USA wins three gold on opening night in Istanbul

FINA World Swimming Championships (25m)

The 11th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) have started in Istanbul (TUR) under the domination of USA, who won three out of the five gold medals at stake in the inaugural day. Ryan Lochte was the best in the men’s 200m free and also gave his precious contribution to the triumph of his team in the 4x100m free relay. In the last event of the evening, the United States repeated the 2004 success in the women’s 4x200m free. The other individual winners of the day were Katinka Hosszu (HUN) in the women’s 200m butterfly and Hannah Miley (GBR) in the 400m IM.

The initial day in the Turkish metropolis was also marked by five Championships Records: in the morning, the 2012 Olympic revelation Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) clocked 29.56 in the heats of the women’s 50m breaststroke, a time she improved in the semis of the event (29.51). The triumph of Hosszu and Miley was also accompanied by a new best mark of the competition - 2:02.20 and 4:23.14, respectively. Finally, and despite a Championships Record of 45.52 in the first leg of the men’s 4x100m free, set by Vladimir Morozov, Russia only finished fourth in the event.

Fastest in the heats and winner of this event in 2010, Ryan Lochte (USA) was naturally the favourite for the victory in the men’s 200m free, also taking into account his excellent performance (five medals) at the 2012 Olympics in London. Despite the presence of world record holder Paul Biedermann (GER) in lane 3, the US star controlled the race and got the gold in 1:41.92. Biedermann still tried a final acceleration but finished second in 1:42.07. The bronze went to the second US swimmer of the final, Conor Dwyer (1:43.78). The best performer of the year, France’s Yannick Agnel is not present in Istanbul. 

"I was a little shaky in the first 50m, I was kind of swimming everyone's race but not my own race, I was really relaxed and I only started to do my underwaters in the last 50m. Anytime you win gold it's a great feeling, but I thought I could have gone a lot faster, fortunately I got another shot at it in the relay", said Lochte on his race.

On his passion for swimming and his multi-event ability: "It's just something I have been wanting to do since I was a little kid, the reason why I love swimming so much is racing, and that's why I pick so many events and train that way so that I can race all those events. That's what I find is fun about swimming."

"I want to make swimming bigger than what it is, I want to change the sport: air on TV all over the world, top sport at the Olympics, meets every year", he concluded.

Men's 200m free medallists - credit: Giorgio Scala

Paul Biedermann also analysed the 200m free race: "I am happy with my race. In short course, the guy with the better turns will win, which is Ryan (Lochte). I was surprised that it was this close."
Katinka Hosszu (HUN), the winner of the 2012 FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup, had established the best performance of the season in the heats of the women’s 200m butterfly, in a time of 2:04.19 and got the gold in the final with a faster time of 2:02.20, a new Championships Record (in 2010, Mireia Belmonte, from Spain, had won in 2:03.59). It was the first 25m world medal for the Magyar swimmer – and also the first ever medal for this country at women’s events in the history of these championships -, who was the 2009 champion (long course) in this same event. However, it was a hard fight against Jemma Lowe (GBR), silver medallist two years ago and the first until the 150m mark. In the end, Lowe got the bronze in 2:03.19, while Liuyang Jiao (CHN) finished second in 2:02.28. Zige Liu, the world record holder, was only fourth.

“I was pretty happy but I was a little bit dead in the final metres. I was still eight hundredths of a second faster so it was a pleasure to set a European and championship record. It was a really close race, so I was happy to win it", declared Hosszu after her winning effort.

Jiao was also satisfied with the outcome of the race: "My result is much better than before so I was pleased, I gained a lot of confidence after the London Olympics."

Women's 200m fly medallists - credit: Giorgio Scala

Less than 15 minutes after receiving her gold medal for the 200m butterfly victory, Hosszu was again in action in the 400m IM. Swimming in lane 5, she had been second to Hannah Miley (GBR) in the heats – the British was also the fastest of the year, with a 4:23.47 effort in Chartres (FRA), at the European Championships. In lane 3, the sensation of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, China’s Shiwen Ye, gold medallist in the 200m and 400m IM. In the third final of the inaugural day in Istanbul, Hosszu was never in a position to get the gold, that went to Miley in a new Championships Record of 4:23.14 (Mireia Belmonte, from Spain, had clocked 4:24.21 in 2010). Miley, 23 years old, had been silver medallist in the 200m IM at the FINA World Championships in 2011 in Shanghai. Ye got the silver in 4:23.33, while Kosszu touched third in 4:25.95.

“The medley is all about tactics", declared Miley, before adding: "At the Olympics, everybody is out of their comfort zone, but here we have the luxury to be a bit more comfortable."

Shiwen Ye, the silver medallist was also happy: “It went OK. I always feel very tired at the beginning of a competition, it is always very hard. I didn’t even reach my personal best.”

Finally, Hosszu also left her impression on the race: "I felt pretty good coming to this meet, the FINA Swimming World Cup was a very good training for the short-course Worlds, I swam a lot of races. Today, I swam three races and I am looking forward to more swimming this week."

Winners of this event on three occasions, the United States got the gold once more in the men’s 4x100m free relay, in a time of 3:06.40. Thanks to Anthony Ervin, Ryan Lochte, James Feigen and Matt Grevers, the North Americans beat the Italians, the fastest of the heats. In the end, the European team clocked 3:07.07 for silver, while Australia arrived closely behind for bronze, in a time of 3:07.27. Russia and Brazil, respectively second and third in 2010, could not reach the podium in Istanbul. For the Russians, fourth, it was bitter final, as they were leading until the 600m mark, thanks to solid legs from Morozov (45.52, Championships Record), Evgeny Lagunov (46.58), Viatcheslav Andrusenko (47.65). But a less successful 100m from Artem Lobuzov (48.26) allowed USA to recover (Grevers, the last to swim for the North Americans, was two seconds faster, completing the four laps in 46.23). France, the winner two years ago, was the illustrious absent at these Championships.

"The relay was the hardest one to get, it was my third event, no time to warm down, coming into that relay, I was really tired, but I had to do it for the team", said Lochte after the win.

Gold medallist in Dubai 2010 with a new World Record, China could not repeat this success in the last final of the day in Istanbul, the women’s 4x200m free relay. This time, the team of United States, composed by Megan Romano, Chelsea Chenault, Shannon Vreeland and Allison Schmitt, got the third gold of the session, touching first in 7:39.25. The North Americans had won this event for the last time in their home Championships in Indianapolis in 2004. Russia “compensated” the men’s frustration by making its first appearance in the podium in this event, grabbing silver in 7:42.77, while China concluded third for bronze, in 7:43.26.