World Championships Day Four Preview and Predictions: Kristof Milak Set to Dominate 200 Butterfly

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Kristof Milak -- Photo Courtesy: Deepbluemedia/Insidefoto

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World Championships Day Four Preview and Predictions: Kristof Milak Set to Dominate 200 Butterfly

At the last edition of the World Championships held in Budapest in 2017, the crowd inside the Duna Arena went crazy when Hungary’s biggest swimming star, Katinka Hosszu, raced in a final. Hosszu is still competing this year, but the best swimmer in the nation right now is Kristof Milak, the 22-year-old who has emerged as the successor to Michael Phelps as the global superstar in the 200 butterfly. He will go for his second consecutive world title in the event after breaking Phelps’ world record in the event in 2019.

The fourth day of Worlds will also feature a rematch of last year’s Olympic final in the 800 freestyle, a race that Bobby Finke won with an incredible burst on the last 50 to run down the favorites, and while Olympic gold medalist Ariarne Titmus will not race in the women’s 200 freestyle, the favorite will be silver medalist and short course world-record holder Siobhan Haughey.

Men’s 800 Freestyle

It’s incredible to think that Bobby Finke was a second-and-a-half off the lead with 50 meters to go in the 800 free Olympic final and he still caught up to win gold. But if Finke wants to follow up that surreal moment with a world title, he will have a fight on his hands. The three men he out-dueled for Olympic gold, Gregorio PaltrinieriMykhailo Romanchuk and Florian Wellbrock, will all be in the mix, and they are likely to push the pace faster than the 7:41s and 7:42s we saw in the Olympic final.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Lukas Martens is entering the meet as the No. 1 swimmer in the world with a mark of 7:41.43, quicker than Finke swam in the Olympic final, and he could be riding momentum if his week gets off to a good start in the 400 free. Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui, the Olympic champion in the 400 free, tied for 10th in the 800 in Tokyo, but he will have a realistic podium chance here, and Australia’s Elijah Winnington and Austria’s Felix Aubock could also sneak in.

Gold: Bobby Finke, USA
Silver: Gregorio Paltrinieri, Italy
Bronze: Lukas Martens, Germany

Women’s 200 Freestyle

With Federica Pellegrini retired, Aussies Ariarne Titmus and Emma McKeon absent from Budapest and Katie Ledecky and Sarah Sjostrom skipping the 200 free, there is no one in the field who has ever won a World Championships medal in the 200 free. But the field will be led by 24-year-old Siobhan Haughey, who had the lead in last year’s Olympic final before ending up with silver and later won the short course world title in world-record time. The Hong Kong-native and former University of Michigan swimmer ranks fifth all-time in the 200 free.

The medal contenders include Canadian Olympic bronze medalist Penny Oleksiak and Chinese Olympic finalist Yang Junxuan, who has the second-quickest lifetime best in the field at 1:54.37, as well as a pair of quickly-improving teenagers, 15-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh and 18-year-old Australian Mollie O’Callaghan. O’Callaghan broke 1:55 for the first time last month, and her lifetime-best mark of 1:54.94 ranks third in the world for 2022 behind Titmus and Ledecky, while McIntosh ranks fourth globally (1:55.39).

Update 6/14: McIntosh will not swim the 200 free in Budapest as she focuses on the 400 free, 200 fly and 400 IM.

Gold: Siobhan Haughey, Hong Kong
Silver: Mollie O’Callaghan, Australia
Bronze: Yang Junxuan, China

Men’s 200 Butterfly

Kristof Milak racing in front of a home crowd is one of the safest predictions of the entire World Championships, and he could be in the running for the first-ever sub-1:50 performance in the 200 fly. He won Olympic gold in this race by a whopping 2.48 seconds, but he explained afterward that he ripped his racing suit and had to change last-minute, which disrupted his focus and ruined his chance of achieving a historic performance. But 1:49 is back in play this year, and it would be simply astounding if he can pull it off.

Tomoru Honda and Federico Burdisso, who joined Milak on the Olympic podium last year, will be in the mix for medals again. Honda is one of two men (along with Milak) to swim under 1:54 this year, while Americans Luca Urlando and Trenton Julian both swam personal-best times at the U.S. International Team Trials in April. The second Hungarian swimmer in the field, Tamas Kenderesi, took the bronze medal in this event at the 2016 Olympics and placed fourth in Tokyo, and you can never count out 2012 Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion Chad le Clos from contention.

Gold: Kristof Milak, Hungary
Silver: Tomoru Honda, Japan
Bronze: Luca Urlando, USA

Men’s 50 Breaststroke

Adam Peaty will be missed in the one-lap breaststroke sprint. Throughout his career, his quickness and power have helped him speed past more physically imposing rivals in this race, and he is the only man to ever break 26. In his absence, the favorites for the world title include 100 breast Olympic bronze medalist Nicolo Martinenghi, short course world champion Nic Fink and his U.S. teammate Michael Andrew and Brazil’s Joao Gomes, the bronze medalist in this event at the 2019 World Championships and last year’s Short Course World Championships. Those swimmers hold the top four spots in the world rankings this year, while the Netherlands’ Arno Kamminga also figures to be in the mix.

Gold: Nicolo Martinenghi, Italy
Silver: Michael Andrew, USA
Bronze: Joao Gomes, Brazil

Mixed 400 Medley Relay

The mixed medley relay is the ultimate test of strategy as the contending countries must compare potential lineups with two male swimmers and two female swimmers to produce the fastest mix. Great Britain pulled it off perfectly at the Tokyo Olympics, as Adam Peaty (breast) and James Guy (fly) carried their teammates to Olympic gold. This year, Britain will still have a medal-contending quartet even in Peaty’s absence as James Wilby steps in to handle breaststroke duties, but expect to see a lot of teams in the mix.

China’s quartet of Xu JiayuYan ZibeiZhang Yufei and Yang Junxuan won Olympic silver last year, while Australia’s Kaylee McKeownZac Stubblety-CookMatthew Temple and Emma McKeon earned bronze. Both countries can contend again with similarly-contstructed lineups, although Australia will need Mollie O’Callaghan to step in for the absent McKeon. The U.S. finished a shocking fifth in Tokyo after opting for female swimmers on the breaststroke and butterfly legs, which backfired majorly. The fastest U.S. quartet is likely Regan Smith (back), Nic Fink or Michael Andrew (breast), Caeleb Dressel (fly) and Torri Huske (free), and if those swimmers can simply match their individual times from the U.S. International Team Trials in April, the Americans will contend for gold.

Gold: China
Silver: United States
Bronze: Australia

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1 year ago

China’s Tang swho went 1:54.26 last year should also contend in the 200 free.