Watanabe Creeps Closer To WR Form With 2:07.7 200 Breast In Barcelona

2018 Mare Nostrum Tour, Barcelona

Watanabe Creeping Back To WR Form

Japan’s Ippei Watanabe – the World Record holder in the men’s 200 breaststroke (2:06.67) – is making strides toward getting back to that mark. The 21 year-old picked up the win with a very swift in-season time of 2:07.74 – the fastest official time in the world this year.* After breaking the WR in January of 2017, Watanabe didn’t quite live up to potential at the FINA World Championships in Budapest – finishing 3rd with a 2:07.47 behind champion Anton Chupkov of Russia (2:06.96 – 2nd fastest performance of all time) and Japan’s Yasuhiro Koseki (2:07.29). However, the tables were turned Thursday as Watanabe clipped Chupkov who finished 2nd with a 2:08.85. Russia’s Kirill Prigoda rounded out the podium in 3rd with a 2:09.28.

Zooming out a bit, this event is arguably the deepest and tightest of any on the international stage. Prior to Thursday, 24 – yes, 24 – men have dipped below the 2:10 barrier in 2018 – ranging from 2:07.81 to 2:09.91.

*China’s Qin Haiyang swam an unratified 2:07.35 in September at the Chinese National Games.

Ikee & Ruck Continue To Shine

Remember these two names: Rikako Ikee and Taylor Ruck. The 17 year-old from Japan and 18 year-old Canadian have quickly risen through the junior ranks and are now solidified as two of the best swimmers in the world. Both Ikee and Ruck picked up wins Thursday. Ikee claimed the 50 fly in commanding fashion with a 25.32 – blowing away the field by over a full second. The 25.11 she swam last weekend in Canet set a new Asian Record and is the 2nd fastest time in the world this year behind Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom (25.07). Anastasiya Shkurdai of Belarus got her hand on the wall for silver in 26.43 and Sara Junevik rounded out the podium in 26.47. Ruck, on the other hand, picked up the win in the 200 back with a 2:07.96 – just ahead of Russia’s Daria Ustinova in 2:08.39. China’s Si Luo was well behind in 3rd with a 2:11.09. The only event these two ladies couldn’t top was the 100 free – where Ruck finished 2nd in 53.39 and Ikee finished 3rd in 53.92. Denmark’s Pernille Blume – 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the 50 free – took home the top time in 53.32. That is the 7th fastest performance in the world this year.

The most impressive part about Ikee and Ruck is their range – they can each swim 5+ events at an elite level. Ikee holds either the Asian or Japanese record in the 50-100 fly and 50-100-200 free, while Ruck holds Canadian records in 50 free and 200 free, and is becoming dangerously close in the 100-200 back and 100 free. It’s worth noting that the events she doesn’t hold national records in are some of the more impressive ones in the books. Penny Oleksiak‘s CR of 52.70 in the 100 free won her a gold medal (tie with Simone Manuel) at the 2016 Olympics and Kylie Masse‘s CR of 58.10 in the 100 back is the World Record.

Moral of the story? these two women are extraordinarily fast and, barring anything extreme, will make some serious noise in 2020.

Hannis & Meili Take Advantage Of Efimova-Less Field

What was expected to be one of the best races of the meet, the women’s 100 breast, lost a little luster when Russia’s Yulia Efimova decided not to compete. That left the American duo of Molly Hannis and Katie Meili to claim the top 2 spots on the podium in 1:06.86 and 106.97, respectively. Efimova’s Russian teammate Daria Chikunova rounded out the podium in third with a 1:07.37.

Over the last week, things got spicy in the women’s 100 breast. Efimova set the world’s fastest time of the year on the first stop of the Mare Nostrum Tour in Canet with a quick 1:05.78. Defending Olympic Champion, World Champion, and World Record holder Lilly King waved her finger and said, “watch this” – topping that time a matter of hours later with a 1:05.61 at the Pro Swim Series in Santa Clara. With Meili – the 2017 World Championship silver medalist – and Hannis – who has the 4th fastest time in the world this year (1:06.09 – PSS Indianapolis in March) – in the mix, you can be sure that the 2nd spot up for grabs on the United States Pan Pacific Championship team this summer will be hard-earned and highly coveted.

Other Events

  • Men’s 800 Free – The Czech Republic’s Jan Micka posted the fastest time in the field with a 7:56.08 – followed closely by Norway’s Henrik Christiansen in 7:56.24 and Japan’s Shogo Takeda in 7:57.46.
  • Women’s 50 Back – Three women cracked 28-second barrier in a tightly bunched race led by Denmark’s Mie Nielsen with a 27.73. Rounding out the podium was Russia’s Anastasia Fesikova in 27.76 and Finland’s Mimosa Jallow in 27.84.
  • Men’s 50 Breast – Without World Record holder Adam Peaty competing in Barcelona, Ilya Shymanovich of Belarus pulled out the victory by 0.01 over Japan’s Yasuhiro Koseki 27.15 to 27.16. In his first race of the session, USA’s Michael Andrew got his hand on the wall for bronze in 27.73.  This was a tight race for a podium spot as 3rd-7th were separated by just over 2 tenths of a second –  27.73 to 27.94.
  • Men’s 400 IM – In a relatively slow final, Hungary’s David Verraszto – 2017 World Championship silver medalist in this event – claimed the win with a 4:15.08. He currently holds the 5th fastest time in the world this year with a 4:12.98 done in March. Austria’s Patrick Staber touched for 2nd in 4:18.16 and Poland’s Dawid Szwedzki finished 3rd in 4:19.34.
  • Men’s 100 Back – Australia’s Benjamin Treffers backed up his victory in Canet (54.64) with another win Thursday in 54.84. Poland’s Kacper Stokowski snagged the silver in 55.09 and Ireland’s Conor Ferguson rounded out the podium with a 55.19.
  • Men’s 50 Free – In one of the most anticipated races, current world #2 Bruno Fratus of Brazil (21.35) edged out current world #5 Michael Andrew of the USA (21.73) with a 21.76 to Andrew’s 21.93. Fratus was the silver medalist at last summer’s World Championships (21.27). Italy’s Andrea Vergani finished 3rd in 22.14.
  • Women’s 200 Fly – Russia’s Svetlana Chimrova dominated this field with a quick 2:07.50 – all thanks to a pair of 32’s on the back half that sealed the deal. Hungary’s Liliana Szilagyi picked up the silver in 2:09.68 and her teammate Zsuzsanna Jakabos wasn’t far behind in 2:09.83 for 3rd.
  • Men’s 100 Fly – In a close race, a trio of men cracked the 53-second barrier led by Belarus’ Yauhen Tsurkin in 52.34 and followed by Great Britain’s James Guy in 52.53 and Joeri Verlinden in 52.79.
  • Women’s 200 IM – To no surprise, Iron Lady Katinka Hosszu grabbed the victory in the 200 IM with a 2:10.99 followed very closely by Japan’s Miho Teramura in 2:11.31. Opting for this race instead of the 200 back, USA’s Kathleen Baker held the lead at the 150 but couldn’t hang on and settled for 3rd in 2:11.58.
  • Men’s 200 Free – In another tight race over the final 50 meters, Japan’s Katsuhiro Matsumoto edged out Russia’s Alexander Krasnykh 1:47.34 to 1:47.47. Welson Sim of Malaysia finished in 3rd with a 1:48.03.
  • Women’s 400 Free – In the final event of the finals session, Holly Hibbott ran away with the victory in 4:10.43 ahead of China’s Bi Wenxin in 4:11.97 and Italy’s Giulia Salin in 4:15.17.

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