The Swimming World Championship will be held from 23 to 30 July 2023 at the Marine Messe Fukuoka in Fukuoka, Japan. With several Olympic and reigning World Champions participating, here are the top three battles to watch out for in the pool.
Women’s 400m freestyle
A battle royale looms in the women’s 400m freestyle, with American Katie Ledecky, Australia’s Ariarne Titmus and Canada’s Summer McIntosh set to square off on the competition’s opening day.
Ledecky once dominated the event, but Titmus dethroned her as world champion in 2019 and then took her Olympic crown in Tokyo two years later.
Now a new contender has emerged, with 16-year-old McIntosh smashing Titmus’s world record at the Canadian trials in March with a time of 3min, 56.08sec.
Titmus has come closest to matching McIntosh this year, clocking 3:58.47 at the Australian trials last month, while Ledecky has the third-fastest time of 2023 with 3:58.84.
But Titmus believes form will go out the window in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the world championships and says McIntosh has it all to prove.
“I feel like Summer hasn’t really had that experience yet, racing on the international stage with the big pressure, so it’ll be interesting to see how she goes,” Titmus said last month.
McIntosh finished second behind Ledecky at last year’s worlds in Budapest, with Titmus skipping the event to concentrate on the Commonwealth Games.
Titmus said losing her world record to McIntosh was “a bit of a bee sting”, and there will be plenty of buzz surrounding their showdown in Fukuoka.
Men’s 100m freestyle
Romanian sensation David Popovici was one of the stars of last year’s world championships in Budapest and the 18-year-old will be looking to stamp his name all over this year’s event too.
Australian Kyle Chalmers and China’s Pan Zhanle are aiming to stop him in what is shaping up to be an intriguing battle in the men’s 100m freestyle.
Popovici won the world title in that event last year after Olympic champion Caeleb Dressel unexpectedly quit the competition “for his long-term health”, according to a USA team official.
Dressel will not compete in Japan after failing to qualify in his comeback bid.
But Popovici proved that his success was no fluke, breaking the world record at the European Championships in Rome last year in a time of 46.86sec.
He will face stiff competition in Japan, with Pan clocking the fastest time of 2023 so far with 47.22 and Chalmers behind him with 47.44.
Chalmers, the 2016 Olympic champion, is back in the pool after taking a mental health break last year following intense media attention on a supposed rift with former girlfriend Emma McKeon and teammate Cody Simpson, who are now a couple.
“I’m excited, I had a lot of energy with all the young boys alongside me,” Chalmers said at last month’s Australian trials.
Men’s 400m individual medley
The biggest challenge to France’s Leon Marchand in the 400m individual medley is not likely to come from his rivals but from Michael Phelps’s 15-year-old world record.
Marchand, who trains under Phelps’s former coach Bob Bowman, swam the second-fastest 400 IM of all time at last year’s world championships in Budapest, coming home in 4min 04.28sec.
That mark was behind only the 4:03.84 set by Phelps at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Marchand has been in blistering form heading into this year’s world championships.
He clocked 4:07.80 at the French national championships last month, and Bowman warned that his new protege had “not fully peaked” yet.
“I’m very happy, because he’s not fully prepared for this and he has much more that he can do in every event,” said Bowman, who has guided Marchand for the past two years.
“This is sort of like training for him.”
Marchand won a 200-400 IM double at last year’s world championships and also took silver in the 200 butterfly.
His main rivals for the 400 IM title this year are likely to be Japan’s Daiya Seto and Americans Carson Foster and Olympic champion Chase Kalisz.
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