World Championships Preview — Men’s Backstroke: Thomas Ceccon Trying to Defend Surprising World Record (Predictions)

Thomas Ceccon -- Photo Courtesy: Andrea Staccioli / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships Preview — Men’s Backstroke: Thomas Ceccon Trying to Defend Surprising World Record

Thomas Ceccon made an impact on global racing for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics, when he placed fourth in the 100 backstroke final, missing a medal by just a tenth. He also grabbed two relay medals at that meet. In less than one year, he became a world-record holder, using a sensational second length to overtake pre-race favorite Ryan Murphy and smash the world record, his time of 51.60 lopping one-quarter of a second from Murphy’s 2016 mark. Now, the 22-year-old Italian heads to Fukuoka favored to defend his title.

In the 200 back, meanwhile, the field is missing many of the men who have been consistent podium presences over the past several years, and in fact, only three swimmers in the race have ever reached a 200 back podium at an Olympics or long course World Championships. But one of them is Murphy, who captured his first individual world title last year and will be chasing another top honor in 2023.

Meanwhile, it’s important to remember some of the big names who will be absent from this year’s Worlds. Evgeny Rylov, the Olympic champion in both backstroke distances, will not be allowed to compete along with all of his Russian teammates, including 100 back silver medalist Kliment KolesnikovLuke Greenbank, the 200 back bronze medalist in Tokyo and silver medalist at Worlds, did not qualify for the British team while American Shaine Casas, who won 200 back last year, also did not qualify. Meanwhile, South African teenager Pieter Coetze ruled out an appearance in Fukuoka.

Previous Events:

Men’s 50 Backstroke
WR 23.71 Hunter Armstrong USA Greensboro (USA) Apr. 28, 2022
CR 24.04 Liam Tancock GBR Rome (ITA) Aug. 2, 2009
WJR 24.00 Kliment Kolesnikov RUS Glasgow (GBR) Aug. 4, 2018
Men’s 100 Backstroke
WR 51.60 Thomas Ceccon ITA Budapest (HUN) June 20, 2022
CR 51.60 Thomas Ceccon ITA Budapest (HUN) June 20, 2022
WJR 52.53 Kliment Kolesnikov RUS Glasgow (GBR) Aug. 6, 2018
Men’s 200 Backstroke
WR 1:51.92 Aaron Peirsol USA Rome (ITA) July 31, 2009
CR 1:51.92 Aaron Peirsol USA Rome (ITA) July 31, 2009
WJR 1:55.14 Kliment Kolesnikov RUS Budapest (HUN) July 28, 2017


Hunter Armstrong (USA): It’s been just over two years since Armstrong forced his way onto the international scene with a second-place finish in the 100 back at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Now, Armstrong heads to his second Worlds after winning a pair of individual medals last year, silver in the 50 back and bronze in the 100 back. He remains the world-record holder over one lap, and he is one of just four men in the field to ever break 52 in the 100 back. At U.S. Nationals, he edged Murphy in the 100 back in 52.33. Contending in: 50 back & 100 back

Ole Braunschweig (GER): Braunschweig was the European Championships bronze medalist in the 50 back last year, and he placed seventh at Worlds. He swam a time of 24.57 in April. Contending in: 50 back

Apostolos Christou (GRE): The 26-year-old Christou has never won a medal at a global-level meet, but he was the top qualifier in the 100 back Worlds final last year with a best time of 52.09. Christou also won the European title in the 50 back and was the silver medalist in the 100 back. Contending in: 50 back & 100 back

Isaac Cooper (AUS): Cooper thought he broke through at the Short Course World Championships with a 50 back gold medal, but a technical error on the start forced a re-swim, and Murphy took gold in a slower time. Cooper’s best chance for a long course Worlds medal will be in the 50 back, in which he won Australian Trials in 24.56, and he also qualified to swim the 100 back by winning in 53.46. Contending in: 50 back & 100 back

Joshua Edwards-Smith (AUS): He swam a time of 1:55.42 in the 200 back in December before finishing second at Australian Trials. Edwards-Smith is a podium contender in that race if he can repeat his best form. Contending in: 200 back

Ryosuke Irie (JPN): A veteran at age 33, Irie was the 200 back silver medalist at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships plus the 2012 Olympics, and he also won 100 back bronze medals at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics. It’s been more than a decade since he reached a global-level podium, but he is a potential finalist in all three backstroke races, with his best chance coming at 200 meters. Contending in: 200 back

Radoslaw Kawecki (POL): The 31-year-old Kawecki is also well past his prime, having won silver medals in the 200 back in 2011 and 2013, but he is the third swimmer along with Murphy and Irie to have ever reached an international podium in the 200 back. Kawecki also won four short course world titles in the event (2012, 2014, 2016 and 2021). This year, however, he probably will not make the final after finishing 20th last year. Contending in: 200 back

Benedek Kovacs (HUN): Kovacs placed eighth in last year’s 200 back final and won silver at the European Championships. He finished second at Hungarian Nationals in April in 1:56.11. Contending in: 200 back

Hubert Kos (HUN): Better known for his individual medley abilities, Kos swam a time of 1:55.95 at the Westmont Pro Swim Series meet in April, so he will join Kovacs in the event at Worlds, denying last year’s sixth-place finisher, Adam Telegdy, a chance at a medal in Fukuoka. Contending in: 200 back

Destin Lasco (USA): Lasco is the third-fastest man ever in the 200-yard back and a two-time NCAA champion in the event, and he will race internationally for the first time after finishing second to Murphy at U.S. Nationals. Among swimmers who will race in Fukuoka, only Murphy has been faster this year than Lasco’s 1:55.63.

Ksawery Masiuk (POL): This 18-year-old scored his first podium finish at Worlds last year with a bronze in the 50 back, and he won gold at the World Junior Championships in the 50 and 100-meter races. Speed is his signature, but Masiuk has already swam in the 52-high range on numerous occasions in the 100 back. Contending in: 50 back & 100 back

Ryan Murphy (USA): Murphy is heading to his fourth consecutive World Championships as clearly the world’s top 200 backstroker and a real contender in the 100-meter race. Murphy swam a time of 1:55.03 in the 200 back at U.S. Nationals, tops in the world for 2023, and he finished just behind Armstrong in the 100 back with a 52.39. Contending in: 100 back & 200 back

Yohann Ndoye-Brouard (FRA): Ndoye-Brouard was fourth in the 100 back final at Worlds last year and later won the European title in the 200 back in 1:55.62. The depth in the 100-meter race might be tough to overcome, but a return to 1:55-territory would give him a chance over four laps. Contending in: 100 back & 200 back

Justin Ress (USA): The defending world champion in the 50 back and third-fastest performer in history. Ress is expected to battle Armstrong for gold in that event in Fukuoka. Contending in: 50 back

Mewen Tomac (FRA): Tomac was the winner at the French Championships in both the 100 and 200 back, swimming times of 52.87 and 1:56.45 to beat Ndoye-Brouard in both events. Contending in: 100 back & 200 back

Brodie Williams (GBR): Williams was fourth in the 200 back at last year’s World Championships and the gold medalist at the Commonwealth Games, where he also claimed silver in the 100 back. Contending in: 200 back

Bradley Woodward (AUS): Woodward was the silver medalist in the 200 back at the Commonwealth Games, where he finished one hundredth behind Williams. He also pulled away from Edwards-Smith to win the 200 back at Australian Trials after clocking 1:55.95 in prelims. Contending in: 200 back

Xu Jiayu (CHN): Xu did not qualify for any finals at World Championships last year, but the 27-year-old has been resurgent in 2023, with a 100 back time of 52.26 that ranks first globally and strong times of 24.54 and 1:56.33 in the other distances. Xu won world titles in the 100 back in 2017 and 2019 after winning Olympic silver in 2016. Contending in: 50 back & 100 back

Oleksandr Zheltyakov (UKR): Zheltyakov was one of the breakout swimmers of the European Junior Championships, winning the 200 back in a time of 1:55.79. Among Worlds participants, only Murphy and Lasco have surpassed his mark this year. Contending in: 200 back


Men’s 50 Backstroke

Gold: Hunter Armstrong (USA)
Silver: Justin Ress (USA)
Bronze: Ksawery Masiuk (POL)

Armstrong gets the better of Ress in their latest tight showdown while Masiuk finishes much closer to the two Americans than last year.

Men’s 100 Backstroke

Gold: Thomas Ceccon (ITA)
Silver: Ryan Murphy (USA)
Bronze: Xu Jiayu (CHN)

Ceccon does not eclipse the world record but returns to the top step of the podium after overtaking Murphy down the stretch. Xu leads early and holds off a charging Armstrong for bronze.

Men’s 200 Backstroke

Gold: Ryan Murphy (USA)
Silver: Bradley Woodward (AUS)
Bronze: Destin Lasco (USA)

Anyone’s race for the minor medals, with Zheltyakov likely to be in the mix as he continues his ascent, but Murphy nearly breaks 1:54 as he cruises to a repeat gold medal.

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