World Championships Preview — Women’s Butterfly: Maggie Mac Neil, Torri Huske Feature in Olympic Final Rematch (Predictions)

Torri Huske of United States of America, Maggie Mac Neil of Canada react after winning the gold medal ex aequo in the 50m Butterfly Women Final 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
Torri Huske & Maggie Mac Neil -- Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

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World Championships Preview — Women’s Butterfly: Maggie Mac Neil, Torri Huske Feature in Olympic Final Rematch

The five fastest women in history all raced in one final, and the top four ended up within 14 hundredths of each other. In the women’s 100 butterfly Olympic final, Canada’s Maggie Mac Neil claimed gold by five hundredths over China’s Zhang Yufei, while Australia’s Emma McKeon, just eight hundredths back of silver, beat American Torri Huske to the wall by one hundredth to claim bronze. In almost two years since, there has not been a single race featuring more than two of these women. McKeon skipped last year’s Worlds while Mac Neil raced only relays at that meet, and Huske claimed the world title, finishing a half-second ahead of the field while Zhang claimed bronze. Mac Neil then scored wins over McKeon at the Commonwealth Games and Huske at the Short Course World Championships and NCAA Championships (with both finishing behind Kate Douglass in the latter race).

That rematch will be among the highlights of day two at the World Aquatic Championships while 200 fly Olympic champion Zhang will try to stay with world champion Summer McIntosh, owner of the world junior record at 2:04.70, and Olympic silver medalist Regan Smith, who smashed a 14-year-old American record in the event last month. Meanwhile, Sarah Sjostrom rarely races the 100 fly anymore, but she is targeting history in the 50 fly.

Previous Events:

Women’s 50 Butterfly
WR 24.43 Sarah Sjostrom SWE Boras (SWE) July 5, 2014
CR 24.60 Sarah Sjostrom SWE Budapest (HUN) July 29, 2017
WJR 25.46 Rikako Ikee JPN Indianapolis (USA) Aug. 26, 2017
Women’s 100 Butterfly
WR 55.48 Sarah Sjostrom SWE Rio de Janeiro (BRA) Aug. 7, 2016
CR 55.53 Sarah Sjostrom SWE Budapest (HUN) July 24, 2017
WJR 56.43 Claire Curzan USA Cary (USA) May 14, 2021
Women’s 200 Butterfly
WR 2:01.81 Liu Zige CHN Jinan (CHN) Oct. 21, 2009
CR 2:03.41 Jessicah Schipper AUS Rome (ITA) July 30, 2009
WJR 2:04.70 Summer McIntosh CAN Toronto (CAN) Mar. 31, 2023


Elizabeth Dekkers (AUS): Dekkers, 19, broke onto the international scene with a Commonwealth Games gold in the 200 fly last year, and she won bronze behind a pair of Americans at the Short Course World Championships in December. But she made a move at Australian Trials in June, where her time of 2:05.26 moved her into the all-time top-15 in the event, and she is a serious medal challenger. Contending in: 200 fly

Louise Hansson (SWE): The former USC star lowered her 100 fly best time to 56.48 as she missed a medal at last year’s Worlds by seven hundredths. Hansson also won last year’s European title in the event, and she was the bronze medalist in the event at the Short Course World Championships. Contending in: 50 fly & 100 fly

Melanie Henique (FRA): This veteran sprinter, now 30, won silver in the 50 fly at last year’s Worlds after previously winning bronze in the event back in 2011. Contending in: 50 fly

Torri Huske (USA): Huske is the defending champion in the 100 fly, with her best time of 55.64 ranking fourth all-time. She swam the current world-leading time (56.18) in taking first in this event at U.S. Nationals, and she will also have a medal chance in the 50 fly. Contending in: 50 fly & 100 fly

Rikako Ikee (JPN): Ikee, a leukemia survivor, qualified for World Championships in several events, but her best shot at reaching a podium will come in the 50 fly, in which she swam a time of 25.59 earlier this year. Contending in: 50 fly

Maggie Mac Neil (CAN): Mac Neil has posted faster times than ever this year, even quicker than in the leadup to her Olympic gold. Now reunited with coach Rick Bishop at LSU, Mac Neil smashed her best time in the 100-yard fly at the NCAA Championships, only losing out to an incredible swim from Kate Douglass. She is probably the slight favorite for 100 fly gold, and her best time of 55.59, second-quickest in history, is just off the world record (55.48). Contending in: 100 fly

Emma McKeon (AUS): McKeon has not returned to the stellar form she showed at the Olympics, where her seven-medal performance included a 100 fly time of 55.72 that ranks her fifth all-time, but she swam a strong time of 56.74 in winning Australian Trials. Contending in: 100 fly

Summer McIntosh (CAN): This is our third women’s preview, and McIntosh has been mentioned in all three. Her 200 fly is not as strong as her freestyle or medley swimming, but she won last year’s world title and improved upon her time earlier this year. She enters as probably the co-favorite for gold. Contending in: 200 fly

Airi Mitsui (JPN): Mitsui won gold at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships last year in the 200 fly, and she dropped down to a best time of 2:06.77 earlier this year. That will not be quick enough to medal on the senior level, but her quick improvement track makes her a contender. Contending in: 200 fly

Farida Osman (EGY): Osman, 28, cannot be discounted as a medal possibility over one lap. She won bronze in the event at Worlds in 2017 and 2019 before missing the podium by just six hundredths one year ago. Contending in: 50 fly

Lana Pudar (BIH): This 17-year old from Bosnia and Herzegovina swam a time of 56.95 to win the 100 fly at the European Junior Championships last week before going 2:06.26 to win the 200 fly. Pudar made the final in both the 100 and 200 fly at last year’s Worlds, and she won European gold in the 200 fly plus bronze in the 100 fly later in the summer. Contending in: 100 fly & 200 fly

Sarah Sjostrom (SWE): Sjostrom was once the world’s dominant 100 butterfly swimmer, winning a world title at age 15 in 2009 before again capturing gold in 2013, 2015 and 2017, along with a 2016 Olympic title in world-record time. Now, however, Sjostrom is mainly a sprint freestyler, but her 50 fly is elite, and at her best, she is unbeatable. She will be aiming for a fifth consecutive world title in the event this year, a mark that only Katie Ledecky has achieved. Contending in: 50 fly

Regan Smith (USA): Smith jumped to fourth all-time in the 200 fly with her 2:03.87 at the Sun Devil Open last month, instantly putting her into the gold-medal conversation in this event. She lacked finishing pop when she swam the race at U.S. Nationals two weeks ago, but her ceiling might be higher than anyone else’s here. Her best time ranks fourth all-time. Contending in: 200 fly

Laura Stephens (GBR): Stephens was the silver medalist behind Dekkers in the 200 fly at the Commonwealth Games, and she won the British title earlier this year in 2:06.62. Contending in: 200 fly

Gretchen Walsh (USA): Better known for her sprint freestyle skills and for her backstroke results on the collegiate level, Walsh won the 50 fly at U.S. Nationals and placed second in the 100 fly, and she now heads to Worlds ranked second globally in both distances. She might have more speed than anyone else in the 100-meter field, but she will face a tough task holding off the favorites down the stretch.

Marie Wattel (FRA): Look for Wattel to play spoiler like she did in 2022, when she edged Zhang for silver in the 100 fly final in 56.14. Wattel was also a finalist in the 50-meter race last year, and the 26-year-old won silver medals in the 50 fly (behind Sjostrom) and 100 fly (behind Hansson) at the European Championships. Contending in: 50 fly & 100 fly

Zhang Yufei (CHN): Very few swimmers are bona fide medal contenders in the 100 fly and 200 fly, but Zhang has a beat on all three distances. She won a trio of individual bronze medals at Worlds last year and will be in contention to do so again, but she has been more successful in the sprints so far this year. She swam a time of 56.48 in the 100 fly at Chinese Nationals, which was the world’s quickest time prior to the American meet.


Women’s 50 Butterfly

Gold: Sarah Sjostrom (SWE)
Silver: Gretchen Walsh (USA)
Bronze: Melanie Henique (FRA)

Sjostrom tied the record with a fifth consecutive gold medal, although it lasts for less than 90 minutes before Ledecky wins her sixth straight in the 800 free.

Women’s 100 Butterfly

Gold: Maggie Mac Neil (CAN)
Silver: Torri Huske (USA)
Bronze: Zhang Yufei (CHN)

Mac Neil’s closing speed makes the difference as she overtakes Huske and lowers Sjostrom’s world record.

Women’s 200 Butterfly

Gold: Regan Smith (USA)
Silver: Summer McIntosh (CAN)
Bronze: Elizabeth Dekkers (AUS)

McIntosh charges home, but Smith hangs on by two tenths to win international gold in a non-backstroke event for the first tine.

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