meilutyte
Bronze: Jessica Hardy

jessica-hardy-posed-santa-clara-2015 (1)

Photo Courtesy: JD Lasica

200 breaststroke

Yuliya Efimova, the reigning world champion, and Rikke Pedersen, the current world record holder, will have some company in the race for gold. Japan’s Kanako Watanabe is knocking on the door of a sub-2:20 swim and could become the fourth woman to do so. She’ll need to get under the barrier if she wants to give Japan what is likely to be its best shot at a women’s gold medal. So far, she’s been 2:20.90 this year, and if she’s in the race, she could provide a big upset.

Because Pedersen hasn’t yet posted a swim under 2:20 this year, it gives hope to Watanabe. Efimova’s 2:22.12 from earlier this year doesn’t seem fast, but was likely all Efimova needed to do to earn qualification for the world championships. Look for her to use her patented burst of speed in the final 50 to run down the leaders, if she hadn’t already done it by the 150-meter mark.

Japan’e Rie Kaneto has had the potential for a 200 breast world medal for a few years, but never capitalized on it. If Watanabe is swimming well, perhaps it’ll spur Kaneto to a big race in the final as well.

Micah Lawrence won the bronze medal in the event at the 2013 worlds, and is also on the cusp of a sub-2:20 swim. Will it happen this summer? Lawrence tends to hold back too much in the opening 100, which could put her out of gold medal contention. The fact that she is swimming the 100 breast in Russia means her speed is improving, and that can help her hold a faster pace in the opening 100 and set herself up to use her talents in the second 100 meters to break that barrier. Teammate Breeja Larson is still learning the perfect strategy for a long course 200 breast, and if she can put together a solid semifinal swim, she could be participating in all three breaststroke finals.

Women’s 200 breast medal predictions

Gold: Yuliya Efimova
Silver: Kaneko Watanabe
Bronze: Rikke Pedersen

Jun 21, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Yulia Efimova (RUS) won the Women's 50M Breaststroke Final in a time of 30.37 during the Championship Finals of day four at the George F. Haines International Swim Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Robert Stanton/USA Today Sports Images

Previous world championships medal predictions
Medley relays
Individual medley
Distance freestyle
Freestyle relays
Backstroke

10 comments

  1. avatar
    Sad for Swimming

    The fact that Efimova is even allowed to be swimming is a disgrace to the sport. Cheaters should be banned. for. life.

    • avatar
      Joe Borrero

      Jessica Hardy was allowed too.

  2. avatar

    Jeff,

    Gyurta, does not have the best back end splits in the world. So he can be beaten from behind!

    • avatar
      Jeff Commings

      Outside of Michael Jamieson at the 2012 Olympics, I have not seen anyone close the gap dramatically on Gyurta at the end of a 200 breast. The reason he has been unbeatable at three world championships is that second 100.

      • avatar

        Dg 33.12 London

        Mj 32.65 London

        Rm 31.99 glasgow

        The best i can find is 31.99. Theoretical you could turn 1.7 metre behind Daniel and beat him!

      • avatar
        aswimfan

        Ross Murdoch is not swimming 200 breast, and Jamieson is not even in Kazan, so Gyurta may very well still have the best back end in Kazan final.

  3. avatar
    Dunc1952

    Since she formally qualified for the team in only the 200 breast, it will take something even better than a solid semifinal swim for Breeja to be in all three Breaststroke finals, per the comment in the piece. Did you possibly mean Micah, who qualified for the US team in all three events? I’d like to see what Breeja could do in the 50 and 100 when rested, but it is unlikely to be in the actual events in Kazan. Your idea about Micah backing out of the 50 would make some sense, however, as it would split the workload between the three American breaststrokers at 2 events each and would allow Micah to concentrate on the 100/200, her two best events. In a truly bizzare and quirky twist in the selection process Micah earned the second 50 breast slot behind Jessica based on her 100 breast placement ahead of Breeja, who was 2nd in the 50, ahead of 3rd place Micah in the actual race. It makes sense from the standpoint of not selecting a spot specifically for second in the stroke 50s, but when she was already on the team, and not added to the roster by the 50 breast swim, Breeja should be swimming the 50. Micah’s best time in the 50 is :31.00; Breeja’s is :29.95 in Barcelona and has been under Micah’s best time of :31.00 over 10 times. If they are going to allow an athlete to swim who was not the first priority selection (i.e. only the fastest of the 50s qualify), they should be chosen by fastest time/or in direct competition done in a qualifying competition by an athlete otherwise already making the team, not just assigned to the athlete who made the team in the shorter of the other events in that stroke (i.e. 100 as opposed to the 200.) Obviously in most instances the fastest 100 swimmer, aside from the 50 winner, will be likely the best US representative for the 2nd slot in the 50. Just as obviously, based on objective viewing of life performances, that isn’t the case in this event. Breeja would have a chance to medal, and, though unlikely, Micah could do her life best and not even make it to the semis. (17 currently under :31.00 on FINA list for 2015).

    Kazan Team female breaststrokers textile personal bests (* currently assigned to event)
    50 :29.80 Jessica Hardy*
    :29.95 Breeja Larson
    :31.00 Micah Lawrence*

    100 1:05.18 Jessica Hardy *
    1:05.92 Breeja Larson
    1:06.51 Micah Lawrence*

    200 2:34.27 Jessica Hardy
    2:23.44 Breeja Larson*
    2:21.74 Micah Lawrence*

  4. avatar
    Caio

    Felipe Silva won the Pan Am Games last week with 59’21, so he’s a contender for silver or bronze.

    • avatar
      Jeff Commings

      We’ll see if Silva can repeat that on a second taper, and against tougher competition in a much more intense meet.