2019 FINA World Championships Predictions: Katinka Hosszu’s Pursuit of a Fifth 400 IM Title

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Katinka Hosszu is going for an unprecedented 5th 400 IM World title. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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Through the years, watching Katinka Hosszu win major titles in the 400 IM title has become the norm. She has won four world titles in the event and is looking to be the first woman to win the same event five times (if Sarah Sjostrom does not win the 100 fly). Hosszu won the world title in 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2017, and is the top seed heading into 2019. She was a 4:32.52 at the Mare Nostrum in June and is a half second ahead of Japan’s Yui Ohashi (4:33.02).

Hosszu had an off year last year, electing not to swim the 400 IM at European Championships, after having issues with her private life and her training get out of sync. She said at the FINA Champions Series in June that she was able to get her training back on track in September 2018 after the European Championships and that could mean doomsday for the rest of the competitors.

But Japan’s Ohashi has been strong this year. She went faster in April at Japan’s Nationals than she did to win Pan Pacs and the Asian Games last summer. She was fourth in Budapest two years ago but had a much better showing in the 200 IM earlier in the week, winning the silver. Ohashi was a 4:30.82 last April but couldn’t replicate that time at the end of the summer. How will she fare this year? The 400 IM is a tough event to put on the last day of the meet as evident by Ohashi’s fourth place showing in Budapest. But with that lesson learned, maybe she can use that experience to fuel her to a medal, perhaps even gold.

Canada’s Sydney Pickrem is currently ranked third in the world with a 4:35 from April. That swim was just two weeks after NCAAs in March where she was second in the 400 IM. Pickrem has been having a good year in long course, lowering her 200 IM best time in-season. Her best time in the 400 IM is a 4:32 from 2017 when she won the bronze medal in Budapest. She did not swim the 400 IM at Pan Pacs last summer so she is a bit of an unknown when it comes to what she can put together this summer. If she can go a 4:35 just two weeks after an emotionally draining meet like NCAAs then she should be much faster on a full rest.

Spain’s Mireia Belmonte is a mystery. She did not compete at the FINA Champions Series, nor did she compete at last summer’s European Championships. She made a few appearances at the Mare Nostrum series but didn’t put up anything spectacular. She was a 4:36 in April in this event, but she doesn’t need to bust out a good swim before Worlds to prove anything. She won the silver medal in Budapest and in Barcelona in 2013. She swam a 4:32 two years ago and sits 10th all-time with her best time from 2013. If Belmonte is in similar shape to how she was in 2017, then she should be able to win a medal.

The Americans are also unknown in this event with rookies Ally McHugh and Brooke Forde swimming. Forde was a 4:39.06 at the Cal-Stanford duel meet in June while McHugh, who has made a training move to Wisconsin, was a 4:41.03 in June at the Swim Meet of Champions. They will have to be much quicker at Worlds, but both Forde and McHugh won NCAA titles this past March. Forde won the 500 free while McHugh won the 1650, so both women have shown they are in good shape. They will be making their Worlds debuts and will have to wait until the last day to do so. Will sitting around all week be a good or a bad thing for them?

Great Britain’s Aimee Willmott has been knocking on the door for a medal for a long time. She was seventh in Rio and did not swim in Budapest. Out of the four major meets in 2018 (Commonwealth Games, Europeans, Pan Pacs, Asian Games), she had the third fastest time at 4:34.90. But Hosszu, Pickrem and Belmonte did not swim this event last summer so the event got a little more crowded this year. Willmott, 26, has plenty of experience. It is just a matter of putting it together on race day.

The 400 IM should see the return of former world-record holder Ye Shiwen of China, who won this event at the 2012 Olympic Games. Ye was never able to replicate her success from London in this event. She was 27th in Rio and was 15th in Budapest but has reemerged this year with a 4:37.57 from China’s Nationals in March. She has shown glimpses of her old self here and there.

France’s Fantine Lesaffre won the European title last summer in Hosszu’s absence. She had the second fastest time from any of the four major meets and she will want to win her first medal at the world level in this event. Lesaffre’s best this year was a 4:37.40 and she will be looking to get back to her 4:34 from last summer. Lesaffre was 23rd in Rio and also at the 2015 Worlds. She did not swim in Budapest but the 24-year-old has some international experience under her belt.

Current Records:

World Record: 4:26.36, Katinka Hosszu, HUN – 2016
Championships Record: 4:29.33, Katinka Hosszu, HUN – 2017
American Record: 4:31.12, Katie Hoff – 2008

2017 World Champion: Katinka Hosszu, HUN – 4:29.33
2018 Virtual World Champion: Yui Ohashi, JPN – 4:33.77 (Pan Pacs)
2019 Fastest Times:

  1. 4:32.52, Katinka Hosszu, HUN
  2. 4:33.02, Yui Ohashi, JPN
  3. 4:35.15, Sydney Pickrem, CAN
  4. 4:36.09, Mireia Belmonte, ESP
  5. 4:36.98, Aimee Willmott, GBR
  6. 4:37.40, Fantine Lesaffre, FRA
  7. 4:37.45, Ilaria Cusinato, ITA
  8. 4:37.57, Ye Shiwen, CHN

Swimming World’s team of Andy RossDan D’AddonaDavid RiederDiana Pimer and Taylor Covington will be selecting their choices for the medals at World Championships in each event. Read below who everybody picked.

Andy’s Picks:

  1. Katinka Hosszu
  2. Yui Ohashi
  3. Sydney Pickrem

Dan’s Picks:

  1. Katinka Hosszu
  2. Sydney Pickrem
  3. Zsuzsanna Jakabos

David’s Picks:

  1. Katinka Hosszu
  2. Yui Ohashi
  3. Sydney Pickrem

Diana’s Picks:

  1. Katinka Hosszu
  2. Yui Ohashi
  3. Sydney Pickrem

Taylor’s Picks:

  1. Katinka Hosszu
  2. Yui Ohashi
  3. Sydney Pickrem

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