After Australia won night one, and China won night two, the United States answered with two gold medals on night three of swimming at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.
After a relatively slow start to the swimming program, the United States won six medals on night three of swimming at the World Championships in Fukuoka.
Men’s 200m Freestyle - Matthew Richards brings the title back to Great Britain with gold-silver duo with Tom Dean
It was a nearly identical outcome from the Tokyo Olympic final when Great Britain celebrated gold and silver with Matthew Richards (1:44.30) and Tom Dean (1:44.32) on Tuesday evening in Fukuoka. After a surprising finish in which pre-race favorite David Popovici faded badly to fourth place, the Brits won their first two medals in the pool in their most successful event over the last 10 years.
It was nearly an identical race from the Budapest World Championships with Romania’s Popovici in lane four and Korea’s Hwang Sunwoo in lane three, and Great Britain’s Dean in lane six.
It almost turned out to be a repeat of Budapest when Popovici pressed the pace early, flipping under world record pace at 50 meters. Popovici won last year’s World title and swam the fastest time in 13 years at the European Championships last year all before his 18th birthday last year.
This year, he looked to run away with the 200m freestyle gold medal to continue his incredible run in the lead-up to next year’s Olympics. In the heats and semis, he looked controlled and it seemed as if the gold was going to have to really be wrestled away from him with the way he looked in the water.
But as he pushed off the final wall and headed for home with an eight tenths lead over Hwang, the Korean started to catch him. Hwang, who won last year’s short course Worlds title, was closing hard, as were the two Brits, and Popovici was hurting.
As the top four crashed into the wall, the scoreboard read Great Britain 1 and 2 and the Korean third.
“It’s pretty special,” Richards said. “Tom and I were chatting before we got our medals that it’s got to be one of the most dominant events for a country in the history of the sport. Our 4x2 relay has two individual World champions, an individual Olympic champion and a guy, Duncan Scott, who has won multiple medals in that event. It’s definitely a dominant event for us but it’s incredible for me to have my turn on top of that podium and hopefully continue that success going forward.”
“It seems every time we step on Japanese soil we get a ‘one-two’ in 200m Freestyle, so almost
a carbon copy of the Tokyo Olympics,” Dean said. “I was saying to Matt I can’t think of another country so dominant in this one event for a number of years now. It’s brilliant for the country and it’s brilliant for the 4x2 and it’s brilliant for Paris.
“I was breathing the other way so I couldn’t even see the other boys, I was like get your head down, just work that last wall,” Dean said. “I had so many people come up and say ‘that was a great race!’ I wish I could have watched it! That last 50, you just have to give it everything you possibly can.”
Richards swam his lifetime best to move up to ninth all-time while Hwang swam his lifetime best time at 1:44.42 to sit 12th all-time. Popovici was out of the medals in fourth at 1:44.90.
Hwang was joined in the final by Lee Hojoon (1:44.42) as it was the first time Korea had two finalists in the same event at the World Championships.
“I’m really happy and satisfied that I beat my personal best,” Hwang said. “We had Lee Hojoon with me in the final and I personally think it is a great development for Korean swimming so I feel very proud of that.”
Popovici’s fourth place finish was a surprise to those watching.
“It felt awful,” Popovici said. “But that means we can improve something and that is a good thing, because if you have the absolute perfect race and you have nothing else to improve, you know that you’ve basically reached the top, the limit, you can do nothing better from there on, and so I’m glad it happened now and I'm sure it has a meaning that I’m going to learn from it.”
Richards wins Great Britain’s second World Championships gold medal in the 200m freestyle as he joins James Guy as winners of the event for the nation.
Women’s 1500m Freestyle - Katie Ledecky ties Michael Phelps for most all-time individual gold medals with fifth career 1500m gold medal
As soon as the race got underway it was all Katie Ledecky of the United States, much has been the story of her career in races longer than 400 meters as she has never been beaten at either the Olympics or World Championships in these finals.
On Tuesday evening in Fukuoka, Ledecky tied the great Michael Phelps for most individual gold medals at the World Championships, winning her 15th individual title. Ledecky, coached by Anthony Nesty, won her fifth 1500m World title with a 15:26.27 for her third fastest time ever and her fastest time in five years. Ledecky now owns the 16 fastest times in history.
I feel good, it hurt a lot, but I am really happy with the outcome, I am just having a lot of fun this week. Thank you to everyone in Japan for putting on a great World Championships and showing up and supporting all of us. The secret is just a lot of hard work and having really great people around me including my coaches over the last ten plus years. Really since I started swimming when I was six. They have been incredible and also my teammates. I have really great teammates right now that push me everyday and I could not do it without them.
Italy’s Simona Quadarella, who is the only swimmer to have won a distance World title in the last 10 years during Ledecky’s run, won silver at 15:43.31 as that is over 10 seconds faster than she swam all of last year. Quadarella wins her third World Championships medal in the 1500m freestyle, backing up her gold from 2019 when Ledecky scratched due to illness, and her bronze in 2017.
China’s Li Bingjie, whose idol is Katie Ledecky, won the nation’s fifth medal of the swimming program with a bronze at 15:45.71, moving herself up to 11th all-time in the event at 15:45.71. Li was able to fight off France’s Anastasiia Kirpichnikova (15:48.53) Australia’s Lani Pallister (15:49.17) on the final 100 meters for the final spot on the podium.
“It felt awful, but that means we can improve something and that is a good thing,” Li said. “Because if you have the absolute perfect race and you have nothing else to improve, you know that you’ve basically reached the top, the limit, you can do nothing better from there on, and so I’m glad it happened now and I’m sure it has a meaning that I’m going to learn from it.
Women’s 100m Backstroke - Kaylee McKeown finds another gear to take down Regan Smith in battle of the titans
It was a heavily hyped matchup between Australia’s Kaylee McKeown and USA’s Regan Smith as McKeown, the reigning Olympic champion and world record holder, and Smith, the defending World champion and former world record holder, hadn’t raced head to head in this event in two years.
Last year, McKeown elected to swim the 200m IM while Smith took gold in the 100m backstroke in Budapest. This year, both of them were swimming at the top of their game and it was expected to be a battle on Tuesday night in Fukuoka.
Smith took the race out hard to play to her strengths, flipping at 27.95, but McKeown was right behind her in 28.03. For about 85 meters it appeared Smith would hold off the Australian, but like so many of the Australian gold medalists this week, McKeown found another gear, and got to the wall first at 57.53 to break the Championship record.
McKeown, coached by Michael Bohl, just missed her own 2021 world record of 57.45 but she now holds the four fastest times in history. She also won Australia’s fifth gold medal of the swimming competition and is Australia’s second World champion in the 100m backstroke after Emily Seebohm (2015).
It was great being amongst these girls and the Americans, they bring out the best, I loved every minute of it. If you are not learning, you are not growing. I had to find a positive and negative and that is exactly what I did. I channelled it in to make it work.
Smith, coached by Bob Bowman, won the silver at 57.78 in her fourth fastest time all-time.
“I'm pleased with it,” Smith said. “I think all season I've kind of really struggled the last fifteen meters and I did again but I'm proud knowing that I left it all in the pool. So I think I can't really ask for much more. I'm never going to complain about going 57. I mean, that used to be non-existent so it's cool that I'm one of the few women who can do that. So I'm really pleased overall.”
The bronze went the way of American Katharine Berkoff at 58.25 as she backs up her silver in the 50m backstroke at last year’s World Championships. Berkoff, coached by Braden Holloway, is also the daughter of two-time Olympian David Berkoff, who never made the podium at the World Championships. Berkoff won the bronze at 58.25, which is her second best time after her time from U.S. Nationals in June.
“It was definitely a good setup for next year,” Berkoff said. “It was a really good learning experience, but definitely not done yet. And just happy to be competing at the World Championships in the 100m Backstroke. Sets me up well for next year, so I'm excited.”
Men’s 100m Backstroke - Ryan Murphy finally wins 100m backstroke World title
It had been seven years since American Ryan Murphy stood on the top of the podium of the 100m backstroke at a major international long course meet. Since winning the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Murphy won a bronze at the 2017 Worlds, missed the podium altogether at the 2019 Worlds, won bronze at the 2020 Olympics, and won silver at last year’s Worlds.
On Tuesday evening in Fukuoka, Murphy finally got it done - out-touching world record holder and defending champion Thomas Ceccon of Italy by 0.05. Murphy got the touch at 52.22 to Ceccon’s 52.27.
It was an incredible race, It is awesome to go against a great field and awesome to get two Americans on the podium. Totally, it is nice to start my week by getting up on that podium and have the USA be off to a great start. Hopefully we are starting to build some momentum and we just keep it rolling from here. I think I pride myself on being first in the race and I think there have been a lot of times where I have gone out really fast, and there have been times where I have come back fast. You are really just feeling out where your body is at. Today I knew that the backend was going to be a little bit better.
It’s neither of their best times but it is the second year in a row they have finished first and second at the World Championships.
“You know, second place is not the worst,” Ceccon said. “I tried to retain my title from last year but Murphy is a tough guy. He is an Olympic champion and world champion. Pretty good race, 52.2 is not my best time but I keep it. It has been very difficult because 100m Backstroke and 50m Butterfly at this meet have been so close. It is very difficult. I tried to keep some energy from 100m Backstroke and do all out in 50m Butterfly yesterday, so I did good I think. I got second tonight and that is my motivation.”
Murphy was actually fourth at the 50m turn as it looked as though China’s Xu Jiayu would win his third World title after the night the Chinese had on Monday. Xu flipped second to Poland’s Ksawery Masiuk, who was last year’s World Juniors champion and had some momentum off the wall.
But Ceccon and Murphy ran them down and it looked as though Ceccon would win his second straight gold medal in the event, but Murphy’s last lunge got him to the wall first. After so many years of getting touched out, Murphy was the one coming out on top.
“It’s cool,” Murphy said. “I feel like I medal most of the times I swim so it is cool to be on the top step. It gets me fired up for the rest of this meet and for Team USA moving forward.”
For the second year in a row, American Hunter Armstrong has won bronze in the 100m backstroke, touching third from lane 8 at 52.58. Armstrong was the last swimmer to qualify into the semi-finals on Monday morning and was the last to qualify into the final last night. Armstrong was able to hold off Xu for the bronze by 0.06 as he finished fourth at 52.64.
“Yeah I mean, I'd like to say it was intentional but I don't lie,” Armstrong said of getting in lane eight for the semis and the final. “This week it's definitely been a struggle. I don't know why I was struggling to do what I know I'm capable of. But at the end of the day, I was able to pull through and at least add another medal for the USA.”
Murphy wins the United States’s eight gold medal in the 100m backstroke at the World Championships as he joins the likes of Bob Jackson (1978), Jeff Rouse (1991), Lenny Krayzelburg (1998), Aaron Peirsol (2003, 2005, 2007) and Matt Grevers (2013) as winners of the event for the Americans.
Women’s 100m Breaststroke - Ruta Meilutyte takes aim at world record, returns to top of 100m breast podium 10 years later
Ten years after breaking the world record at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte returned to the top of the podium in the 100m breaststroke, completely dominating the field in Fukuoka with a 1:04.62.
It is the fourth fastest time in Meilutyte’s career, but it is also the fastest she has been in 10 years.
Meilutyte dominated the breaststroke field as a teenager, winning the 2012 Olympic gold at age 15, and a year later set the world record en route to winning the 2013 World title at age 16. But Meilutyte ran into some hardships in her career, and was unable to recapture her form from 2013. In 2019, she retired from swimming, but that did not last long.
Last year, Meilutyte returned in a big way with gold in the 50m breaststroke in Budapest, and this year, she kept it going, winning the 100m breast final by over a second.
“I am super grateful for that race,” Meilutyte said. “I think the passion was given to me, so I don't think I worked for it. Thanks to my mom and dad and everyone else. I am very grateful. I am just enjoying it, and counting my blessings.”
The theme of the 100m breast final has been returning to the podium.
South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker returned to the podium with a silver at 1:05.84 after not competing at last year’s World Championships. Schoenmaker, coached by Rocco Meiring, follows up her Olympic silver from Tokyo 2020.
“I am very grateful that my 100m time is fast and it helps a lot with the 200m, but they are
obviously completely different races,” Schoenmaker said. “Coming into this competition I was very indecisive of where I wanted to come. It has been a tough two years for me. I was swimming my fastest time since the Olympics, which is still not my ‘personal best’.”
Swimming from the outside lane, reigning Olympic champion Lydia Jacoby of the United States won her first Worlds medal with a 1:05.94. Although Jacoby was the Olympic champion, she missed the team for the World Championships last year. On Tuesday, Jacoby, coached by Carol Capitani, out-touched teammate Lilly King to win the bronze as King finishes fourth for the second straight World Championships.
“I just barely slipped into semi finals and just barely slipped into finals,” Jacoby said. “So I was kind of talking down to myself a lot yesterday, and then I woke up this morning, I was feeling good, and ready to get out there and do it. So I'm really happy with where I am. I wasn't even at this meet last year so to be on the podium again is huge.”
Ireland’s Mona Mc Sharry (1:06.07) and Estonia’s Eneli Jefimova (1:06.36) narrowly missed winning their nation’s first World Championships medals in finishing fifth and sixth, while Sweden’s Sophie Hansson (1:06.61) finished seventh ahead of Japan’s Satomi Suzuki (1:06.67) swimming in front of her hometown crowd in Fukuoka.
Men’s 50m Breaststroke
China’s Qin Haiyang continued his momentum into the 50m breaststroke semis with a 26.20 to break the Asian record and sit second all-time behind Great Britain’s Adam Peaty (25.95).
Last night’s co-silver medalist in the 100m breaststroke Nic Fink of the United States also advanced in sixth at 26.95 ahead of Slovenia’s Peter Stevens (27.04) and Australia’s Sam Williamson (27.06).
Women’s 200m Freestyle
Australia’s Ariarne Titmus showed no signs of an emotional hangover after setting the world record in the 400m freestyle on Sunday night, posting the top time in the 200m semis at 1:54.64 ahead of her closest adversary in Canada’s Summer McIntosh (1:54.67).
Olympic silver medalist Siobhan Haughey (1:55.48) is also through to tomorrow’s final, along with Great Britain’s Freya Anderson (1:55.85), China’s Liu Yaxin (1:56.34), and Marrit Steenbergen of the Netherlands (1:56.49), who are all searching for their first World Championships medals.
Men’s 200m Butterfly
USA’s Carson Foster (1:53.85) and France’s Leon Marchand (1:54.21) will once again take center stage as they each won their respective semi-final heats of the 200m butterfly. Marchand and Foster have gone 1-2 in three events at the World Championships, most recently winning gold and silver in the 400m IM from Sunday night.
Japan’s best hope for a gold medal in Fukuoka may come from last year’s silver medalist Tomoru Honda, who will be seeded fifth at 1:54.43.