South African Matt Sates earned his very first international medal on Friday, a silver in the 400m free – and once the 18 years-old settled, he started his golden run too, which stopped at four, at least here in Berlin. Today he claimed two more titles, bettered another junior WR and finished second to Netherlands’ breaststroke treble-maker Arno Kamminga in the overall. Israel’s Anastasia Gorbenko was the surprise winner in the women’s overall, ahead Aussie Olympic hero Emma McKeon.
Time will tell if we saw a breakthrough performance in Berlin but as of today, Matthew Sates is well positioned to become South Africa’s new shining star, to keep the flag high after the Chad le Clos era is slowly approaching its end.
The 18 years old blond prodigy opened its World Cup campaign with a silver in the 400m free and claimed the 100m IM title later in the session. A day later, he smashed the junior WR in the 200m IM, then in the closing session he first completed the medley treble by winning the 400m by a mile, then some 80 minutes later he came home first in the 200m free. Here he destroyed another junior WR (1:40.65), got just 1.28sec away from the mighty Paul Biederman’s shiny WR, set in the very same pool in the 2009 edition of the World Cup.
On a sidenote: sweeping all three IM titles in recent years was a kind of daily routine for Katinka Hosszu, but among the men we had to go back until 2011 to find a male achieving this feat. Back then Chad le Clos did this thrice, the last time Beijing, so it needed another South African to repeat the three-peat. Well, exactly 10 years ago this pool in Berlin also saw the IM treble – not from Le Clos but by a certain Michael Phelps who dipped his toe into World Cup action for a unique appearance. Just for comparison: Sates was almost a second faster in the 400m event this Sunday than the GOAT in 2011…
Not only the young gun finished 3/3 in a given stroke: Germany’s Christian Diener and Netherlands’ Arno Kamminga also made the 50-100-200m sweep. Diener added the 100m to his backstroke collection while Kamminga won the 200m breast on the last day. For them, it was not the first time to do the trick: Diener did the backstroke treble in Moscow 2014 and Doha 2017, while the Dutchman delivered it in Budapest 2019.
Indeed, Kamminga still bettered Sates in the overall by a fingernail, the gap was 0.1 points – the difference is 2,000 dollars as the Dutch got 12,000, while Sates cashed 10,000 in the new scoring system. (The combined calculation is based on the best three individual performances, by placement and time, according to the FINA Points.)
The frequent fliers’ company returned to the order from day 1: USA’s Tom Shields hit the wall first in the 50m, so he beat his dining pal Le Clos 2-1 this weekend – the South African, after claiming the 200m on Day 2, got the bronze in the dash, behind Hungary’s Szebasztian Szabo.
As for the women’s events, the Olympic champions made order in a couple of events. Margaret MacNeil, after offering promising swims in the backstroke, won her main event, the 100m fly – ahead of Sweden’s Louise Hansson who had beaten her a day ago in the 100m back.
Aussie Emma McKeon was quite convincing in the 100m free: the most decorated female swimmer in Tokyo posted a sub-51sec swim to copy her Olympic feat of winning the 50m and 100m free.
On the contrary, 100m breast Olympic champion Lydia Jacobi of the US is yet to find her speed and rhythm in the short pool as she was denied in the 50m too, this time by Israel’s Anastasia Gorbenko. The American came 5th in the 200m, 3rd in the 100m and finished runner-up in the 50m, though Gorbenko was much faster and won by 0.43sec. The Israeli enjoyed a brilliant leg here in Berlin, she amassed the most total points in the new scoring system, ahead of McKeon, to bag the top prize of 12,000 US dollars.
Kira Toussaint of the Netherlands earned an easy victory in the 200m (clinched the 50m on the opening day), while Carmen Gormsen of the US, aged 16, also came first with a big advantage in the 800m free.
Swiss Maria Ugolkova, one hour after landing a bronze in the 100m fly, was a cut above the rest in the 200m IM. It was remarkable for a special reason: for the first time in eight years, it was not Katinka Hosszu who took the gold in this event. The Hungarian was simply unbeatable in this event between 2013 and 2019, she went 52/52 in the World Cup, a record would almost be impossible to beat in the near future (Hosszu did not enter for a World Cup leg for the first time since her debut in 2012 – in that year it was compatriot Zsuzsanna Jakabos, now came 5th, who could beat her in the 200m IM, in Singapore).
The session ended with another junior WR: the US quartet featured four teenagers who beat their own mark from 2017 in the mixed 4x50m medley, though this effort was not enough to catch the German seniors who finished the home leg on a high note.