Cesar Cielo defended his World title in the men’s 50, winning in a spectacular time of 21.32, the #1 textile performance of all time. Cielo has always been known to be a very emotional competitor, and has never been shy about showing his passion after races (particularly in victories), but you could see this one really hit home.
Although he is the current world record holder and defending world champion, Cielo wasn’t the favorite coming in. He has been dealing with a nagging knee injury that forced him into modified training, and he seemed to have lost his mental and physical edge on the field. Working with a reduced schedule (no 100 free and no relays), Cielo brushed aside doubters and is leaving Barcelona a double event winner. He now has six individual long course World Championship titles, the same number that all-time greats Grant Hackett and Ian Thorpe brought home in their years of dominance in the 2000’s.
Cielo was joined on the podium by former Auburn Tiger George Bovell III of Trinidad and Tobago. Bovell, who squeaked into finals after touching eighth in semis, made use of the clean water down in lane eight, swimming a lifetime textile best 21.51 to win bronze. This was third championship final at a long course World Championships for Bovell, and the first time he’s landed in the top three. Winning a medal here holds extra weight here, too: this was the fastest non-super-suit 50 free final (both from a qualifying and a medal-winning perspective) of all time.
Brazil had podium face time on the eighth and final night, as well, with Thiago Pereira taking bronze in the 400 IM, his second medal of the meet. Pereira, who won silver behind Ryan Lochte at the Olympics last summer, cut his preliminary swim a little close, eking into the final by just 0.09 seconds. With clean water in lane eight, Pereira stayed off the radar of Daiya Seto, Chase Kalisz, and Kosuke Hagino for much of the race. He utilized a surprisingly-great freestyle leg to catch Hagino and fend off a charging Tyler Clary, touching in 4:09.48.
Some more highlights from days 7 & 8:
- Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace made it through the preliminaries of the women’s 50 freestyle, but failed to advance to the championship final, finishing 15th in a time of 25.24.
- Andreina Pinto continued finished off arguably the best meet of her career with another top eight finish in the women’s 800 freestyle. Pinto was off her Venezuelan national record of 8:25.93, but clocked a respectable 8:29.37 in finals to finish 7th (8:27.03 in prelims). For the week, Pinto recorded four lifetime bests, made two championship finals, and set four new national records.
- Frederico Grabrich set an Argentinian national record in the semifinals of the men’s 50 backstroke, clocking in at 25.16 to finish 10th, just 0.21 out of finals.
- Alia Atkinson, who competed collegiately at Texas A&M and represents Jamaica internationally, qualified for her first semifinal of Worlds in the women’s 50 breaststroke. Although she missed the championship final (she finished 12th), her 31.12 was a very strong swim, just 0.06 off her own national record.
- Daniel Orzechowski advanced to another championship final, this time in the men’s 50 backstroke. He tied with Matt Grevers for fourth place in semis, clocking a personal best 24.79. Orzechowski was a tad slower in finals, with his 24.87 finishing out of the medals.
- Mexico saw two more national records go down. First, Charetzeni Escobar Torres took down the 400 IM record, touching in 4:47.18. Later in the session, the women’s 4×100 medley relay team broke the national mark, finishing with a time of 4:08.82.