The 5 Deepest Events in Global Swimming: Thomas Ceccon, Ryan Murphy Lead Loaded 100 Backstroke

Thomas Ceccon of Italy shows the gold medal after compete in the 100m Individual Medley Men Final during the FINA Swimming Short Course World Championships at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Melbourne, Australia, December 16th, 2022. Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Thomas Ceccon -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

The Deepest Events in Global Swimming: Thomas Ceccon, Ryan Murphy Leading Loaded 100 Backstroke

Russian athletes have been banned from international competition since early 2022, so entering this summer’s World Championships, the storylines in the men’s 100 backstroke centered around Americans Ryan Murphy and Hunter Armstrong. Murphy was the world-record holder and the Olympic gold medalist from the 2016 Olympics, and the two men who beat him in the 2021 Olympic final, Russians Evgeny Rylov and Kliment Kolesnikov, were both out.

Meanwhile, the 21-year-old Armstrong had beaten Murphy at the U.S. International Team Trials with a time of 52.20 after lowering the world record in the 50 back one day earlier. Armstrong and Murphy had to dig deep to beat out Justin Ress and short course world champion Shaine Casas for the American spots in the 100 back, so they headed to Budapest as clear medal favorites.

But when the world’s best got together in Budapest, seven men went under 53 in the semifinals, a group led by Greece’s Apostolos Christou in 52.09 and Italy’s Thomas Ceccon in 52.12. Poland’s Ksawery Masiuk, just 17 at the time, blasted a time of 52.58. One day later, the Americans came through with their best swims, with Murphy going 51.97 for his best mark in three years and Armstrong touching in 51.98 for his lifetime best — but Ceccon took the event to a new level as he pulled away on the second length on his way to a time of 51.60, blasting Murphy’s world record by a quarter-second.

The year finished with Ceccon, Murphy and Armstrong all under 52 plus Christou, Masiuk, France’s Yohann Ndoye-Brouard and South African teenager Pieter Coetzee among those under 53. And we cannot forget about the Russian swimmers whose presence will loom over this event until they are permitted to return.

With all that in mind, it would be tough to find an event deeper than the 100 back on the world stage… but here are some other possibilities:

Women’s 100 Butterfly

In the women’s 100 fly, there are four women with lifetime-best times within three tenths of the world record. Canada’s Maggie Mac Neil, China’s Zhang Yufei and Australia’s Emma McKeon all swam their best times in the 2021 Olympic final to deny American Torri Huske a spot on the podium, but Huske made her statement at this year’s World Championships as she scored gold in 55.64.

The duel between Huske and a resurgent Mac Neil, who recently crushed the short course meters world record in the 100 fly, will be one of the highlight races of this year’s World Championships, with Zhang and McKeon hoping to bounce back to their best and France’s Marie Wattel, Sweden’s Louise Hansson and the USA’s Claire Curzan all sitting in position to strike in the 56-mid range.

Men’s 100 Freestyle

David Popovici is one of the young stars of the sport after he broke the world record in the 100 free this year, and Kyle Chalmers is in the midst of the best stretch of his career coming off a short course world title in the 100 free last monthCaeleb Dressel’s status is unclear after he left early from the World Championships and has not competed since, but France’s Maxime Grousset, Canada’s Josh Liendo, Italy’s Alessandro Miressi and even Hungary’s Kristof Milak are all 47-mid-caliber swimmers. And the 100 free is another event where Kolesnikov will be able to make an impact upon his international return. He was the Olympic bronze medalist in the event at 47.11.

Women’s 200 Freestyle

Yang Junxuan captured the world title in the 200 free in 2022, but that race did not tell the full story of the event. Summer McIntosh eclipsed Yang’s time as the leadoff swimmer on Canada’s 800 free relay, and American Katie Ledecky split 1:53.67 on the same relay. Meanwhile, Ariarne Titmus is the Olympic gold medalist and on the verge of the world record while her Australian teammate Mollie O’Callaghan got down to 1:54.01 in the event as she pushed Titmus to the wall the Commonwealth Games. Meanwhile, Olympic silver medalist and short course world-record holder Siobhan Haughey should be back in the mix in 2023 after she missed the long course World Championships with an injury.

Men’s 200 IM

While Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte still dominate the all-time list in the men’s 200 IM, this event has reached its highest level since the peak of those two all-time greats. In 2022, Leon Marchand led the way as he topped the World Championships final in 1:55.22, while American Carson Foster took silver in 1:55.71. In late July, Shaine Casas swam a time of 1:55.24 at U.S. Nationals that made him the third-fastest American ever behind Phelps and Lochte. In 2021, China’s Wang Shun, Great Britain’s Duncan Scott and the USA’s Michael Andrew all swam in the 1:55-low range, and any of them could return to top form, particularly Scott as he returns from injury. And then there’s Daiya Seto, the 28-year-old Japanese veteran who won bronze in this event at Worlds before claiming the another short course world title in the 200 IM in December.

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