World Championships Preview — Women’s Breaststroke: Resurgent Lilly King Eyeing Monster Performance (Predictions)

Lilly King -- Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Editorial content for the 2023 World Aquatics Championships is sponsored by FINIS, a longtime partner of Swimming World and leading innovator of suits, goggles and equipment.


World Championships Preview — Women’s Breaststroke: Resurgent Lilly King Eyeing Monster Performance

Heading into last month’s U.S. Nationals, Lilly King had posted no fantastic performances during the season, content to let her rivals domestic and international own the spotlight until the results mattered. Lydia Jacoby had returned to her fastest times since the Olympics in the 100 breaststroke while Kate Douglass appeared ready to shine in the 200 breast after winning the short course world title in the event and lowering the all-time record in the 200-yard breast three times during the college season.

But as always, King showed up at the selection meet and won all three breaststroke events while posting her second-fastest time ever in the 200 breast and fourth-best ever in the 100 breast. It was a stark difference from last year’s World Championships, where King was compromised after a bout with COVID-19 and did not make the podium in the shorter events (although she did win the 200 breast). Now, King has the fastest times in the world in the 100 and 200-meter races among anyone set to compete at Worlds, with her American counterpart ranked No. 2 in both events.

Note that the breaststroke events will not include Evgeniia Chikunova, the Russian teenager who demolished the world record in the 200 breast earlier this year with a time of 2:17.55. Chikunova is also one of two women (along with King) to break 1:05 this year. With Russia still banned from international competition, Chikunova is the female swimmer whose absence most impacts the medal tally. Also missing Worlds will be Jenna Strauch, the Australian who earned silver in the 200 breast last year. Strauch missed Australian Trials due to injury.

Previous Events:

Women’s 50 Breaststroke
WR 29.30 Benedetta Pilato ITA Budapest (HUN) May 22, 2021
CR 29.40 Lilly King USA Budapest (HUN) July 30, 2017
WJR 29.30 Benedetta Pilato ITA Budapest (HUN) May 22, 2021
Women’s 100 Breaststroke
WR 1:04.13 Lilly King USA Budapest (HUN) July 25, 2017
CR 1:04.13 Lilly King USA Budapest (HUN) July 25, 2017
WJR 1:04.35 Ruta Meilutyte LTU Barcelona (ESP) July 29, 2013
Women’s 200 Breaststroke
WR 2:17.55 Evgeniia Chikunova RUS Kazan (RUS) Apr. 23, 2023
CR 2:19.11 Rikke Pedersen DEN Barcelona (ESP) Aug. 1, 2013
WJR 2:19.64 Viktoria Gunes TUR Singapore (SGP) Aug. 30, 2015


Lisa Anglioni (ITA): Finished second at the European Championships in the 100 breast last year in a 1-2 sweep for Italy. Anglioni also swam a time of 1:06.18 earlier this year. Contending in: 100 breast

Reona Aoki (JPN): Fifth in the 100 breast at last year’s World Championships, Aoki swam a time 1:05.89 earlier this year along with a 2:23.12 in the 200 breast. Contending in: 100 breast & 200 breast

Thea Blomsterberg (DEN): Placed fourth in the 200 breast on the European level last year but has exploded in 2023, swimming as fast as 2:22.61. Contending in: 200 breast

Kate Douglass (USA): Prior to her exploits in the 200 breast during the most recent short course season, Douglass first established herself in long course by winning World Championships bronze last year. She swam a lifetime-best mark of 2:21.22 at U.S. Nationals. Contending in: 200 breast

Anna Elendt (GER): Elendt has blossomed while training at the University of Texas. She captured silver in the 100 breast at Worlds last year after swimming the quickest time of the entire meet in the semifinals. Contending in: 50 breast & 100 breast

Sophie Hansson (SWE): The former NC State swimmer has posted a solid season so far, including a 1:05.99 100 breast in late May. She was a finalist at the Olympics and won European silver in the 100 breast in 2021. Contending in: 100 breast

Abbey Harkin (AUS): With Strauch and Chelsea Hodges both sidelined, Harkin is the top Aussie in the women’s breaststroke events, and she could contend individually in the 200-meter race. She swam a time of 2:23.93 at Australian Trials last month. Contending in: 200 breast

Runa Imai (JPN): Imai has never contended internationally in breaststroke, but her 2:22.98 200 breast performance in April puts her into the conversation. Contending in: 200 breast

Lydia Jacoby (USA): The Olympic gold medalist in the 100 breast, Jacoby has bounced back massively in 2023 after missing out on World Championships entirely last year. Jacoby finished second to King in the event at U.S. Nationals, but her time of 1:05.16 was merely two tenths shy of her gold-medal-winning time from Tokyo. Contending in: 50 breast & 100 breast

Lilly King (USA): King’s gold in the 200 breast last year gave her a career sweep of all three breaststroke events, and we expect to see a 100 breast similar to her dominant world-title efforts of 2017 and 2019, not her outside-lane run at bronze from last year. King’s Nationals time was quicker than the lifetime best of anyone else in the field except Ruta Meilutyte, who last went faster 10 years ago. Contending in: 50 breast, 100 breast & 200 breast

Lisa Mamie (SWE): Mamie was the European champion in the 200 breast last year in a time of 2:23.27. Contending in: 200 breast

Mona McSharry (IRL): An Olympic finalist in the 100 breast in 2021, McSharry swam a mark of 1:06.04 in April. Contending in: 100 breast

Ruta Meilutyte (LTU): One of the big surprises of 2022 was Meilutyte’s return to elite swimming following a multi-year retirement. Meilutyte achieved her greatest success as a teenager, claiming 100 breast gold at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships, and after that, she did not top global podium again until she won 50 breast at last year’s Worlds. Meilutyte also won 100 breast bronze in Budapest. Contending in: 50 breast & 100 breast

Benedetta Pilato (ITA): Pilato broke onto the scene as a sprint-first swimmer, setting the 50 breast world record in 2021, but her first world title came in the 100 breast, when she took advantage of a slower-than-expected field to win the gold in 1:05.93. This year, however, Pilato is only entered in the 50-meter race in Fukuoka, with Angolini and Martina Carraro representing Italy in the 100 breast. Contending in: 50 breast

Tatjana Schoenmaker (RSA): Schoenmaker flies under the radar somewhat, but she was the first woman ever to break 2:19 in the 200 breast as she stormed ahead of King to capture Olympic gold. The South African also was the silver medalist in the 100 breast in Tokyo. She did not hit her best times last year after skipping the World Championships to focus on the Commonwealth Games, but don’t be surprised to see a podium return this year. She has already posted marks of 1:05.89 (100 breast) and 2:22.44 (200 breast). Contending in: 100 breast & 200 breast

Tes Schouten (NED): The 22-year-old Schouten has been the breakout breaststroker on the world scene this year. After winning a pair of individual medals at the Short Course World Championships in December, Schouten followed up with stellar long course swims, including times of 1:05.71 in the 100 breast and 2:21.71 in the 200 breast. The podium is definitely within reach in Fukuoka. Contending in: 100 breast & 200 breast

Lara Van Niekerk (RSA): When Schoenmaker was absent from Worlds last year, Van Niekerk stepped up as a serious contender in the sprint breaststroke events, making the 100-meter final and winning bronze in the 50 breast. She then dominated both events at the Commonwealth Games, posting times of 29.73 in the 50 breast and 1:05.47 in the 100 breast. Contending in: 50 breast & 100 breast

Ye Shiwen (CHN): Here’s a contender you probably did not expect: Ye was the Olympic champion in both individual medley events in 2012, but after that, she did not make an impact at a major meet until winning World Championship silver medals in both races in 2019. Now, after not competing at the 2021 Olympics or 2022 Worlds, the 27-year-old looks like a contender in the 200 breast, having posted a time of 2:22.44 earlier this year. Contending in: 200 breast


Women’s 50 Breaststroke

Gold: Ruta Meilutyte (LTU)
Silver: Benedetta Pilato (ITA)
Bronze: Lilly King (USA)

A really hard event to pick, with Van Niekerk, Jacoby and Elendt all likely to make pushes for the podium. Whoever finishes on the right stroke will win this race.

Women’s 100 Breaststroke

Gold: Lilly King (USA)
Silver: Lydia Jacoby (USA)
Bronze: Tes Schouten (NED)

King and Jacoby are both having phenomenal years, and this is arguably the best bet for an American 1-2 finish at the meet. Schouten has distinguished herself this year, but both South Africans plus Pilato, Meilutyte and Elendt could pose a challenge.

Women’s 200 Breaststroke

Gold: Tatjana Schoenmaker (RSA)
Silver: Lilly King (USA)
Bronze: Kate Douglass (USA)

Schoenmaker dips under 2:20 again while showing some of the form that made her an Olympic champion. Schouten will again be in the medal mix here.

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x