It was a historic night from the Melbourne Sport & Aquatic Center at the 16th World Swimming Championships (25m) as Daiya Seto (JPN) won a record sixth straight gold medal in the 400m IM, while Jordan Crooks (CAY) became the first Caribbean man to win gold at this meet since 1999.
Women’s 4x50m Medley Relay - Australia lights up world record again, wins third women’s relay of the championships
The Australian women held off the Americans to start the fifth night of competition from the World Short Course Championships with a world record of 1:42.35, taking three hundredths off the record from 2018 of the United States.
The Australian team of Mollie O’Callaghan (25.49), Chelsea Hodges (29.11), Emma McKeon (24.43), and Madison Wilson (23.32) held off the American team of Claire Curzan (25.75), Lilly King (29.00), Torri Huske (24.94), and Kate Douglass (22.72), who won the silver at 1:42.41.
It was good. I saw my splits and I was happy with it, I swam fly instead of freestyle and I knew I had to step up for this. I have another race in two hours so there is plenty of time. My mindset is to go as fast as I can.
“I was nervous,” Wilson said. “The medley spot is usually saved for the #1 freestyle, but Emma swam fly and I definitely felt the pressure, but I could not be happier with how it turned out.”
Sweden also nearly won the gold medal, despite missing two of its best swimmers, winning the bronze at 1:42.43 with Louise Hansson (25.86), Klara Thormalm (29.34), Sara Junevik (24.06), and Michelle Coleman (23.17) showcasing their sprint depth.
Men’s 4x50m Medley Relay - Nicolo Martinenghi splits fastest ever as Italians rip new world record
The relays have been on fire this week in Melbourne as yet another world record fell, this time to the Italians, who added to their gold medals in the men’s 4x100m freestyle earlier in the week. The team of Lorenzo Mora (22.65), Nicolo Martinenghi (24.95), Matteo Rivolta (21.60), and Leonardo Deplano (20.52) set the world record at 1:29.72, lowering their own mark of 1:30.14 from last year to become the first team faster than 90 seconds.
During the relay, you really feel how teammates work, how friendship works, it’s really different and really enjoyable with these guys.
The impressive part to the Italian team is that the only constant between this team and the world record setting relay last year was Martinenghi, who became the first man to break 25 seconds on a relay split.
“It's incredible to set a new world record,” Martinenghi said. “Last year, we were third. To do this with my teammates is special. We have a good team and a big team.”
The Italians also won gold in the 4x100m medley relay at June’s World Championships in Budapest, and have challenged the Americans for the world’s best men’s national team from top to bottom.
Australia won the bronze at 1:30.81 with the team of Isaac Cooper (22.66), Grayson Bell (25.92), Matthew Temple (21.75), and Kyle Chalmers (20.48) as Temple’s butterfly split puts him fourth all-time.
Men’s 800m Freestyle - Gregorio Paltrinieri wins inaugural title
Who else would touch first in the inaugural men’s 800m freestyle final than Italian legend Gregorio Paltrinieri? Having been around the international scene in the 1500m freestyle since he was a teenager in 2012, Paltrinieri has long been dominant in the 800m and 1500m freestyles, reaching podiums in major international finals for ten years now.
On Saturday, he added the distinction of being the first World short course champion in the men’s 800m freestyle as the event made its debut in Melbourne. Paltrinieri touched first after 32 lengths of the pool with a 7:29.99, holding off the likes of Norway’s Henrik Christiansen (7:31.48), who picked up his third World short course medal at age 26.
“It feels amazing,” Christiansen said. “It’s really good to be back and being able to fight the other guys again. I feel like I’m putting on a show out there, and Gregorio (Paltrinieri) is not winning so easily and that’s a good feeling.
“The 800m Freestyle is a new event on the short course circuit after it became an Olympic event, and it’s slowly starting to get added onto the short course programs. I feel like the 800m Freestyle is my strongest event, and I’m just happy to be able to swim an 800m here.”
Paltrinieri’s time is not a best time but at age 28, it is his 21st medal at either an Olympics or a World Championships.
It was a difficult race… I think it was more difficult than the 1500m free, I felt tight in the race, but I'm good. It’s another gold medal, so the result is good. It's important every time you learn something when you race. Even at 28, I am still learning. I am taking something from every race. It was important for me to come here and to compete again. It was the longest season with a lot of competition.
Women’s 400m IM - Hali Flickinger dominates field for first World Championships title
After getting oh so close to breaking through so many times in the 200m butterfly, USA’s Hali Flickinger finally got that individual gold medal on Saturday evening in Melbourne, this time it was the 400m IM, where she won gold at 4:26.51.
Heading into the 2019 Worlds in Gwangju, Flickinger looked poised to have her golden moment in the 200m butterfly, but was upstaged in the final and got the silver medal. At the last Olympics and World Championships, more silvers and bronze medals followed. After a disappointing finish at the Budapest World Championships, she took a lengthy break from the pool and took a job as a real estate agent in Arizona, giving her a little more balance in her life.
In late 2019, she switched training locations to Arizona State University with coach Bob Bowman, who currently coaches the reigning long course World champ Leon Marchand. Flickinger left long-time coach Jack Bauerle late in the last Olympic quadrennial, and had switched event focus to the 400m IM. It paid off for Flickinger on Saturday, who used that easy speed in butterfly and backstroke to grab the lead early and not relinquish.
I took it out fast, it was fun and I just wanted to swim my own race. I know my strengths and my weaknesses, so I just tried to do my best.
“I’m very happy,” Franceschi said. “It’s my first World Championships, and first World Championships medal. It’s incredible, I haven’t had this feeling before. It’s a very fast time and a personal best. I’m just so happy.”
Flickinger is the first American to win the gold medal since Kaitlin Sandeno in 2004.
Men’s 400m IM - Daiya Seto rewrites history books, first to win six world short course titles
Daiya Seto became the first person to ever win the same event six times at the World Championships - short or long course, as he won the 400m IM on Saturday night in Melbourne with a 3:55.75. It’s the fastest of any of his six gold medals in this event.
The streak began in 2012 when the 18-year-old Seto made his international breakthrough to take gold over Laszlo Cseh. Seto had just come off a successful junior career and had a lot of promise over what he could do in this sport. In 2013, he followed that up with a World long course title in the 400m IM and he became a household name, winning medals for the next 10 years.
Last year in 2021 was the closest the streak came to ending, when he won gold over Ilia Borodin by 0.21 seconds. Seto, now age 28, is still one of the best swimmers in the world, showcasing his versatility and longevity as he is fulfilling the promise he showed as a young junior swimmer ten years ago.
Seto, the current world record holder, had gotten a big push on the front half from American Carson Foster, who was aiming to bring the 400m IM title back to the United States for the first time since Ryan Lochte won in 2010. But Seto used that gold medal 200m breaststroke speed to his advantage, out-splitting Foster by two and a half seconds, and the lead was too large to run him down on freestyle.
I was focused on this event, I swam the 200m IM and the 200m butterfly and the 200m breast, but the 400 IM is my favourite event. I never lose in short course. Next year, I want to be the champion in long course.
Foster collected silver, upgrading his bronze from last year, with a 3:57.63, which moves him up to seventh all-time. It also matches his two silver medals from the World long course championships in June, as well as his silver earlier in the meet here in the 200m IM.
“It was fine,” Foster said. “It was definitely not where I wanted to be, but I can’t complain with a personal best and a silver medal.
“It’s been a really good start (to my international racing career), but a lot of silver medals, so I’ll keep working hard every day to get on top.”
Foster was also joined in the final by his brother Jake, who finished sixth at 4:02.51.
“That’s a race that – no matter what the result was – I'll always remember getting to walk out with my brother (Jake). Sharing that with him is what I’m taking away from tonight.”
Women’s 50m Freestyle - Emma McKeon flexes muscles, dominates field for sprint double
Perhaps the star of the meet and the one Melbourne came out to see, Emma McKeon delivered with a dominating performance in the 50m freestyle final to win her second gold medal of the night.
McKeon was hardly challenged, leading from the outset as she swam to a new Oceania record with a 23.04, nearly becoming the second woman to break 23 seconds. Nevertheless, McKeon moved herself up to third all-time as she collected the sprint freestyle double after winning the 100m freestyle earlier in the championships.
I honestly still don't call myself a 50m specialist, I prefer the 100 it's my pet event. I train for the 100 and also the 200, but I do like coming down to swim the 50, my fun event. One of my strengths is my start and I knew I would need a great start. I didn't know that I swam a championship record until you just told me. I didn't think I would come that close, I just knew that I had to be on my game.
McKeon is the first Australian to win this event at the World short course championships since Libby Lenton won in 2006. Australia is also one race away from sweeping all the individual women’s freestyle events here after McKeon won the 50m and 100m, while Lani Pallister won the 400m, 800m, and 1500m.
Poland’s Kasia Wasick, who was arguably McKeon’s biggest challenger coming into the final after winning the World Cup triple crown, finished with the silver medal at 23.55, upgrading her bronze from last year.
“I love swimming and I feel like I’ve had a second chance in life to be able to do what I love,” Wasick said. “When I retired I thought, ‘I am never going to be back in the sport.’ So when I got that chance I really enjoyed myself, and while there were hard moments, I still enjoyed those moments, as I know my career is not going to last forever and moments like this I’m going to remember forever.”
Men’s 50m Freestyle - Jordan Crooks lives up to the hype, leads Caribbean 1-3 in historic finish
After blasting some huge swims of the heats of the 100m and 50m freestyle, Jordan Crooks of the Cayman Islands established himself as a breakout performer on the world stage thanks to his explosive starts and turns. He had kept that going in the semifinals of both distances, but in the 100m freestyle final, Crooks led for 75 meters before falling flat and finishing seventh overall.
After securing the top seed in the 50m free final for tonight, Crooks did not let that happen again, flipping tied with Great Britain’s Ben Proud at the 25m, and beat him to the wall with a 20.46 for the Cayman Islands’ first swimming medal at the World Short Course Championships.
It feels great, I feel blessed and I am really grateful for my God, my coaches, my family and everyone who has helped me along this journey. It means a lot to see this come to light. This is awesome. I looked up to a lot of these guys. It was awesome to be able to race them and to have this experience. They are extremely talented and I have much respect for every one of them.
Proud won silver at 20.49, backing up a summer where he was long World champion and the Commonwealth Games champion. It caps a great 12 months for the 28-year-old, who was also World short course champion last year after not getting on the podium at the Olympics.
“I wasn’t too sure if I was going to come to this meet, but I had a chat with my coach, and did a quick six-week block (of training), so to be doing this sort of time is brilliant,” Proud said.
“Seeing Jordan swim so quick yesterday morning completely changed the dynamic of the race as suddenly we were all chasing someone. It brought a brilliant atmosphere to the call room, everyone was excited, and to have a new name on the scene and see a twenty-year-old swim so quick is brilliant for the sport.”
It was a historic night for the Caribbean, as Trinidad & Tobago’s Dylan Carter won the bronze medal for the nation’s fourth medal all-time at these championships, adding to his own 50m butterfly medals in 2018 and 2021, as well as George Bovell’s bronze in the 100m IM in 2012.
Carter had won this event at all three Swimming World Cup stops, and joined Crooks on the podium with a 20.72, which tied his lifetime best.
“I am happy to come away with something coming down here,” Carter said. “It was really fun. Proud of Jordan, you know, to have two Caribbean athletes in the men's 50 final - that's brand new. So both of us on the podium…that's massive for the region and for serving the region, especially in the men’s 50 freestyle, which is, you know, arguably the fastest, well the fastest event in the pool so proud of that.”
This is the first time since 1999 that a male swimmer from the Caribbean won a World short course gold medal when Rodolfo Falcon of Cuba won the 50m and 100m backstroke in Hong Kong. Crooks wasn’t born until 2002 as he ushers in a new era for the region.
Jamaica’s Alia Atkinson was the last woman to win gold from the Caribbean when she won the 50m and 100m breaststroke in 2018.
Women’s 100m Butterfly semi-finals
Setting the table for one of the best races of the entire week, USA’s Torri Huske is the top seed for the final with a 55.23 in the semi-finals as she aims to be the fourth woman to break 55 seconds in the event all-time. Huske is seeded ahead of Sweden’s Louise Hansson (55.78) and last year’s champ in Canada’s Maggie MacNeil (55.83). Germany’s Angelina Kohler (56.23) ang USA’s Claire Curzan (56.37) are seeded fourth and fifth for the final.
Mac Neil is the Olympic champion from 2021 while Huske is the reigning long course World champion from June 2022.
Men’s 100m Butterfly semi-finals
200m butterfly champion Chad Le Clos is looking to double up here as the top seed for the 100m butterfly for tomorrow. Le Clos won four straight titles from 2012 - 2018 before he was upstaged in Abu Dhabi last year, getting silver behind Italy’s Matteo Rivolta, who is seeded second here at 49.07 in a tie with Switzerland’s Noe Ponti (49.07). Germany’s Marius Kusch (49.20) and rising junior Ilya Kharun (49.65) are seeded fourth and fifth.
Women’s 50m Breaststroke semi-finals
Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte absolutely smashed the world record in the 50m breaststroke with a 28.37, taking nearly two full tenths off of Alia Atkinson’s 28.56 from 2018. Meilutyte is now the big favorite for the final tomorrow after she was disqualified in the 100m breaststroke earlier in the meet after initially winning silver. Meilutyte, now age 25, reclaims her first world record since 2014 when she was a teenager.
If anyone can take down Meilutyte in the final, it could be 100m champion Lilly King of the United States, who is seeded second at 28.86. South Africa’s Lara Van Niekerk (29.27) and China’s Tang Qianting (29.28) each set continental records in getting third and fourth for the final tomorrow.
Men’s 50m Breaststroke semifinals
Fresh off the fastest relay split of all-time earlier in the night, Italy’s Nicolo Martinenghi put up the top time in the semifinals of the 50m breaststroke with a 25.60, as he will be up against 100m champ Nic Fink (25.64) who is seeded second.