Could Japan and Hungary Sweep IM Events At World Championships?

Katinka Hosszu
Photo Courtesy: Pamela Roberts

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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

A lot of history is at stake in the four individual medley races at the world championships. Depending on who gets onto the medal podium in Kazan this August, we could be witnessing a seismic shift in the IM landscape. The United States once ruled the roost in the men’s IM, and that is in danger of ending. Katinka Hosszu could firmly establish herself as the queen of the individual medley leading into the Rio Olympics, though the competition for gold will be much tougher than it was when she won both IMs at the 2013 world championships.

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Women’s IM at the 2015 world championships

200 IM

Hosszu is primed to join the rarified air that is the 2:06 club when she steps up for the 200 IM in Russia. In a textile suit, the Hungarian Iron Lady has been as fast as 2:07.92, and dropping another nine tenths to become just the second woman under 2:07 seems like a task that only Hosszu can achieve this year. With the competition hot on her heels this year, the motivation might be there to get under the barrier and get close to American Ariana Kukors’ seemingly unattainable 2:06.15 world record.

Hosszu won’t be the only swimmer under 2:08. Great Britain’s Siobhan-Marie O’Connor had a breakout swim in 2014 to win the Commonwealth Games gold with a 2:08.21. Though she’s only posted a 2:09.51 so far this year, O’Connor will be Hosszu’s toughest challenger through all four strokes.

We should never count out China’s Ye Shiwen. Though she hasn’t been up to her Olympic gold medal performances from 2012, Ye is likely to make the final at worlds and show that she will be a factor as well at the Olympics. Ye was a breakout star in the 2011 world championships, winning the gold medal. She followed that with a sweep of the IMs at the 2012 Olympics, setting the world record in the 400 IM and leading from the start to win the 200 IM as a 16-year-old.

The bronze medalist will need to be under 2:10, and Spain’s Mireia Belmonte has the capacity to do that. She was 2:09.45 at the 2013 worlds to secure bronze, though she didn’t perform well last year at the European championships. Belmonte is also strong in all four strokes, but lacks the speed she needs to stay with Hosszu and O’Connor. Maya DiRado of the United States went under 2:10 to win gold at Pan Pacs, and will definitely need to replicate that back half she showed in Australia.

Women’s 200 IM medal predictions

Gold: Katinka Hosszu
Silver: Siobhan-Marie O’Connor
Bronze: Ye Shiwen

katinka-hosszu-santa-clara-2015 (4)

Photo Courtesy: JD Lasica

400 IM

No one can touch Hosszu in the 400 IM. The clock will be her only foe as she looks to break the 4:30 barrier. She famously was under world record pace at the 2013 world championships, unable to match Ye Shiwen’s freestyle split. Hosszu has been improving in all strokes since then, especially her backstroke, so look for her to be so far under world record pace by the end of the breaststroke leg that Ye’s sub-1:00 freestyle split won’t catch Hosszu. The world record is 4:28.43, and even if Hosszu falters on freestyle, it would be great to see her become the second woman under 4:30 in a textile suit.

Another issue facing Hosszu’s chase for the 400 IM world record is the world championship schedule. The 400 IM falls on the last day of the eight-day meet, and Hosszu is going after multiple medals. She will have raced at least 12 times before the 400 IM prelims, and that will have an effect on even the world’s toughest racer. If she can pull off the IM double, she’ll join Katie Hoff of the USA (2005/2007) as the only two women to win both IMs at successive long course world championships.

American Elizabeth Beisel has raced the 400 IM just a handful of times this year, including a 4:36.71 in January. She’s been on every medal podium in the event since the 2010 Pan Pacific championships, and it won’t be as easy this year to keep that streak going. She’s been eyeing a sub-4:31 for four years, and if she wants to get on the podium, that might have to happen in 2015.

The British duo of Hannah Miley and Aimee Willmott are looking good this year, and they could each put together a race that will give Great Britain two ladies on the podium. Last year’s race between Miley and Willmott at the Commonwealth Games was one of the highlights of the year, and the two will have to replicate those swims in Russia to earn medals.

Belmonte earned a silver medal at the 2013 worlds between Hosszu and Beisel. She hasn’t shown us much in this event since then, and her 4:33.13 from last year’s European championships won’t be enough to earn another medal spot. Belmonte has the best endurance of any of the medal contenders, thanks to her distance freestyle background. She’ll need to rely more on the other three strokes if she is stay in the medal hunt.

Women’s 400 IM medal predictions

Gold: Katinka Hosszu
Silver: Hannah Miley
Bronze: Elizabeth Beisel

Hannah Miley

Photo Courtesy: Ian MacNicol

Men’s IM at the 2015 world championships

200 IM

Updated July 3
Until Kosuke Hagino’s withdrawal from world championships, the 200 IM final in Russia was the race I was most looking forward to watching. For the first time since 2001, the United States was in danger of not winning the event at a long course world championships. Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte each won three consecutive world titles, with Lochte now going for an unprecedented fourth-straight victory while Phelps watches from home after withdrawing from the team due to his DUI troubles last year. For the first time in more than a decade, an American did not end the year as the top-ranked swimmer in the 200 IM. That distinction went to Japan’s Kosuke Hagino in 2014, whose 1:55.33 at the Japan Intercollegiate Championships alerted the world that he was going to break the hold that Phelps and Lochte have had on this event, in more ways than one.

Now, the race is Lochte’s to lose. Hagino was going to give Lochte an epic race in a quest to join Phelps and Lochte on the list of the top 10 performances in history. That will now have to wait until 2016.

Daiya Seto of Japan is more suited for the 400 IM, but showed that he has enough speed to give Hagino a run through most of the race. Seto showed big improvements in the 200 IM in the past year, getting down to 1:56.82 earlier this year. That time won’t win a gold medal, but Seto will likely be inspired now as Japan’s only hope for a medal in the event. Wang Shun of China and Brazil’s Thiago Pereira have the tools to break 1:57 as well, so the race for bronze will be just as exciting as the race for gold.

Hagino and Lochte didn’t get to race each other in a 200 IM final in 2014, as Lochte missed out on qualifying for the championship final at the Pan Pacific championships. Hagino won gold with a time that was identical to Lochte’s time in the B final.

Ryan Lochte’s reaction on seeing Hagino win gold at Pan Pacs

Men’s 200 IM medal predictions

Gold: Ryan Lochte
Silver: Thiago Pereira
Bronze: Daiya Seto

Ryan Lochte

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

400 IM

Updated July 3
The Japanese were slated to go 1-2 in the 400 IM. Seto won the long course world title in 2013, and is a two-time short course world champion. With Hagino out of the world championships with an injury, Seto has a clear path to defending his long course world title.

At last year’s Pan Pacs, Tyler Clary was able to hang with Seto for 300 meters, and passed him on freestyle, earning a silver medal. His confidence after that race last year could launch Clary all the way to the top of the medal podium in Kazan, but Seto might have learned from his mistakes and will be stronger in the closing 100 meters. Seto and Clary will need to keep an eye on Chase Kalisz on the breaststroke leg. If Kalisz, the 2013 world silver medalist, is less than a second behind Clary after breaststroke, then Kalisz can run him down. The battle with these three could result in three sub-4:09 swims, making Hagino’s absence less noticeable here.

Men’s 400 IM medal predictions

Gold: Daiya Seto
Silver: Tyler Clary
Bronze: Chase Kalisz

Daiya Seto

Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

Previous world championships predictions
Distance freestyle
Freestyle relay

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7 years ago

“the talented Chinese duo” – you mean JAPANESE, right?

7 years ago

일본 … 헝가리 ???

7 years ago

Very difficult to maintain IM supremacy when entirely to many coaches are specializing at young ages!!

7 years ago

I doubt Clary will figure amongst the medals at the upcoming world champs. All the best for him tho. Lochte will most likely medal in the 200m IM, possibly silver or bronze. Watch out for the Chinese too.

7 years ago
Reply to  petriasfan

And I mean Chinese! I’m sure Hagino and Seto are medal favourites in both events. Just watch out for the Chinese men.

7 years ago

I agree with Petriasfan,

I can’t see Clary winning 400 IM medal. In any case, I think Kalisz will be up there along with the two Japanese.

Hosszu should go sub 2:07 and sub 4:30 easy if she only swim those events.
As things stand, she will swim a host of other events, and let’s see how it affects her (judging by how she swam in the past two years, not much).
Before her recent shoulder injury, I would predict Belmonte to provide the strongest competition on the 400 IM.