Women’s 100 Freestyle

Image Source: Maddie Meyer - Getty Images AsiaPac

Neither Emma McKeon nor Cate Campbell is racing in Budapest, leaving the door open for 18-year-old Mollie O’Callaghan to take the reigns as the next great Australian 100 freestyler. Hong Kong’s Siobhan Haughey looks to be the woman to beat after two gold medals at the World Short Course Championships in December as well as silver last year in Tokyo behind McKeon.        

However, with the likes of O’Callaghan and fellow Australian Shayna Jack, this race looks tough for Haughey. Those two Australians lead the world rankings at 52.49 and 52.60 respectively this year. Haughey was a 52.27 at the Olympics last year to set the Asian record and it may take just that fast to win gold in Budapest.       

Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, who holds the world record and is the lone medalist to return from Gwangju, was fifth in Tokyo after suffering an elbow injury months before the Olympics. She seems to have fully recovered from that, but this will be her toughest challenge individually to get to the top step of the podium in Budapest. Despite all her accolades, she has only one career gold medal in freestyle. That could change in 2022 as she is as tough as they come in this event.

Add in Canada’s Penny Oleksiak and Great Britain’s Anna Hopkin, two of last year’s finalists, and this race is that much more intriguing even without McKeon and Campbell.

Women’s 200 Freestyle

Image Source: Clive Rose - Getty Images Europe

Reigning Olympic champ Ariarne Titmus is not competing in Budapest, and neither is two-time defending World champ Federica Pellegrini. 2015 FINA World Championship titliest Katie Ledecky has dropped the 200 free from her program, leaving room for a new champion in 2022.          

Last year’s silver medalist Siobhan Haughey could be in line to win her first world title as she set an Asian record last year to go 1:53.92, which is a second faster than top seed Mollie O’Callaghan’s 1:54.94. O’Callaghan swam in the Olympics last year on all three of Australia’s prelims relays but doesn’t have the individual experience at age 18. Regardless, she is one of the fastest juniors of all-time and looks ready for the next step as she tackles a big program in Budapest. Her teammate Madison Wilson, who was eighth in Tokyo, was a 1:55.8 in May.

Canada’s Summer McIntosh, who is even younger than O’Callaghan, is ranked right behind her at 1:55.39 on the world rankings list for 2022. At only 15, McIntosh is tackling a big program in Budapest as well where she could contend for a number of medals and the 200 free is one of her strengths, where she will race with Olympic bronze medalist from Tokyo Penny Oleksiak, who was a 1:57.01 in April.

Women’s 400 Freestyle

Image Source: Catherine Ivill - Getty Images AsiaPac

This is Katie Ledecky’s fifth World Championships as she is aiming for a fourth gold medal in the 400 freestyle, which would be the second time she has won four World titles in one event (she has won four 800 titles). Ledecky recently lost her world record to the hands of Australia’s Ariarne Titmus last month, although the latter will not be in Budapest. Ledecky’s biggest challenger is instead Canada’s Summer McIntosh.

At 14, McIntosh just missed the podium last summer but has already taken a leap in her career as she is looking capable of multiple podium appearances in Budapest. She may not have what it takes to beat Ledecky head-to-head yet, but this is an intriguing race due to many people reminiscing on a 15-year-old Ledecky winning gold over world record holder Rebecca Adlington. The circumstances are different, but McIntosh will get a chance to prove what she is worth in the 400 free against Ledecky.

McIntosh is ranked 11th all-time in the 400 and has the potential to be just the fourth woman to break 4:00 in the event. She doesn’t seem to be afraid of the competition, and she may just give Ledecky all she can handle for 400 meters.

Women’s 100 Backstroke

The three medalists from Tokyo, as well as the only three women to break 58 seconds, will all converge in Budapest. World record holder and Olympic champion Kaylee McKeown of Australia will race alongside two-time World champ Kylie Masse of Canada, and the first woman to ever break 58 seconds in USA’s Regan Smith.

Each of those three swimmers has held the 100 back world record at some point in the last five years, and the winner in Budapest may go faster than anyone has before.

Currently, Regan Smith has the top time in the world at 57.76 while McKeown is second (58.31) and 17-year-old American Claire Curzan (58.39) is third with Masse (58.41) in fourth. McKeown’s world record of 57.45 could be under serious threat as this race will be one fans will not want to miss on day three. McKeown won both backstrokes in Tokyo while Masse won both silvers. Smith has the 200 backstroke world title from 2019 under her belt so all three of them have stepped up in the big moment. It’s all a matter of who is the best on the day of June 20, 2022.

Women’s 200 Breaststroke

Image Source: Quinn Rooney - Getty Images AsiaPac

There will be a new champion in the 200 breaststroke as world record holder Tatjana Schoenmaker and two-time World champ Yulia Efimova will not be in attendance in Budapest, leaving the door open for one of the two American favourites to take the gold medal.

Lilly King has had a lot of success in the sprint breaststrokes but has yet to win the 200 internationally. She stepped up big time last year in Tokyo to win silver and get under 2:20, and with Schoenmaker bypassing Worlds, this might be King’s golden moment.

She will have her hands full with fellow American Kate Douglass, who was right behind her at the US Trials in April with a 2:21.43 to King’s 2:21.19. Each of them have very different strokes, but they’re each capable of winning the gold medal.

A relative unknown here is Lithuania’s Kotryna Teterevkova, who was a 2:22.8 in February at age 20. Teterevkova was 23rd last year in Tokyo but has greatly improved this year. She was the silver medalist at the 2018 Youth Olympics in the 200 but has yet to make the leap to the senior stage.           

Great Britain’s Molly Renshaw and Abbie Wood both made the Tokyo final, placing sixth and seventh respectively, but have both swam 2:21 in their lifetimes so they could factor into the medals in a very wide-open field.

Women’s 100 Butterfly

Image Source: Francois Nel - Getty Images Europe

The three medalists from the last Worlds three years ago - Maggie MacNeil, Sarah Sjostrom, and Emma McKeon, will not be racing in Budapest, while only Zhang Yufei returns from the Tokyo podium.

Zhang is the favourite to win in Budapest but hasn’t raced much in 2022 so it is a bit of an unknown what she will bring to the table. If last year is any indication, then Sjostrom’s 55.48 world record is not out of the question. But she will get some serious pressure from the American teenage duo of Torri Huske and Claire Curzan.

Huske was leading the Tokyo final last year for about 75 meters before just getting fourth at the very end. Huske was also the World Juniors champ in this event in 2019 in this same pool so she has had success in this venue.

Curzan has been a consistent performer in this event but hasn’t been able to replicate it on the biggest stage, finishing tenth in Tokyo. However, she ranks second in the world this year and won a bronze in this event at the World Short Course champs in December.

Two of last year’s finalists - Louise Hansson (Sweden) and Marie Wattel (France) should also factor into the medals in the 100 butterfly if they can get down to 56 low.

Women’s 4x200 Freestyle

Image Source: Al Bello - Getty Images AsiaPac

Last year, China won the Olympic final where all three medalists were under the existing world record with the United States in silver and Australia in bronze. China hasn’t raced much in 2022 so they are a bit of an unknown in terms of what they’re bringing to the table. They return Yang Junxuan and Tang Muhan from last year’s team, and pending whether Zhang Yufei decides to race the relay, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which another country wins.

The USA only returns Katie Ledecky to its team this year, as Claire Weinstein, Leah Smith, and Hali Flickinger finished in the top four at Trials. Smith and Flickinger have a lot of experience but don’t quite have the speed to match those from China and Australia.

The Aussies don’t have either Ariarne Titmus or Emma McKeon from last year’s team but do have the number two ranked swimmer in the world after Titmus in 18-year-old Mollie O’Callaghan as well as seven total swimmers ranked in the top ten in the world.

Canada’s team is intriguing - they missed the podium last year by two seconds but set a national record and return everybody from that team, including Olympic bronze medalist Penny Oleksiak and rising star Summer McIntosh. With a full-strength team, the Canadians could win their first relay gold medal at Worlds. The race could go any number of ways, and relay orders and race tactics will play a huge role in who takes home the gold medal.