The Melbourne crowd was sold out and two of the biggest stars in Australia, Emma McKeon & Kyle Chalmers made Melbourne the happiest place on Earth on Thursday evening
Women’s 100m Freestyle - Emma McKeon lights up Melbourne with 100m freestyle gold medal
Temperatures may have been chilly, barely breaching 16 degrees Celsius at the hottest point of the day, but the racing was sure hot on Thursday evening in Melbourne as Olympic champion Emma McKeon got the ball rolling for Australia.
We said this would be one of the can’t miss races of the meet, and it lived up to the hype as the gold and silver medallist from the Olympics - McKeon and Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong, China, were racing for the first time since the Games.
“I actually feel like this is the first time that I have felt a little pressure, but maybe that’s because so many came to watch,” McKeon said. “It's a different kind of pressure, but one that I have enjoyed.”
McKeon took the race out the first 50, turning at 24.41 to Haughey’s 24.59. The Aussie held the lead through the 75, and the crowd could feel Haughey closing with every stroke as they willed McKeon to the wall. And she did not disappoint.
McKeon won the first gold medal of the night with a 50.77 to break the championship record of 50.98 set by Haughey last year. It’s not a best time for McKeon, who was the first woman to ever break 50 seconds in a relay on Tuesday, but it was good enough for her second gold medal of the competition. Haughey won silver in 50.87.
That was way too close. It was a tight finish but what counts is getting your hand on the wall first, that's everything.”
“My family are in the stands tonight including both of my grandparents who don't get to see that many of my meets. I think it’s the first time since the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
I wanted to win for them as well. My grandparents, my parents and my brother have been my biggest supporters. I could always hear them.”
“My plan was to feel strong in the first 50m, but not go too fast,” Haughey said. “So I think I executed that. My main target for the meet is the 200m Freestyle, so that’s my focus now.”
Marrit Steenbergen of the Netherlands picked up the bronze with a 51.25, ahead of Australia’s Madison Wilson (51.70).
Men’s 100m Freestyle - King Kyle Chalmers takes his throne back as world’s fastest man
He had talked about being “bullet-proof” come the World short course during the entirety of the final stop of the World Swimming Cup last month. He had talked all about looking forward to the fight, looking forward to racing the best guys in the world on his home soil in December. He talked about nearing his own world record he set in the weeks after last year’s Olympics.
🇦🇺 Kyle Chalmers with a new Championships Record in the 100m Freestyle #FINAMelbourne22 👇 pic.twitter.com/Juylptfo0X— World Aquatics (@WorldAquatics) December 15, 2022
On Thursday evening in Melbourne, Kyle Chalmers backed up all the talk, living up to expectations that he was going to be extremely tough to beat in his home nation in an international final. Chalmers, out in 21.63, back in 23.53, won the gold medal in 45.16 to cap off what was a difficult 2022.
Tomorrow is one year to the day since I had shoulder surgery, which almost potentially ended my career, so for me to be back and standing on top of the podium is very special. Everyone faces challenges in their swimming career and it's about people who can rise above those challenges and continue to find ways to win.
With this race being all about the clash between Chalmers, the short course world record holder, and David Popovici, the long course world record holder, it also featured last year’s champ Alessandro Miressi and the silver medallist from June’s Worlds in Maxime Grousset.
Chalmers was in second place through 75 meters, sitting behind Jordan Crooks of the Cayman Islands who will surely be tough to beat in the 50m, and the Australian used his dynamite finish the final 25, splitting 11.85 to win the gold medal over Grousset (45.41) and Miressi (45.57).
🔥100m Freestyle FINAL #FINAMelbourne22— World Aquatics (@WorldAquatics) December 15, 2022
🇦🇺Kyle Chalmers 👉 new Champ Record (45.16)
🇷🇴David Popovici 👉new World Junior (45.64)
🇨🇳Zanle Pan 👉new Asian (45.77) pic.twitter.com/obpJpe5Kh8
“After last night, I knew that I had a lot more to go for tonight,” Chalmers said. “I have been around for a long time, and I know the mind games that sometimes go on. I pride myself on progressing and swimming faster in each round.
“I swam with my eyes closed. I knew exactly how to execute my own race. If I close my eyes, then I don't get carried away swimming someone else's race. I just close my eyes and try to get my hand on the wall as fast as I can.”
Chalmers is the first Australian champion in this event since Ashley Callus in 2002.
“I don't think it's a relief, I think it is something that I am so proud of. It's something that I dreamed of doing since I was a kid.
“I had to pull out of the last three world short course championships due to injuries and health issues. So for me to finally make it to one and to stand on the top of the podium is something I am going to remember for the rest of my life.”
The Australian crowd showed out Thursday, the largest of the three finals days thus far, all to see McKeon and Chalmers back on top.
“It's always special to have the support of friends and family,” Chalmers said. “If I can inspire the next generation to swim and perform then I have done my job.
The only one quicker than Chalmers over the final 25, Popovici, was fourth at 45.64 in a new world junior record. Crooks faded to sixth at 45.77 in a tie with China’s Pan Zhanle, who broke the Asian record.
Women’s 200m Butterfly - Dakota Luther breaks through for first ever gold
USA’s Dakota Luther swam a very controlled race to win her first ever international medal on the senior stage, with a 2:03.37 in the 200m butterfly on Thursday evening in Melbourne. Luther, a legacy national team member, whose mother, Whitney Hedgepeth, swam on two Olympic teams and won three medals at a home Games in 1996, led a 1-2 finish with Hali Flickinger (2:03.78), who adds another medal to her growing collection.
Luther, who was a promising young star in 2017 when she made the World Championships team for Budapest as a high school student, hadn’t returned to the senior team until this year, as she has recently shifted her training location back to her hometown of Austin, Texas with coach Carol Capitani. Flickinger had led the first 150 meters, before Luther kicked it into gear on the final 50, passing the veteran on the final 50 to claim the gold medal as they both sang the Star Spangled Banner on the podium together.
It is the first American gold medal in this event since 2008 when Mary Descenza won in Manchester.
It's crazy. I just wanted to put myself into that race, I knew that Hali (Flickinger - USA) was coming. I wasn't nervous, I was talking and laughing in the ready room.
“I’m happy with that,” Flickinger said. “I’m just trying to enjoy the sport again as I’m going through some stuff mentally. So I’m just really happy to be finding the fun again.
The bronze went to Australia’s Elizabeth Dekkers, who moved steadily in third place throughout the back half from lane 1, nearly running down Flickinger on the final 50 to finish in third at 2:03.94. The Australians continue to deliver in a home World Championships as the team has 15 total medals halfway through the competition.
Men’s 200m Butterfly - Chad Le Clos back on top thanks to characteristic finish
South Africa’s superstar Chad Le Clos returned to the podium on Thursday at the World Short Course championships almost like he never left. Even though he is a three-time 200m butterfly champion at this meet, and has won medals in five of the last six 200m butterfly finals, Le Clos hadn’t won any major 200m butterfly final since 2017.
After a tumultuous Tokyo Olympic preparation that he has been open about in recent months, Le Clos returned to the top, swimming a lifetime best time with a 1:48.27, a new African record to keep him third all-time.
Le Clos, who now trains with Dirk Lange in Germany, shed tears in the pool and on the podium.
It means so much to me and my family. I have no words, I am just so grateful that I have my coach behind me. I am coming from such a tough place right now, and I am sorry that I am emotional. To be a world champion is like a dream come true again.
“I have been waiting so long for this moment. I have been waiting four years to become world champion again. It comes after defeat after defeat. Tonight I had to fight back against defeat. Thank you to my coach and thank you to my team.”
Father & son @chadleclos #FINAMelbourne2022 pic.twitter.com/ft8KxHsdcq— World Aquatics (@WorldAquatics) December 15, 2022
The silver went to Japan’s Daiya Seto (1:49.22), who briefly held the lead at the 175, but was run down by Le Clos and his dolphin kicks on the final 25. Switzerland’s Noe Ponti won the bronze at 1:49.42.
Last year’s champ Alberto Razzetti (1:50.12) was fourth while the race leader through 150 meters, Trenton Julian, faded badly to seventh at 1:50.94.
Women’s 100m Breaststroke - Lilly King is the breaststroke queen once more
Following the theme of champion swimmers returning to the top of the podium, American Lilly King won a 100m breaststroke final for the first time since 2019.
King had been dynamite in the 100m breaststroke final for three years leading into the 2020 Olympics, but was out-swum in Tokyo, finishing with the bronze medal. In Budapest this past summer, she was still recovering from COVID where she missed the podium entirely. She was able to rebound and win the 200m in Budapest, but the 100m gold medal was one King really wanted to get back, and up against one of her long-time rivals and one of the best to ever do it in Ruta Meilutyte, King won on the very last stroke in Melbourne with a 1:02.67.
It's great to be back, In 2016, I was at the meet and I thought I was invincible and Alia (Atkinson) played me like a fiddle and whipped my butt. I have had that sour taste in my mouth for the last six years and its good to get the title back.
King is the first American gold medalist since Rebecca Soni won in 2010.
“I talked with my coach Ray (Looze) this morning and he told me I needed to be out first at the 50m,” King said. “I don't know that I was, but I went out as hard as I could and prayed I could hold out at the end.”
Meilutyte had initially touched second, but drew a disqualification for more than one dolphin kicks off the wall.
The silver went to Tes Schouten (1:03.90) of the Netherlands with Germany’s Anna Elendt (1:04.05) winning the bronze from lane 8, just ahead of last year’s champ Tang Qianting (1:04.06) of China.
“I’m so happy,” Schouten said. “When I touched the board I didn’t know what to think. I was trying to look at the lights on the blocks, and I thought I wasn’t even getting a medal. And then I looked at the board, and I was like what! How did I not see that!”
Men’s 100m Breaststroke - Nic Fink gets long awaited 100m breaststroke gold medal
After winning nine finals at the World Swimming Cup, we knew Nic Fink was going to be tough to beat in the 100m breaststroke final in Melbourne, even with World long course champion Nicolo Martinenghi and Olympic champion Adam Peaty surrounding him.
But Fink continued his hot streak, winning the final at 55.88 over Martinenghi (56.07) and Peaty (56.25).
Fink played to his strengths, taking the lead at the 50m at 26.04, with Peaty in second and Martinenghi in fifth. Fink has had success across all three breaststroke distances, winning both the 50m and 200m breaststroke at last year’s World short course championships, but hadn’t gotten that elusive 100m gold medal. On Thursday, he held off Martinenghi in a season best time.
I am really happy with this result, this is a good one to start the meet with and I am looking forward to defend the other two (breaststroke) events as well. I was really happy with the world cup season and completing the trifecta (50-100-200).
Fink is the first American to win gold since Brendan Hansen in 2004.
Peaty, who has been coming off an injury that kept him out of the World Championships in June, returned to the podium for the first time at a major world meet since the Olympics, even if it wasn’t the color of medal he is used to.
I don't get bronze that often, so that will be a weird one for Wikipedia,
Peaty said. "It's great to be back in the arena; I am just enjoying the sport again. I am disappointed, but I am not going to allow myself to be. I have been putting in a lot of hard work but they just out-skilled me tonight. It is what it is; I am what I am.
Peaty is arguably the best breaststroker of all-time based on his performances in the long course venue, and with a return to the podium tonight, it sets up an intriguing matchup come July at the World Championships in Fukuoka.
“I am looking forward to a long course season after this week,” Peaty said. “I am looking forward to a challenge and this is the high that I need. I feel pure anger which is very dangerous. I am loving it. I have come back from hell really. I had a lot of personal things that I had to take care of.
“If you don't give 110% to this sport it will take 110% out of you and you will lose.”
Men’s 400m Freestyle - Kieran Smith holds off Thomas Neill to capture first individual gold medal
American Kieran Smith finally won his first individual gold medal after showing a lot of promise in the United States domestically. Smith led the 400m freestyle final from start to finish to win at 3:34.38, breaking the American record to move him to fifth all-time.
Smith needed to use his opening 200m speed in order to hold off the rest of the field, and he did just that, as Australia’s Thomas Neill was ready to pounce if Smith fell off pace, but ultimately the 20-year-old won his senior level medal with a 3:35.05 for the silver.
It’s the first time that I have been at the top of the podium so it's a new chapter in my career. It was an exciting race and I knew that those guys were going to be tough, but I was ready.
“You could tell from my face at the finish that my body was burning. I always like to swim races from the front, it's the way I swim confidently. I knew that I had to pay the ultimate price in order to win.”
Lithuania’s Danas Rapsys came on strong on the back half to win the bronze at 3:36.26, running down Katsuhiro Matsumoto (3:36.87), who was in third place the whole way until the 375m turn.
Melbourne’s own Mack Horton was hardly a factor in the race, finishing sixth at 3:37.94.
Smith is the first American to win gold since Chad Carvin won in 2000.
Women’s 4x50m Freestyle Relay - Kate Douglass splits 22.77 to hold off Australia
It almost looked to be a repeat of the 4x100m freestyle relay from Tuesday, with Australia’s Emma McKeon closing hard for the home nation against the Americans, but the United States was able to hold their own and capture their first single gender relay of the 16th World Swimming Championships (25m) in Melbourne.
The team of Torri Huske (24.08), Claire Curzan (23.30), Erika Brown (23.74), and Kate Douglass (22.77) broke the championship and American record with a 1:33.89 to win the gold medal ahead of Australia at 1:34.23. The Americans had the lead after the second and third exchange, and when Douglass dove into the pool against McKeon, with the crowd roaring, it almost felt like deja vu for the American team desperate of getting a relay gold medal. But Douglass touched the wall first.
McKeon’s anchor split of 22.73 tied her for the fastest ever on a relay with Ranomi Kromowidjojo while Douglass put herself third on the all-time list.
The Australians, who had set world records in both the 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relays, won their first women’s relay silver medal with the team of Meg Harris (23.98), Madison Wilson (23.51), Mollie O’Callaghan (24.01), and McKeon (22.73).
The Netherlands won the bronze medal, extending their podium streak in this event, having never missed a podium since the event made its debut in 2014. The team of Kim Busch (24.20), Maaike de Waard (23.47), Kira Toussaint (24.01), and Valerie Van Roon (23.68) continued on the legacy for Dutch sprinting with the bronze medal.
Men’s 4x50m Freestyle Relay - Kyle Chalmers storms home to run down Italians in electric gold medal
Perhaps the men’s star of the night, Australia’s Kyle Chalmers looked like Ian Thorpe in 2000 on the final leg of the 4x50m freestyle relay, storming home in a 20.34, easily the fastest in the entire field, to claim gold for the host nation with a 1:23.44.
Chalmers, who looked like the Chalmers of old on Thursday evening, winning his second gold medal of the night after a cracker in the 100m freestyle, was joined by Isaac Cooper (21.25), Matthew Temple (20.75) and Flynn Southam (21.10) in singing Advance Australia Fair to close the night in the Victorian capital.
The Italians looked to win the gold after leading through 150, but finished with the silver at 1:23.48, with the team of Alessandro Miressi (21.22), Leonardo Deplano (20.59), Thomas Ceccon (20.67), and Manuel Frigo (21.00). The Italians, the winners of the 4x100m freestyle, have been the standout men’s team at the championships thus far.
The Netherlands won bronze at 1:23.75 with Kenzo Simons (21.24), Nyls Korstanje (20.84), Stan Pijnenburg (20.95), and Thom de Boer (20.72) ahead of Japan (1:23.80) and the United States (1:24.03).
Women’s 50m Backstroke semi-finals
American Claire Curzan is the top seed for the final with a 25.60 as she is ahead of 50m butterfly champ and world record holder Maggie Mac Neil (25.64) and 100m backstroke silver medalist Mollie O’Callaghan (25.69). Canada’s Kylie Masse (25.97) and Sweden’s Louise Hansson (25.99) also seem to have outside shots at medals in a race with such little room for error.
Men’s 50m Backstroke semi-finals
Isaac Cooper broke the world junior record to grab the top seed at 22.52 and smash Kliment Kolesnikov’s 22.77 from 2018. The Australian Cooper, age 18, is ahead of 100m champion Ryan Murphy (22.74), Kacper Stokowski (22.74), and World Cup triple crown winner Dylan Carter (22.90). Also watch for South Africa’s Pieter Coetze, who was the World Juniors silver medalist in this event in August, as he is seeded fourth at 22.86.
Women’s 100m IM semi-finals
The Netherlands and Sweden, two of the top nations in women’s sprint swimming, have the top two spots in tomorrow’s 100m IM final, led by Marrit Steenbergen (57.65) of the Netherlands and Louise Hansson (58.05) of Sweden. France’s Beryl Gastaldello, who nearly won the World Cup triple crown in November, is lurking in fourth place at 58.61, behind Canada’s Sydney Pickrem (58.54).
Men’s 100m IM semi-finals
USA’s Michael Andrew (51.40) and Shaine Casas (51.42) turned in the top two times in the semifinals as France’s Maxime Grousset had beaten both of them to the wall, but drew a disqualification. Andrew has a chance to follow up his initial breakout gold medal from 2016 when he was 17, as the top seed for tomorrow’s final, while Casas is looking to avenge a disappointing 200m IM on Tuesday.