SWIMMING Preview/Men: Questions about Sun and the U.S., but not about Peaty in men’s World Championships

U.S. sprint star Michael Andrew

Like the women’s events at the 2019 FINA World Championships, the men’s events are marked by a huge question mark from the United States.

Caeleb Dressel won seven gold medals and was the break-out star of the 2017 Worlds, but there’s no indication that he’s ready to challenge that performance. The emerging star of the 2018 U.S. Nationals, which was the selection meet for the 2019 Worlds, was sprinter Michael Andrew, but he had only modest success at the FINA Champions Series.

There are very few doubts about Adam Peaty (GBR) in the Breaststroke events, but there could be surprises in the Backstroke and Butterfly events. The dominant Medley swimmer of 2017 and 2018 – Chase Kalisz of the U.S. – has not been at his best so far in 2019.

Then there is China’s star Freestyler Yang Sun, winner of nine World Championships gold medals, but dogged by doping accusations that will be decided by the Court of Arbitration for Sport later this year.

A check of the top five on the 2019 World list in each men’s event:

50 m Freestyle:
1. 21.31 Bruno Fratus (BRA)
2. 21.48 Ben Proud (GBR)
3. 21.51 Caeleb Dressel (USA)
4. 21.54 Kristian Gkolomeev (GRE)
5. 21.55 Vladimir Morozov (RUS)

100 m Freestyle:
1. 47.35 Kyle Chalmers (AUS)
2. 47.43 Vladislav Grinev (RUS)
3. 47.68 Marcelo Chierghini (BRA)
4. 47.79 Zach Apple (USA) ~ not entered
5. 47.86 Caeleb Dressel (USA)
6. 47.87 Duncan Scott (GBR)

200 m Free:
1. 1:45.46 Martin Malyutin (RUS)
2. 1:45.56 Danas Rapsys (LTU)
3. 1:45.63 Katsuhiro Matsumoto (JPN)
3. 1:45.63 Duncan Scott (GBR)
5. 1:45.73 Yang Sun (CHN)

Dressel dominated the sprints in 2017, winning the 50/100 m, with Fratus second and Proud third in the 50 m and Nathan Adrian (USA) second and Metella third in the 100 m. Adrian will be on relay duty only and star sprinter Michael Andrew will contest the 50 m for the U.S. and Blake Pieroni will swim the 100 m. Australia’s Chalmers, the 2016 Olympic 100 m winner looked marvelous at the national trials and remains the world leader. The 200 m Free appears to be wide open; Sun won a 2015 Worlds silver in the event.

400 m Free:
1. 3:42.75 Yang Sun (CHN)
2. 3:43.36 Gabriele Detti (ITA)
3. 3:43.36 Danas Rapsys (LTU)
4. 3:44.34 Jack McLaughlin (AUS)
5. 3:44.67 Elijah Winnington (AUS) ~ not entered
6. 3:45.55 Alexander Krasnykh (RUS)

800 m Free:
1. 7:42.49 Mykhaylo Romanchuk (UKR)
2. 7:43.03 Florian Wellbrock (GER)
3. 7:43.83 Gabriele Detti (ITA)
4. 7:45.11 Henrik Christiansen (NOR)
5. 7:45.35 Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA)

1,500 m Free:
1. 14:38.34 Gregorio Paltrinieri (ITA)
2. 14:42.91 Florian Wellbrock (GER)
3. 14:46.51 Daniel Jervis (GBR)
4. 14:48.52 Jan Micka (GBR)
5. 14:49.67 Henrik Christiansen NOR)

The focus will be on Sun, who owns nine gold medals in the Worlds: 2013-15-17 wins in the 400 m, 2011-13-15 in the 800 m and 2011-13 in the 1,500 m. He’s in the middle of a doping controversy, of course, with the World Anti-Doping Agency questioning an incident where he allegedly destroyed a doping specimen before the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Wellbrock, the winner of the Open Water 10 km title could be dangerous for medals at these shorter distances, too. Detti and Paltrinieri are the defending champs in the 800 m and 1,500 m.

50 m Backstroke:
1. 24.23 Mark Nicolaev (RUS) ~ not entered
2. 24.39 Michael Andrew (USA)
3. 24.46 Zane Waddell (RSA)
4. 24.47 Jiayu Xu (CHN)
5. 24.48 Justin Ress (USA) ~ not entered
6. 24.54 Dmitry Maltsev (RUS) ~ not entered
7. 24.58 Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS)
8. 24/59 Robert Glinta (ROU)

100 m Back:
1. 52.27 Jiayu Xu (CN)
2. 52.38 Mitch Larkin (AUS)
3. 52.81 Evgeny Rylov (RUS)
4. 52.99 Ryan Murphy (USA)
5. 53.03 Kliment Kolesnikov (RUS)

200 m Back:
1. 1:54.00 Evgeny Rylov (RUS)
2. 1:55.03 Mitch Larkin (AUS)
3. 1:55.24 Jiayu Xu (CHN)
4. 1:55.77 Ryan Murphy (USA)
5. 1:55.79 Ryosuke Irie (JPN)

Xu won the 100 m Back in 2017, as did Rylov in the 200 m Back; Murphy won the 100/200 m at the Rio Olympic Games. In his first senior-level World Championships, what will Andrew do? Larkin was the World Champion in the 100/200 m Back in 2015 and has raced better this year than anytime since then.

50 m Breaststroke:
1. 26.33 Felipe Lima (BRA)
2. 26.42 Joao Luiz Gomes (BRA)
3. 26.49 Adam Peaty (GBR)
4. 26.55 Ilya Shymanovich (BLR)
5. 26.75 Felipe Franca Da Silva (BRA)

100 m Breast:
1. 57.87 Adam Peaty (GBR)
2. 58.29 Ilya Shymanovich (BLR)
3. 58.66 James Wilby (GBR)
4. 58.74 Zibei Yan (CHN)
5. 59.05 Fabio Scozzoli (ITA)

200 m Breast:
1. 2:07.00 Anton Chupkov (RUS)
2. 2:07.02 Ippei Watanabe (JPN)
3. 2:07.16 Matthew Wilson (AUS)
4. 2:07.49 James Wilby (GBR)
5. 2:07.96 Ross Murdoch (GBR)

The Breaststroke events have been the private reserve of Peaty, the 50/100 m winner in both 2015 and 2017 and three world-record holder. Gomes won the 50 m silver in 2017. Chupkov is the defending World Champion in the 200 m. Watanabe is the world-record holder in the 200 m.

50 m Butterfly:
1. 22.60 Nicholas dos Santos (BRA)
2. 22.74 Oleg Kostin (RUS)
3. 22.87 Andriy Govorov (UKR)
4. 23.06 Andrey Zhiliken (RUS)
5. 23.09 Benjamin Proud (GBR)

100 m Fly:
1. 50.36 Caeleb Dressel (USA)
2. 50.85 Mehdy Metella (FRA)
3. 51.25 Chad LeClos (RSA)
4. 51.34 Sebastian Sabo (SRB)
5. 51.35 Marius Kusch (GER)

200 m Fly:
1. 1:53.19 Kristof Milak (HUN)
2. 1:53.42 Tamas Kenderesi (HUN)
3. 1:53.84 Luca Urlando (USA) ~ not entered
4. 1:53.84 Daiya Seto (JPN)
5. 1:54.64 Federico Burdisso (ITA)
6. 1:55.26 David Morgan (AUS)

Proud won the 50 m at the 2017 Worlds with Dressel fourth, but Dressel won the 100 m Free, with Milak second. Brazil’s dos Santos and South Africa’s Le Clos (the 2013-15 gold medalist) should have a lot to say about these races and Le Clos is the 2013-15 World Champion in the 200 m Fly.

200 m Individual Medley:
1. 1:55.72 Mitch Larkin (AUS)
2. 1:56.65 Duncan Scott (GBR)
3. 1:56.66 Shun Wang (CHN)
4. 1:56.69 Daiya Seto (JPN)
5. 1:56.89 Jeremy Desplanches (SUI)

400 m Medley:
1. 4:07.95 Daiya Seto (JPN)
2. 4:10.94 Max Litchfield (GBR)
3. 4:11.90 David Verraszto (HUN)
4. 4:12.54 Yuki Ikari (JPN)
5. 4:12.80 Peter Bernek (HUN)

Chase Kalisz of the U.S. dominated these events at the 2017 Worlds, winning both and relegating Wang to the 200 m bronze and two-time defending champ Seto to bronze in the 400 m. But Kalisz lost to Andrew in the 200 m Medley at the 2018 Nationals and they are 6-7 on the world list for 2019 (1:57.49 for Andrew; 1:57.68 for Kalisz). In the 400 m Medley, Kalisz is currently seventh on the world list at 4:13.45. Is he ready to defend? Larkin was the 200 m Medley winner at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and was great at the Australian Trials.

NBC’s Olympic Channel has coverage from Gwangju, usually at 7 a.m. Eastern time; the schedule is here. The line-timing site for the Worlds is excellent; it’s here.