The sixth finals’ session of the swimming competition at the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest (HUN) was an historic day for Russia, with three gold medals out of the five at offer. In the 200m breaststroke, both men and women, Russian swimmers ruled the pool, with Anton Chupkov triumphing with a new Championships Record (2:06.96) among men, and Yulia Efimova being the best in the women’s field. To complete this successful harvest, Evgeny Rylov is the new world champion in the men’s 200m backstroke, namely beating the Olympic champion, US Ryan Murphy.
We also had a thrilling women’s 100m free final at the packed Duna Arena, with Simone Manuel (USA) confirming her Olympic title, and defeating favourite Sarah Sjostrom (SWE), who had established a new World Record of the distance, when swimming the 4x100m free for Sweden. In the fifth final of the day, Great Britain managed to revalidate their world crown in the 4x200m free, with an imperial James Guy anchoring the British quartet in a time of 1:43.80.
Women’s 100m free
In a thrilling first final of the day, the women’s 100m free, Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) seemed to be in control of the race in lane 4, but next to her Simone Manuel (USA), the 2016 Olympic champion arrived better and got the gold in 52.27, against 52.31 for the Swedish star. Sjostrom had established the new World Record (51.71) of the distance as lead-off of the 4x100m free relay, but could not approach that performance in the individual final, despite her first 50m (0.08 under WR pace). Already silver medallist in 2013 and 2015, Sjostrom had one gold here in Budapest, in the 100m fly. For Manuel, who had shared the Olympic gold with Penny Oleksiak from Canada (only sixth in the Duna Arena, in a time of 52.94), this is her first individual success at the Worlds, after the gold in the 4x100m free relay. The bronze in Budapest went to Pernille Blume, from Denmark, the 2016 Rio champion in the 50m free. Bronte Campbell, the defending 2015 world champion was only seventh in 53.18, while Ranomi Kromowidjojo (NED), third in 2011 and 2013, and Olympic champion in 2012, was fifth in 52.78.
Men’s 200m back
After the elimination of Mitch Larkin (AUS) in the semis – the Australian was the 2015 world champion – Xu Jiayu (CHN) was the fastest going to the finals. Fourth in Kazan, two years ago, and winner of the 100m back in Budapest, the Chinese was not so strong in the decisive race, concluding in fifth (1:55.26). The gold went to Russia’s Evgeny Rylov, who took an early control of the race and never left the lead, clocking 1:53.61. Third at the 2015 Worlds in Russia and also bronze medallist at the Rio Olympics, this is Rylov’s main success at this level. His achievement is outstanding if we consider that he managed to “comfortably” beat the 100m and 200m back Games champion in Brazil, US Ryan Murphy. The North American got the silver in the Duna Arena, in a time of 1:54.21, and was followed by his teammate Jacob Pebley (bronze in 1:55.06). Ryosuke Irie, from Japan, silver medallist in 2009 and 2011, and also runner-up at the 2012 Olympics in London, had to content with the seventh place (1:56.35).
Women’s 200m breast
After a strange outcome in Kazan 2015 – for the first time in history, three swimmers shared the bronze medal -, the Budapest 2017 race produced only three swimmers on the podium, each with one medal of a different colour. The gold went to Yulia Efimova (RUS), after using her usual tactics – defensive race in the first 100m, and then acceleration in the second half of the final. The Russian great touched home in 2:19.64 and repeated her 2013 success, when she also won in Barcelona (ESP). At the Rio 2016 Olympics, she was the runner-up in both the 100m and 200m races, while in Budapest she had been third in the 100m breast. The silver went to Bethany Galat, from the United States, in 2:21.77 – her first international feat at this level. Shi Jinglin (CHN) earned bronze in 2:21.93 – the 24-year-old Chinese was precisely one of the three bronze medallists in 2015. Jessica Vall (ESP), also third two years ago in Russia, was not so strong this time, finishing eighth and last in 2:23.29. Lilly King (USA), 2017 world champion and 2016 Olympic gold medallist in the 100m breast, could not reach the podium, finishing fourth in 2:22.11.
Men’s 200m breast
The fourth final of the day was already meaningful before the decisive race: in the heats, Daniel Gyurta, from Hungary, and the winner in 2009, 2011 and 2013, was 17th and missed the next stage of the competition; precisely in the semis, Marco Koch, gold medallist in 2015 and runner-up in 2013, was also not qualified for the final, concluding in 11th. Arrived then to the decisive race, it was firstly – until the 150m-mark – a Japanese affair with Yasuhiro Koneki and Ippei Watanabe in the leading positions. In the last length of the pool, Anton Chupkov, from Russia, accelerated and touched for gold in 2:06.96, a new Championships Record. He improved his own performance from the semis, when he had clocked 2:07.14. The Russian – born in 1997 – had been bronze medallist at the Rio Olympics, and was seventh in this event in Kazan 2015. The minor medals went to the two Japanese representatives: Koseki (silver, in 2:07.29 – his first medal at the Worlds), and Watanabe (bronze in 2:07.47). The latter is the World Record holder in this event, after a 2:06.67 effort last January in Tokyo. He was sixth of the Olympic final last summer in Rio de Janeiro.
Men’s 4x200m free relay
In the last final of the day, the team of Great Britain revalidated its 2015 title in the men’s 4x200m free relay, thanks to a decisive last leg from James Guy (also involved in the gold two years ago in Kazan). The British quartet – formed by Stephen Milne, Nicholas Grainger, Duncan Scott and Guy – touched for gold in 7:01.70. The Russian squad got the silver in 7:02.68, repeating the ranking already achieved in 2009 and 2013. The United States – second in Kazan – got this time the bronze in 7:03.18. Before the British “era”, the North American domination in this event had been overwhelming before 2005 and 2013, with five consecutive world titles. Australia, bronze in 2015, couldn’t get into the podium this time, finishing in fourth (7:05.98).