Which Champions Will Keep Their Crowns In Kazan? The Form Guide: Men’s Backstroke

Matt Grevers, USA, by Peter Bick

In our series looking ahead to the World Championships, we’ve started to consider which titles will be defended and how the holder is shaping up. After men’s freestyle, we turn to men’s backstroke

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In our series looking ahead to the World Championships, we’ve started to consider which titles will be defended and how the holder is shaping up. After men’s freestyle, we turn to men’s backstroke



It’d be nice if Mitch Larkin and Ryosuke Irie dominate both the 100m and 200m races. Mr. Irie has been very consistent over the years, and has always been a touch away from winning, except last summer at the Pan Pacs when he wom the 100m race. While an effective racer in 200m, I tend not to be very enthusiastic about Mr. Clary. He spends the first 150m lurking behind the leaders, and then races the last 50m. (He does the same in the 200m butterfly). While that helps winning on occasion, it seldom contributes to lowering times. I’m sure everyone else disagrees.

Craig Lord

for33 🙂 championships are about winning, the times a tool and a bonus … but I think people might disagree because it is hard to nod at that ‘lurking behind ‘ line of yours: at London 2012, he was level with Lochte for most of the last 100m and ahead of Irie at the last turn, having never been beyond 0.4sec away from anyone throughout a race he won, that being the point of racing – and that in a race that could in no way said to have been ‘slow’ 🙂

Bad Anon

while winning is more important than time, the numbers game is very important in the prelims, a few hundredths often deciding who swims a championships final


Mr. Lord: Thank you very much for your well thought response. You’re probably right that I may be misjudging Mr. Clary’s strategy in the 200m races, especially in London. But it is nonetheless the impression that I get from watching all of his his 200m races, especially in butterfly. Concerning the issue of “winning” or “improving times”, I am very well aware that most consider winning the most important. However, I can’t escape thinking that the vast majority of swimmers in any championship will never win (I was one of those swimmers myself, though never at an international level). For them I believe the most important goal is to lower their times. In any case, I appreciate your points, and I apologize if my posting gave the impression that I wanted to antagonize.

Craig Lord

for33 – I didn’t get the impression you were out to antagonise. you make a good point about the reality of most swimmers – not place but time, as a solid measure of progress.


The tight range on all the backstroke events means we will more than likely see very quick heats and semi finals.

Dont be surprised by a few casualties over the shorter distances either.

That range on the 100 is an arm swing. I would be quite surprised by a semi final filled with all the right people.

On that note, i agree with for33 that the idea to lag behind might be a costly one, but i would rather watch for swimmers who or more casual in the prelims.


Mr Lord, I am enjoying this series of articles you are writing immensely! It’s the first thing I want to look at every morning! 🙂

Can anybody tell me if Vyatchanin will be eligible to compte for Serbia in Kazan?

The US athletes never focus on the 50 stroke races enough to win them, so I would bet on Morazov or one of the French for that one.

IMO Grevers has a quadrennial plan and will be down below 52.7 again for Kazan. Irie had a terrible start at Japanese Trials or he would be at the top of the 100 rankings right now. I never know what to expect from the Chinese, but Xu looks like the real deal. Also, Stravius winning the 100 free at French Trials indicates to me that he should be tough in this, his best event. Those would be my top 4 competitors, but the 100 field is getting crowded!

I’ve always felt Irie’s best event is the 200; he’s a real “swimmers’swimmer”. However, Clary is one of the toughest competitors in the world! In interviews after Pan Pac’s last year he was clearly surprised at how well he swam with more limited training in 2014. He will be in better shape in Kazan. I would expect Murphy and Rylov, the young guns, to fight for a podium place and establish themselves as the “next big star” in backstroke this summer.

Bad Anon

Men’s 100back times have been swinging back and forth since 2010, with Lacourt’s 52.11 but bcn saw Grevers on 52.9 for gold. What is clear is that semis will be a bloodbath, 53.5 may be the magical barrier; I’d believe tense races yield slower times, the textile bests of Grevers and Lacourt having been swum outside championships finals.Parallels can be drawn for women’s 100back as the world awaits a sub 52 and sub 58 textile efforts in the near future with hope and anticipation banishing those rubber suit marks set in a previous era


Lacourt 52.11 had been swum at Budapest european finalt in 2010 …but almost alone (Stravius 2nd far above 53).
I bet for Lacourt on the dash of course, he has been very consistent and fast every year since 2010. If I’m not wrong he has beeb beaten only once at since 2010, by Liam Tancock at Shangai and because of a “lazy” arrival (that cost him too the podium of the 100m in London…in my opinion).

The 100m will be very unpredictable…but Irie and Xu were very fast last year!!!

Bad Anon

specifically meant lc worlds and Olympics where stakes are highest. its not uncommon for swimmers to peak at home trials or continental championships but falling short at the ultimate stage, in all likelihood a wr will come at one of the smaller low pressure meets. Can cite Seebohm as a recent example who peaked in the HEATS at the Olympics !


I’d probably bet Junya Koga for the dash – we should remember his very fast Asian Games winning time.

Crapshoot for the 100m. No idea who’s going to take that.

As for the 200m, my money will be on Irie.


Mitch Larkin is slowly becoming a medal contender in both events, watch out for some big improvements from his national times in teh world championships.


Here’s my one wish for men;s backstroke in Kazan and Rio:

For Ryosuke Irie to finally win a major gold.
I find it hard to digest he has not won one.

Craig Lord

Danjohnjob, thanks of your kind note.
On Arkady: his first major intl for Serbia is likely to be 2016 Europeans in London on the way to Rio. Kazan comes too soon for the paperwork and associated rules of switching countries (12 months residency)


Mr Lord: You’re welcome and please keep these amazing articles coming! I’m hooked!

Thanks for the clarification on Vyatchanin. I was afraid that would be the case. I feel like I’ve been waiting forever to see him race again!

@aswimfan: I agree about Irie. How can a real swimming fan not like that guy? Clearly hard-working, consistent and technically excellent.

At some point, after you’ve followed their careers for a long time, athletes like Vyatchanin and Irie seem like they are no longer from Russia or Japan, etc, but part of the swimming community as a whole, and you can’t help feeling happy when they succeed!


Irie could have won if he has a better underwater kick. He always fall behind at the turns and catch up during the stroke. He’s a pretty small guy too.

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