David Hulmes, FINA Press Correspondent

Mireia Belmonte (ESP) shattered the 400m IM world record on her way to a third gold from three swims, while Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) lowered her own 200m free mark — her second world record of the meet — as the Eindhoven leg of the FINA/airweave Swimming World Cup drew to a close on Saturday.

Previous 400m IM record holder Katinka Hosszu (HUN) set a strong pace in the first half of the race, and touched just ahead of the Spaniard at halfway, 0.53 inside the world record split.

But Belmonte seized the initiative early in the breaststroke section, and achieved the remarkable task of leaving the self-styled Iron Lady trailing in her wake, finally clocking 4:18.94, lowering the record by 0.43 and banking a $10,000 bonus for good measure. Hosszu took silver in 4:25.18.

“Every time I swim against Katinka it’s very special for me, because she’s such a good swimmer and it’s an inspiration for me to beat her. Tonight, I felt very good after 200, which for me is the weaker half, and it was amazing to push on and win like that,” said Belmonte.

Sjostrom (SWE)

Sjostrom had broken the 100m free record on Friday, and led all the way in the 200m version to clock 1:50.43, an improvement of 0.35 on her previous best. Sjostrom also picked up $50,000, to add to her $20,000 for two world records, as the cluster winner, with 266 points.

“Wow, I’ve never been that surprised at a world record before. I haven't been in training for the 200m free much this year, and to better my record so much — I can’t believe it. Now it’s time for a holiday, take it easy for a few weeks, then get back to training for the next World Cup cluster,” said Sjostrom.

The Chad ’n’ Vlad show took centre stage in the opening race of the night, the men’s 100m free, in front of another pumped-up capacity crowd at Pieter van den Hoogenband Stadium.

And it was Chad le Clos (RSA) who got the fans on their feet, triumphing in 45.96, ahead of Vladimir Morozov (RUS), with Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers (AUS) able to play only a supporting role in fifth.

“The atmosphere really helped,” said Le Clos, who later landed the 100m fly in 49.09 and secured the men’s cluster title, along with $50,000.

“We need to make the sport more fun and exciting, and this is amazing. What FINA have done this year has been so good — thank you to them, hats off —  it’s been a great job so far.”

A big feature of the meet has been the nightclub atmosphere — including light shows, spotlights transforming the dimmed pool into a dancefloor during athlete introductions between each race, and pumping beats — which has gone down well with athletes and up-for-it fans.

Hosszu was back in the pool for the 100m back, 15 minutes later after losing her 400m IM record. The Hungarian had beaten Emily Seebohm (AUS) in both their clashes on the first night, but it was a different story this time, with Seebohm touching home first in 56.00, ahead of Olivia Smoliga (USA) and Hosszu.

World-record holder Alia Atkinson (JAM) claimed her second gold of the meet with an all-the-way win in 28.84 in the 50m breast, putting clear water between herself and long-time rival Ruta Meilutyte (LTU), who was 0.73 behind.

“It’s different from a 200, and it’s lovely to come back to sprinting. When I get home. I’m looking forward to training, and fine-tuning all the stuff I can fix in time for the next legs of the World Cup,” said Atkinson.

Kromowidjojo (NED)

There was no shortage of big-name speedsters in the women’s 50m fly, as Atkinson lined up alongside Cate Campbell (AUS), Sjostrom, Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED) and Seebohm. 

And it was Kromowidjojo (24.54) who sent the home crowd wild, getting the better of a nip-and-tuck battle with Sjostrom (24.55).

“It was a competitive race, a great time, I couldn't believe it,” said Kromowidjojo.

Tournament director Pieter van den Hoogenband was delighted with the atmosphere and the fans’ reaction.

“It’s not all about the show, the lights, the sound, etcetera. That’s nice, but it’s about creating the best circumstances for athletes to perform well in,” he said.

“So in doing all the organisation, we had former swimmers who know what swimming is all about, working with professionals who can create a nice atmosphere. You can see the athletes are a bit tired after a long season and the World Championships, but, because of the atmosphere around the pool, they want to give everything and people really appreciate that — it’s like energy management.”

“You have to combine different worlds: we have these top athletes so you have to promote that, but also make the connection with the next generation. So we invited the talented youth swimmers in Holland to a morning session with the top athletes, and because of that they will create a buzz in Holland with their clubs, families and friends, and hopefully they get inspired by these champions who know what it takes to get  there — these champions also got inspired many years ago. It was the perfect combination — people in Holland love their sport and love their parties.”

The World Cup bandwagon next stops off in Hong Kong, from September 30.