Dubai, Day 4: Belmonte Garcia (ESP), a Star is born

FINA World Swimming Championships (25m)

Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) - credit: gettyimagesThe 10th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) consecrated a new star in the women’s events, Spain’s Mireia Belmonte Garcia. Swimming in lane 8 of the 200m individual medley final, Belmonte Garcia got the gold in a new championships record of 2:05.73 and collected her fourth medal in the Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex – after the victories in the 400m IM and 200m butterfly, and the silver in the 800m free. An amazing performance in the most demanding races of the programme, proving that the 20-year-old Catalonian (she was born and lives in Barcelona) world revelation has a bright future. At European level, the Spaniard had collected a gold medal in the 2008 long course championships also in the 200m IM, while in 25m-pool, her most brilliant moment had been the triumph in the 400m IM, also in 2008.

In Dubai, Belmonte Garcia is displaying an outstanding resistance and versatility, and for her latest achievement, she defeated China’s Shiwen Ye (14 years old and winner of the 200m and 400m IM at the Asian Games), and US Ariana Kukors, winner of the 100m IM on Day 3 (and of the 200m IM at the 2009 Worlds in Rome). Ye got the silver in 2:05.94, while Kukors was third in 2:06.09. The Hungarian team is definitively not shining in Dubai, with Katinka Hosszu and Evelin Verraszto (2010 short course European champion) in fourth and fifth position respectively.

“This morning I was feeling very tired and nervous, but in the afternoon I became more relaxed. I cannot believe that I’m going home with four medals, three of them gold!” said Belmonte Garcia after her successful campaign.


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Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) - credit: gettyimages


Third medal for Soni
Without surprise, Rebecca Soni (USA) confirmed her fastest time of the semis in the decisive race of the women’s 100m breaststroke, finishing first in a new championships record of 1:03.98. Already winner of the 50m breaststroke and second in the 4x100m medley relay, Soni, the world record holder in 1:02.70, controlled the entire race and left behind Leisel Jones (AUS), second in 1:04.26, and China’s Liping Ji, bronze medallist in 1:04.79. For Jones, eight-time Olympic medallist and 12-time World medallist (in long course), this was her first individual medal ever at a FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), after being third here in Dubai in the 4x100m medley relay. The 25-year-old Australian seems to be back to her good “old” shape, after taking a break in 2009. For Liping Ji, this was her first medal at this level, after shining at the recent Asian Games (gold in the 100m breaststroke and silver in the 200m). Despite bettering her time of 1:06.20, needed to get the gold at the European Championships in early December, Moniek Nijhuis (NED) finished eighth, in 1:05.99.

“This time, it was tough! I saw Leisel [Jones] next to me as I tried to out swim her. It’s always great to race Leisel, we usually talk in the changing rooms before the race, we chat a lot to distract ourselves,” confessed Soni after her effort.

Donets, the fastest in backstroke
Before the start of the championships in Dubai, the record of the competition in the men’s 50m backstroke was of 23.41, corresponding to the victory time of Liam Tancock (GBR) in Manchester 2008. After the competition in the Middle East, the best mark of the event now stands at 22.93, following five improvements in Dubai. Xiaolei Sun (CHN) bettered the time on two occasions and the eventual winner of the race, Russia’s Stanislav Donets did it on three occasions, including his 22.93 effort in the final. Donets, also winner of 100m backstroke at these championships, confirmed his recent European title in the 50m (in Eindhoven, in early December, he took gold in 22.74). The silver was shared (first “joint” medal in Dubai) precisely by Xiaolei Sun (first medal ever at this level, after a third place at the Asian Games in the 100m backstroke) and by Spain’s Aschwin Wildeboer (third in the 100m in Dubai), in a time of 23.13. Camille Lacourt (FRA), second in the 100m back, missed the podium by a mere 0.03, finishing fourth in 23.16.

“I’m thrilled to win two distances in Dubai. For me, this winter season had been memorable: I won the 50m and 100m backstroke her, at the European Championships, at the World Cup leg in Moscow, and at the Russian cup! I hope this is not just temporary and I wish I can achieve more in the long run,” declared Donets after his victory.

First gold for Venezuela since 1997

After his silver medal in the 100m butterfly, Albert Subirats (VEN) gave the first gold medal in Dubai for his country, with a championships record’s win in the 50m in 22.40. We have to go back 13 years to find the previous gold medal for Venezuela in these championships, when Francisco Sanchez won the 50m and 100m free in Gothenburg (SWE). In a race decided by some centimetres, the silver went to 18-year-old Andrii Govorov, from Ukraine, who touched home in 22.43. This was the first medal for Govorov at this level, following a brilliant appearance at the first Youth Olympic Games, last August in Singapore, where he was first in the 50m free and 50m butterfly. 2010 European short course champion Steffen Deibler (GER) was third in 22.44 (worse his 22.34 effort in Eindhoven), after a fourth place in the 50m free here in Dubai. Veteran Geoff Huegill (AUS, 31 years old), who was making his return to the world-level competition since his comeback to the pools (he had announced his retirement in 2006 and reviewed his decision in the end of 2008), continues to be unsuccessful in Dubai: after a 15th place in the 100m butterfly, he was fifth in 22.75.


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Albert Subirats (VEN) - credit: gettyimages

Netherlands close with CR
After winning successes in 2006 (Shanghai) and 2008 (Manchester), the 4x100m free relay of the Netherlands got in Dubai the third consecutive gold in this event. Two years ago, the Dutch quartet had clocked 3:29.42, but this time Femke Heemskerk, Inge Dekker, Hinkelien Schreuder and Ranomi Kromowidjojo did even better, touching in a new championships record of 3:28.54. The team of USA, the fastest of the heats, regained the podium area, after a lack of medals in the last two editions of the championships – the North Americans got the silver in 3:29.34, while the bronze went to China in 3:29.81 (the Asian swimmers had won the two other relay events here in Dubai, the 4x200m free and 4x100m medley).

The most awaited semi-final of the day was the men’s 100m free, where Cesar Cielo (BRA) qualified first for the decisive race, in a championships record of 46.01 (he was under the WR pace at the first 50m-mark). He was faster that Fabien Gilot (FRA, the best of the heats in 46.62 an second of the semis in 46.11), and also left Olympic champion Alain Bernard (FRA) in disadvantage for the final (fourth, in 46.71). “I made a plan for the race and I followed it. It felt quite easy tonight, I’m probably going to stick to the same speed but bring it home a bit more,” considered the Brazilian star. Asked about the possibility of reaching the 44.94 WR (established by Amaury Leveaux in December 2008), Cesar Cielo was clear: “I don’t think so. I believe that 44.9 is out of reach for us right now”. Finally, on the rivalry with Bernard: “He’s the Olympic champion and he knows when to bring it so I must be on my game!”

Before the last day of competition in Dubai, four WR and 47 championships records were established. In the medal chart, USA leads with eight gold, while Russia and Spain have four victories each. Swimmers from 12 nations listened to their anthem in the pool, but that was not the case of Australia so far, only with six silver and two bronze medals.

MEDAL TABLE* (after Day 4)

           G    S    B
USA     8    4    6
RUS     4    3    -
ESP     4    2    1
CHN    2    4    6
FRA     2    2    2
NED    2    1    1
VEN     1    1    -
BRA     1    -    3
GER     1    -    1
SWE    1    -    1
JPN     1    -    -
RSA    1    -    -
AUS    -    6    2
TUN    -    1    2
ITA     -    1    1
AUT    -    1    -
GBR    -    1    -
HUN    -    1    -
UKR    -    1    -
DEN    -    -    1

*Two silver medals in the men’s 50m back

RECORDS in Dubai (after Day 4)

World Records (4)

Men

200m IM – Ryan Lochte (USA) – 1:50.08 – December 17
400m IM – Ryan Lochte (USA) – 3:55.50 – December 16
4x200m free relay – Russia – 6:49.04 – December 16

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

Championships Records (47)

Men

50m free – Cesar Cielo Filho (BRA) – 20.61 (SF) – December 16
50m free – Cesar Cielo Filho (BRA) – 20.51 – December 17
100m free – Fabien Gilot (FRA) – 46.62 (H) – December 18
100m free – Cesar Cielo Filho (BRA) – 46.01 (SF) – December 18
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
50m back – Xiaolei Sun (CHN) – 23.41= (H) – December 17
50m back – Stanislav Donets (RUS) – 23.24 (H) – December 17
50m back – Xiaolei Sun (CHN) – 23.23 (SF) – December 17
50m back – Stanislav Donets (RUS) – 23.02 (SF) – December 17
50m back – Stanislav Donets (RUS) – 22.93 – December 18
100m back – Stanislav Donets (RUS) – 49.62 (SF) – December 15
100m back – Stanislav Donets (RUS) – 49.07 – December 16
50m breast – Cameron van der Burgh (RSA) – 26.14 (H) – December 18
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
200m breast – Naoya Tomita (JPN) – 2:04.93 (H) – December 17
200m breast – Daniel Gyurta (HUN) – 2:04.46 (H) – December 17
200m breast – Naoya Tomita (JPN) 2:03.12 – December 17
50m fly – Steffen Deibler (GER) – 22.57 (SF) – December 17
50m fly – Albert Subirats (VEN) – 22.40 – December 18
100m IM – Ryan Lochte (USA) – 50.81 (SF) – December 18
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

Women
100m free – Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) – 51.45 – December 17
200m free – Camille Muffat (FRA) – 1:53.17 (1st leg 4x200) – December 15
400m free – Katie Hoff (USA) – 3:57.07 – December 17
50m back – Jing Zhao (CHN) – 26.37= (SF) – December 18
100m back – Chang Gao (CHN) – 56.58 (SF) – December 15
100m back – Natalie Coughlin (USA) – 56.08 – December 16
100m breast – Rebecca Soni (USA) – 1:04.17 (SF) – December 17
100m breast – Rebecca Soni (USA) – 1:03.98 – December 18
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
50m fly – Therese Alshammar (SWE) – 24.87 – December 17
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
200m IM – Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) – 2:05.73 – December 18
400m IM – Mireia Belmonte Garcia (ESP) – 4:24.21 – December 15
4x100m free relay – Netherlands – 3:28.54 – December 18
4x100m medley relay – China – 3:50.69 (H) – December 17
4x100m medley relay – China – 3:48.29  December 17

H – Heats
SF – Semi-final