Swimming has wrapped up at the 2015 Universiade, also known as the World University Games, which signals the beginning of the three major international competitions for this summer. (The other two being the Pan American Games and World Championships).
With a full week of swimming action now behind us, what better way to look back on the week that was than to dole out some awards – consider them mini-Swammys – to the top swimmers of the World University Games.
Swimmer of the Meet
Men: Evgeny Koptelov, Russia
Carrying on a huge Russian tradition from the 2013 World University Games, Koptelov led all men with 3 gold medals, going undefeated in his three races over the 7-day meet.
But it’s not just the amount of medals that makes Koptelov’s week so impressive. Each swim came at an extraordinarily high level. Both of Koptelov’s butterfly races rank within the top 3 worldwide for the year. His 51.50 in the 100 fly is 3rd overall, and just .13 back of the world leader. His 1:54.79 in the 200 fly is tied for the second-best time in the world this season, and only three tenths out of first.
On top of that, Koptelov split a blazing 51.03 to help Russia win the 4×100 medley relay gold, denying the U.S. a sweep of the relay golds.
Women: Shannon Vreeland, USA
Vreeland managed to one-up even Koptelov, leading all athletes with four gold medals. And each of Vreeland’s wins really showed off the dominance of the American roster in general. Nowhere was that more evident than in the 100 free, where Vreeland’s 54.39 led a gold-silver sweep for Team USA with teammate Abbey Weitzeil. No other swimmer came within .4 seconds of the Americans in that race.
Vreeland also won the 200 free in 1:58.38, helping Team USA sweep 4 of the 6 women’s freestyle golds individually.
Vreeland was remarkably consistent, too. Swimming on the gold medal-winning free relays, she split nearly identical times to her individual events, a 54.34 in the 4×100 and a 1:58.56 in the 4×200.
Breakout Swimmer of the Meet
Leah Smith, USA
2015 has seen the rise of Leah Smith. After an outstanding NCAA season in short course yards, Smith conclusively proved that she’s a force to be reckoned with in the Olympic pool by winning gold in the 400 free at the World University Games.
Her 4:04.66 would make her a world leader contender in any universe that doesn’t include Katie Ledecky, and means the race for the second 400 free spot on the U.S. Olympic team behind Ledecky could be Smith’s for the taking.
Smith also won gold as part of the 4×200 free relay that led wire-to-wire and just missed a medal in the 200 free.
Performance of the Meet
50 breast – Andrea Toniato, Italy
Though Toniato finished without a gold medal, his preliminary swim in the 50 breast might have been the performance of the meet. Toniato blasted a 27.06, the third-best time in the world this year. In fact, Toniato only trails the last two world record-holders in the world ranks – he’s within two tenths of world record-holder Adam Peaty and .05 behind Olympic gold medalist Cameron van der Burgh.
Toniato would add time in his next two swims, settling for silver, but his time in the heats would have earned him gold by three tenths. If he can be more consistent between swims moving forward, he could be a dark horse medal contender at Worlds next month.
Some of the many honorable mentions:
- Jay Litherland goes 4:12.43 to lead a 1-2 of the 400 IM for Team USA
- Henrique de Souza goes 23.22 in 50 fly to give Brazil the top 3 times in the world this year
- China’s Lu Ying moves to #3 in the world with a 25.72 win in the 50 fly
- American Jack Conger splits 47.75 to push the American 4×100 free relay to a gold medal
- Dmitriy Balandin cracks a minute in the 100 breast (59.96)
- Josh Prenot hits the top American time of the year while winning gold in the 200 breast (2:08.90)
- Japan’s Ayatsuga Hirai leaps to #3 worldwide with crushing 14:56.10 win in 1500 free
- Jacob Pebley rises to the top of the American rankings in the 200 back with a huge 1:56.29 win
Federation of the Meet
It’s hard to argue against the Americans this year, especially after Team USA broke the World University Games record for most medals won.
That record didn’t come by a narrow margin, either, as Team USA’s 33 pool medals topped the 27 won by the 2007 USA Team. Nearly half (15 of 33) of those medals were gold, and the Americans lost only one relay in each gender.
- Japan: second in total medals, tied for second in golds, a big improvement from 2013
- Italy: matched 2013 total of 3 golds while taking in 18 total medals, third-most overall
- Kazakhstan: won first swimming medal at WUGs since 2007 and it was gold, courtesy of 100 breaststroker Dmitry Balandin