Top 5 Female Performances of Short Course Worlds: Maggie Mac Neil Clobbers 100 Fly World Record

Margaret Macneil of Canada waves after winning the gold medal in the 100m Butterfly Women Final during the FINA Swimming Short Course World Championships at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Melbourne, Australia, December 18th, 2022. Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto
Maggie Mac Neil -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

A Special Thanks to Deep Blue Media for providing the images from this meet

Deep Blue Media

Top Five Female Performances of Short Course Worlds: Mac Neil Clobbers 100 Fly World Record

With so many high-profile swimmers missing from this year’s long course version of the World Championships, the absence of Maggie Mac Neil from individual events was overlooked to an extent. After a disappointing NCAA Championships and with some injuries lingering, Mac Neil chose to only race relays in Budapest, and she won a silver and a bronze with her Canadian teammates. As for her signature event, the 100 butterfly, Torri Huske was so dominant in the final that Huske may have won gold even with Mac Neil in the race.

But Mac Neil’s efforts at the Short Course World Championships, where she captured gold medals in the 50 backstroke, 50 fly and 100 fly with two individual world records, were a clear reminder of the talent of this 22-year-old who now represents Louisiana State in college competition. Mac Neil’s gold-medal-winning swim from the final day of the meet earns the nod for the top performance by a female swimmer. Here are the top five.

1. Maggie Mac Neil, 100 Butterfly (54.05 WR)

The last time Mac Neil and Huske went head-to-head in a 100 fly race, it was in short course yards at last year’s NCAA Championships. Kate Douglass actually won that race while Huske edged out Mac Neil for second. Nine months later in short course meters, Huske swam a time of 54.75, making her only the fourth swimmer in history to break 55 and a full second faster than Huske swam in her fourth-place finish one year earlier — and she was not even close to Mac Neil. That’s because the Canadian swam a time of 54.05 to knock more than a half-second off Kelsi Dahlia’s world record (54.59).

Huske is always aggressive in her races, and she indeed was in first place at the halfway point. But Mac Neil rocketed off the 50-meter wall to pull even with Huske, and on the last turn, she pulled away. It was closing speed that earned Mac Neil her first long course world title in the event in upset fashion in 2019 and that same finishing burst that helped her reach the top of the Olympic podium in Tokyo. Now, reunited with former Michigan assistant coach Rick Bishop at LSU, Mac Neil is very much back to her form of 2021.

Another showdown with Huske and Douglass is in the works for March at the NCAA Championships, and Mac Neil will enter as the favorite to not only win the 100-yard fly but lower her U.S. Open and NCAA records of 48.89. When the focus returns to long course in the summer of 2023, Sarah Sjostrom’s world record of 55.48, the mark set back in 2016, will be in serious jeopardy.

2. Emma McKeon, 400 Freestyle Relay Anchor Leg (49.96)

Emma Mckeon of Australia reacts after compete in the 100m Freestyle Women Heats during the FINA Swimming Short Course World Championships at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Melbourne, Australia, December 14th, 2022. Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Emma McKeon — Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

One of several top Australians who skipped the long course World Championships, McKeon showed off some of the sprint skills that helped her dominate the Olympics last year. She captured individual gold medals in the 50 and 100 free, and in the splash-and-dash, she swam a mark of 23.04 that made her the third-fastest performer ever while coming up just a tenth short of the world record. In a rematch of the top two finishers in the 100 free Olympic final, McKeon edged out Siobhan Haughey in meet-record time.

But her top swim came on the first day of the meet in the 400 free relay when McKeon entered the water almost a second behind American Erika Brown before splitting 49.96, the first split ever under 50 seconds, to pull ahead and secure Australian gold. Now a 10-year veteran of high-level relays for Australia, McKeon simply cannot be counted out when she enters the water for the Aussies. McKeon’s butterfly split on the Australian women’s 200 medley relay was decisive in securing gold, and she also captured silver medals on a pair of 200 free relays (women’s and mixed) and the women’s 400 medley relay.

3. Ruta Meilutyte, 50 Breaststroke (28.37 WR)

Meilutyte’s return to international competition in 2022 has been startling as she has quickly returned to the elite level in sprint breaststroke. Her first major meet back was the long course World Championships, and she won gold in the 50 breast plus silver in the 100 breast. She matched those achievements at the European Championships. In her first final at the Short Course World Championships, the 100 breast, Meilutyte looked golden before Lilly King overtook her in the final meters, and to add insult to injury, Meilutyte was disqualified.

But in the 50 breaststroke, Meilutyte went off in the semifinal round as she blasted a time of 28.37 to smash Alia Atkinson’s world record of 28.56. She knocked more than four tenths off her previous personal best, a 28.81 that she recorded eight years ago. One day later, Meilutyte secured gold in 28.50, her 0.59 margin of victory greater than in any other 50-meter event at the meet. The title was her third gold in this event but with a huge gap: Meilutyte previously won this event in 2012 and 2014.

4. Kate Douglass, 200 IM (2:02.12)

Kaylee Mckeown of Australia, Bronze, Kate Douglass United States of America, Gold, Alex Walsh United States of America, Silver show the medals after compete in the 200m Individual Medley Women Final during the FINA Swimming Short Course World Championships at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre in Melbourne, Australia, December 13th, 2022. Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Kaylee McKeown, Kate Douglass & Alex Walsh after the women’s 200 IM — Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

One of four women to win multiple individual gold medals in Melbourne, Douglass’ win in the 200 breaststroke was not necessarily a surprise, not given her recent accomplishments in the 200-yard breast (including breaking her own American record last month). But it was unclear what to expect from Douglass in the 200 IM. Yes, she was the Olympic bronze medalist in the event in 2021, but she had not raced the event in any course — long course, short course yards or short course meters — since Short Course Worlds in 2021.

Douglass took a hiatus from the 200 IM in 2022, skipping the race at the U.S. International Team Trials to focus on other events. But in Melbourne, she dominated in her showdown against University of Virginia teammate and long course world champion Alex Walsh. Douglass led after butterfly before Walsh took over on backstroke, but Douglass crushed the back half of the race on her way to a time of 2:02.12 to become the second-fastest performer in history, only a quarter-second away from Katinka Hosszu’s world record. Perhaps that performance will be enough to convince Douglass to return to the 200 IM full-time.

5. (Tie) Lani Pallister, 1500 Freestyle (15:21.43) & Kaylee McKeown, 200 Backstroke (1:59.26)

For the final entry on the top performances list, there is a tie between two Australians with big performances on home turf this week. First up is Pallister, who was a bronze medalist in the 1500 free at the long course World Championships and a relay silver medalist. The 20-year-old took advantage of a string of high-profile absences at Short Course Worlds to become a three-time individual world champion in the 400 free, 800 free and 1500 free, and she also anchored Australia’s 800 free relay to gold. Pallister gets the nod for the 1500 free as she became the fourth-fastest performer in history with an enormous 25-second victory.

McKeown, meanwhile, secured gold medals in the 100 back and 200 back along with a 200 IM silver and a pair of relay medals. Many of McKeown’s top American rivals did not make the trip to Melbourne, but give her credit for a 1:59.26 performance in the 200 back. McKeown got out in front of Claire Curzan from the start and pulled away to secure gold by more than a second. Her time was just three tenths off her own world record of 1:58.94.

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1 month ago

Great article; I like your choices.

But please note Mac Neil’s great swim was more than ONE HALF second under the old world record, not more than one second under as stated in the current form of the article. (:54.59 – :54.06 = 0.53 improvement)

Merry Christmas.

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