World Championships, Day Six Prelims: Claire Curzan Leads Kaylee McKeown in 200 Backstroke Qualifying

Claire Curzan of United States of America stands with the silver medal after compete in the 50m Backstroke Women 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
Claire Curzan -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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

Deep Blue Media

World Championships, Day Six Prelims: Claire Curzan Leads Kaylee McKeown in 200 Backstroke Qualifying

At the Short Course World Championships, Claire Curzan of the United States only got the chance to swim the 200 backstroke when defending champion Rhyan White withdrew from the meet due to illness. But now, Curzan will enter the final in pole position after she finished with a quicker time than world-record holder and Olympic champion Kaylee McKeown in prelims of the event.

The women’s 200 back will be one of 10 finals scheduled for the final evening of Short Course Worlds, and also on the slate will be the 200 freestyle, where world-record holder Siobhan Haughey qualified second behind the Netherlands’ Marrit Steenbergen.

Women’s 200 Freestyle

The Netherlands’ Marrit Steenbergen already has three medals at the Short Course World Championships, gold in the 100 IM, bronze in the 100 free and bronze in the mixed 200 free relay, and she has a chance at another big performance in the 200 free. She qualified with the top time in prelims, with her mark of 1:52.83 setting her up a half-second ahead of defending champion and world-record holder Siobhan Haughey (1:53.39). Haughey swam a mark of 1:50.31 last year in Abu Dhabi.

American teenager Erin Gemmell will compete in her first individual final at a senior international meet after she qualified third in 1:53.47, just ahead of the Czech Republic’s Barbora Seemanova (1:53.67). Last year’s silver medalist, Canada’s Rebecca Smith took fifth in 1:53.85 while teammate Taylor Ruck was seventh (1:54.15), finishing in between Aussies Leah Neale (1:54.05) and Madison Wilson (1:54.18). Wilson edged out the USA’s Hali Flickinger, fresh off a gold medal in the 400 IM, by just two hundredths for the last slot in the final.


Women’s 200 Backstroke

Making her international debut in the 200 backstroke, the United States’ Claire Curzan will be in position to win a backstroke medal for the third time this meet. Curzan topped qualifying in the event with a time of 2:02.05. Interestingly, her split through 150 meters was more than a second quicker than that of Australian world-record holder Kaylee McKeown before McKeown closed the gap down the stretch. Curzan swam a time of 2:02.05, just ahead of McKeown’s 2:02.32. Curzan will have go head-to-head with McKeown in the final although she will be racing the 100 butterfly final shortly before the 200 back.

Kylie Masse, the Canadian who won silver in the event at the Olympics and again at this meet last year, placed third in 2:02.54. Italy’s Margherita Panziera (2:02.88) and France’sPauline Mahieu (2:02.96) also broke 2:03, while China’s Peng Xuwei (2:03.27), the Netherlands’ Kira Toussaint (2:03.40) and Canada’s Ingrid Wilm (2:03.57) also qualified for the final. American Isabelle Stadden, the bronze medalist in the event last year, finished ninth in 2:03.78, just missing the A-final.


Women’s 400 Medley Relay

It will be another United States-against-Australia showdown in the final of the women’s 400 medley relay. In prelims, the Americans qualified first with Alex WalshLilly KingKate Douglass and Torri Huske swimming a time of 3:47.67, while Aussies Mollie O’CallaghanChelsea HodgesAlexandria Perkins and Meg Harris took second in 3:48.90. The 400 medley relay final will be a rematch of the 200 medley relay, where Australia beat the U.S. by just six hundredths for gold.

In the final, the Americans will likely go with Claire Curzan on back and King on breast along with Torri Huske on either fly or free as well as either Douglass or Brown. The Aussies will counter with Kaylee McKeown on back, either Hodges or Jenna Strauch on breaststroke, Emma McKeon on fly and O’Callaghan anchoring.

Canada’s Kylie MasseRachel NicolKaterine Savard and Rebecca Smith took third in 3:51.40, with Sweden, Japan, the Netherlands, France and China also qualifying for the final.


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