There is not much time left until the 17th FINA World Championships – the Event that is full of surprises in a post-Olympic year. In swimming, the women’s 100m breaststroke event is always highly anticipated and spectacular.
Olympic and World champions will clash over 100m breaststroke at the brand new World Championships venue, the Danube Arena. Let’s take a look at the event’s expected protagonists - strictly on the basis of the figures and results of the recent past.
Lithuanian born Ruta Meilutytė has the distinction of being the first and only swimmer in history to win all available titles in all age groups. In 2010, at the young age of 13, she broke her first Lithuanian records in both 50m and 100m breaststroke.
Ruta started swimming at the age of seven. She is not tall, but her feet have always been like flippers helping a great deal in the water, now wearing size 44 shoes.
In 2012, Meilutyte became the youngest Lithuanian swimmer to be selected for the Olympic team. In her first event at the Olympics, she broke the European and Lithuanian record in the 100m breaststroke with a time of 1:05.21. She triumphed in the final and became an Olympic champion, but was unable to lower her preliminary time.
At the 2013 World Championships, Meilutytė won gold in the 100m breaststroke again and silver over 50m. In the semi-finals of the 100m event, she broke the Lithuanian, European and World Championships record with a time of 1:04.35, becoming the first record holder of the Event in Barcelona.
At the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Meilutytė competed in the 100 breaststroke event once again, where she won the silver medal with a time of 1:06.36, losing to Russia’s Yuliya Efimova in the finals.
In September of 2015, she had a biking accident and broke her elbow which required surgery to repair, but she returned at the Rio Olympics after a quick last minute rehab. At the 17th FINA World Championships, she will compete in her top form.
The World Championships will be the first event which she can prepare for in 100% condition, with her new coach, Paulius Andrijauskas.
Atkinson competed in her first Olympics at just 16 years old and will compete in her fourth Olympic Games in 2016. Atkinson takes her role in Jamaican swimming very seriously, and even has a mission statement to her swimming career: “To place Jamaica on the world map of swimming; to agitate for the improvement of the infrastructural support for swimming in Jamaica so as to be able to take it to the next level; and to realize my full potential for myself, my parents, and my country.”
In 2012, with two Olympic Games under belt, Atkinson focused on the 100-meter breast. Coming out of the semi-finals, she was tied for eighth with Canadian Tera van Beilen. The two had a swim off in which Atkinson took the last spot in the championship. In the outside lane, Atkinson had an impressive swim where she just missed the medal podium with a fourth-place finish.
In August 2015 Atkinson competed at the Long Course World Championships in Kazan. The recent short course world champion broke the Jamaican National Record in the semi-finals of the 100 breast, and although she didn’t break her time from semi-finals, Atkinson took out the first 50 meters extremely quick, and finished third behind Efimova and Meilutyte for bronze. Her finish made her the first Jamaican swimmer to win a long course worlds medal.
In 100 meter breaststroke, it is very difficult to predict who will reach the top. Perhaps, only Lilly King stand out from the crowd, but Rio’s silver medallist Yuliya Efimova and Catherine should be mentioned too.