Off the Grid During Worlds? Here’s What You Need to Know.

The week of the 2019 FINA World Championships was one of the craziest we’ve had here at SwimSwam. The meet in some ways lived up to its hype, and in other ways, side-stepped any and all preconceived notions we might have had and threw us for a loop. And it went by in an absolute flash. Given that it’s our job to keep up with swimming news, we were locked in for every session, but we’re guessing (understandably) that you weren’t.

So brace yourself: Here’s a rundown of the major storylines of the 2019 FINA Worlds Championships.

Caeleb Dressel Does Not Disappoint

We’ll just get this one out of the way now – you’ve probably heard already, anyway. Dressel set a record for medals in a single long course world championships with eight. He won gold in the 50 and 10o free, 50 and 100 fly, 4×100 mixed and men’s free relays, and silver on both the 4×100 mixed and men’s medley relays. He set an American record in the 50 and 100 free and world record in the 100 fly and mixed 4×100 free relays.

Just read his bio to get caught up at this point.

Mack Horton Stages a Silent Protest of Sun Yang

The first podium ceremony of the 2019 FINA World Championships came with a heavy dose of drama. Australia’s Mack Horton, the silver medalist in Sunday’s 400 free final in Gwangju, protested Chinese gold medalist Sun Yang‘s presence by abstaining from podium celebrations, standing behind the platform on the floor during the Chinese national anthem. Horton also kept an intentional distance between himself, Sun, and bronze medalist Gabriele Detti during post-podium photo ops in addition to his demonstration during the medal ceremony. Horton has long had somewhat of a rivalry with the triple Olympic champion Sun, who is currently embroiled his infamous blood vial-smashing investigation. FINA sent a ‘warning letter’ to Horton a day later.

Katie Ledecky loses a distance race (gasp!). But she’s sick.

Australia’s Ariarne Titmus accomplished a feat no woman ever had on night one: she defeated distance legend Katie Ledecky (USA) in the 400 free. Titmus was out with the lead early on, but Ledecky took over after the first 100. Titmus stormed home on the final 50, however, nearly two seconds faster than Ledecky on that split (29.51 to 31.34) as Ledecky took second in 3:59.97 with the slowest closing split in the entire field. A day later, after swimming prelims of the 1500, Ledecky scratched prelims of the 200 free (as did Aussie Emma McKeon and Candian Taylor Ruck), saying she wasn’t feeling well. Her participation in the rest of the meet was in question, and she ended up scratching the final of the 1500 (in which she was going for her fourth-straight title, as well).

Adam Peaty Accomplishes “Project 56” in Semifinals

After cruising his way through the prelims in a blistering 57.59, Adam Peaty unleashed the fastest swim in history in the 100 breast during the first night of racing. Peaty rocketed his way to a time of 56.88, becoming the first swimmer in history ever under the 57-second barrier (he is also the only swimmer to ever break 58). This completes his famous “Project 56” that he first mentioned back in 2017 in the lead-up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games. He went on the win the race 57.14, well ahead of his British teammate James Wilby, who took silver in 58.46 (also a very good swim).

Backstroke Wedges Malfunction in Prelims; 18 Men Swim in 100 back semis

Throughout the heats of the women’s and men’s 100 back prelim races last Monday, it became clear that a number of swimmers were struggling with the backstroke wedge system. Multiple heats saw the field stand down as officials tended to swimmers who had difficulties with the wedge. All seemed to go smoothly until the final heat of the men’s race, when Italy’s Simone Sabbioni stopped after his start due to an issue with his wedge. The rest of the heat completed their race. Sabbioni was granted a solo re-swim, but in his second attempt, the same thing happened: you can see in the replay that the straps holding the wedge gave out entirely. He eventually figured out and qualified 13th for the semifinal. Dylan Carter similarly struggled and was granted a reswim, qualifying 16th. FINA officials eventually met with coaches and decided to have all swimmers use the wedge at its fully extended position to avoid further issues.

Big-Time United States Men’s Misses

For the first time ever, there were no American men in the 200 free final at Worlds; if you happen to be curious. For the record, the last time no US man was in the Olympic 200 free final was in 1980, when the nation boycotted the Games. Townley Haas, the 2017 Worlds silver medalist, was 14th out of the semis in 1:46.37. Andrew Seliskar finished 15th with a 1:46.83; he was No. 2 in the field after the 150-mark, but in his final 50, Seliskar split 29.09, more than a full second behind the next-slowest closing split.

World record holder Ryan Murphy went on to miss the podium in the men’s 100 back (by .01) as did 2012 Olympic gold medalist Matt Grevers. The duo finished fourth and fifth overall. Murphy said ahead the meet that his focus was much more on training through to the Olympics than it was on medaling at Worlds.

No American men made the final of the 1500 free late in the meet. Open water star Jordan Wilimovsky finished 11th in prelims in 14:59.94, and Zane Grothe, the United States’ go-to distance swimmer in the pool as of late, finished 26th with a 15:21.43. Wilimovsky’s time is 14:45.03, from Rio, but his swim this week was 5.5 second faster than his season-best. Grothe’s best time is 14:48.40 from last August, and he was 15:13.29 in May.

Chase Kalisz also had some big misses, which we’ll address later.

Katinka Hosszu Wins 4 Straight 200 and 400 IM Titles, Falters Mid-Meet

With her win in the 200 IM on the second night of racing, Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu became the first woman to win four straight world titles in a single event. Hosszu took gold in 2:07.53, over a full second ahead of second-place finisher Ye Shiwen (2:08.60), of China. Other women have come close to winning four consecutive titles: in fact, Swede Sarah Sjostrom came within half a second of completing the feat earlier in the night in the 100 fly, but Canadian Maggie MacNeil pulled off the upset. When it comes to non-consecutive four-time female event winners at Worlds, Hosszu had won four 400 IM titles prior to this meet, and Sjostrom has won four 100 fly titles overall. Hosszu definitively took the gold in the 400 IM to bookend her meet with wins, touching in 4:30.39; she was a few seconds behind her world Record Behind her, China’s Ye Shiwen earned another silver medal. She used her signature closing speed to out-touch Japan’s Yui Ohashi, 4:32.07 to 4:32.33.

In the middle of the meet, however, Hosszu finished eighth in the 200 back final in 2:10.08, no-showed 100 back prelims, and finished 17th in prelims of the 200 free (1:59.44).

Duncan Scott Also Protests Sun Yang on the Podium

Great Britain’s Duncan Scott followed the model set by Australian Mack Horton earlier in the meet, protesting Sun Yang oun the podium of the men’s 200 free. Sun (1:44.93) was awarded gold after initial winner Danas Rapsys was shockingly DQ’d after the race for movement on the blocks. Japan’s Katsuhiro Matsumoto took silver in 1:45.22, and Scott and Martin Malyutin of Russia ended up tying for the bronze in 1:45.63. Unlike Horton, Scott did get on the podium for the playing of the Chinese anthem. But Scott then refused to shake Sun’s hand and partake in a group picture with all the medalists after the podium ceremony, and the situation boiled over into a confrontation, in which Sun appeared to yell something like “I’m a winner. You’re a loser” at Scott. Both were issued warnings by FINA.

Maggie MacNeil stuns Sarah Sjostrom to win 100 fly gold

After qualifying second for the final in a massive best time of 56.52, Canadian Maggie MacNeil was set to go up against the world record holder Sarah Sjostrom. After turning fifth at the 50m wall in 26.77, MacNeil stormed home in 29.06 to run down Sjostrom and win in 55.83. That time gives the 19-year-old a new Commonwealth Record, Americas Record, Canadian Record, and makes her the second-fastest performer of all-time. She joins Sjostrom and American Dana Vollmer as the only women to break 56.

In spite of a defeat in her signature event, Sjostrom still became the first woman to win 5 individual medals at a World Championships – no relay-medal-inflation there.

The longest-held world record in the books goes down

After 18 years straight of having the 200 fly world record on lockdown, Michael Phelps lost it Wednesday to Hungary’s Kristof Milak, who destroyed his old record. Milak went 1:50.73, a whopping .78 under Phelps’ longstanding record of 1:51.51 from 2009. Phelps in total had held the record since 2001. That swim came during the super-suit era, and since then, Milak’s 1:52.71 from last year had come closest to it. Milak opened his race in the exact same 100 split Phelps did all those years ago: 52.88. But he closed in 57.85 (versus Phelps’ 58.63) to seal the record. Asked about the swim by The New York Times’ Karen Crouse, Phelps had nothing but praise for the 19-year-old. “As frustrated as I am to see that record go down, I couldn’t be happier to see how he did it,” Phelps said. “That kid’s last 100 was incredible. He put together a great 200 fly from start to finish.”

Lilly King Disqualified in Prelims of 200 Breaststroke

American breaststroke star Lilly King was disqualified in the third heat of the 200 breast Thursday morning in Gwangju. It took a while for King and USA Swimming to find out what she was DQ’d for, with the call eventually coming out as a “non-simultaneous touch” on her first turn. Video replay was in use at the meet, and the U.S. protested the call. The protest was denied and Team USA sent it to the Jury of Appeal, which also upheld the initial call. The call was incredibly close, but King eventually admitted it was the correct one, saying “Yeah, I definitely did it.”

FINA Issues Blanket Warning About Athlete Demonstrations

As part of fallout from Mack Horton‘s protest of Sun Yang during the 400 free podium ceremony on the first night of the 2019 FINA World Championships, and Duncan Scott‘s ensuing run-in with Sun on the 200 free podium, FINA has issued a new Code of Conduct provision entitled “rules of conduct during the competition,” according to The Australian. The international governing body for aquatic sports reportedly distributed a memo Tuesday night in Gwangju stating that athletes could receive a ban or lose their medal if they engage in “any political, religious or discriminatory statement or behaviour” at the podium. “[Athletes] shall strictly avoid any offensive or improper behaviour towards the officials, the other competitors, the team members and/or the spectators during the entire conduct of the competition. Any political, religious or discriminatory statement or behaviour is strictly prohibited,” the memo reportedly read.

Olympic Champ Joseph Schooling Has a Meet to Forget

Joseph Schooling, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the 100 fly, finished 24th in prelims of the 100 fly, meaning he did not advance to the semifinal. Schooling split 24.53/28.40 for a final time of 52.93. His season-best was 52.00 from the 2019 Japan Open in May, and his lifetime best, from Rio, was 50.39. It took 52.44 to make it back for semis in Gwangju. The 24-year-old, of Singapore, also failed to advance out of prelims in the 50 fly; he finished 20th in 23.73. He did not enter the 200 fly this week and said in 2018 that he “thinks he’s done” with the event. Schooling, an alum of the University of Texas, took bronze in the 100 fly at Worlds in both 2015 and 2017, but has been under :52 only once since his 50.78 Budapest swim.

Regan Smith Takes Out Three World Records in Two Swims

Seventeen-year-old Regan Smith took down Missy Franklin‘s last remaining world record in the books Friday night, going a stunning 2:03.35 in the 200 back semifinal. Franklin’s time was from the London 2012 Olympics, when she was also 17, and stood for seven years at 2:04.06; Smith’s best time prior to this meet was 2:06.43. Franklin called Smith ‘s race “One of the most amazing swims [she’s’ ever seen]. Smith went on the win gold in the event in 2:03.69, 2.57 second ahead of second-place finisher Kylie Masse. On the final night of competition, Smith led off the American 4×100 medley relay in a 57.57, nearly a half-second faster than Kathleen Baker’s previous record (58.00). She was the only swimmer to go under 59 seconds on the leadoff leg. Then, the American team of Smith, Lilly KingKelsi Dahlia, and Simone Manuel won the relay gold medal and set a new world record in 3:50.40, giving Smith her third world mark of the meet.

Federica Pellegrini Will Retire No. 9 in Individual Worlds Medals

Italian freestyle star Federica Pellegrini has put a close on her World Championships career spanning from 2003 to 2019, calling this meet her “last.” The 30-year-old won an eighth-consecutive medal in the 200 free, with her 2019 title being her fourth in the event. Her winning time of 1:54.22 became the sixth-fastest performance in history alongside her all-time No. 3 performance and world record, both from 2009. In her final swim at the 2019 World Championships, Pellegrini anchored the Italian 4×100 women’s medley relay to a new national record time of 3:56.50, just missing the podium. Her anchor split of 52.53 marks her first time ever splitting under 53 seconds. Her medal in the 200 free, alongside her two world titles in the 400 free (2009/2011), make her the 5th-most decorated woman at the LC World Championships and ninth-most decorated swimmer in history with individual medals alone.

Nightclub Containing World Athletes Collapses on Penultimate Night

The roof of Coyote Ugly night club Gwangju, South Korea, collapsed in the very early hours of Saturday morning with athletes present. There were two fatalities (neither of which were Worlds athletes) in the incident, and approximately 16 injuries. Eight athletes sustained injuries; one of them was USA water polo player Kaleigh Gilchrist, who underwent surgery for a severe leg laceration. Members of the Australian and New Zealand water polo teams were also present, as well as a few international swimmers — more on that shortly.

Defending Champion Chase Kalisz Ends US Gold Streak in 200 IM, Misses 400 IM Final

A day after finishing third overall in the 200 IM, ending the United States’ streak of world titles in the event at eight, defending champion Chase Kalisz failed to advance to the final the 400 IM Sunday morning in Gwangju. Kalisz finished 10th overall, two spots out of advancing. He split 57.04/1:05.35/1:11.15/1:02.08 for a  4:15.62, nearly 10 seconds off his best time of 4:05.90, and two seconds slower than he was in April (4:13.45); that swim ranked him seventh in the world heading into the meet. He posted the slowest free split of anyone who finished in the top-16. The 25-year-old Kalisz is the third-fastest performer in history in the 400 IM behind only Ryan Lochte (4:05.18) and world record holder Michael Phelps (4:03.84), the only other men to break 4:06. He saw relatively little racing in 2019 prior this meet, only notching two 400 IMs. In Kalisz’s absence in the final, Georgia teammate Jay Litherland had the swim of his life, nearly running down winner Daiya Seto to take silver in 4:09.22.

United States and Ledecky Rebound on Penultimate Night of Competition

Rumors of the United States’ demise had been greatly exaggerated over the first five days of racing, as many of the nation’s strongest swims had yet to come. On night seven, the team took gold in five of six opportunities (three of which came from Caeleb Dressel). Despite scratching two of her races with an undisclosed illness, Katie Ledecky did not walk away from the 2019 FINA World Championships without a gold medal. She battled to win the 800 free Saturday night, taking out her race aggressively  (2:00.19 at the 200). At that point, she was over a second ahead of Italian Simona Quadarella, but by the 400-mark, Quadarella had closed that gap to less than half a second, and by the next wall, she had the lead by .06. At the 600, Quadarella’s lead was up to .84 seconds, but then Ledecky started to creep back up on her, .14 behind at the 750. Ledecky brought it home in 29.19, a second-and-a-half faster than Quadarella’s 30.78, for the gold. Her final time was 8:13.58, only the 20th-fastest swim of her career, but it got the job done.

Tamas Kenderesi Arrested on Sexual Assault Allegations

Hungarian swimmer Tamas Kenderesi is being held in South Korea following a probe into sexual harassment allegations made against him, Reuters reported Sunday. The 22-year-old was reportedly arrested in the early hours of Sunday morning in Gwangju, South Korea, and questioned over an incident that occurred at a nightclub, an official at the Gwangju Seobu Police Station said. A source told SwimSwam that Kenderesi was at Coyote Ugly nightclub when it collapsed Saturday morning. A Hungarian team official told Reuters that Kenderesi returned to the Athletes’ Village after being questioned but that he would now allowed to leave the country for 10 days, however. Kenderesi denies the allegations but admitted to “touching the buttocks” of a female Korean dancer in the club.

Florian Wellbrock Becomes First Swimmer to Double-Up with 10K/1500 Gold

Germany’s Florian Wellbrock became the first swimmer in history to win both the 10K open water event and 1500m free at a major international meet on the final night of racing. Heading into this meet, Italian Gregorio Paltrinieri was largely considered a favorite to complete this feat, and secure his third-straight Worlds 1500 win. He had posted the fasted time in the world this season in the 1500 by four seconds (14:38.34, in April), and had been finding success in the open water field. However, he finished sixth in the 10K earlier in the meet after leading for much of the race. Wellbrock was the No. 2 swimmer in the world this season in the 1500 at 14:42.91 this season and surged to a photo finish in the 10K, out-touching France’s Marc-Antoine Olivier by two-tenths of a second. In Sunday’s race, Wellbrock, Paltrinieri, and Ukranian Mykhailo Romanchuk went stroke-for-stroke the entire way, pulling away fro the field, before Wellbrock was able to shift gears and separate himself from the other two swimmers in the final 100 meters.

Is Getting ‘Dunc’d On’ the New ‘Getting Lezak’d’?

In the final race of the meet, Great Britain’s Duncan Scott ran down American Nathan Adrian as the anchor of the men’s 4×100 medley relay. Scott’s 46.14 is the second-fastest split in history behind only Jason Lezak‘s legendary 46.06 from 2008. Scott overcame a bigger deficit than Lezak did to carry his team to the gold. He left the block 1.11 seconds behind Nathan Adrian and finished .55 ahead of him; Lezak left the block .59 behind Alain Bernard and finished .08 ahead. While getting “Dunc’d on” and getting “Lezak’d” are not quite synonyms – “Lezak’d” has a connotation of being insanely exciting, huge in the hugest moment, while Dunc’d is a more utilitarian comeback term – you get the gist.

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3 years ago

Great article fellas!

Reply to  Papito
3 years ago

amazing coverage overall

m d e
3 years ago

No mention at all of the mens 200 BRST is disappointing.

Was the most interesting event of the meet imo.

E Gamble
3 years ago

Ms Hart…you forgot about Simone Manuel. Did I miss the previous African American women that swept the sprint free events at Worlds? Wow.

Reply to  E Gamble
3 years ago

Agreed, and I don’t understand the downvotes, although to me, the fact that she is African American is irrelevant. She came in as an underdog yet again, and found a way to beat arguably the two fastest female sprinters in the world. Twice. She has proven herself to be an incredible clutch performer.

Yes, she got smoked by Cate Campbell’s awesome 51.1 split in the mixed medley relay, but for some reason she got a lot more flak from the peanut gallery than Nathan Adrian, who similarly lost a relay lead to a swimmer who happened to throw down one of the all-time great splits. They are both great champions who have brought a lot of glory to Team USA,… Read more »

Sorry to be that guy
3 years ago

The 200 fly record was not the oldest one in the books. The M400IM, M400F-R, M400Fr, M200Fr, and the M800Fr were all older, and still on the books now.

Sorry to be that guy
Reply to  Sorry to be that guy
3 years ago

Actually, the M800Fr and M200Fl were on the same day at the 2009 worlds. I had to look up the order of events, and it turns out that the M200Fl was swum earlier in the evening session that day than the M800Fr

Reply to  Sorry to be that guy
3 years ago

It was the longest standing by one person. He had held it consecutively from 2001.

Speedy PG
3 years ago

That’s hilarious

3 years ago

So… Maggie MacNeil’s 2nd 50 in the 100 fly (29.06) outsplit Andrew Seliskars closing 50 in the 2-free (29.09)… Apples and oranges I know but a fun little tidbit!

Northern SwimParent
Reply to  NJones
3 years ago

Go Maggie!!!!!

3 years ago

“Training through to the Olympics” is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, two full years in between taper is nuts. Can’t believe people would willingly not give their all to represent their country to the best of their ability, or be dumb enough to think that tapering once a year might be too much for them to handle. Must not be that elite of an athlete if a taper a year kills your base(I know he’s an Olympic champion WR from my country but that’s weak). Michael Andrews needs to go ahead and admit that representing his country at worlds at his best takes a backseat to surfing and traveling, because that’s how he must feel. Other than that everyone… Read more »

Reply to  Ragnar
3 years ago

Training through to the Olympics is ridiculous, a few weeks of taper definitely doesn’t set you back for the next 11 months.

Philip Johnson
Reply to  Ragnar
3 years ago

Sjostrom had the same excuse (or that’s what her supporters said). I think it’s a BS argument too.

With Michael Andrew, I agree as well. He seems to be a Dwyer 2.0 in the making. Moved to California and his priorities changed. I hope he proves me wrong next year.

Reply to  Philip Johnson
3 years ago

Those supporters are just guessing why Sjöström wasn’t in World Record shape during the meet. As far as I know, Sarah hasn’t mentioned anything about taking Worlds lightly, in order to optimize her training for next year’s Olympics.

Swim girl
Reply to  Stefan
3 years ago

It was her coach mentioning it. Not her. This was a meet to try the waters for Olympics, with for example the 200 free. If she was 100% focused on this and not Olympics she would’ve skipped the event she hates and that she’s barely swum since last Olympics. Seems more like it’s the rest of you that wants to shoot her down for not swimming world record times every big meet.

Not accurate
Reply to  Ragnar
3 years ago

You’re definitely misinterpreting this. Murph never said he wasn’t tapered/was swimming through the meet. Anyone who saw him after the meet knows how hard he took his performance. He had a bad meet struggling to adjust to his new coach. Hopefully he can mentally get over the disappointment bc Team USA needs him on his game next summer.

3 years ago

Where’s Simone?? I think what she accomplished was extraordinary.

Reply to  Momof2
3 years ago

I have to agree. How is Simone’s sweep of the sprint frees not included? Especially since this is the first time an American woman has done it.

Speedy PG
Reply to  Momof2
3 years ago

What win in two events where other people did not perform their best? Or give up a more than a second lead on the mixed medley relay?

Reply to  Momof2
3 years ago

Agree with this. Simone’s two wins undoubtedly qualify as as a ‘major storyline’ of the meet.

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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