Worlds 2022: preview of the finals of day 8

2022 FINA WORLD AQUATIC CHAMPIONSHIPS

Alas, we’ve come to the final leg of the journey: it’s the last night of pool swimming at the 2022 FINA World Championships.

It should be an excellent closing night of the competition: on the program, the men’s 50 backstroke, the women’s 50 breaststroke, the men’s 1500 freestyle, the women’s 50 freestyle, the women’s 400 individual medley, as well as the men’s 4×100 medley relays and feminine.

Full day 8 program

  • Men’s 50 Backstroke – Final
  • Women’s 50 breaststroke – Final
  • 1500m freestyle men – Final
  • Women’s 50m Freestyle – Final
  • Women’s 400 IM – Final
  • Relay 4×100 QN men – Final
  • Women’s 4×100 QN relay – Final

Back 50 men

Hunter Armstrong (photo: Jack Spitzer)

The men’s 50 backstroke gets us started. Hunter Armstrong and justin ress both beat 24 seconds at the US Trials, with Armstrong breaking the world record with a 23.71. In the semi-finals, they again proved they were the men to beat, as they qualified for the final as the first and second seeds; Ress swam 24.14 to get his hands on the wall in front of Armstrong 24.16. They lead the field by 0.23 seconds.

Hiding in fourth and looking to win another medal is Thomas Cecon. He set a new world record in the 100m backstroke (51.60) and broke and then broke again the Italian record in this event in the heats and semi-finals. He’s been on fire in Budapest this week, so don’t count him here.

Greece is also seeking to participate in the action Apostolos Christou and Poland Ksawery Masiuk. The two set national records in the 50m and 100m in Budapest and are making great encounters. Barring disaster, the Americans seem to have locked in gold and silver, but there should be a real battle for bronze.

Chest 50 women

Benedetta Pilato (courtesy Fabio Cetti)

100 breaststroke world champion Benedetta Pilato leads the way here in 29.83. This is her flagship event: she holds the world record in 29.30 and won silver in 2019 at just 14 years old. She’s the one to beat here, as she’s aiming to sweep the breaststroke sprints in Budapest.

The only other swimmer under 29 seconds in the semis was Ruta Meilutyte, who did well in her first major international competition since returning to the sport, capturing a bronze medal in the 100 breaststroke. Based on her performance in the 100m, the former world record holder is clearly still capable of mingling with the best and will be back in the hunt for medals here.

Lilly King is the two-time defending champion, but snuck into this final in the eighth. That’s exactly what she did in the 100 breaststroke, and she placed fourth in that final. She also won the 200 breaststroke earlier in the competition, so it’s a bit unclear what to think of her form right now. She seemed to get stronger as the encounter progressed, so don’t be surprised if she’s in on it.

1500 free men

Mykhailo Romanchuk (courtesy Fabio Cetti)

It looks like we’re set for a rematch of the 800 freestyle, as the three medalists, Florian Wellbrock, Mykhailo Romanchukand Bobby Fink, are the first three qualified for the final. After managing to get past the pack for the win in the final 50m of the 800m, it’s fair to expect Finke to stick to his winning strategy.

There are two major questions about how the race will go tonight. First of all, knowing Finke’s strategy, how far Wellbrock, Romanchuk or another medal hopeful like Guilherme Costa must be in front of Finke before entering the home stretch if they don’t want to get caught? Second, after Tokyo, Finke explained how he benefited from being in one of the outside lanes, as he was able to tag all of his competitors at once. That won’t be the case tonight, as Finke will be in lane three. It doesn’t seem to affect him too much, given his strength at 800, but it’s something to keep in mind.

50 free women

Kasia Wasick (courtesy Fabio Cetti)

In a race that lacks the usual big stars and medal contenders, the veteran Sarah Sjostrom was the clear favorite in this event heading into the competition. She is still in good shape to reclaim the top step of the podium (she won gold in 2017 and silver in 2019) after a 24.15 in the semis after winning the 50 minute flight earlier.

However, Kasia Wasick asserted herself as a huge threat to antagonize Sjostrom. She won her semifinal with 24.11, earning the top seed for the final. It’s the best record of a lifetime and a new Polish record for Wasick, who has had a great year. She is the first Polish woman to compete in the 50 freestyle final, so if she wins a medal, it will be a first for her country in this event.

After chopping off more than a tenth of her best touch in 24.39, the Australian Meg Harris inserted herself into the conversation about the medal. Also keep an eye on Torri Huske, who broke 2 American records and won 2 individual medals. Like Sjostrom, she also had the double 50 butterfly/50 free, except she had less time because she was in the first semi-final. She only qualified in 7th place but without that double she could definitely sneak in for another medal.

400 IQ Women

Summer McIntosh
(courtesy Fabio Cetti)

We got a glimpse of what the final could look like in Round 2, featuring teenage stars Summer McIntosh and Katie Grimes go head to head. They were both quickly out on the volley, and while McIntosh was able to get away a bit in the breaststroke, Grimes used his distance skills to recover McIntosh in the freestyle. McIntosh ended up hitting first, 4:36.15 to 4:36.68, but it should be another close race tonight.

Olympic gold and silver medalists Yui Ohashi and Emma Weyant will try to get in on the action in the final. This is Weyant’s first (and only) event of the competition, but Ohashi had a tough outing in the 200 IM, failing to qualify for the final of an event she won in Tokyo. In preliminaries, Katinka Hosszu beat Ohashi. She seemed in control throughout the race, a good sign for her as she didn’t have the best championships in the world either.

Men’s 4 × 100 m medley relay

Thomas Cecon courtesy of Gian Mattia D’Alberto LaPresse

The US, clocked the best time of the morning in 3:32.91, confirming their status as favorites for the final. France were right behind in 3:32.98, but don’t expect it to necessarily stay that way. Leon Marchand will probably have more to give on his flying leg, but even without Caeleb Dresselthe United States still has some big substitutions to make, including ryan murphy and Michael Andre. USA have a big decision to make with their roster without Dressel, and while their depth gives them an edge on the court, they can’t afford to mess up too much.

That’s because without Dressel, the Italian team became very interesting as a choice to upset the United States for gold. They boast a killer two first legs in Thomas Cecon and Nicolo Martinenghi, who won the 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke earlier in the competition (Ceccon in a world record). They looked relaxed this morning, clocking 3:33.02 for third place, but they’ll be ready to push the USA into the final.

Women’s 4 × 100 m medley relay

Mollie O’Callaghan (courtesy Fabio Cetti)

In our preview of this race, we wrote that the battle for gold would be between Australia and the United States. That’s probably still true, but the teams couldn’t have been more different in the heats. Australia clocked the fastest time in 3:56.77, with room for Kaylee McKeown will certainly be faster and Mollie O’Callaghan will join the team.

Meanwhile, USA opted for a daring relay formation and almost paid for it, advancing to the final in 7th place with a time of 4:00.06. They’ll probably swap their fours, so they should be a lot faster tonight, but it sure will be odd to see them outside in lane 1 rather than in the middle of the pool. In Tokyo, the American men took gold in this relay from an outside lane, so now in Budapest the women will try to follow suit.

The Netherlands and Sweden both had great runs this morning, but as they have already used their big stars in the morning it is unclear how long they can let it go. Canada has some substitutions to make, which will help them secure a podium spot again after their bronze medal performance in Tokyo.


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