King & Murphy To Enter Finals On The Outside

2022 FINA WORLD AQUATICS CHAMPIONSHIPS

The USA is in an expectedly strong position after two days of racing at the 2022 World Championships. Many of their stars including gold medalists Caeleb Dressel, Katie Ledeckyand Torri Huske have pulled off some big swims thus far.

While US excellence is a common theme at these meets, this article will focus on two US stars who seem a little bit off after 4 sessions. ryan murphy and Lilly King each had their debut on day 2 in their signature stroke 100s and raced prelims and semi-finals. But the pair of world record holders had a slightly slow start to the meet and were both on the verge of missing out on making finals.

ryan murphy – 100 Backstroke

ryan murphy started things off with a 53.42 in the 100 backstroke heats to advance into the semi-finals in 6th place. In round 2 he held his position and improved to a 52.80. He was only 0.20 seconds faster than 8th place finisher Robert Glinta (53.00). Thus far Murphy’s fastest time at the meet is just under a second slower than his own world record of 51.85.

The fact that Murphy has been 6th in both rounds so far doesn’t mean that he’s out of contention for a medal, but a 6th seed heading into finals is the lowest seed he’s had going into a major international 100 backstroke final in many years.

Semi-Finals Time and Placement Finals Time An Placement
Rio 2016 Olympics 52.49 – Top seed 51.97 – Gold
Budapest 2017 World Championships 52.95 – Top seed 52.59 – Bronze
Gwangju 2019 World Championships 52.44 – Tied for second seed 52.78 – 4th
Tokyo 2020 Olympics 52.24 – Top Seed 52.19 – Bronze
Budapest 2022 World Championships 52.80 TBD

In 2018 at the Pan Pacific Championships, he placed first in prelims with a 52.19 before winning gold in a 51.94. There were no semi-finals at that meet.

So between his major international 100 backstroke races over the course of 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, and 2022, this will be the only time that he enters in a position outside of the top 2. What makes those statistics slightly more troubling is that the two men who beat him in Tokyo, Evgeny Rylov and Kliment Kolesnikov are absent from this field. That presents the possibility that if those two Russians were present, Murphy may have placed 8th overall in the second round.

It would be entirely foolish to count Murphy out of this race altogether considering his history in this event and status as the world record holder. But the top of the race features too much momentum to ignore the possibility that he’ll miss the podium.

Apostolos Christou had the hot hand in the semis, putting up a scorching swim of 52.09 to establish a new World Championships and Greek record. Thomas Ceccon was right behind him, hitting an Italian record of 52.12, followed by American Hunter Armstrong in a 52.37 to slightly trail his best time. Ksawery Masiuk swam a 52.58 PB, making him the 4th man to swim a 52-mid or lower.

So that’s 4 men in the final here who posted times either faster or right on top of what Murphy swam at the Tokyo Olympics. Time will tell how the final will shake out, but the previous-setting 6th place seed for Murphy will be something to watch out for.

Lilly King – 100 Breaststroke

Lilly King‘s status in his stroke 100 event is even more precarious than Murphy’s. King swam at 1:06.40 in the semi-final, which originally made her the 9th-fastest woman in the field. Her teammate Annie Lazorhowever, was disqualified from the event after swimming faster than King, meaning that King advanced to 8th overall.

So as of now, King is expected to race in the 100 breaststroke final in lane 8, despite being the 2016 Olympic champion, 2020 Olympic bronze medalist, 2017 and 2019 World Champion, and the world record holder. The problem, however, is that Annie Lazor has appealed the disqualification and the result is expected to come on Monday morning.

So pending the decision by FINA, King will either enter as 8th seed or won’t get to swim at all. Either has the potential for a dramatic outcome as we could either see a final without such a legendary force or we could see King’s attempt to win the event from lane 8.

Just like Murphy, if King races this event it will be the lowest seed she enters a major international final within recent memory.

Semi-Finals Time and Placement Finals Time An Placement
Rio 2016 Olympics 1:05.70 – Top seed 1:04.93 – Gold
Budapest 2017 World Championships 1:04.53 – 2nd seed 1:04.13 – Gold (WR)
Gwangju 2019 World Championships 1:05.66 – 2nd seed 1:04.93 – Gold
Tokyo 2020 Olympics 1:05.40 – 2nd seed 1:05.04 – Bronze
Budapest 2022 World Championships 1:06.40 – 8th seed (pending the result of DQ appeal) TBD

Just like Murphy, King was the top seed and champion at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, meaning that this is a significant departure from her record at the 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021 meets.

King is certainly prone to dropping time from semi-finals to finals, but it might be difficult to get down to 1:05-low range from the 1:06.40 she swam in round 2. She was also off her best in the prelims round when she swam at 1:06.65 for 7th place.

King will be up against a strong field of competitors if she races in the final including top seed Anna Elendt (1:05.62), Benedetta Pilato (1:05.88), Tang Qianting (1:05.97), and 2012 Olympic champion Ruta Meilutyte (1:06.07). The good news for King is that all of these women were still well off her world record and her time in Tokyo, meaning that it won’t take a lifetime best to capture gold here.

While we aren’t ready to fully bet against either Murphy or King, it was interesting to see two of the USA’s mainstays be off their best on the same day. They each have more races to come at this meet and will race the men’s 200 backstroke and women’s 200 breaststroke, respectively, along with any relays they are selected for.

North American Medal Table – As of Day 1 Finals

COUNTRY TOTAL GOLD SILVER BRONZE
USA 5 2 1 2
Canada 3 0 2 1

North American National Records – Day 1

  • Summer McIntosh400 Freestyle – Canadian Record: 3:59.39 (breaking her own record of 3:59.39 from April 2022).
  • Dylan Carter50 Fly – Trinidad & Tobago Record: 22.87 (breaking his own record of 23.11 from 2018)
  • Torri Huske100 Fly – American Record: 55.64 (breaking her own record of 55.66 from 2021 Olympic Trials)

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