Lochte betters 100m IM WR, Meilutyte and Ye on top

FINA World Swimming Championships (25m)

One day after setting a new World Record in the final of the men’s 200m IM, Ryan Lochte (USA) was again in excellent shape on day 4 of the 11th FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Istanbul, setting a new world best mark in the semis of the 100m IM. Qualifying first for the final, the U.S. superstar touched home in 50.71, improving the previous WR (50.76) of Peter Mankoc (SLO) from December 2009. In the decisive race of this event, to be held this Sunday, the last day of the Championships, Lochte is the top favourite for the gold.

In the finals of this Saturday, Ruta Meilutyte (LTU), Nicholas Santos (BRA) and Shiwen Ye (CHN) all won with new Championships Records, respectively in the women’s 100m breaststroke (1:03.52), the men’s 50m butterfly (22.22), and the women’s 200m IM (2:04.64). The fourth meet’s record (26.11) of the day was established by Jing Zhao (CHN) in the semis of the women’s 50m backstroke. Before the last day in Istanbul, two World and 15 Championships Records have been set at the Sinan Erdem Arena.

To close the day, Robert Hurley gave the first gold to Australia at these Championships, winning the men’s 50m backstroke while the United States clinched one title in the women’s 4x100m free relay. However, the U.S. domination in the medals table is a fact, with a total of 20 awards (8 gold, 5 silver and 7 bronze) in Istanbul. Hungary (3+2+3, total of 8) and China (2+4+3, total of 9) complete the top-3 of this ranking.

Finals in detail

Women’s 100m breast

In the first final of the day 4 in Istanbul, all the ingredients were gathered for a great race: in lane 2, Jessica Hardy (USA), the owner of the fastest PB among the eight swimmers (1:03.30); in lane 3, Alia Atkinson (JAM), silver medallist in the 50m at these Championships; in lane 4, Rikke Pedersen (DEN), best performer of the season with her 2:04.11 from the semis; in lane 5, Ruta Meilutyte (LTU), 2012 Olympic champion over the distance and winner of the 50m in Istanbul and in lane 6, Sarah Katsoulis (AUS), bronze medallist in the 50m earlier this week.

In the four-lap final, Meilutyte was the best, touching for gold in a new Championships Record of 1:03.52 (beating Rebecca Soni's (USA) mark established in Dubai two years ago, 1:03.98). The Lithuanian teenager was even under World-record pace at halfway but could not maintain the rhythm until the end. Like in the 50m breast, Atkinson got the silver (1:03.80) and Pedersen took bronze (1:04.05).

Meilutyte, on winning the gold medal: “This is something I worked for. I didn’t really train for the 50m, all my thoughts were for the 100m. It didn’t go the way I wanted this morning (in the heats), finally I got it right now.

It’s the first time I’m actually really happy with my race, with the splits and the process. Even if I came last, I would be as happy as I am now”.

On her overall experience at the Championships: “I’m satisfied. I had so much fun this week. It’s been an incredible experience, my first world championships.”

Atkinson also commented on her race: “I wanted a gold medal here. I went into this final with that on my mind. But it turned out I didn’t have enough to win”. On her Lithuanian rival: “I’m nine years older than her. She is a spectacular swimmer. At her age (15) I was probably swimming in the semi-finals. In swimming, age really doesn’t matter. I am 24 years old and I am swimming my best now.”

Rikke Pedersen, on the success of the Danish team at these Worlds: "We are such a strong women's team now so I hope we'll go even faster".

Men’s 50m back

Despite his defeat in the 100m backstroke (where he was second to American Matt Grevers), Stanislav Donets (RUS) was decided to confirm his 2012 supremacy in the shorter event. Clocking the fastest time of the semis (23.14), 00.2 slower than his best performance of the season, obtained in Tokyo during the FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup, Donets was again not strong enough to beat his main challengers.

The gold went to Robert Hurley (AUS), his first award at this level, in 23.04 while silver was earned by Grevers in 23.17. Donets arrived only in third position, in a 'discreet' time of 23.19.

Robert Hurley (AUS) - credit: Giorgio Scala

At the end of the race, Hurley reflected on the preparation for these Worlds: "I did the whole FINA/ARENA Swimming World Cup - it's 56 races in the past 6 weeks and I don't think I did that in the last three years of my life. I was disappointed after the 100 back where I came fifth. It's my first World Championship so I'm very happy".

On his time, he added: "It was quicker than what I went in the suit and not far from the World Record so I'm pretty happy. I was a little bit nervous for the 50m back because it's so close, I kind of use that nervous energy to make me swim faster."

Post-race, Donets admitted: "I'm more satisfied than after the 100 back race. I did a better finish, the only mistake I made was in my turn. This is short-course Worlds so every medal is an honour. I was very disappointed after the 100 back but then I realised that it was a good result".

The Russian great continued: "I would like to congratulate Robert (Hurley) for the gold; we met during the World Cup and every time I was faster, at least the World Record is still mine”, Donets joked. On that, Hurley added: "We raced each other 16 times across the World Cup, I beat him twice and he beat me 14 times!"

Men’s 50m fly

After two successive Championships Records in the heats (22.40) and semis (22.23), Nicholas Santos (BRA), also the best performer of the season in 22.22, was the man to beat in the men’s 50m fly. In the decisive race, the 32-year-old Brazilian star did not disappoint and got his first World title also in 22.22, a new Championships Record. Chad Le Clos (RSA), winner of the 100m butterfly, picked up silver in 22.26 while Thomas Shields (USA, second in the 100m) earned bronze in 22.46.

This is the first gold medal for Brazil at these Championships, after Guilherme Guido's bronze in the men’s 100m backstroke. Santos was naturally satisfied with the outcome but not so much with the performance: “I was slower than I hoped. I didn’t get down to 21. My turn didn’t work out too well and I didn’t reach the World Record, but this is my first World championships medal. From today I’m a world champion. To get a compensation like this (for all the training I’ve done) is a really strong sensation. It’s awesome for me”.

He then continued: “The second swimmer (Chad) was really close to me. It’s good I secured the gold. I also broke the Championship record”. On being a veteran swimmer at these Worlds: "I don't feel my age, I just swim. My life is good and age is not a problem".

Le Clos recalled this close race: “I am a bit disappointed to lose like this, but my dad always told me not to complain when I got a personal best time!”

Women’s 200m IM

The duel between Katinka Hosszu (HUN) and Shiwen Ye (CHN) in the women’s 200m individual medley was one of the most anticipated finals of the session. Hosszu, best performer of the season (2:05.78), fastest of the semis (2:07.07) and already with three medals in Istanbul was opposed to the Olympic gold medallist in the 200m and 400m IM and runner-up in the semis (2:08.09).

Women's 200 IM medallists - credit: Giorgio Scala

Hosszu seemed to be in the right way towards victory but a very strong freestyle leg from Ye allowed her to capture gold in a new Championships Record (2:04.64, bettering the previous mark set by Spain’s Mireia Belmonte in 2010, 2:05.73). Hosszu arrived shortly after, winning silver in 2:04.72. The bronze went to Hannah Miley (GBR) in 2:07.12.

Ye could not retain her joy after the race: “I’m so happy I came in first position today. It feels so good”. On beating her main rival, Katinka Hosszu: “I competed against her many times in many events. She races in many different events. This time she was stronger than ever”.

On what she thought during the race, she said: “I thought ‘for sure I won’t give up’. I had a chance to come back because in the breaststroke she (Hosszu) is not so strong”. On breaking the Championships record: “Racing against Hosszu made me swim faster”.

On the Magyar side, Hosszu was also satisfied: “I am very happy with the silver. I have already won two gold medals here. I am very happy with my time, it is my best time by a second. Still, I feel I should have swum faster, so I am glad there is some room for improvement”. On her overall performance: "I'm very excited, I didn't think I would win that many medals, I just wanted one title".

Bronze medallist Miley shared her thoughts: “This was definitely one of my hardest races. I thought, maybe I can become fifth, sixth or seventh, but I am really happy how it went. The medley is not one of my strongest events. The last 50m was really hard, but medley is all about endurance”.

Women’s 4x100m free

Winner of the last three editions, the team of the Netherlands was not in Istanbul to defend the gold medal in the women's 4x100m free relay. This time, the triumph went to the United States, last victorious at the 2004 edition in Indianapolis. With a quartet formed by Megan Romano, Jessica Hardy, Lia Neal and Allison Schmitt, the North Americans touched home in 3:31.01.

Neal made the difference (52.44) in the third leg, when Brianna Throssell (AUS, 54.19) could not keep the pace of her team, until then in the lead. The Australians finished second in 3:32.90 while Denmark continues to impress, getting one more medal (bronze in 3:33.51).