Dubai, Day 2: Two more WR and tied match (3-3) between USA and Russia

FINA World Swimming Championships (25m)

Stanislav Donets (RUS) - credit: gettyimagesTwo World Records and a handful of Championships records on Day 2 definitively confirm the 10th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Dubai as the premium event of the year in terms of world-class results. In a session with eight finals, USA and Russia shared the lead of the medal chart with three gold each, and also obtained one WR each: for the Americans, the first individual WR of the season (by the “insatiable” Ryan Lochte in the men’s 400m IM), and for the Europeans a new best time in the 4x200m free relay. Spain (and Belmonte Garcia) continues to impress, and South Africa got the first title in Dubai.   

Unstoppable Lochte
Lochte remains the man to beat in Dubai, and after the victory in the 200m free on Day 1, he established the first individual World Record of the year, with a superb 3:55.50 effort in the 400m individual medley. This performance improves the previous world best mark by a comfortable margin (Laszlo Cseh, from Hungary, had clocked 3:57.27 in December 2009). This was Lochte’s 17th medal in this competition, and his 10th victory at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), since his first participation in 2004, in Indianapolis (USA). Moreover, it was the third consecutive victory for Lochte in this event, after his 2006 and 2008 successes (he now equalled the three straight wins of Matthew Dunn, from Australia, in 1995, 1997 and 1999).

“I didn’t feel so good until the 200m, and then I started to feel myself again,” recalled Lochte about his WR effort. “Every year, people get faster and WR are made to be beaten, so it’s just a question of time,” he added. About his “rivalry” with Mellouli, the American confessed: “I’ve raced against him since 2003 and we have a good relationship outside the pool”. Finally, about the somehow poor performance of USA in Day 1, he explained: “We had a team meeting before this afternoon and we said that we had to turn it around. And now, we start to look as the whole team USA”

Following his bronze medal of Day 1 (in the 200m free), Oussama Mellouli (TUN) upgraded the colour of his award, getting the silver in the 400m IM, in a time very close to the former WR (3:57.40). The Tunisian star, Olympic champion of the 1500m free, had won this distance in 2004, before Lochte’s “era”. The bronze went to Scott Clary (USA, 21 years old), who swam in Dubai his first international final at this level. He touched home in 3:57.56, completing the trio of athletes under four minutes.

Out of the medals’ range, the two Hungarians David Verraszto (European champion in early December) and Laszlo Cseh (former WR holder until Lochte’s swim) finished respectively in fourth and sixth.

USA golden saga
USA continued its winning saga with the first gold medal ever for Rebecca Soni in these championships, precisely in the women’s 50m breaststroke, a race that was decided by few centimetres. Soni, one of the revelations at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing (three medals), clocked 29.83, leaving Australia’s Leiston Pickett with the silver and a mere 0.01 difference adrift. The bronze went to Jin Zhao (CHN), also very close to the two top-finishers, touching in 29.90. The recent European champion Dorothea Brandt (GER) concluded in fifth.

Natalie Coughlin (USA) - credit: gettyimages

The third gold medal of the day for the USA came with Natalie Coughlin, in the women’s 100m backstroke. In a championships record of 56.08, the 28-year-old star won her first final in these championships, after having an impressive roll of honour comprising 11 Olympic medals and 16 World Championships (long course) awards. It was also the most successful competition so far for the American, after a 18-month break following the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008. The two Chinese swimmers in the final, Jing Zhao (20 years old) and Chang Gao (23 years old, and the fastest of the semis, with 56.58), completed the podium, with respectively the silver and the bronze medal.

Belmonte’s herculean work
After two titles in the hardest events in Day 1 – 200m butterfly and 400m IM – Spain’s Mireia Belmonte Garcia (20 years old, born and living in Barcelona) decided that her herculean work in Dubai had to continue. This time, she “just” won the silver in the 800m free, behind her teammate Erika Villaecija, with respective times of 8.12.48 for Belmonte and 8:11.61 for the winner. It is the first ever one-two podium standing for Spain in a World Championships. Villaecija had been third in this event in 2008, while Belmonte (60kg for 1.70m) got her first medal in this race. Kate Ziegler (USA), the hero of the 2006 Worlds in Shanghai (CHN), with three medals, obtained the bronze award in 8:12.84.

“The final objective being the Olympics 2012 in London, this is a very valid and promising result,” confessed Villaecija, who could not retain the tears on her arrival and during the award ceremony.

Donets defeats Thoman…

Confirming his excellent season (which saw him winning the European crown a couple of weeks ago), Stanislav Donets (RUS) won the 100m backstroke in a new championships record of 49.07 (0.13 slower than the WR), after being already the fastest in the semi-finals. In a race well controlled, Donets was better than France’s Camille Lacourt, silver medallist in 49.80. Lacourt had been one of the protagonists of the 2010 European Championships (50m-pool), getting three gold, namely in the 50m and 100m backstroke, and got in Dubai his first medal in this competition. Spain’s Aschwin Wildeboer Faber (bronze in 50.04), confirmed Iberian’s nation success in these championships. It was Wildeboer’s first medal in these championships, after a bronze award at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome (ITA), precisely in this event. The World Record holder (48.94) Nicholas Thoman (USA) could not do better than the fourth place, in 50.38 (it was his first international final at world level).

…and Korotyshkin beats Subirats
Certainly inspired by Donets’ performance, Evgeny Korotyshkin was the fastest in the 100m butterfly, touching the wall in a “relatively” modest time of 50.23. It was slower than Peter Mankoc (SLO) victory in 2008 (50.04), and also not better than the winning time of recent European champion Steffen Deibler (49.95). But this performance was sufficient to beat, by the minimal difference of 0.01 the silver medallist Albert Subirats, from Venezuela. A true specialist in this distance (both in 50m and 25m-pool), the South American swimmer had been third at the Worlds in Melbourne 2007 and second in Shanghai 2006. Venezuela only has two athletes with medals at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m): Francisco Sanchez in 1995 and 1997, and Subirats, in 2006 and now in Dubai. Brazil’s good performances at the aquatic complex of Dubai were confirmed by the bronze medal of Kaio Almeida, in 50.33. Mankoc concluded in eighth, touching in 50.85.

Great Russian finale
In the most thrilling race of the day, the men’s 4x200m free relay, Russia obtained the third gold medal of the session, in a new World Record of 6:49.04 (first time ever under the 6.50 minutes), improving the previous mark of 6:51.05 established in August 2009 by the team of Canada. Nikita Lobintsev, Danila Izotov, Evgeny Lakunov and Alexander Sukhorukov were stronger than US Peter Vanderkaay, Ryan Lochte, Garrett Weber-Gale and Richard Berens, who finished second, still inside the former WR (6:49.58).

“We are really happy with this victory, and we would like this tradition to continue: Russia beating USA! The victories of Donets and Korotyshkin also gave us an additional motivation, so it was easy to enter into the race. The venue is also excellent and reminds us of the ‘Water Cube’ in Beijing,” considered the new world champions from Russia.  

Van der Burgh gets first 25m title
A bit shy in Day 1, Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) confirmed why he is the current World Record holder in the 100m breaststroke (55.61), by convincingly winning his first gold medal in a 25m World Championships, in a victorious time of 56.80, a new championships record. One of the best swimmers in the last couple of years in the annual series of the FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup, van der Burgh had been second in 2008 in this event, but got the gold in 2009 in the long course 50m breaststroke event in Rome.

Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) - credit: gettyimages

The European champion in the beginning of December, Italy’s Fabio Scozzoli, finished in second (57.13), while the best performer of the season until this race – Brazil’s Felipe Silva (who clocked in September a 56.79 effort – which would suffice for gold in Dubai) was bronze medallist in 57.39.

Duel Alshammar-Galvez

The third day of the swimming programme in Dubai will certainly be highlighted by a very fast final in the women’s 50m butterfly, as two consecutive championship records were set in the semi-finals: in the first race, Felicity Galvez (AUS) clocked 25.20, while Therese Alshammar (SWE) improved the time in the second semi-final, touching in 25.19.

MEDAL TABLE (after Day 2)

          G    S    B
USA    4    1    2
RUS    3    2    -
ESP    3    1    1
CHN   1    2    3
FRA    1    1    2
RSA    1    -    -
AUS    -    2    -
TUN    -    1    1
GBR    -    1    -
ITA    -     1    -
VEN    -    1    -
BRA    -    -    3
SWE    -    -   1

RECORDS in Dubai

World Records

400m IM – Ryan Lochte (USA) – 3:55.50 – December 16
4x200m free relay – Russia – 6:49.04 – December 16

4x200m free relay – China – 7:35.94 – December 15

Championships Records

50m free – Cesar Cielo Filho (BRA) – 20.61 (SF) – December 16
200m free – Oussama Mellouli (TUN) – 1:42.41 (H) – December 15
200m free – Ryan Lochte (USA) – 1:42.38 (H) – December 15
200m free – Ryan Lochte (USA) – 1:41.08 – December 15
100m back – Stanislav Donets (RUS) – 49.62 (SF) – December 15
100m back – Stanislav Donets (RUS) – 49.07 – December 16
100m breast – Fabio Scozzoli (ITA) – 57.60 (H) – December 15
100m breast – Mihail Alexandrov (USA) – 57.18 (SF) – December 15
100m breast – Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) – 56.80 – December 16
400m IM – Ryan Lochte (USA) – 4:01.76 (H) – December 16
4x100m free relay – Russia – 3:07.78 (H) – December 15
4x100m free relay – France – 3:04.78 – December 15


100m back – Chang Gao (CHN) – 56.58 (SF) – December 15
100m back – Natalie Coughlin (USA) – 56.08 – December 16
50m fly – Therese Alshammar (SWE) – 25.23 (H) – December 16
50m fly – Felicity Galvez (AUS) – 25.20 (SF) – December 16
50m fly – Therese Alshammar (SWE) – 25.19 (SF) – December 16
200m fly – Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) – 2:03.59 – December 15
100m IM – Ariana Kukors (USA) – 59.14 (H) – December 16
100m IM – Ariana Kukors (USA) – 58.65 (SF) – December 16
400m IM – Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) – 4:24.21 – December 15

H – Heats
SF – Semi-final