Fukuoka Five: The Athletes Who Could Pull Global Three-Peats (2021-23) at the World Champs


Fukuoka Five: The Athletes Who Could Pull Global Three-Peats (2021-23) at the World Champs

For multiple reasons, defending No. 1 status in a specific event is a daunting task. Not only is it difficult to maintain peak form from year to year, athletes need to dodge injury and manage enhanced pressure. More, they must turn back the challenges of rising stars, those new kids seeking to make a mark on the international scene.

With the next edition of the World Championships scheduled for July in Fukuoka, only five individuals enter the summer in ownership of the last two global crowns available – from the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo (held in 2021) and the 2022 World Champs in Budapest. Here’s a look (alphabetically listed) at the quintet and the credentials they carry in search of a Triple Crown of sorts.

Bobby Finke: The American distance star won the 800-meter freestyle in comeback fashion at the Tokyo Games and prevailed in similar style at the World Champs. The men’s distance events are absolutely loaded at the moment, and the opposition will have to press the pace and generate a gap on Finke to neutralize his unmatched closing speed.

Katie Ledecky: The greatest distance swimmer of all-time, Ledecky is in position to three-peat globally in a pair of events. Because she won the inaugural women’s 1500 freestyle at the Olympics in Tokyo, Ledecky can make it three in a row this summer in both the 800 freestyle and the 1500 free. While she’ll be in a battle with Canadian teen Summer McIntosh and Aussie standout Ariarne Titmus in the 400 freestyle, Ledecky is easily the top choice in the longer events.

Kaylee McKeown: An Australian Golden Girl, McKeown won the 200 backstroke as part of a backstroke sweep at the Tokyo Games, then won the 200 back at Worlds. Since that point, she has lowered the world record in the event to 2:03.14, an effort that makes her the favorite over a deep field of American challengers.

Kristof Milak: The world-record holder in the 200 butterfly, Milak has not only captured back-to-back global gold medals in his pet event, he has thrashed the competition. Milak won the Olympic title by 2.48 seconds, and returned at the World Championships to emerge victorious by 3.03 seconds. In Fukuoka, Milak will be one of the most overwhelming favorites.

Zac Stubblety-Cook: The second Australian on this list, Stubblety-Cook has become the class of the 200 breaststroke field. He won his Olympic gold medal by more than a half-second, and backed up that performance by claiming the world title by more than a second. Consistency has defined Stubblety-Cook’s efforts, and that trait should serve him well in Fukuoka.

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Nick the biased Aussie
16 days ago

Why is Zac the second Australian on the list, yet the second American isn’t called the second American?

16 days ago

I think by the way you are counting consecutive Olympics and World Champs wins, Ledecky actually is going for a nine-peat in the 800m Free, having won the event at three consecutive Olympics and five consecutive World Championship meets.

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