Sarah Sjostrom could have been the first female swimmer ever to win four consecutive titles in the same event but the Swedish superstar was upset by Canada’s Margaret McNeil in the 100m fly. Thus, half an hour later it was Katinka Hosszu who achieved this historical feat in the 200m IM. Even more remarkably, on the international stage Hosszu’s unbeaten run stands at 61 races in this event. GB’s Adam Peaty also delivered in the 100m breast, he won this event for the third time, while US rocket Caeleb Dressel clocked the second fastest time ever to win the 50m fly.
In the opening race Adam Peaty swam in the class of his own, only the silver was up for grabs for the others. A bit surprisingly it ended up in a British 1-2 as James Wilby touched the wall behind his compatriot (1.32sec was the gap) and China’s Yan Zibei was a surprise bronze medallist as he cracked the Asian Record (58.63).
In a class of his own: Adam Peaty - Credits: Istvan Derencsenyi
In the meantime some were slightly disappointed as Peaty swam his WR in the semis with such ease that he was expected to do it again. Though record-breaking is not a pastime even for the British Lion – he kind of foresaw that a day ago saying that his primary target is the world title, the WR was a bonus (but a good one, earned him an extra $30.000) – so he clocked a solid 57.14, the 4th best ever time in history. Note, the first three times also belong to him and the following seven as well...
Next should have come another golden chapter for Sarah Sjostrom in her pet event, the 100m fly and this win would have marked the 10th anniversary of her first triumph in Rome 2009. The Sweden world record holder aimed for her 5th crown in this event but amazingly she came up short. Though she turned first and was under her WR split but in the second 50m Canada’s 19 year-old Margaret McNeil came from behind (she turned 5th) and gained an amazing 1.2sec on Sjostrom to win the race by 0.39sec, with a new American Record. Just like the 100m breast for Peaty, this event was solely Sjostrom’s territory, only her name appeared on the all-time list of the top ten times – now McNeil’s will also be there, on the 8th place, and this promises a magnificent battle for 2020. After the victory ceremony, the three medallists – the bronze went to Aussie Emma McKeon – offered a moving gesture by sending a message of support to Japanese butterflier Rikako Ikee who is now battling with leukaemia.
Moving gesture – a message to the 19-year old rival
This upset opened the way for Katinka Hosszu to write history. Had Sjostrom triumphed in the 100m fly she would have become the first female swimmer ever winning four straight titles in the same event. Instead of her, the Hungarian medley queen took this distinction by adding another title to her magnificent treasury, 8th overall and 4th in a row over 200m IM (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019). She also equalled compatriot Laszlo Cseh’s feat of claiming titles at the Worlds 10 years apart: Cseh got one in 2005 and another one in 2015, while Hosszu’s first gold came in 2009. (Michael Phelps the other one who've done that in individual events in 2001 and 2011.)
Four world titles in a row – and 61 wins in as many major races
In fact, there is a more amazing stat for Hosszu in this event. Her very last defeat in the 200m IM dates back to 15 December 2012, when Ye Shiwen beat her at the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) in Istanbul (the Chinese had a comeback here and claimed silver). Since then: Hosszu won. Each event, everywhere. Four long-course world titles, three l/c European titles, three short-course world and three s/c European golds and the Olympic crown in Rio – so at the majors she stands 14/14. Add 44 World Cup races with 44 wins (2013-2018), the three legs of the FINA Champions Swim Series this season, so at FINA and continental meets her winning count stands at 61/61. Incredible as it is.
Man of the meet in 2017, Caeleb Dressel of the US kicked off his 2019 campaign in style, he was a cut above the rest in the 50m fly, his 22.35 is the second fastest time ever. When he amassed seven titles in Budapest he could not win this event, so the goldmine opened earlier than expected. Russia’s Oleg Kostin was a surprise runner-up but it was the bronze medallist who might just as well have been the happiest man on Earth.
First one done – and many more might come for Dressel
Nicholas Santos had not been selected for this championships by his federation as the Brazil veteran did not meet the criteria requiring qualifying times in Olympic events. Even though Santos could break the short-course WR last October in the 50m fly, and clocked fine times in long-course too, he was left out from the team. Learning this, FINA decided to invite him to Gwangju, covered all his expenses – and Santos paid that back with an invaluable performance, worthy of the bronze medal. Aged 39, his feat is truly remarkable.
Among the semifinals swum this evening the 100m back stands out. Here Xu Jiayu managed to beat the Championship Record – considering that it was set by the legendary Aaron Peirsol in the shiny suit-era, the Chinese’s effort of shaving 0.02sec off from that 10-year old time is outstanding.
Adam Peaty, GBR, gold, 100m breast:
“This is still very special to me, winning a World Championship title and faster than I’ve ever done it before. It’s obviously a little bit slower than last night as I made a tiny little error with speed on the first 50, but I think the most important thing going into next year is that I’m still learning about myself; it’s not like I’ve gone 56 and I’ve got no more learning to do. I’m ecstatic to come away with a world title.
“Whether I go in first, second or last, it’s all about what I do in my lane, tunnel vision and enjoying the crowd. I paced it a little bit differently as Mel said to go for it in the first 50 and I ran out of steam a little bit on the back end, but I’m still learning the event and learning about myself and it’s still 57.1!
“I’m very happy, but that constant expectation I put on myself there is a little bit of disappointment in me, but I think that’ll fuel me for next year as I want to go even faster now – for now though, I’ll enjoy the moment.
“It’s not just a British 1-2 but a Loughborough 1-2! We’re training partners, well James trains in a different group but we train in the same centre, and I’m stoked for him. It’s looking like Britain is a stronghold for breaststroke and it has been for a long time now.”
James Wilby, GBR, silver, 100m breast:
“I’m really happy. After the Commonwealths and Europeans last year this was always the next major international and the one last stepping stone towards Tokyo, so I’m really happy to get that silver medal and a Britain one-two means an awful lot to us as well. I’m buzzing for the 200 as well, because I focus on them both and that 100 makes me excited to see what I can do in the 200 now.
“After the World Championships in 2017, which was a bit of a shock for me as I wasn’t quite full prepared for it mentally, I sat myself down and thought ‘right, I’m not going to be in this game forever so it’s time to go’. I just really got myself motivated and have been keeping it going ever since and constantly learning.”
Yan Zibei, CHN, bronze, 100m breast
“I thought about to win a medal, no matter the colours. I was 7th in Budapest and now third with an Asian record. I was the first Chinese to finish with a medal in the 100m breast since the 1998 worlds when Zeng Qiliang took a silver. I was in self-doubt in last year because I did not improve, but I did not give up. I feel grateful to my coach who helped me to go through all the barriers and difficulties.”
Margaret McNeil, CAN, gold, 100m fly:
“It’s incredible... Racing with Sarah is always special but tonight was definitely extremely special. It’s my best race so far, I could break under 56sec for the first time. I’m pretty surprised, oh my God, I won a medal and it’s a gold. It’s crazy, this happens at my first World Championships... I worked a lot on my second 50m, I tried not go out as fast as the other girls but I definitely wanted to go back as fast as I could. At the wall Sarah was so nice, she congratulated me, for me it means the world.”
Sarah Sjostrom, SWE, silver, 100m fly:
“I couldn’t have done better than that today. Though I’ve never had that so many microphones before when I was winning... Obviously I would be happier with a gold medal. I’m quite exhausted and also surprised that I did only 56.22 with that hard finish. I wish I could complain that something happened to me, I had water in my goggles but I actually had a pretty good race, good turns, good breakout, good start. I just missed my backend speed but maybe it’s about age...”
Caeleb Dressel, USA, gold, 50m fly
“A lot of people have reminded me that I didn’t win this in ’17. But I don’t come to meets to count medals. It’s not what I do. It’s just really for me. If it was me in the water and my coach, I’d be totally happy with that. And nothing else. For me, it’s just kind of a chase for self-improvement in and out of the water. That’s why I do enjoy the sport. You’re never going to reach perfection in the sport unless you’re hitting zero seconds, which is literally impossible.”
Oleg Kostin, RUS, silver, 50m fly:
“Finally I got a medal at the long course World Championships. I know that 50 fly is not included in the Olympic programme but this is an individual event, not a relay. So I’m very happy. I can’t say whether 50m is a lottery. I tried my best to swim as fast as I can and to enjoy the race. In general everything worked out. But it’s unreal to beat Dressel for now.”
Katinka Hosszu, HUN, gold, 200m IM:
“I was not aware that I would be the first woman to win the same event four times in a row. It’s cool. But what’s really cool to be able to swim the 200m IM in 2:07 three times on two days. That’s something I did not expect to happen just a year ago. It’s awesome that I could make such progress ever since. I’m enjoying swimming and it’s never felt so easy and never gave such good resonations. Now I see I needed that half years off in 2018. Without that I would not be here in this shape. If I were here at all. The pressure, the load was almost unbearable by 2017, I had to got freed myself and launch a rebuilding process. That went definitely faster than I thought.”
Ye Shiwen, CHN, silver, 200 IM
“I am thrilled as I did not expect to win a medal after I had won my first world title in 2011 at the Shanghai Worlds. It’s like a circle being closed. I am happy that I’ve never let myself go away from the pool.”