Women’s 100m Freestyle - Mollie O’Callaghan makes history with 100m, 200m double

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Australia’s Mollie O’Callaghan made history on Friday evening in Fukuoka at the World Aquatics Championships, becoming the first woman to win the 100m and 200m freestyle at the same Worlds. After winning the 200m free on Wednesday in a new world record, O’Callaghan followed it up with a 52.16 in the 100m freestyle final, defending her title from 2022.

O’Callaghan, who trains with coach Dean Boxall, has been known for her incredible closing speed, and that was on full display on Friday evening as the 19-year-old flipped seventh at the 50m mark.

Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong, China took the early lead at 24.87, just off of world record pace. Haughey had a sizable lead on the field and was looking for her first ever medal at the World Aquatics Championships, having won Olympic silver in this at the Tokyo Games two years ago. Haughey held on at the 75, but O’Callaghan was closing hard.

The Australian was the only one amongst the eight swimmers to come home under 27 seconds as she was a 26.41 on the back 50 and she won gold handily as her time was just off her 52.08 from earlier this week. O’Callaghan, who swims for coach Dean Boxall, won Australia’s sixth World title in the women’s 100m freestyle, joining Jodie Henry (2005), Libby Lenton (2007), Cate Campbell (2013), and Bronte Campbell (2015) as golden girls for the Australians in this event.

To be honest I came into this week just wanting to have fun and enjoy it and learn, it's just an incredible feeling. I think having fun is the most important part. Going into previous meets I was so nervous all the time. This is the first time that I've actually felt quite calm and just enjoyed every little bit.
By Mollie O'Callaghan

Haughey hung on to get second at 52.49, while Marrit Steenbergen of the Netherlands won her first individual medal at the long course Worlds, winning bronze at 52.71.

“It means so much to me because I was always so close,” Haughey said. “I was either fifth or fourth, and last time in the 100m Freestyle I didn't make it to the finals. So this time, finally I can go home with something that just means so much to me.”

Steenbergen, who trains with coach Patrick Pearson in Eindhoven, won the ninth medal for the Netherlands in the women’s 100m freestyle at the World Championships at age 23. It is also the second medal for the Netherlands on the night after the women’s water polo team won gold about an hour prior to the women’s 100m freestyle final.

2012 Olympic champion Ranomi Kromowidjojo was the medal presenter as Steenbergen joined Dutch sprint freestyle royalty where Kromowidjojo is a prime member.

“I know Ranomi (Kromowidjojo), and I’ve trained with her, so to get a medal from her is

special and it’s really nice to share this moment with her,” Steenbergen said. “I really enjoyed being up there with her.”

Reigning Olympic champion Emma McKeon finished fifth and off the podium at 52.83 behind USA’s Kate Douglass, who is going for a medal in the 200m breaststroke later after getting fourth in the 100m free at 52.81.

O’Callaghan becomes the third woman to win back to back World titles in the 100m freestyle, joining the likes of Simone Manuel (2017, 2019) and Kornelia Ender (1973, 1975) as two-time winners of the event.

Women’s 200m Breaststroke - Tatjana Schoenmaker returns to the top, Schouten keeps impressive night going for Netherlands

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After not racing at last year’s World Championships, South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker picked up where she left off in 2023, winning gold in the 200m breaststroke on Friday night in Fukuoka with a 2:20.80 for her first World title. Schoenmaker backs up her Olympic gold from two years ago as she wins South Africa’s first ever World Championships gold medal in the 200m breaststroke.

Schoenmaker, who trains with coach Rocco Meiring, won silver in the 100m breaststroke on Tuesday, and has always been known to be stronger at the 200m. So when she turned with the lead at the halfway point at 1:07.74 over the likes of Tes Schouten (1:07.75) and defending champion Lilly King (1:07.82), it looked to be Schoenmaker’s gold medal to lose.

On the third 50, Schoenmaker made her mark, splitting 36.22 to pull away from Schouten and King, and the last 50 was a victory lap for her.

I think I really went into this race just having fun racing, and racing some of the world's best, coming from the Olympics it was a tough two years. I am just grateful to have the opportunity to race.
By Tatjana Schoenmaker

USA’s Kate Douglass had made a serious move on the third 50, moving into third place to challenge for a medal. After racing all three rounds of this event and the 100m freestyle, Douglass had nothing to lose, and on the last 50, Douglass split faster than everyone.

However it was not enough for the American to back up her World short course title from December, as Douglass won silver at 2:21.23. She also elevates her bronze from last year with a silver in 2023.

“I am really proud of myself for both of my races tonight,” Douglass said. “I knew it’s going to be a challenge taking on the double for the one-hundred freestyle and backstroke. I stepped up to that challenge and I think doing both of those makes me proud of myself. The 100m Freestyle was disappointing to miss the podium by that much, but I think that really fueled me for the 200m Breaststroke. I just really want to get on the podium and get a medal for Team USA, and I honestly think that was the motivation for that race.”

Schouten won the bronze medal at 2:21.63 for her first major international medal in long course meters as she also wins the third medal for the Netherlands tonight after Steenbergen’s bronze in the 100m freestyle and the women’s water polo gold medal.

“I'm so happy,” Schouten said. “I don't know how to describe it. I just feel relief and happiness. I am proud of myself that I showed what I've got and I did a ‘PB’. I always found it a bit hard to swim my best races at World Championships or Europeans, so I'm just happy that I did a ‘PB’ here because that shows that I can do it. I'm feeling really happy. My dad is here, and my twin brother is here, and I saw them in the stands. That was great.”

American Lilly King finished fourth at 2:22.25, well off her 2:20.95 season best as she was unable to defend her gold medal from last year.

Denmark’s Thea Blomsterberg finished fifth at 2:22.42 ahead of Lithuania’s Kotryna Teterevkova (2:24.22), Australia’s Abbey Harkin (2:24.55) and Canada’s Kelsey Wog (2:25.21).

Men’s 200m Backstroke - Hubert Kos pulls major upset over Ryan Murphy

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In one of the biggest surprises of the World Aquatics Championships thus far, Hungary’s Hubert Kos took down heavy favorite and 100m champion Ryan Murphy of the United States in the 200m backstroke final on Friday night in Fukuoka.

It is incredible, a year ago I was only swimming 200m IM at the World Championships. Honestly I never thought I would swim backstroke, and now here I am, a world champion. I think it’s just the ‘Bob Bowman effect’ - that’s as simple as it is. I have been training with him for half a year now. We have a really, really good training group, and Bob knows a thing or two about swimming.
By Hubert Kos

Kos, age 20, won his first medal on the world level with his gold as he swam a 1:54.14 to take down the defending champion Murphy (1:54.83), who came in as the heavy favorite. Amongst the entries for this year’s field, only three finalists from 2022 returned this year in Fukuoka.

The American set the pace on the first 100 meters, turning at 55.60 with Kos in second at 55.82. Murphy seemed to expel little amounts of energy in the first two rounds of the 200m backstroke and looked to run away from the field on the back half.

But Kos, who trains with Bob Bowman at Arizona State University in the United States, found another gear on the third 50, splitting 29.05 to move ahead of Murphy at the 150m mark. Murphy has been known to have a big last turn, and he used his powerful underwater kicks that are some of the best in the world to take the lead over Kos. It looked to be the Murphy show on the last 50m, but Kos fought back, and he won Hungary’s first medal of the swimming program at the World Aquatics Championships with a gold at 1:54.14.

Kos improved heavily on his 200m backstroke, taking his best from 2:01 to 1:54 in two years. In January, Kos moved to the United States to train with Bob Bowman as he trains with world record holder Leon Marchand and Worlds medalist Regan Smith. It was in April when he started to believe he could win the World title.

“After I swam the top time in the world in Westmont, I thought there was a realistic possibility here if I train well,” Kos said. “I hadn’t really focused too much on backstroke in practices leading up to that point but after that I grabbed a little bit of extra motivation and put that into my swimming and in training and really went for it in backstroke.”

Murphy won silver at 1:54.83 as he won his third silver medal in the last four World Championships.

“I always want to push that third 50 a little bit harder,” Murphy said. “That's the hardest part of the race. I just thought I was a little bit soft on the third 50. I think when you let up there, it becomes harder to push that last 50 as well because if you are slowing down, it's harder to speed up again.”

Switzerland won its first swimming medal of the week with a bronze from Roman Mityukov at 1:55.34 as he ran down France’s Mewen Tomac (1:55.79) to claim the last spot on the podium.

“It’s unbelievable,” Miyukov said. “It's my first World Championships medal. It's amazing. Last year I got fourth at the European Championships so it was kind of a revenge today to get this bronze medal. Of course next is the Olympics but I don't focus yet on the Olympics. Now I have to enjoy my first medal.”

Kos wins Hungary’s first 200m backstroke gold medal since Zoltan Verraszto won in Cali in 1975.

Men’s 200m Breaststroke - Qin Haiyang makes history with breaststroke treble

China’s Qin Haiyang became the first swimmer to win the 50m, 100m, and 200m of the same stroke at the same World Championships. Many have tried but none have completed the sweep. On Friday night in Fukuoka, the same city where the 50m breaststroke made its Worlds debut in 2001, Qin broke the world record in the 200m breast with a 2:05.48.

“The 50, 100, and 200 was my goal and now I achieved my goal,” Qin said in a press conference through a translator. “I know it’s a very difficult and big challenge but I have enough confidence to achieve that.”

The time absolutely destroyed Zac Stubblety-Cook’s 2:05.95 from 2022 as the defending World and Olympic champion won the silver at 2:06.40 for Australia.

“It was a good swim and I put together everything I had tonight,” Stubblety-Cook said.

Qin took the race out hard, well under Stubblety-Cook’s record pace, turning at 1:00.72 with the Australian in sixth. Stubblety-Cook has built up a reputation of having a lethal last 50, and he was in position to run down Qin at the 150m turn, moving up within a second. But Qin was prepared for Stubblety-Cook, and counteracted with a 32.12, not giving any space to the Australian who was a 32.00.

I learnt a lot from yesterday’s semi final, because we all know Zac Stubblety-Cook has a strong last one-hundred, so for me, my strength is my speed, and I have very good confidence in my speed. I also know if we touch the wall together at the one-fifty, the last fifty I want to go with him. That’s why I know speed is my strength. But of course people have two sides. There’s a little bit of angel, and a little bit of devil inside. So this afternoon it was kind of a struggle between those two. I told myself, maybe I can lose this race because I’ve already got two gold medals. But before the race, I told myself, when I’m in the pool there is no loser, I don’t want to be a loser, I have to win. That’s why I used my speed, and I used my confidence to win this race.
By Qin Haiyang

The bronze went the way of American rookie Matt Fallon, who swam a similar race plan to Stubblety-Cook. Fallon, who swam at the 2019 World Juniors for the United States, won the bronze at 2:07.74, splitting 31.86 and 33.21 on the last two 50s.

“I'm very happy with it,” Fallon said. “Going into that race it was definitely a goal of mine to get in there, and get into the top three, and I'm happy I was able to get that done. This entire trip has been an adjustment, and even though I definitely didn’t feel the best in that race, and I have faster times in the tank, I think that was definitely a very good swim overall. I’m grateful to get it done for Team USA.”

China also celebrated another record with Dong Zhihao breaking his own world junior record at 2:08.04 for fourth place.

Japan’s Ippei Watanabe, who was hoping to win a medal for the Fukuoka crowd, finished sixth at 2:08.78.

Qin wins China’s first ever medal in the men’s 200m breaststroke at the World Aquatic Championships.

Men’s 4x200m Freestyle - Great Britain flexes 200m freestyle muscles with relay gold

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It wasn’t a surprise that Great Britain came away with the gold medal in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay to close out Friday night in Fukuoka, but it was a bit of a surprise by how close the margin was over the silver medal.

The British team of Duncan Scott (1:45.42), Matthew Richards (1:44.65), James Guy (1:45.17), and Tom Dean (1:43.84) swam to a 6:59.08 to win their third World Championships gold medal in this relay, joining the teams from 2015 and 2017 as World Champs. This same quartet won the Olympics two years ago and were expected to challenge the world record of 6:58.56. They were expected to be heavy favourites with Richards and Dean going 1-2 in the individual on Tuesday, and Scott and Guy going 1:43’s on relays in year’s past.

“That relay has been really strong for us over the last few years,” Richards said. “Last year I think we were all pretty good with the result we came away with. I think we’ve done a great job to bounce back and start building that momentum moving into next year.”

“Every year we push each other all the time and help to get the best out of each other as well,” Guy said. “It was a great race today. I think going into Paris next year, we can do a little bit more, but we are happy to be in Fukuoka and enjoyed doing this.”

But the United States gave the Brits quite a fight as the team of Luke Hobson (1:46.00), Carson Foster (1:44.49), Jake Mitchell (1:45.06), and Kieran Smith (1:44.47) won the silver at 7:00.02, which was faster than their gold medal winning time in 2022.

“We want to win next year and we want to be on the top of the podium,” Foster said. “We want to get that spot back, but you know, we went faster than last year, so there’s a lot to be proud of. We’re going to do our best to get back on top next year. We stay in contact throughout the entire year. We all work really hard, and so it feels great to be able to come together and do it together and to earn this together.”

The Australians won bronze at 7:02.13 with the team of Kai Taylor (1:45.79), Kyle Chalmers (1:45.19), Alexander Graham (1:45.55), and Thomas Neill (1:45.60).

Semis Wrap

Men’s 100m Butterfly

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USA’s Dare Rose swam the fastest time in the semi-finals with a 50.53 to lead the qualifiers into tonight’s final ahead of France’s Maxime Grousset (50.62) and Canada’s Joshua Liendo (50.75). Grousset scratched the 50m freestyle, an event he won bronze in at last year’s Worlds, to focus on the 100m butterfly as Liendo will race the 50m freestyle later in the session.

This event appears to be very wide open ahead of tomorrow’s final with the top six under 51 seconds as Australia’s Matthew Temple (50.89), Netherlands’s Nyls Korstanje (50.98), and Israel’s Gal Cohen Groumi (50.98) each broke 51.

Japan’s Katsuhiro Matsumoto (51.16) advanced to the final after missing the 200m free final on Monday, as did Olympic bronze medalist Noe Ponti (51.17) who will be in lane eight tomorrow. 51.17 is the fastest eighth place time in the semi-finals since 51.07 was eighth in 2009.

Women’s 200m Backstroke

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China’s Peng Xuwei will hold lane four for tomorrow’s 200m backstroke final after swimming the top time in the semis at 2:07.40 as she will be in between the two fastest swimmers of all-time in USA’s Regan Smith (2:07.52) and Australia’s Kaylee McKeown (2:07.89).

McKeown is going for the backstroke hat trick after winning the 50m and 100m already this week. If she can touch first after four laps of the pool tomorrow, she will be the first woman to win the 50m, 100m, and 200m in the same stroke at the same World Championships.

Last year’s bronze medalist Rhyan White of the United States is seeded seventh at 2:09.13 as she may factor into the medals tomorrow night.

Last year’s World Juniors bronze medalist Laura Bernat (2:08.96) is also in tomorrow’s final as the sixth seed behind Great Britain’s Katie Shanahan (2:08.32) and Canada’s Kylie Masse (2:08.51). Australia also got a second finalist in Jenna Forrester (2:09.74).

Men’s 50m Freestyle

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Comeback kid Cameron McEvoy of Australia holds the top time through to tomorrow with a 21.25 as he is marginally in front of USA’s Jack Alexy (21.60) who is going for another medal after winning silver in the 100m freestyle last night.

Last year’s champ Ben Proud (21.61) of Great Britain, and December’s World short course champ Jordan Crooks (21.73) of the Cayman Islands should also factor into the medals with their famous opening 15 meter blasts.

The youngest in the field will be Australia’s Isaac Cooper (21.65) at age 19 as he is seeded fourth ahead of Italy’s Leonardo Deplano (21.74), Greece’s Kristian Gkolomeev (21.85), and Canada’s Josh Liendo (21.88).

Liendo scratched the 50m freestyle, giving way to USA’s Ryan Held, who won the swim-off for ninth place.