Sunday evening at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, Spain at the 2013 FINA World Championships will see the first four sets of medals handed out.
Women’s 100 Fly – SEMIFINALS
Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom looks like she’s avoiding the Olympic swoon that hit her last year, going a 57.10 to win the first semi-final of this women’s 100 fly. That’s faster than she was in any of the three rounds in London, where she failed to medal.
That will give her the top seed headed into Monday evening’s finals session, just ahead of a second-seeded 57.19 from Denmark’s Jeanette Ottesen-Gray in the second semi-final. Ottesen-Gray, under new coaching this year, was unbelievably fast to the 50 – going out in 25.9 (before coming home in 31.29). She’ll have to keep that maybe a bit more under control in finals, though Sjostrom (out in 26.76) was out very fast as well.
Meanwhile, the World Record holder and Olympic champion Dana Vollmer struggled a little bit in this race, going a 57.84, which was slower than she was in prelims. That still gave her the 4th seed, behind a 57.49 from Australia’s Alicia Coutts.
Canada’s Noemie Thomas is the 5th seed in 57.99, just barely ahead of countrymate Katerine Savard in 58.00, though neither was close to Savard’s National Record set in prelims.
Italy’s Ilaria Bianchi, our favorite dark horse in this race, was 7th in 58.29 and the Americans’ Claire Donahue was 8th in 58.44.
Men’s 400 Free – FINALS
Sun Yang might have shown a bit of vulnerability early in this meet. He went out right on top of World Record pace through 200 meters, but sliding a bit at the back end of this 400 meter freestyle.
Still, with nobody in the world even in his zip code as far as quality in the 400 free (at least among those swimming it at this meet), he cruised to a win in 3:41.59: over a three second margin of victory.
Japan’s Kosuke Hagino has held his pacing well from the Japanese National Championships, swimming a 3:44.82 for silver. That broke the Japanese National Record held by Takeshi Matsuda at 3:44.99 (done twice: once in 2008, and once in 2009).
American Connor Jaeger continued his meteoric rise on the middle-to-distance swimming scene, where the Americans have badly needed a young up-and-comer; he was in silver-medal position for the majority of this race, and though he gave up a full second to Hagino to give that up in the last 50, he was still able to hold of Canada’s Ryan Cochrane, who placed 4th in 3:45.02.
For Cochrane, that’s just off of his best time, the second-fastest of his career, and best he’s been since 2008. When this meet rolls into his better events, the 800 and 1500 freestyles, he will have confidence going against Sun.
James Guy from Great Britain was 5th in 3:47.96, followed by Devon Brown of South Africa, Jordan Harrison of Australia in 3:48.40, and Hao Yun of China in 3:48.88. Harrison held huge promise coming into this meet, but the young 18-year old Australian couldn’t hold his quality from their Trials. This will be a vital learning experience for him, though, as he tries to lead the Australian distance revitalization toward Rio.
Women’s 200 IM – SEMIFINALS
The women’s 200 IM final is going to be a burner. Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu is seeing the payoff from her unreal run of competition since the London Olympic Games (guaranteed that she’s raced more meters than anybody else in the world in the last 12 months), going a 2:08.59 for the top seed in the semi-finals.
For all intents-and-purposes, Hosszu split this race the same way as she did in the heats, though perhaps finishing a hair slower (30.58). That could spell trouble, as China’s Shiwen Ye was behind her in 2:09.12, but with only a 30.88 finish. We know that Ye can close with the best, and if she can be close again to Hosszu going into that last turn, then this will get very interesting in finals on Monday night.
Those two have well separated themselves from the field, including ahead of Australia’s defending silver medalist Alicia Coutts, who is the 3rd seed in 2:10.06. She took a big leap up from the prelims, showing that she was simply saving some steam in the morning.
Britain’s Sophie Allen is 5th in 2:10.23, with a very good breaststroke split (36.71) that makes her the second-best breaststroker in this final, behind only Caitlin Leverenz from the United States, who sits 7th in 2:11.05.
Also in the final is Spain’s Mireia Belmonte-Garcia in 2:10.66; that will be a good sign for fans of all countries, as the Spanish crowd has been electric for their home swimmers.
Rounding out the A-Final are 6th-seed Caitlin Leverenz in 2:11.05 and Hungary’s Zsu Jakabos in 2:11.21. Britain’s Siobhan-Marie O’Connor just missed in 9th with a 2:11.33, coming up shy of her lifetime-best from earlier this year.
Other notable names to miss the final include Japan’s Kanako Watanabe, who at 17 has reinvented herself from a breaststroker to an IM’er: she finished 11th in 2:11.50. American Elizabeth Beisel was 12th in 2:11.69, and former Euro Junior Champ Viktoriya Andreeva was 13th in 2:12.67.
Men’s 50 Fly – SEMIFINALS
This 50 fly final is going to be really, really fun. In separate heats, Nicholas dos Santos (22.81) and Cesar Cielo (22.86) took the top two seeds in the 50 fly.
Santos did so with his trademarked incredible start; Cielo did it without his trademarked incredible start, but did say that he feels as well as he has since his knee surgery several months ago. After that swim, the Brazilians might regret opting not to use him in the final of the 400 free relay.
Cielo had a very awkward finish, and is the defending World Champion, but even cleaning that up won’t necessarily win it (even he himself said that he thinks it will take better than 22.8 to win tonight). The top six swimmers in the semi-finals were all faster than the time with which Cielo won this race in 2011.
That includes Yauhen Tsurkin, who in 22.90 gave Belarus a new swimmer to cheer for with no Herasimenia at this meet. He first announced his presence at the World University Games, and hasn’t slowed down since.
Fred Bousquet is the 4th seed in 22.93, followed by the Ukraine’s Andrii Govorov in 22.97. Steffen Deibler (23.02), Florent Manaudou (23.14), and American Eugene Godsoe (23.16) round out the A-Final.
Some huge names were left out in this very tight final. That includes the World Record holder Rafa Munoz from Spain in 23.19 for 9th place, South African Roland Schoeman in 23.25 after a great prelims swim, and British Record holder Ben Proud in 11th at 233.33.
Matt Grevers came up 12th in 23.35, and Australia’s Matt Targett was 13th in 23.39.
Women’s 400 Freestyle – FINAL
The young American Katie Ledecky won the first World Championship medal of her career, at only 16 years old, taking this women’s 400 free in 3:59.82. That is the best time ever done in textile, the second-fastest time ever done in any suit, a new National Age Group Record (obviously), a new American Record, and makes her only the second woman under four minutes in the history of the sport.
She was out hard in this race, splitting 1:58.74 at the halfway and ahead of World Record pace. She’s always ahead of World Record pace, but every meet we expect to see something new from the young American.
She didn’t give it all back, but ended up just shy of Federica Pellegrini’s 3:59.15 in this race. Remember that Pellegrini is very much a ‘closing’ swimmer, so other than the last 50 meters, Ledecky would’ve had that record.
That wasn’t the only thing that drove the Palau crazy in this final. Their own swimmer Mealnie Costa-Schmid wasn’t rattled by Ledecky’s pace, and took silver in 4:02.47, a new Spanish Record by more than three seconds, and only the second medal in swimming that the Spanish women have ever won at the World Championships (adding to a gold by Nina Zhivanevskaya in 2003, also in Barcelona).
New Zealand’s Lauren Boyle, riding off of a great Olympic performance, took bronze in 4:03.89, while Britain’s Jazz Carlin was 4th in 4:04.03. Carlin was only passed by Boyle in the last 30 or so meters.
Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas was 5th in 4:05.90, followed by Venezuelan Andreina Pinto in 4:07.14, only the 9th time a Venezuelan has ever finaled at Worlds.
The defending Olympic Champion Camille Muffat was 7th in 4:07.67, and Australia’s Kylie Palmer was 8th in 4:08.13.
Men’s 100 Breaststroke – SEMIFINAL
A lackluster men’s 100 breaststroke semi-final was all about getting through to the final. Christian Sprenger won the second men’s heat in 59.23, and Kevin Cordes won the first heat in 59.78, and those two will be the top two seeds. Sprenger did his time by opening up very well, while Cordes had to line up his finish perfectly to get his fingertips in.
Though the times overall weren’t as fast as what we saw in the semi-finals in London, we saw it matched in that a swimmer broke a minute and didn’t final (Kirill Strelnikov from Russia, who was 9th in 59.95).
In a tie for that second seed with Cordes is the defending Olympic Champion and World Record holder Cameron van der Burgh from South Africa. Either his knee injury suffered a month ago is really bothering him, or he’s limited the number of dolphin kicks off of his start (or, most likely, some combination) as that’s a full second slower than he was in the semi-finals last year.
Slovenia’s Damir Dugonjic looks very good, swimming a 59.80 for the 4th seed, which is his first time under a minute in textile.
Joining those four in the final will be Brazil’s Felipe Lima and American Nic Fink, who were matching 59.84’s, Italy’s Fabio Scozzoli, who was a 59.90 and Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima, who needed a lifeline to even swim this event, and has now made it count with a lane for Monday night.
Among those missing out were Britain’s Michael Jamieson (1:00.59) and New Zealand’s Glenn Snyders (1:00.22). Britain’s other entrant, Ross Murdoch, also missed the final, but placing 11th in 1:00.07, he could supplant Jamieson on the GB medley relay at the end of the meet.
Women’s 400 Free Relay – FINALS
What a relay! The Americans and the Australians, center-stage, out ahead of the field. Cate Campbell got off to a fantastic start, going a 52.33 on a flat-start to lead off the Australians. Only Britta Steffen has ever been faster on a relay lead-off, and overall that’s the 4th-best time in history, and a new Australian Record for her.
The Americans, though, made up a ton of ground on the next leg, when Natalie Coughlin was a 52.98 – making the US women’s coaching staff look really smart for picking her off of the prelims relay, even if the times didn’t necessarily indicate it. She got the lead to under seven-tenths, bettering a 53.47 from Cate’s sister Bronte Campbell.
Emma McKeon looked like she was going to put this away for the Australians early, with all of the Aussies going out very hard, but Shannon Vreeland pulled her back in as the two had matching splits right around 53.2.
Then came the anchor leg. Like Lezak in 2008, like Agnel in 2012, this anchor from Megan Romano will go down in history. Swimming against Alicia Coutts, Romano put up a 52.60 anchor leg (to Coutts’ 53.44) to give the Americans a win by a tenth-of-a-second in a new American Record of 3:32.31. The Australians, breaking their own National Record, were 2nd in 3:32.43. Coutts was already swimming her 5th race of the day, but still split 53.44.
Though overlooked because of how far behind they were, the Netherlands took bronze in 3:35.77, including a 52.65 anchor from Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo.
The Swedes made a valiant effort of their own, getting a 53.91 lead-off from Michelle Coleman and a 52.95 third leg from Sarah Sjostrom, but couldn’t hold on at the wall as they took 4th in 3:36.56.
Canada was 5th in 3:37.09, Russia was 6th in 3:38.45 (a new height for them after years of struggling in this relay), Japan was 7th in 3:39.45, and Germany rounded out the final 8th in 3:39.57.
Men’s 400 Free Relay FINALS
And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better: the men’s 400 free relay was just as exciting as the women’s, only double because there were four teams in at the touch instead of just two.
The focus in the run-up to this meet was on the Americans versus the Australians, then the last month since the World University Games the Russians stuck their noses in the mix, while the French fell by the wayside after troubles with Agnels health, among other things.
Well, wouldn’t you know it: it was the French who came in and surprised everyone (that’s going to be ugly on our Pick ‘Em contest) and took the gold, going from 4th to 1st on their last leg, much in the manner that they did at the Olympics last year.
Only this time, it was their newest star Jeremy Stravius, who closed in 47.59, that overcame the tidal wave ahead of him. He was joined with Fabien Gilot, who was surprisingly the only swimmer under 47 seconds, going 46.90 on France’s 3rd leg to really claw them back into the battle.
The really story, though, was perhaps the lead-off legs. France only got a 48.76 from Agnel; Australia only got a 48.00 from James Magnussen, and the Americans got only a 47.95 from Olympic Champion Nathan Adrian in 47.95. That wasn’t exactly the rock-and-roll beginning we expected to this race.
Ultimately, the French won in 3:11.18, the Americans were 2nd in 3:11.42, and the Russians took 3rd in 3:11.44 (with a 47.40 third leg from Morozov). The Russians, with their swim from the World University Games, will end the long course season as the fastest 400 free relay in the world, they just couldn’t duplicate that three-ten-eighty-eight at this meet.
Australia was left off of the big podium for the second straight year, going 3:11.58 for 4th. Those top three teams were separated by only four-tenths of a second, and the Australians still got a very good leg from Cameron McEvoy in 47.44.
Italy took 5th in 3:12.62, with a 47.25 from Marco Orsi; Germany was 6th; a Cielo-less Brazil was 7th with a 47.56 anchor from Marcelo Chierighini, and Japan was 8th.