DRESSEL ROCKETS 46.96, AUSSIE RELAY BREAKS WR, SETO HUNTS DOWN 200M IM TITLE
On the day of speeding, USA’s Caeleb Dressel became the first man swimming the 100m free under 47sec wearing a textile suit. The Australian 4x200m free relay brought down another shiny World Record from 2009, while fellow Aussie Matthew Wilson equalled the 200m breast WR in the semis. Japan’s Daya Seto, specialist in the 400m IM, claimed the 200m title for the first time in his career, while Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas stunned the field and touched first to keep the 200m fly titles in Hungarian possession here. Another US win came in the women’s 50m back, courtesy of Olivia Smoliga.
Well, if one considered Michael Phelps’s shiny World Record in the 200m fly untouchable, then what about Cesar Cielo’s blast from Rome 2009, 46.91 in a full-body rubber suit which was premium aide for the sprinters? Yesterday Phelps’ mark was gone, while today Caeleb Dressel rocketed to an amazing win in the 100m free and almost chased down the WR, clocking 46.96, just 0.05 shy of the all-time best effort.
Before tonight and considering only times in textile, Aussie Cameron McEvoy’s 47.04 was the closest to the old mark from 2016, now Dressel managed to clock the first 46sec time while retaining his title (France’s Alain Bernard was the other who ever dipped under 47, but also in a supersuit). Dressel’s incredible swim was a great message: sooner than later all 2009 records will go. (One actually fell later, see below.)
Olivia Smoliga soon delivered another gold for the US as she won the backstroke dash in a fine race, out-touching the reigning champion Etiene Medeiros (BRA) 0.11sec.
Japan got its first gold in Gwangju thanks to Daya Seto who staged a thrilling duel with European champion Jeremy Desplanches of Switzerland. The Japanese led from the 100m turn and managed to withstand the pressure from the Swiss while title-holder Chase Kalisz tried to gear up in the second half after having turned 7th but his late surge earned him only the bronze this time.
Based on personal bests and times clocked in the heats and semis, the US duo of Hali Flickinger and Katie Dabot were the absolute favourites, and three more finalists had much better PBs than Boglarka Kapas but the tiny Hungarian cared only racing and in that she bested the entire field. It seemed that the favourites wanted to preserve as much energy as possible against the European champion’s well-known charge in the second 100m but their tactics didn’t work. Though Kapas turned 8th at the halfway mark 2 seconds behind the leaders, she then launched her trademark attack and the leaders couldn’t handle the pressure. Despite achieving much better times even in the heats, Flickinger and Dabot had to settle for the minor spoils while Kapas was all tears while celebrating her first-ever world title. Turning to a flier after Olympic and world bronzes taken as a distance freestyler, the tiny Magyar showed that such transition could work perfectly while joining Kristof Milak as Hungarian winners in the 200m fly events – indeed this is a historical double, never before the same nation managed to win the men and the women 200m fly in the same edition.
The women’s 4x200m free relay was another showdown between the title-holder US team and Australia. Katie Ledecky was back to action despite some news that she had finished her campaign here due to illness. She took the lead for her team and built a gap of 0.30sec till halfway but that was melt down to 0.09 sec before the anchor leg. And Emma McKeon took charge over the last lap and brought home the Aussies in a world record time of 7:41.50 to eclipse one of the last female WRs standing from the 2009 shiny era. In fact, the Chinese held the mark since 10 years and that was the only occasion in the last nine editions (since 2003) when not the US team claimed the title. The Aussies halted the Americans run now at eight and clinched this relay’s gold for the first time ever – as well as adding this to their 4x100m free gold.
Beforehand the session already saw an Aussie achieving a World Record, though it was ‘just’ equalling one in the 200m breast semis: Matthew Wilson clocked the same time of Ippei Watanabe (JPN) from 2017, 2:06.67 – but title-holder Anton Chupkov (RUS) was also close (0.16sec away) so a real showdown is due in the final on Friday.