Federica Pellegrini: 1:55 Flat In Vichy … A Women’s 200 Race Of The Century In Rio?

Federica Pellegrini - by Patrick B. Kraemer

Days of a debut inside 1:55 loom, perhaps, for Italian 200m freestyle queen Federica Pellegrini after she zoomed up to world No 3 a month out from World Championships with a 1:55.00 victory – a lifetime textile best – at the French Open in Vichy; Pellegrini was winning silver at her Olympic debut when Thorpey, Hoogie and Phelps raced in the ‘Race of the Century’ over 200 free… is she now heading for the women’s answer to that 12 years on?

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Days of a debut inside 1:55 loom, perhaps, for Italian 200m freestyle queen Federica Pellegrini after she zoomed up to world No 3 a month out from World Championships with a 1:55.00 victory – a lifetime textile best – at the French Open in Vichy; Pellegrini was winning silver at her Olympic debut when Thorpey, Hoogie and Phelps raced in the ‘Race of the Century’ over 200 free… is she now heading for the women’s answer to that 12 years on?


Philip Johnson

Can’t remember the last time I’ve seen so much depth in this event. It’s going to be an amazing race.


Looking forward to the heats and semis, never mind the final.

Bad Anon

Pellegrini’s strength has been her ability to swim her own race. Kazan will be splendid, never mind Rio!


I am beyond happy – As I said a few weeks ago in an article on this website, I am very confident of a Pellegrini medal in Kazan. Gold and she might just have her wish of being the greatest 200 freestyler of all-time. Can anybody match her longevity? I recall her coach back in 2009 saying she should have gone 3.57 for the 400 – Suited or not, she is a proven champion. I’d be very worried if she was on my hip at the last turn.

Craig Lord

Yes, if she’s ‘close to’ come that last turn, Dee, she’s very dangerous 🙂

Craig Lord

🙂 … indeed Kazan race looks very promising if they all show up for that race, Ban Anon … only Rio. of course, can make a ‘race of the century’… has to be Olympics for the comparison to work, that’s what I meant.


Beyond my wildest expectation, she is still improving at 27. Let’s see how the Lioness defends her turf in Kazan. This is going to be fun, and much more interesting than the men’s 200 free.


Two stars for brazilian guy, finally. Does anybody have more?


Sjostrom wins in Kazan. Ledecky wins in Rio.


Some athletes. Tyson gay would be a 3 star!

Viva la Bang

I would not read too much into Emma McKeon’s 1.55.8 at trials either she was not at 100% health wise!


I think the heats and semis could be a killing field if they don’t watch out- it might take a 1:56 to make the final, crazy stuff!


It already took 1:56 to final in 2013 Barcelona. Van Almsick’s famed 1:56.78 would not have made it to Barcelona final.

These are the golden days of women 200 m freestyle (after more than 10 years of terrible stagnation from 1995 to 2007).

On the other hand, men 200 free is experiencing terrible stagnation. An 18 yo Thorpe from 15 years ago would have won Kazan easily.

Craig Lord

Very true, aswimfan, though fair to note that Franzi’s pace dates back 21 years to 1994 (she was WR holder for 13 years uninterrupted).


I meant a sub- 1:56…. that would be unprecedented.


The situation around 200m free women is classical situation when emotions take over reasoning. If to think calmly there is nothing special about it. We have plenty of races that promise to be me more spectacular either because of expectations of new world records or upsets or very strong completion for the gold. Here at women 200 free we have one obvious leader who showed ability to swim 1:54 flat and already swam casually under 1:55 this year. But is still far from WR. The group of three swimmers with personal bests of 1:54 high and low expectations that they will make them better. And two strong swimmers who either recently improved pb moving into 1:55 zone or is swimming around pb with the potential to go under 1:55. For five swimmers behind Sjostrom we have 120 permutations that are all feasible and are practically of equal probability. So there would be no upsets or surprises with any outcome.
What makes the situation interesting is unusual uncertainty.
Firstly, those two “old” ladies who during the preparation period suddenly stepped in not just improving their personal bests, but making them ones of all time bests. What’s wrong with them 🙂 and who knows what can be expected in Kazan? We have no statistics to help. The movement can be in either direction.
Secondly, two Americans who didn’t show so far nothing promising, but have a reputation of being very dangerous at finals. In 2013 Franklin swam 1:59 in Santa Clara and then 1:54 in Barcelona. Now she is 1:57. Ledecky so far didn’t give any hint if she is better compare to the last year. But expectation of that being true are very high.
Thirdly, Sjostrom can win this race with high probability, but it wouldn’t be possible if she doesn’t put whatever she is capable of into it. Is it in her plans? Nobody knows.

Craig Lord

Indeed, it would, Torchbearer … in one race:
The sub-1:56 club, all-time, textile – 11 of them possibles for the Rio race:
Schmitt, Allison
Muffat, Camille (alas, with us no more)
Heemskerk, Femke
Sjostrom, Sarah
Franklin, Melissa
Isakovic, Sara
Pellegrini, Federica
Ledecky, Kathleen
Manaudou, Laure
McKeon, Emma
Lurz, Annika
Palmer, Kylie
Barratt, Bronte
O’Connor, Siobhan-Marie
Hosszu, Katinka
Popova, Veronika

Craig Lord

We have lots of statistics and some of those do indeed help when reading runes (lots of forecasts have been very close to spot on 🙂 but the uncertainty you note is there in many races, Yozhik, and is a part of what makes the prospect of the big race thrilling. It is true that there are 3/4 who standout as more likely than the others to make the podium this summer but the women’s 200 free is all the more tantalising for the build up of speed among lots of protagonists at once on the approach to Olympic year. In 2011, the count of sub-1:56s went from 3 on eve of world titles to 7 after it. A year later, four had clocked sub-1:56 on eve of Olympics; by year end, the tally: 5. So, we can rely on uncertainty and an outcome we might not expect … but it is the prospect not the stat that contributes much to making the women’s 200m free this season and next an intriguing one, emotions allowed – for without them, we become the stat that tells us nothing.


PeIlegrini. I think that Craig is right – it was personal. Otherwise I don’t see any reason for Federica to swim that fast right now. Having a moving target right ahead and not just somebody but Hosszu made Pellegrini to finish very strong. Unusually strong. Because SHE is the boss at this distance. The situation is very similar to final in Barcelona and final 800 relay in Berlin. What to expect in Kazan hard to say. At her pick she was both strong at 200 and 400 free. Now we are witnessing movement in different direction – inability to compete at 400 and personal best at 200. How can it be with one person? What are internal mechanisms that can explain this phenomenon?

Craig Lord

Interesting thoughts Yozhik. Psychology and the passing of time and what that tells the body and mind (rationally or otherwise :), in large part… also what competitors are doing and what the swimmer then focusses on as a consequence, with perception of strength playing a role.


Yozhik, I think it is absolutely normal for swimmers to focus on shorter distances as they get older: it happens all the time and it has to do with inability to keep high speed for longer distances, which is a privilege of the very young. Phelps and Lochte are not going to swim the 400 IM ever again.
Besides, Federica always had a complicated relationship with the 400, which I believe deep inside she hated. In almost a couple of instances she could not bring herself to finish the race and got out of the pool gasping. She has always said that the 200 is her race.


Luigi I agree. Almost all top female 200 free swimmers hate the 400 free. Pellegrino, Missy franklin even Sarah sjostrom. Sarah sjostrom swam the 400 free last year and put up a 4:06 because of katinka hosszu. She saw that katinka hosszu had been swimming a lot of races including the 400 free so she wanted to see what time she could put up in the 400 free.
Before that 4:06 in the 400 free in 2014, the last time she swam the race(400 free) was back in 2010, a 4 year gap and back in 2010 she had a time of 4:12.
There are some swimmers who don,t like the longer distance races. Jazz Carlin for example hates the 1500 free although her personal best is a 15:42 which is not too bad. Her ideal races are the 400 and 800 free. I don,t think she,ll swim the 1500 free in Kazan.


The women,s 200 free in Kazan and rio will be a super race. The 2 most competitive individual races will be the men,s 200 meters breaststroke and the women,s 200 meters freestyle.
In the women,s 200 free we,ll have
Sarah sjostrom
Katie ledecky
Missy franklin
Emma McKeon
Feemke heemskerk
Federica pellegrini
As well as minor threats like
Katinka hosszu and
The fast improving shen duo

In the men,s 200 meters breaststroke we will have
Adam peaty
or he could skip the 200 breast and leave it for Michael jamieson.
Daniel gyurta
Dmitry balandin
Yasuhiro koseki
Kevin cordes

I don’t know between Ross Murdoch and Andrew Willis one of them is swimming the 100 breast and the other is swimming the 200 breast in Kazan. I don,t really know.


Yozhik, there have been many instances where older swimmers can still approach their best or even swim their best in their shorter distances.

Phelps, Hackett, Earvin, Torres etc etc.


Btw, Federica said it was an unexpected race, after 9 hours of planes and bus to make it to Vichy, and a very intense training period she’s facing. She couldn’t believe herself when touched the wall.
Ultimately she was satisfied by the way she’s swimming (and she keep saying it till the start of this season): as someone used to tell her, if you swim good you go faster and with less effort.


Aussie girl will win and then anchor winning Aussie relay team.

Italian fan

Perhaps too many expectations about 200 free in Kazan..
For instance, I read Sara Sjostrom in every list of the favorites. But I’m pretty sure that Sjostrom won’t swim 200 sl in Kazan (and perhaps also in Rio, noretheless the absence in Rio of the 50 fly).
Moreover: I have a lot of doubt about Franklin’s shape; Ledecky has still steps to do to become a great 200 freestyler (also if she is a real fighter and I think she’ll swim her PB in Kazan), and McKeon hasn’t made a real progress from last year to think that she can swim a sub 1.55 in Kazan (perhaps also a 1.55 low).
So, I think that Heemskerk and this rejuvenated Pellegrini could be the real favorites of the races because the ones who can really swim under 1.55 (and if we remind what happened in Shangai2011 and Heemskerk ghosts..).
But if, in a race of nerves, the winning time is going to be a 1.54.9-1.55 flat, Ledecky is my favorite.


To say the women’s 200m freestyle won’t be one of the headline attractions of Kazan is silly.

This has only intensified the heat and Pellegrini has shut down those counting her out of the medals earlier in the season. The queen of the 200m free for almost a decade should never be written off and will feature in Rio.

Franklin and Ledecky are the unknowns. Has the defending champion found peak form in time for Kazan? I wouldn’t bet against it. And will Ledecky’s gruelling schedule take a toll on her 200m performance? Let’s hope not.

Heemskerk, fastest in the world this year at 27, is fulfilling the potential she has promised for a long time, but is yet to show she is a championship performer, how will she fare?

Is Sjostrom swimming the 200m? I really do hope so. She has the ability to go 1.53 but her focus is the 100m Fly and Sprint Free’s.

The final contender that rounds the 6 stars of world swimming is Emma McKeown, AUS. Her high 1.55 from trials will drop significantly if she is on form – I think a 1.54 is on the cards.

What makes the 200m free so fascinating this year and why I label these six as stars is because each excels in a range of events and strokes: Sjostroem 50/100M Fly Wr Holder, Franklin 100/200M Back Olympic Champ, Ledecky’s supremity in distance freestyle, and so on.

I would also include Hosszu in this but I don’t if she is swimming the 200m, Craig? (Any info on Hosszu/Sjostroem programme’s?) Hosszu has the ability to medal and she can handle the most enduring week of any swimmer in Kazan, but I don’t think she will.

I think Bonnet (FRA) and Coleman (SWE) will fill complete the final. But look out for youngsters Shen Duo (CHI) and O’Connor (GBR.) I would add these two into the mix for Rio.

(Backing O’Connor in Kazan. Women’s 200IM O’Connor vs Hosszu will be another standout race)

Possible Final Start List?

1. Coleman
2. Ledecky
3. Sjostroem
4. Heemskerk
5. Franklin
6. Pellegrini
7. McKeown
8. Bonnet

I know I would be excited for that.


With crazy contested w200free, I feel one of the favorites will not make it to final.


This race, however, is much more complicated than the “Race of the Century,” where there were only two champions in the distance (Thorpe and VDH), one rising star (Phelps) and a few distance stars with minor medal chances (Hackett and Keller).

All of the titles had been split between Thorpe and Hoogenband, and they had by far the fastest times, and were naturally the favorites (which panned out in the end).

However in the current women’s race, we have a murkier picture: the past three global titles have been won by three different swimmers, Pellegrini (2011) Schmitt (2012) and Franklin (2013). Confounding the race even more, not one of those swimmers led the world in 2014. In fact the best ranked of those past three global champions is was Pellegrini in 5th place.

Whereas the Men’s Race of the Century was a part rematch showdown between the three men who would clearly be the three greatest 200 freestylers of the decade, the women’s race is thickly contested between a number of varied challengers:

There’s Pellegrini, who many may have written off as a former contender, but now seems to be dominating.

On top form, Schmitt could dominate (her textile best being far above all other contenders’) but her returning to that form is questionable at best.

Franklin is the third challenger, but given 2014, her form is also something is a toss-up.

Ledecky is fast improving, and arguably fits the analogue of Phelps more than Hackett in 2004’s race. However, she hasn’t quite shown she could swim the 1:54 low required to win in Rio.

Sjostrom is also relatively young (21) and moving into her prime, improving often. She led 2014, and has been even faster this year, but is a toss-up to even swim the race in Rio.

Heemskerk has also shown gold medal potential and leads 2015 with the 2nd fastest textile time ever.

In all, we have 6 potential gold medalists, 4 of whom are major toss ups, and at most only 5 can compete in the Olympics, due to there being 3 Americans in the shortlist. Also in the race for medals are McKeon and Hosszu. The women’s 200 free is as complicated as any event on the program.


Schmidt does appear to be moving in the right direction with improvements this year compared to last and her issues with depression hopefully behind her. The Pan am games and Nationals will tell us more.


Read a post on another site stating that Sjostroem will not swim the 200 free in Kazan according to her coach. Any confirmation on this?


Very little mention of Missy Franklin or that she could be on the top of the podium in Kazan or even Rio. Big mistake! Just because she only has one 200 lcm swim this year she swam tired, she destroyed her own American record in an epic scy performance at the NCAA championships. She is currently training at altitude with Todd Schmidz who guided her to 13 Olympic and World golds. Ignore a superstar at your own peril.

Craig Lord

barkergk – there’s been a lot of mention of Missy on many articles of late – and most seem to think she will be a factor, something John Lohn has written about, too. I don’t see anyone ignoring her.


I was referring to the comments on this post only.

Craig Lord

I know, Barkergk – I guess most have already said what they need to say on Missy – and most of it supportive of the view that she will be a force to reckon with, that’s all I meant (and so that those who have said it all don’t need to repeat themselves – unless they want to, of course :).


Sjöström just confirmed for Swedish television that she won’t swim the 200 free in Kazan.


So Luigi, the diagnose is very sad. Pellegrini is just getting older, but still is able to swim within small deviations from her personal best at shorter distances. And that is a usual case for swimmers of her class. Nothing supernatural. You killed my dream 🙂 Since her personal best is still very impressive the possibility exists that Lioness (nobody else fits this definition better) can prolong her legend in Kazan.

Craig Lord

Yes, thanks Robertsv… were running it here:
– thanks also to all the Swedish readers who emailed to tell us


Italian fan, If anybody was surprised with Heemskerk’s and Pelligrini’s personal bests at 200 then they were swimmers but themselves only. After race Heemskerk could not believe what she saw on the board. It looked like she never has been even close to this time at practice. I incline to think that what we saw in case of Heemskerk and Pelligrini was a swan song. I would not expect something even close to that in, as you put it, race of nerve when Sjostrom’s departure left the door open to any of five swimmers listed by you. Ledecky has been in under 1:55 territory. She swam relay at 1:54.36 with the RT=0.18 sec. The situation with her 200 this year reminds me very much her 400 progress last year. The personal best was long overdue but she didn’t do it until Nationals to go twice under 4 minutes in prelim and finals. She was ready for that long time before. Once she went under 1:55 she will be there again. No doubts. The only thing that confuses me is her splits dictated by relay situation. She never swam 200 like that before and after. I think that if it would be a race between her and Heemskerk next to each other she will win. How Franklin can disturb this picture I have no clue. Pelligrini will not go under 1:55 unless it would be neck-to-neck race.



I am not sure if we are reading the same forum.
As far as I know, no body is ignoring Missy.
There have been plenty of chatters about Sjostrom and Pellegrini lately just because they have had the latest swims.

Also, I don’t understand this mentality “if you don’t mention us, then you must be against us”
Once I was accused by Pol of being “anti-american” because he thought I didn’t talk about american swimmers as much as I talk about Australian swimmers. Which is silly. Because then everyone would be anti-any-other-country.


GBswim, the statement like “this is silly” is the strongest possible one that nobody can withstand. I would strongly suggest you not to waste such a powerful argument in reply to my comments in the future. Save it as the last reserve in disputes with someone of your caliber of cleverness and politeness. The smartness is not listed as a prerequisite for posting to this site. So accept people as they are.
P.S. Does “GB” in you penname stand for Great Britain? If so then be up to the greatness of this great nation. If it is not so then even better, try to be as great as they are to prove that they are not exceptional 🙂



Thank you for your advice. Your issue lies with my use of the word “silly”, yet you state “smartness is not listed as a prerequisite for posting on the site.”

In this case, surely I’m therefore entitled to voice my opinion? You have essentially taken offence to the use of the word “silly” so for your benefit I will instead describe it as “very wrong in my opinion.” This is an online article that allows for people to respond and voice their opinion – this is mine.

And yes, “GB” does indeed stand for Great Britain. Don’t worry, I am fully aware of the greatness of my country. You’re surely aware of how forthright Brits can be, great isn’t it?


you forgot Marco Koch on the men’s 200m breaststroke. Expect him very strong, he hasn’t swum rested this year (even not at nationals) but has shown impressive times, so he is definitely on the mix.

For the women’s 200m freestyle my money is on Missy. Really looking forward to this final!


Nice. It is nice GBswim that our cultural differences were not an obstacle to understood each other. So it would be a peace. I am always getting fascinated with people’s thinking that entering anonymous online forum allows by default to say whatever they want. It is not true and there is no carte blanche for doing that. I am more than positive, that should we meet each other as strangers on the street or at some club we will control ourselves as our parents taught us to do and be extremely polite. Then let’s do it here. As to my “silly” :)comment let me to rephrase it.
I do not expect any excitements or dramas from this race. Nothing like Salnikov’s unbelievable medal in Seoul, or Adlington’s upset in London by schoolgirl, or stopping Karelin’s legend by some guy from “Wyoming Farm” or heart breaking relays where the hope rises, dies and resurrects again. Nothing like that will be in this race. There is nothing unexpected with any outcome of this race. Moreover you will see that everybody in this race regardless results will say that it was a nice rehearsal before Rio. With Sjostrom departure everybody moved one step forward and with that there is no more intrigue with semis. Because number 9 is actually slow now and it would be no problems for leaders to get to the finals. And what do we have there?
Pellegrini (27) and Heemskerk (28) against Franklin (20) and Ledecky(18). Yeah, very exciting.
It maybe exiting for Dee with his expectations of longevity record.
It may be exciting for Ledecky’s fans, but her 4 solo golds would not be that bright in absence of real competition.
It will be very good for Franklin since her name will be even more valuable commodity
It may be exciting to see if Heemskerk is a real deal and not just one race fluctuation.
But for me it is not. We have a plenty of similar cases at this WC.
Another aspect of this race is a general improvement. Before Sjostrom’s withdrawal everybody at final have a chance if they swim at personal bests and all these bests were fresh. It is kind of unusual. Now the situation is not that dramatic.
Aswinfan, named this race a golden days of women 200m after more than 10 years of terrible stagnation. Yes many swimmers are comfortably moved to the 1:55 zone and some of them leaped under it (once!). Is it a golden age when WR is 1:53? Is it at least close to Mufat-Schmitt duel three years ago? I don’t think so. Nevertheless I will enjoy watching it as any other races at this World Championships.

Craig Lord

Yozhik: Katie Ledecky does have excellent competition – she happens to be outstanding among the exceptional – which in turns makes her a bit of a thrill, in my opinion … and winning the 200 on top of the rest would be amazing 🙂



You misunderstood and misread what I read.
I said these are the Golden days of women 200m free after more than 10 years of stagnation (1995 to 2007).

That means your beloved 2012 is included.
That means the Golden days was jumpstarted by Laure Manadou in 2007 Melbourne worlds where women 200free WR was broken three times.


I’m sorry aswimfan. I indeed missed the date range mentioned in your remark.

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