Gergely Csurka, FINA Media Committee

On the day of speeding, USA’s Caeleb Dressel became the first man swimming the 100m free under 47sec wearing a textile suit. The Australian 4x200m free relay brought down another shiny World Record from 2009, while fellow Aussie Matthew Wilson equalled the 200m breast WR in the semis. Japan’s Daya Seto, specialist in the 400m IM, claimed the 200m title for the first time in his career, while Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas stunned the field and touched first to keep the 200m fly titles in Hungarian possession here. Another US win came in the women’s 50m back, courtesy of Olivia Smoliga. 

Well, if one considered Michael Phelps’s shiny World Record in the 200m fly untouchable, then what about Cesar Cielo’s blast from Rome 2009, 46.91 in a full-body rubber suit which was premium aide for the sprinters? Yesterday Phelps’ mark was gone, while today Caeleb Dressel rocketed to an amazing win in the 100m free and almost chased down the WR, clocking 46.96, just 0.05 shy of the all-time best effort.

First swim in textile inside 47sec – next comes the WR for Dressel - Credit: Istvan Derencsenyi

Before tonight and considering only times in textile, Aussie Cameron McEvoy’s 47.04 was the closest to the old mark from 2016, now Dressel managed to clock the first 46sec time while retaining his title (France’s Alain Bernard was the other who ever dipped under 47, but also in a supersuit). Dressel’s incredible swim was a great message: sooner than later all 2009 records will go. (One actually fell later, see below.)

Olivia Smoliga soon delivered another gold for the US as she won the backstroke dash in a fine race, out-touching the reigning champion Etiene Medeiros (BRA) 0.11sec.

Japan got its first gold in Gwangju thanks to Daya Seto who staged a thrilling duel with European champion Jeremy Desplanches of Switzerland. The Japanese led from the 100m turn and managed to withstand the pressure from the Swiss while title-holder Chase Kalisz tried to gear up in the second half after having turned 7th but his late surge earned him only the bronze this time.

After shining in the 400m, Seto could win a 200m IM title as well

Based on personal bests and times clocked in the heats and semis, the US duo of Hali Flickinger and Katie Dabot were the absolute favourites, and three more finalists had much better PBs than Boglarka Kapas but the tiny Hungarian cared only racing and in that she bested the entire field. It seemed that the favourites wanted to preserve as much energy as possible against the European champion’s well-known charge in the second 100m but their tactics didn’t work. Though Kapas turned 8th at the halfway mark 2 seconds behind the leaders, she then launched her trademark attack and the leaders couldn’t handle the pressure. Despite achieving much better times even in the heats, Flickinger and Dabot had to settle for the minor spoils while Kapas was all tears while celebrating her first-ever world title. Turning to a flier after Olympic and world bronzes taken as a distance freestyler, the tiny Magyar showed that such transition could work perfectly while joining Kristof Milak as Hungarian winners in the 200m fly events – indeed this is a historical double, never before the same nation managed to win the men and the women 200m fly in the same edition. 

A perfect transition: four years after medalling in 1500m free, Kapas got gold in the 200m fly

The women’s 4x200m free relay was another showdown between the title-holder US team and Australia. Katie Ledecky was back to action despite some news that she had finished her campaign here due to illness. She took the lead for her team and built a gap of 0.30sec till halfway but that was melt down to 0.09 sec before the anchor leg. And Emma McKeon took charge over the last lap and brought home the Aussies in a world record time of 7:41.50 to eclipse one of the last female WRs standing from the 2009 shiny era. In fact, the Chinese held the mark since 10 years and that was the only occasion in the last nine editions (since 2003) when not the US team claimed the title. The Aussies halted the Americans run now at eight and clinched this relay’s gold for the first time ever – as well as adding this to their 4x100m free gold.

History in the making: first Autralian title plus brining down a 2009 shiny WR

Beforehand the session already saw an Aussie achieving a World Record, though it was ‘just’ equalling one in the 200m breast semis: Matthew Wilson clocked the same time of Ippei Watanabe (JPN) from 2017, 2:06.67 – but title-holder Anton Chupkov (RUS) was also close (0.16sec away) so a real showdown is due in the final on Friday.

Quotes

Caeleb Dressel, USA, gold, 100m free

"It hurt really bad to be honest. You don't always get that magical feeling every night but you've just got to shut the brain off and go. It took 100% effort and I had someone right there on my tail for me to race. I kind of shut off thinking about the race so that helped a lot and having Kyle right there. I consider him a better 100 freestyler, so I look up to him in that aspect. I barely edged him. He’s a heck of a racer. I could not have done that without him right next to me.”

Kylie Chalmers, AUS, silver, 100m free

"I gave it my absolute all tonight... 47.08 is a very quick time, I couldn't really believe it when I saw that. To see Caeleb go 46.9 is mind-blowing. It's really positive for me leading into Tokyo next year. We both swam pretty well tonight. We've had three good races, Olympics, Pan Pacs and now worlds. He's an unbelievable athlete, a great guy and I love being able to compete against the best in the world. At the moment, he's that guy.

"It's about re-setting and putting as much effort in as I can in the next 12 months to challenge him for that gold medal and defending my title."

"It's just that pressure that comes with racing at the highest level, you start to feel a little bit lethargic and you don't sleep as well during competition. Those negative thoughts start to come into your head. But to come out, go 0.5s faster than Rio and 0.3 faster than trials is very exciting. Having him beat me really spurs me on to put that extra bit of effort into training.

"You always have to believe you can win it. He's an unbelievable starter and I could see he had that half a bodylength or bodylength and it was a chase for the rest of the race."

Vladislav Grinev, RUS, bronze, 100m free

“There was a goal to get a medal in the race. But I was not 100 per cent sure I could achieve it. Right after the finish I was looking at the screen and couldn’t believe my eyes. It was like “Wow!”. I think this result will make me more self-confident. Now I know that it’s in my power to fight for the medals at major competitions.

The last Russian to get a medal in this event was four-tome Olympic Champion Aleksandr Popov. He won gold in 2003. I was in elementary school at that time and wasn’t focused on swimming that much. I also remember that I asked him for an autograph back in 2015. But now I would like to talk to Popov. It could be an interesting conversation.”

Daya Seto, JPN, gold, 200m IM

“I prefer the 400m IM, because there are a lot of tall guys in 200m so I tend to be more confident for 400m. I hid my feelings. I had similar feelings as today when I got the gold medal in Barcelona 2013  in the 400m IM. I tried to hide emotions then and so I tried to do the same today. I always feel I have good results when I hide my feelings actually.

My goal is to get a gold medal at the Olympics, and I’m getting a lot of expectation as Japan is hosting the next Games. But I won’t have too much pressure and I will do my best.”

Jeremy Desplanches, SUI, silver, 200m IM

“It is my first World Championships medal and it was the first time I was in a good lane in the final so I really liked it. I knew Seto was going to be very fast and I expected him to win. I saw him during the race and I saw him next to me so I tried to not let him go away from me too much.”

Boglarka Kapas, HUN, gold, 200m fly

“To be honest, everything has happened as I planned because I knew that I have to be as close as possible at 100m to beat the American girl and I felt like after the third 50m I was in a good position. And I knew that my last 50m is fastest in the final so I believed that I could do it and I think I could won because I wanted it the most.

I will keep the hard work and I knew that I have to be stronger for the second 50m in the first 100m because I’m still very slow and I know that I can do under ’06 and I’m sure about that because I know that I’m faster than this because I’m still not satisfied with this time so I’m going to work harder.”

Olivia Smoliga, USA, gold, 50m back

“I felt good and I was really calm, I wanted to control the race. I feel very proud and happy for the results today. I wanted to turn it around for team USA and I tried to consider that today’s race was to get ready for the relay. Relays are so much fun and the fact that I can be the part of at least one of them is really special to me.”