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  • Writer's pictureAaryan

5 Reasons to Watch the 2023 Swimming Championships

Updated: Jul 30, 2023

The divers have hit the water. The artists have left an impression. It's time for the racers to make a splash, as the Swimming leg of the World Aquatics Championships commence on Sunday. There will be 42 events to offer some thrilling racing over the next 8 days; here are some reasons to get excited for this year's Championships.


1. McIntosh vs Titmus vs Ledecky


When 16-year-old Summer McIntosh (CAN) broke the women's 400m Freestyle world record back in March, this became the most anticipated race, certainly of these championships, perhaps even of any race in recent memory. Katie Ledecky (USA) has been the queen of Swimming for almost a decade now, being utterly and completely dominant in her specialty, the distance Freestyle events. She won every race and held every record. Ariarne Titmus became the first and only challenger to her crown by surpassing Ledecky in the 400, first taking the World title in 2019, then Olympic gold in 2021, and finally the World record in 2022. It would seem we had found the heir-elect for women's Freestyle. But with the new world record, it seems that both of these stars could be upstaged by swimming's biggest rising star, the teenager McInstosh. With the incredible talent of all 3 swimmers, this 400m race is the event to watch. What's more, it's on day 1! It may well take a world record to decide, and any of the 3 could win. Each of them have held the record within the last 15 months. While McIntosh holds it currently, Titmus is the Olympic Champion and Ledecky is the World champion from last year (when Titmus did not compete). It is the first time these 3 will share a pool since the Olympics (where McInstosh was only 14). But the 400m is also not the only time we will get to see the 3 race each each other. Titmus will try to challenge Ledecky also in her the letters pet event the 800m, while we will see McIntosh vs Titmus (plus Mollie O'Callaghan) in the 200m Freestyle. Titmus, Ledecky, and McInstosh will battle it out again in the 4x200m Freestyle Relay as well, so the storyline of this trio is certainly one to follow in Fukuoka.


2. Kaylee McKeown vs Regan Smith


Another fascinating duel that should light up the pool across the Backstroke races, McKeown (AUS) and Smith (USA) will go head-to-head (or back-to-back?) in the 50, 100, and 200m Backstroke races. Theirs is one of the closest rivalries the pool has seen in the last few years, so it will be fascinating to see who comes out on top. Smith holds the 100m title from last year (but McKeown didn't race), while McKeown holds the 200m title (but Smith didn't race). McKeown holds both world records, and Smith is who she took the records from. But they keep pushing each other to better times in the Backstroke, even while competing separately. So, it will be enthralling to see what they can do competing in the same pool. Smith has gone faster than McKeown in the 50m this year, but that race will have stiff competition from other sprinters too. Another fascinating duel between these two will be in the 4x100m Medley relays, where each will likely start for their team for the Backstroke leg. USA (and Smith) won at last year's World Championships, but Australia (and McKeown) won at the Olympics. At any rate, this duo will provide some thrilling action throughout the Championships putting world records at risk, making the Backstroke events a must-watch.


3. Marchand's Medleys


21-year-old Leon Marchand (FRA) burst onto the scene at last year's World Championships where he did the double in winning both the 200m and 400m IM events, as well as earning a Silver behind a world record-breaking Kristof Milak (HUN) in the 200m Butterfly. Now, a year later, he is one of the most exciting swimmers in Fukuoka and he attempts to repeat the impressive double, while also trying to add the 200m Butterfly and Breastroke titles to his trophy cabinet. With his ambitious program, it will be fascinating to see how Marchand gets on at Fukuoka. What is impressive is not only his ambition to try these 4 events, but the fact that he is probably the favourite to win all of these titles, especially with no Milak at Fukuoka. What has created the most hype, however, is that many expect him to threaten the 200m and 400m IM world records, which are both amongst the longest standing records in the sport. He came very close to Michael Phelps's 400 IM record in Budapest last year, which had looked almost untouchable until then. But Marchand be fiercely challenged, not only by competitors, but also by a punishing schedule which will really test his endurance. In any case, Marchand is one to keep his eye, starting Day 1 with the 400 IM.


4. The Relays


Regardless of whether or not one follows swimming or watches the individual races, the relays of a global swim meet will always be amongst the most exciting sporting events to watch. Always unpredictable and exciting, with great scope for underdogs and dark horses to emerge, as well as consistent improvement of world records, relays are exhilarating to watch, as global superstars hunt down other teams and chase records. There will be 8 relays to enjoy and they will all be great races. The 4x200 Freestyle relays are the longest relay event, but are often the most exciting, and the women's 4x200 is one to look out for this year. It will feature a battle between the trio of McIntosh, Titmus, and Ledecky swimming for Canada, Australia, and USA respectively, but the world record actually lies outside those nations with China. That should promise a great battle between those 4 nations. Another fascinating relay to watch is the Mixed 4x100 Medley relay, which is perhaps the most unpredictable of the relay events, with a fascinating additional layer of tactics. Since its a Medley relay, the order of strokes is fixed; it has to go Backstroke, Breaststroke, Butterfly, Freestyle. This means that teams have to find a balance between the gender split, the swimmer order, and the swimmer choice for each stroke, which makes the tactics intriguing and fills the race with great jeopardy.


5. Olympians Return


There were some notable absences from last year's world championships in Budapest. Being in the year after the Olympics, and not in the lead-up to an edition of the Games, some notable athletes from the Tokyo Games chose not to compete at the Worlds. Especially from nations such as Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, where many swimmers chose to focus on the Commonwealth Games. Many of these athletes return to World Championship racing this year in Fukuoka and this will make the action even more exciting and add to the spectacle, thanks to the caliber of the swimmers returning. Olympic champion Maggie Mac Neil (CAN) will return to try and reclaim the 100m Butterfly world title from Torri Huske (USA). 11-time Olympic medallist, Emma McKeon (AUS), one of the strongest sprinters in women's swimming will return to a number of individual and relay events. Tokyo Silver medallist Duncan Scott (GBR) will challenge Marchand for the 200 IM. Ariadne Titmus returns to the 200m 400, and 800 Freestyle. And world-record holder Tatjana Schoenmaker (RSA) will feature in the women's 200m Breaststroke. There will also be some notable absences this year, such as Kristof Milak (HUN), world champion in the 100 & 200 Butterfly, and Caeleb Dressel, whose absence will leave a number of men's sprinting events open and unpredictable in Fukuoka.


Predictions


World Championship swimming is so exciting to watch due, in large part, to its unpredictability. Especially when so many races promise to be such tight contests. But that's what makes it fun to try to predict the results. So, here are predictions for the 42 races we will see at Fukuoka.


Day 1: July 23


M 400m Freestyle

Winning Time: 3:41.50

Winner: Samuel Short (AUS)

Medallists: Ahmed Hafnaoui (TUN) & Lukas Martens (GER)


W 400m Freestyle

Winning Time: 3:55.80 WR

Winner: Ariadne Titmus (AUS)

Medallists: Summer McInstosh (CAN) & Katie Ledecky (USA)

Ledecky to take it out fast, and lead the first half. McIntosh and Titmus will try to come from behind. Titmus to overtake in the final 100.


M 400m IM

Winning Time: 4:04.00

Winner: Leon Marchand (FRA)

Medallists: Carson Foster (USA) & Daiya Seto (JPN)


W 4x100 Freestyle Relay

Winning Time: 3:29.55 WR

Winner: Australia

Medallists: USA & China


M 4x100 Freestyle Relay

Winning Time: 3:09.40

Winner: USA

Medallists: Italy & Australia


Day 2: July 24


M 100m Breaststroke

Winning Time: 58.10

Winner: Haiyang Qin (CHN)

Medallists: Arno Kamminga (NED) & Nic Fink (USA)


W 100m Butterfly

Winning Time: 55.80

Winner: Yufei Zhang (CHN)

Medallists: Margaret MacNeil (CAN) & Emma McKeon (AUS)


M 50m Butterly

Winning Time: 22.80

Winner: Dylan Carter (TTO)

Medallists: Maxime Grousset (FRA) & Jacob Peters (GBR)


W 200m IM

Winning Time: 2:07.30

Winner: Kate Douglass (USA)

Medallists: Kaylee McKeown (AUS) & Alex Walsh (USA)


Day 3: July 25


M 200m Freestyle

Winning Time: 1:43.40

Winner: David Popovici (ROU)

Medallists: Tom Dean (GBR) & Zhanle Pan (CHN)


W 1500m Freestyle

Winning Time: 15:24.00

Winner: Katie Ledecky (USA)

Medallists: Simona Quadarella (ITA) & Katie Grimes (USA)


W 100m Backstroke

Winning Time: 57.40 WR

Winner: Kaylee McKeown (AUS)

Medallists: Regan Smith (USA) & Katharine Berkoff (USA)

McKeown and Smith will push each other potentially to a new world record.


M 100m Backstroke

Winning Time: 52.00

Winner: Hunter Armstrong (USA)

Medallists: Thomas Ceccon (ITA) & Ryan Murphy (USA)


W 100m Breaststroke

Winning Time: 1:05.20

Winner: Lilly King (USA)

Medallists: Tatjana Schoenmaker (RSA) & Lara van Niekerk (RSA)


Day 4: July 26


M 800m Freestyle

Winning Time: 7:39.50

Winner: Bobby Finke (USA)

Medallists: Florian Wellbrock (GER) & Sam Short (AUS)

It should be a really tight race between Short and Finke at the end, possibly chasing down one of the longer distance specialists like Wellbrock. Finke should have a very quick final 100m


W 200m Freestyle

Winning Time: 1:53.50

Winner: Mollie O'Callaghan (AUS)

Medallists: Ariarne Titmus (AUS) & Summer McIntosh (CAN)

It will be a very close race between Titmus and O'Callaghan - Titmus won their duels last year, but O'Callaghan has prevailed in 2023. Throw in McIntosh and it'll be a very tight finish.


M 200m Butterfly

Winning Time: 1:52.20

Winner: Leon Marchand (FRA)

Medallists: Tomoru Honda (JPN) & Carson Foster (USA)


M 50m Breaststroke

Winning Time: 26.00

Winner: Haiyang Qin (CHN)

Medallists: Jiajun Sun (CHN) & Nic Fink (USA)


X 4x100m Medley Relay

Winning Time: 3:38.00

Winner: USA

Medallists: China & Australia


Day 5: July 27


W 200m Butterfly

Winning Time: 2:05.00

Winner: Summer McInstosh (CAN)

Medallists: Regan Smith (USA) & Elizabeth Dekkers (AUS)


M 100m Freestyle

Winning Time: 47.15

Winner: David Popovici (ROU)

Medallists: Kyle Chalmers (AUS) & Maxime Grousset (FRA)


W 50m Backstroke

Winning Time: 27.20

Winner: Regan Smith (USA)

Medallists: Katharine Berkoff (USA) & Kylie Masse (CAN)


M 200m IM

Winning Time: 1:55.10

Winner: Leon Marchand (FRA)

Medallists: Duncan Scott (GBR) & Carson Foster (USA)


W 4x200m Freestyle Relay

Winning Time: 7:38.50 WR

Winner: Australia

Medallists: China & USA


Day 6: July 28


W 100m Freestyle

Winning Time: 52.00

Winner: Mollie O'Callaghan (AUS)

Medallists: Emma McKoen (AUS) & Siobhan Haughey (HKG)


W 200m Breaststroke

Winning Time: 2:20.40

Winner: Tatjana Schoenmaker (RSA)

Medallists: Lilly King (USA) & Kate Douglass (USA)


M 200m Backstroke

Winning Time: 1:54.60

Winner: Ryan Murphy (USA)

Medallists: Luke Greenbank (GBR) & Bradley Woodward (AUS)


M 200m Breaststroke

Winning Time: 2:07.20

Winner: Haiyang Qin (CHN)

Medallists: Zac Stubblety-Cook (AUS) & Ippei Watanabe (JPN)


M 4x200m Freestyle Relay

Winning Time: 6:59.25

Winner: Great Britain

Medallists: USA & Australia


Day 7: July 29


W 50m Butterfly

Winning Time: 24.85

Winner: Sarah Sjoestroem (SWE)

Medallists: Gretchen Walsh (USA) & Rikako Ikee (JPN)


M 50m Freestyle

Winning Time: 21.30

Winner: Cameron McEvoy (AUS)

Medallists: Benjamin Proud (GBR) & Sebastian Szabò (HUN)


M 100m Butterfly

Winning Time: 50.40

Winner: Joshua Liendo (CAN)

Medallists: Maxime Grousset (FRA) & Dare Rose (USA)


W 200m Backstroke

Winning Time: 2:03.50

Winner: Kaylee McKeown (AUS)

Medallists: Regan Smith (USA) & Peng Xuwei (CHN)


W 800m Freestyle

Winning Time: 8:06.00

Winner: Katie Ledecky (USA)

Medallists: Ariarne Titmus (AUS) & Erika Fairweather (NZL)


X 4x100m Freestyle Relay

Winning Time: 3:18.00 WR

Winner: Australia

Medallists: USA & Great Britain


Day 8: July 30


M 50m Backstroke

Winning Time: 24.00

Winner: Justin Ress (USA)

Medallists: Hunter Armstrong (USA) & Isaac Cooper (AUS)


W 50m Breaststroke

Winning Time: 29.50

Winner: Ruta Meilutyte (LTU)

Medallists: Benedetta Pilato (ITA) & Lara van Niekerk


M 1500m Freestyle

Winning Time: 14:34.50

Winner: Florian Wellbrock (GER)

Medallists: Daniel Wiffen (IRL) & Lukas Martens (GER)


W 50m Freestyle

Winning Time: 23.79

Winner: Sarah Sjoestrom (SWE)

Medallists: Shayna Jack (AUS) & Abbey Weitzeil (USA)


W 400m IM

Winning Time: 4:25.50 WR

Winner: Summer McIntosh (CAN)

Medallists: Jenna Forrester (AUS) & Katie Grimes (USA)


M 4x100m Medley Relay

Winning Time: 3:27.25

Winner: USA

Medallists: China & Australia


W 4x100m Medley Relay

Winning Time: 3:53.00

Winner: Australia

Medallists: USA & Sweden





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