Matthew Wilson Equals WR in 200 Breaststroke; Sets Up Showdown With Anton Chupkov

Matthew Wilson of Australia celebrates after equalizing the world record in the men's 200m Breaststroke Semifinal during the Swimming events at the Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships, Gwangju, South Korea, 25 July 2019.

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World Swimming Championships (Matthew Wilson)

Gwangju, Day 5

Semifinals – 200 breaststroke

There was an inkling in the preliminaries that the world record in the 200 breaststroke was in danger, thanks to Matthew Wilson pushing the pace through the opening three laps, before settling for a 2:07-low performance. Well, the Australian decided that the semifinals of the World Champs would be a little quicker, and the moment to stamp himself as the fastest man in history in the event.

Under world-record pace from the start, Wilson ultimately equaled the global standard of Japan’s Ippei Watanabe with a time of 2:06.67 to take the top seed into Friday night’s final. Wilson moved through the 50-meter mark in 28.80 and came through the midpoint of the race in 1:00.77. The 150-meter mark saw Wilson touch in 1:33.68 and while Wilson couldn’t match Watanabe’s closing speed, he had enough left to equal the world mark. Wilson is the first Australian to hold the world record in the 200 breaststroke since Christian Sprenger, at the height of the supersuit era, set the world record of 2:07.31 in 2009.

Wilson’s world record was part of a big evening for Australia, which also got a world record from its women’s 4×200 freestyle relay at the end of the session. The foursome of Ariarne Titmus, Madison Wilson, Brianna Throssell and Emma McKeon produced a time of 7:41.50 to wipe away China’s 2009 standard of 7:42.08. For a country that struggled mightily at the 2017 World Championships, where Australia won just one gold medal, momentum has been regained.

“I was just trying to get my hand on the wall and get in the final,” Wilson said. “Anything after that was a bonus. I mean a world record is a pretty big bonus. I’ll just go back and I’ll probably watch the footy when I get back, the Sharks are playing, that’s my team. They weren’t going very well last time I checked, but I’ll do that and it’ll take my mind off the swimming.”

Despite earning a share of the world record, an argument can be made that Wilson won’t be the favorite for the gold medal in the final, due to the presence of defending champion Anton Chupkov of Russia. Chupkov was superb in the first semifinal, going 2:06.83 with a back half of 1:04.01. Chupkov had plenty left at the finish and it might require a world record for the gold medal. The final will be a contrast of styles, with Wilson pressing the pace from the start and Chupkov coming home like a freight train.

With the way Wilson performed in the 100 breaststroke, it shouldn’t have come as a major surprise that the Aussie was set to shine in the 200 distance. Wilson was sixth in the shorter distance and also contributed the breaststroke leg to Australia’s winning mixed medley relay. But the 200 breast is Wilson’s specialty and he has taken advantage of being in peak form. He has also been on a sharp career upswing.

The eighth-place finisher in the 200 breaststroke at the 2017 World Championships, Wilson earned his way onto a pair of podiums during the 2018 campaign. The 20-year-old was the bronze medalist in the 200 breast at both the Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacific Championships. As evidence of Wilson’s ascension to the upper echelon of the breaststroke ranks, his time in Gwangju is nearly two seconds quicker than what he managed at Commonwealths, and a second and a half quicker than his Pan Pacs result.

This year has produced the four-fastest times of Wilson’s career, and a look at his progressions over the past several years reveal a swimmer who has come into his own.

2019: 2:06.67
2108: 2:08.22
2017: 2:08.64
2016: 2:09.90
2015: 2:11.23
2014: 2:14.71
2013: 2:22.33 (14 years old)

Whether Wilson can drop even more time remains to be seen. Semifinals often present the best opportunity for a world record, as the pressure of a final is missing. But with Chupkov sure to be charging through the back half of the race, perhaps that presence is what Wilson needs to go even lower. Then again, Chupkov may benefit, too, and have to go out quicker to keep Wilson within striking distance.

Two other athletes cracked the 2:08 barrier, with American Andrew Wilson going a personal best of 2:07.86 for the third seed and Aussie Zac Stubblety-Cook advancing as the fourth seed in 2:07.95.

Finalists

1. Matthew Wilson, Australia 2:06.67
2. Anton Chupkov, Russia 2:06.83
3. Andrew Wilson, United States 2:07.86
4. Zac Stubblety-Cook, Australia 2:07.95
5. Erik Persson, Sweden 2:08.00
6. Ippei Watanabe, Japan 2Z:08.04
7. Dmitriy Balandin, Kazahkstan 2:08.19
8. Marco Koch, Germany 2:08.28

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Doping Truth

    Wilson dropped 1.5s in 1 year. Hmm …