BUDAPEST: Katie Ledecky won a record-breaking fifth straight 800m world title on Friday, just over an hour after Sarah Sjostrom surged to her fourth consecutive victory in the women’s 50m butterfly. Local hero Kristof Milak sparked delirium in the Duna Arena in Budapest when he grabbed the gold medal in the 100m butterfly, his second of the week.
The Australian mixed 100m freestyle team ended the evening by setting a world record in an event only added to the world championships in 2015. Their time of 3min 19.38sec beat the record set by the United States in last World Championships in 2019 by 0.02sec. Canada were second, the Americans third. Ben Proud claimed Britain’s first gold of the championships as he grabbed victory in the 50m freestyle.
Australian Kaylee McKeown won the women’s 200m backstroke for a first world title to go with three Olympic golds. Ledecky led throughout the 800m as she took her tally of World Championship medals to 22, a record for a woman. She finished in 8min 8.04sec to beat Australian Kiah Melverton by 10.73sec and Italian Simona Quadarella by 10.96sec. “Year after year it’s really hard work,” said the 25-year-old American who won her first major title in the 2012 Olympics.
“In London I won my first gold 10 years ago, back then they said I was a one-hit wonder, and here we are, 10 years later and I have another gold. “I’m so excited for the future as well. This was only my seventh fastest time in the last couple of years but after a long week the gold counts. “Everyone’s pushing me and I’m working on my stroke and these World Championships were tremendously exciting for me.”
Sjostrom won her race in 24.95sec to edge Frenchwoman Melanie Henique by 0.36sec with China’s Zhang Yufei third at 0.37. “I had a lot of pressure on myself because of my past successes,” said Sjostrom. Sjostrom has 19 world championship medals, three behind Ledecky and is also chasing Michael Phelps’ record of 10 World Championship butterfly medals set between 2001 and 2011. She has nine. “Yes, I can do it,” she said.
“It feels unreal that I’ve been at this level for so long. I won my first title in 2009, Michael Phelps was still swimming at that time and I was really looking up to him.” Sjostrom fell on ice in Sweden in February 2021 and broke her elbow, but still won a silver in the Tokyo Olympics last July. “It feels amazing to be here, to still be around and still be winning medals. It is not something I can take for granted.”
‘I missed him’
Milak, who had already won the 200m butterfly title, delighted the home crowd at what he calls “my pool” as he finally won gold in the 100m. Caeleb Dressel, the reigning world and Olympic champion, pulled out of the competition on Wednesday. “I missed him for sure, as you know I love good races, although this was also one,” said Milak.
Milak won in 50.14sec, a comfortable 0.80sec ahead of Naoki Mizunuma of Japan, with Canadian Joshua Liendo a further three hundredths of a second back in third. “I’m so proud to be Hungarian and I’m overjoyed that here in the arena 4,000 people were cheering for me,” said Milak. “I hope, in front of the TVs and all around the world, all 15 million Magyars gave me their support. “I am so tired now, I can hardly wait for a rest.”
In another event where Dressel was the reigning champion, Proud exploded from the blocks and held on to win in a time of 21.32. American Michael Andrew was second on 21.41. Frenchman Maxime Grousset grabbed third. “Great race, great field, great fans and great job!,” said Proud. McKeown chased American Phoebe Bacon down in the last lap to win at the touch by just 0.04sec. “Everything turned out positively in the end,” said McKeown.
Fainted in pool
Meanwhile, US artistic swimmer Anita Alvarez, who was dramatically rescued from the bottom of the pool after fainting in her solo routine, was omitted from the team event on Friday at the request of governing body FINA. “That was a decision FINA had made,” said Selina Shah, US artistic swimming’s team doctor. “In my opinion she could have competed, I am very confident,” Shah said. FINA said it had organized a medical examination on Friday morning that included three representatives of its medical committee, its executive director, Dr. Shah and US team officials.
“Following these discussions, FINA determined that Anita Alvarez should not compete today,” FINA said in a statement. “The health and safety of athletes must always come first. While FINA understands why this decision will have been disappointing to the athlete, it was a decision that was made with her best interests in mind. The governing body said it was “delighted” that Alvarez had made “such a strong recovery” and looked forward to seeing her in competition again soon.
Shah said she did not know how FINA had reached its conclusion that Alvarez should not compete. “I’m not aware of their decision making process.” Alvarez fainted and dropped to the bottom at the end of her individual routine on Wednesday and was saved by her quick-thinking coach, Andrea Fuentes.
Alvarez had been entered in the team event on Friday and was on every official startlist until just before the event was scheduled to begin when she was replaced on the eight-woman team by Yujin Chang. Standing in the warm-up area before the event, as the US swimmers made their final preparations behind her, Shah said she was sure Alvarez would be cheering the team on. “I think she is very excited for the team to compete and she’s a great athlete and she’s going to be there supporting them.” – AFP