Ryan Lochte (USA) sets first WR (200m IM) in Istanbul

FINA World Swimming Championships (25m)

On day 3 at the 11th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), the first World Record was established by Ryan Lochte (USA) in the men’s 200m individual medley tonight. The swimming star touched first in 1:49.63, becoming the first to complete the distance in less than 1:50 minutes. The day was also highlighted by four Championships Records: two set by Nicholas Santos (BRA) in the heats (22.40, equalled) and the semis (22.23) of the men’s 50m butterfly: one from Daniel Gyurta (HUN), who brilliantly won the men’s 200m breaststroke in 2:01.35, and a fourth set by teammate Katinka Hosszu in the women’s 100m IM (58.49).

With so many successes, Hungary is presently second in the championships’ medal table, totalling seven medals (three gold, one silver and three bronze). Team USA dominates the chart with a total 17 awards (7, 4, 6) – besides Lochte’s gold, USA earned three silver and two bronze medals throughout the evening’s session.

The day was also prolific for the German team, with Britta Steffen's win in the women’s 100m free and Paul Biederman's victory in the men’s 400m free. The remaining titles went to Denmark in the women’s 4x100m medley relay (the country has already earned five medals in Istanbul), to Vladimir Morozov (RUS) in a thrilling men’s 50m free final, to Spain’s Melanie Costa Schmid in the women’s 400m free, to China’s Ying Lu in the 'lottery' of the women’s 50m butterfly, and to Daryna Zevina (UKR), winning the women’s 200m backstroke in convincing fashion.

Finals in detail

Women 100 free

Winner of the eight legs of the FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup 2012 in this event (women’s 100m free), Britta Steffen (GER), the best performer of the season and 2008 Olympic champion in the distance, was naturally the woman to beat in this final. Second fastest of the semis, the German star was also helped by the absence of the 2010 World short-course champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo and did not miss her final. Departing fast, Steffen was only sixth at halfway but managed to accelerate and touch first in 52.31, ahead of Megan Romano (USA, 52.48) and Yi Tang (CHN, 52.73). It was Steffen’s first gold in the history of the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m).

Women 200 back

Also predictable was the win of Daryna Zevina (UKR) in the women’s 200m backstroke. Best of the semis in Istanbul (2:03.41), the Ukrainian champion was also the best performer of the season, after her European title in Chartres (2:01.97) less than a month ago. With her gold in 2:02.24, the 18-year-old got her first world success in short course waters, two years after being one of the sensations at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore (where she won three medals in backstroke events). The minor medals went to Bonnie Brandon (USA, 2:03.19) and Duane da Rocha Marce (ESP, 2:04.15), also enjoying their first successes at this level.

Post-race, Zevina said: “I’m very happy, because in Ukraine my parents are watching on TV. They saw I am a champion, so I’m proud. This is my first (world) championships medal.” On whether she was afraid she might lose the lead: “It’s always possible. Maybe another girl will swim faster than me in the second part of the race. I could see the others trying to close the gap so I just tried to swim faster. When you jump in the pool and you feel it's easy to swim, then it's OK. Today it was not so hard to swim,” she concluded with a smile.

Bronze medallist Duane da Rocha Marce was also thrilled: "It's my first World short-course Championship, this medal was totally unexpected so I'm really happy. I know the finish looked like I was dead. My second hundred is always better than my first, so I was counting on that”.

Men 200 breast

Not selected for the 2012 Olympics, Akihiro Yamaguchi (JPN) was one of the protagonists of the post-Games season when he established a new World Record in the 200m breaststroke (2:07.01, long course) in mid-September, erasing the previous mark established in London by Hungary’s Daniel Gyurta (2:07.28). The duel in Istanbul between the Japanese and Magyar star (WR 25m-pool) was then one of the attractions of this third evening session.

Yamaguchi (18 years old) was the fastest of the semis (2:03.57) while Gyurta, 23, was slightly slower in 2:03.64. In the decisive race, the European swimmer was simply unstoppable, getting the gold in a new Championships Record of 2:01.35. Silver went to Michael Jamieson (GBR, 2:03.00), Olympic silver medallist in the distance. The bronze was earned by Viatcheslav Sinkevich (RUS) in 2:03.08. The major surprise was the fourth place of Yamaguchi, in a modest 2:03.23.

After the race, Gyurta explained his tactics: “Based on the heats I decided to push from the beginning. I did not want the race to be decided on the finish like during the (2012) Olympics. I wanted the race to be decided after the first 150m and I managed to do that, because the others could not take the pace.”

On his memories from Istanbul: “I love the city of Istanbul. I won the European title here (at the 2009 European Short Course Championships) so I was really happy to come back and win the last gold missing in my collection."

He then added on his main challenger (Yamaguchi): "I am used to Japanese breaststroke swimmers, before we had Kitajima and every year, new ones arrive and keep getting better. Yamaguchi broke my World record after the Olympics but the most important for me was the Olympic title in London. I will try to regain the World record next summer in Barcelona".

Women 50 fly

Fresh from her 50m fly European crown (25.21) in Chartres, Jeanette Ottesen (DEN), also the 2011 World champion (long course) in the 100m free, had qualified first in the semis but Liuyang Jiao (two Olympic medals) and Ying Lu (silver at the 2012 Olympics in the 100m butterfly), both from China, had winning plans on mind and imposed their speed in the final. Lu touched first in 25.14 while Jiao picked up silver in 25.23. The Danish star had to settle for bronze in 25.55, far from her best this season. 

Ying Lu, on winning the gold medal: “I’m so happy. The level of us three medallists is similar. I’m not better than the others, perhaps I was able to pay attention to some little details a bit more than them.”

Men 400 free

With the current world record holder of the men’s 400m free (France’s Yannick Agnel) at home, the bet for the gold should go for Paul Biedermann (GER), the swimmer with the best PB of the field (3:32.77). 2009 champion in 200m and 400m free (long course), the German was second to Lochte in the 200m free on Day 1 but this time was ready to renew his 2010 title.

Men's medallists in the 400 free - credit: Giorgio Scala

Swimming in lane 1, China’s Yun Hao took in charge the initiative of the race until the 350m-mark and looked in a privileged position to win, but Biedermann powered for the win with 50m to go and earned gold in 3:39.15. Hao (fourth at the 2012 Olympics in this event) got the silver in 3:39.48, while the bronze went to Mads Glaesner from Denmark in 3:40.09.  

"I'm pretty happy about it, it was not expected. I will try to keep on and hope to enter the new year with a smile. I think the Chinese (Yun) did an amazing race, even in the heats this morning”, declared a smiling Biedermann.

On the side of the silver medallist, Hao stated: "The first 300m went OK but in the last 50m I could not keep the pace, I tried to do my best but could not catch him (Biedermann) and keep the speed".

Women 400 free

Equally the absence of French star Camille Muffat (World record holder in the event since November 24) dictated an open race with the first 350m dominated by Lauren Boyle (NZL) and Elena Sokolova (RUS), with some advantage to the New Zealander, clear leader from the 200m to the 350m-mark. In lane 3, Melanie Costa Schmid (ESP) was following the leaders in third, but in the last 25m, a successful final acceleration gave her the gold in 4:01.08. Sokolova lost some speed and allowed Chloe Sutton (USA) to capture silver in 4:01.20, while Boyle took third in 4:01.24.

The best results of the Spanish swimmer until Istanbul had been three medals at the 2011 European Short Course Swimming Championships, while Sutton was third in Istanbul in the 800m free, an event won precisely Boyle.

"As soon as I started I saw lane 4 and 6 (Sutton and Boyle) going really fast. In the last 50m, I saw Sutton going really fast so I just wanted to beat her", confessed Schmid. "I'm training in Barcelona so I'm really excited that people will come and see how beautiful this city is. I can't wait for next year's Worlds, to have everybody racing and have fun there", she concluded.

Women's medallists in the 400 free - credit: Giorgio Scala

Men 50 free

Swimming next to the 2012 Olympic champion in the 50m free (French Florent Manaudou) in this event, Russia’s Vladimir Morozov clearly dominated the operations, earning gold in 20.55, a season’s new best. Manaudou, the fastest of the semis, touched home in 20.88 (silver), while the bronze went to US Anthony Ervin (31 years old) in a time of 20.99.

Morozov had shown his vocation for the freestyle sprint events when he established a new Championships Record in the first leg of the 4x100m free relay. For all the medallists, these were their first podium presences in this competition – Ervin has a long career behind him, having a silver medal in this event at the… 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney!

"I don't think it's a revenge (against the French); we didn't have our best guys in London. I was really surprised to win tonight", considered Morozov. "I used to train in the U.S. and now I'm back in Russia. The training ways to swimming are very different but both help improve speed so I feel fortunate to have experienced the two".

Ervin also commented on his longevity in the sport: "I like competing, racing, just love training, working out... Compared to the working world being an athlete is definitely the best job in the world."

Women 100 IM

Confirming her 2012 supremacy in the women’s 100m IM (a race she often won at the FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup series), Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu got her third medal in Istanbul, touching for gold in a new Championships Record of 58.49 (the previous meet’s best mark was set by Ariana Kukors from USA in the semi-finals in 2010, in 58.65). Hosszu had already won the 200m butterfly, and was third in the 400m IM.

The fight for silver was contested between breaststroke specialist Ruta Meilutyte (LTU) and backstroker Jing Zhao from China. The Lithuanian teenager was the swiftest in 58.79 while Zhao touched the wall in 58.80. Alia Atkinson (JAM), one of the championships’ revelations, missed the podium, touching fourth in 58.85.

Men 200 IM

He had been close to it two years ago in Dubai but Ryan Lochte (USA) finally became the first athlete to complete the men’s 200m IM under 1:50 minutes, after establishing a new World Record in the event on day 3 of the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Istanbul. Totally dominating the race, the U.S. star completed the eight laps in 1:49.63.

In 2010, Lochte clocked 1:50.08 (a new WR), a time that was never approached: after that result, the second best performer of all times is Darian Townsend (RSA), in 1:51.55. Lochte is therefore not only the first swimmer under 1:50, but also the only one under 1:51. Compared to this amazing performance in Istanbul, Daiya Seto's silver (JPN, 1:52.80) and Laszlo Cseh's bronze (HUN, 1:52.89) looked evidently “modest”.

"Anytime you get a World record, it's amazing. I wanted to break the World record. I didn't know I was going to go that fast", said Lochte.

Women 4x100 medley relay

In excellent shape at these championships, the women’s 4x100m medley relay consecrated the team of Denmark, winner in 3:49.87. Never before the Nordic country had medalled in this event! It was however a clean sweep for the European swimmers, who totally dominated the race, being always first after each leg. The quartet was composed by Mie Nielsen, Rikke Pedersen, Jeanette Ottesen and Pernille Blume.

The fight for silver played out between USA and Australia: the initial advantage went to USA, but a less successful butterfly leg from Claire Donahue (57.67) and an excellent response from Australia’s Marieke Guehrer (56.36) dictated the switch of positions at the end of the race, with the North Americans finishing third (3:51.43), behind an inspired Australian team (silver in 3:50.88).