It was a historic night as Katie Ledecky created the six-timers club and Sarah Sjostrom joined the five-timers club as they showed off their longevity and dominance.
Women’s 50m Butterfly - Sarah Sjostrom joins the five-timers club
No one has been better at swimming 50 meters of butterfly in the history of swimming than Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom, who won her fifth straight World title in the 50m butterfly on Saturday night in Fukuoka with a 24.77.
Sjostrom becomes the fourth swimmer to win the same event five times at the World Championships joining Michael Phelps (200m butterfly), Katinka Hosszu (400m IM) and Katie Ledecky (800m, 1500m freestyle).
That was amazing, I'm really proud of this gold medal which is my fifth one - so it's amazing. I feel like I’m enjoying it more than ever at the moment so it's great. Thank you for the support.
The time for Sjostrom was slower than she swam in the semi-finals, but it is her sixth fastest time, which is also faster than anyone has gone before. Sjostrom currently holds the 19 fastest times in history as the only one to swim under 25 seconds, something she has done 15 times.
China’s Zhang Yufei broke the Asian record to move to #2 all-time at 25.05 as she had the lead on Sjostrom at 25 meters. This is Zhang’s third medal of the meet after winning the 100m butterfly and mixed medley relay.
“I’m satisfied with the result right now, but I’m still thinking of the possibility of winning the gold
Medal,” Zhang said. “Sarah Sjostrom is my idol and I always think about getting closer to her, or even faster than her. That’s what we call a competitive athlete. I think my strength has increased, therefore my time has got better. I want to be the second active female athlete who can swim the 50m Butterfly in under 25 seconds.”
USA’s Gretchen Walsh won her first individual medal at the World Championships with a bronze at 25.46 as she will race in the 50m freestyle semis later in the session.
“It was great, you know, in 50m Butterfly you can't really see anyone,” Walsh said. “So I just put my head down and tried to get my hand on the wall as fast as I could. I think there was a great field of competitors out there and it's just an honor to be up on the podium with them. I couldn't be happier that I got a medal.”
Egypt’s Farida Osman will also compete in the 50m free semis after getting fourth in the butterfly at 25.62 ahead of USA’s Torri Huske (25.64), Sweden’s Sara Junevik (25.74), and last year’s silver medalist Melanie Henique of France (25.80).
Japan’s Rikako Ikee, who is a leukemia survivor, placed seventh in front of the Japanese crowd at 25.78.
Men’s 50m Freestyle - Cameron McEvoy finally wins individual World title
At one point in time, Australia’s Cameron McEvoy was the fastest man in the world. It was leading into the 2016 Olympics when McEvoy swam the fastest 100m freestyle in textile at 47.04, where he was considered the prohibitive favorite for the gold medal in Rio.
But at the Games in Brazil, McEvoy missed the podium entirely, and in the years following, he was unable to capture his form. After taking a lengthy break after the Tokyo Olympics, McEvoy returned stronger and faster than ever before. After swimming a 21.27 at the Australian Swimming Trials in June, all eyes would be on the 29-year-old in his quest for that elusive individual gold medal that he was unable to get.
On Saturday evening in Fukuoka, McEvoy delivered, and went faster than he ever has before with a 21.06 to put himself fourth on the all-time list and the fastest Australian. McEvoy, who writes his whole training program with coach Tim Lane, has improved his best time from 21.44 to 21.06 since returning to full-time training in October 2022.
Australia has now won 20 medals, surpassing the 19 the nation won at the 2001 Worlds in Fukuoka.
The meet as a whole has been incredible, we are on par to rival what we did in 2001 in this very city. From an individual perspective, it’s a field phenomenon where you tap into the energy that’s going around. The way Australia came out on day one, I went to bed that night almost as energized as I am right now. It catches on really quickly and the momentum grows and grows. To be part of a team like this is special and with my history on the team and hearing about past teams that were as successful as we are now, that was looking back at Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett, Michael Klim - it was unreal growing up and watching them on TV. Now I get to be a part of a team and contribute to a team that potentially could rival what they did.
Jack Alexy of the United States won his second silver medal of the week in his World Championships debut as the 20-year-old backed up his 100m freestyle silver from Thursday with a 21.57 for his lifetime best. Alexy, who trains with Dave Durden at the University of California, Berkeley is making his Team USA debut after winning gold as a heats swimmer in the 4x100m freestyle at the 2019 World Juniors.
“Going through the semifinals there were some things to adjust,” Alexy said. “I really wanted to focus on getting a clean start, great entry, to get going, and obviously have a good finish at the end. I'm just really happy to be representing ‘Team USA’.”
Last year’s champion Ben Proud of Great Britain won bronze at 21.58 for his third medal in this event at age 28.
“It feels great,” Proud said. “Coming back off last year there's a bit more pressure but I still wanted to do well. I dove into the race and I saw where McEvoy was. He was a clear winner so I was just racing for that podium. I'm really pleased, it was a competitive field, and I'm glad to get my hand on the wall.
“Not much happens in the race but a lot happens behind the scenes,” Proud said. “So a lot of work goes into the small details so that when you dive into the race, you know what you're doing. I feel in a good place. There's still more work to do but it's nice to come to the World Championships and get another medal for the team. It’s really nice to play that part.”
Australia was unable to get two on the podium as Isaac Cooper finished fourth at 21.70 ahead of USA’s Ryan Held (21.72), who won a swim-off to get into the final after Josh Liendo scratched to focus on the 100m butterfly.
McEvoy is Australia’s first ever World champion in the 50m freestyle and its first medalist since Michael Klim won bronze in 1998.
Men’s 100m Butterfly - Maxime Grousset gets it done, makes third podium of week
After scratching the 50m freestyle heats, France’s Maxime Grousset made it clear he was all-in on the 100m butterfly. Despite winning bronze at last year’s Worlds in the 50m freestyle, Grousset believed his best chance for gold would come in the 100m butterfly after posting the second time in the world in 2023 at the French Elite Championships in June.
On Saturday evening in Fukuoka, Grousset put together his best race of the World Championships, winning gold at 50.14 to move up to fifth on the all-time list. Grousset won his third individual medal of the championships after winning bronze in the 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly.
Grousset took it out in 23.24 and back in 26.90 to win his first individual World title at age 24 a year out from a home Olympics.
“It was very good,” Grousset said. “I am feeling very great. Now I am happy to be here in Japan. I am in good shape and have good confidence for next year. Let's go!”
Canada’s Josh Liendo upgraded his bronze medal from last year to win silver at 50.34, improving his best time to put him sixth all-time.
USA’s Dare Rose, who came in with the top time from the semi-finals, won bronze at 50.46 for the first major international medal of his career.
“Honestly I was a little disappointed at first,” Rose said. “I didn't follow my race plan as well as I thought. So that was my first thought but I was super happy to get my first individual medal and get my hand on the wall for Team USA. I was super happy about that and it’s only my second international final at a big meet. So i’m just gaining some experience and super excited to be here.”
Rose, age 20, swims for coach Dave Durden at the University of California, Berkeley and has improved his strength training tremendously after being primarily a 200m and 400m freestyler out of high school.
“I didn’t lift in high school at all really,” Rose said. “I was super skinny and didn’t have a lot of muscle mass. I realized I had some really good fast twitch muscles. I just trained a little more sprint - I finally discovered my real strength in sprinting.”
Australia’s Matthew Temple finished fourth overall at 50.81 to just miss the podium. Nyls Korstanje of the Netherlands, who was leading at the 50, finished fifth at 51.05 ahead of Japan’s Katsuhiro Matsumoto (51.20).
Grousset won France’s first medal in the men’s 100m butterfly at the World Championships.
Women’s 200m Backstroke - Kaylee McKeown completes the hat trick
Before the 2023 World Aquatics Championships, no man or woman had ever won the 50m, 100m, and 200m of the same stroke at the same Worlds. Now in 2023, the treble has been done twice - last night by China’s Qin Haiyang in the men’s breaststroke, and tonight in the women’s backstroke by Australia’s Kaylee McKeown.
On Saturday evening in Fukuoka, McKeown thrashed the last 50 to win her second straight 200m backstroke gold medal with a 2:03.85, the third fastest time of her career after setting the world record earlier this year at 2:03.14.
That means a lot, I didn't think I would be able to do that tonight. Especially after a really long week. I’m really happy to be near my ‘PB’. I had no idea where she was. I think that is the thing about sports. It is you and only you in the race, and that is exactly what I did tonight. It feels like I went out a bit too hard, but I am happy to come away with what I did.
The race was expected to be a tight matchup between the two fastest women all-time in McKeown and Regan Smith of the United States. McKeown won the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo as well as last year’s World title, while Smith won the 2019 World title as a teenager. The two hadn’t met head to head since 2019 in this event, and the race lived up to the billing.
“I think it’s great experience. It definitely brought out my nerves,” McKeown said of racing Smith in three finals in Fukuoka. “Without her pushing me and without me pushing her, we wouldn’t be the swimmers we are today. I am super grateful we have that competitive rivalry. We’ve been racing each other since 2017 when we were both juniors. So it’s gone back way before anyone ever thought so it’s been really special.”
“She’s an excellent competitor and she’s been on fire for a very long time now,” Smith said of racing McKeown. “This was a place I never thought I could get to again so to be here and see I’m on the rise back up is really awesome for me. It gives me a lot of confidence going into this next year leading up to Paris. It’s been great and she’s a great competitor and I swim my best when I’m against her. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Smith took the race out under world record pace at 1:00.26 on the first 100m with McKeown in tow at 1:00.81. Smith looked to be out for revenge after winning silver to McKeown in both the 50m and 100m. But McKeown, who swims for coach Michael Bohl, split 31.52 on her last two 50’s, compared to Smith’s 31.99 and 32.69, and McKeown became the fifth swimmer to successfully defend this event at the World Aquatics Championships.
Smith won bronze at 2:04.94, her fourth medal of the week as she became the fourth U.S. female swimmer to win four individual medals at one world championships after Shirley Babashoff, Tracy Caulkins and Katie Ledecky.
“It means a lot, honestly,” Smith said. “Having the opportunity to be here, competing internationally again in the 200m Backstroke is something that for a while I thought I would never get to do again. It means a lot that I got to be here and that’s the second time I’ve gone 2:04. It’s always a pleasure to come home with a medal for the USA.”
This was Smith’s first time racing the 200m backstroke at a major international meet since 2019 where she broke two world records at the World Championships that year in Gwangju.
“I just think no one really prepares you for how hard it is to achieve something like that at such
a young age,” Smith said. “And I just wasn’t ready for it. I don't think I mentally prepared myself for what was to come after that. And so that coupled with COVID stalling everything, it just really screwed with me mentally.
“I'm really thankful that I had a great support system that was able to help get me out of that. And I really value and take a lot of pride in my mental toughness and my ability to bounce back like I'm never going to give up and I'm never going to quit on a race like this. And so I’m really proud of myself for that. And so being here again it just means a lot. I'm really proud of myself for getting out of that place that I was in for a long time and it's great to be here.”
“I feel really happy about my result today because I went under 2:07,” Peng said. “I feel very satisfied and I am going to work hard. I feel that the result today is going to help me to prepare for the next competition in the future.”
Last year’s bronze medalist Rhyan White of the United States finished sixth at 2:08.43 ahead of the 2022 World Juniors bronze medalist Laura Bernat (2:10.68) of Poland, and Australia’s Jenna Forrester (2:11.44).
Women’s 800m Freestyle - Katie Ledecky makes it six
There’s greatness. And then there’s Katie Ledecky. The 26-year-old American won her sixth straight World title in the 800m freestyle on Saturday night in Fukuoka, becoming the first swimmer to ever win the same event six times at the World Aquatics Championships.
Ledecky absolutely dominated the 800m freestyle field at the Marine Messe in Fukuoka, swimming an 8:08.87, which is her seventh fastest time of her career. Ledecky now holds the 28 fastest times in history, something she never thought would be possible in her career.
No, I never dreamt of even coming to meets like this, to be here and having a bunch of world championships now, it is amazing. I am loving every second and just trying to enjoy each moment. Now I'm done and can enjoy it with my family and friends.
The race for silver went the way of China’s Li Bingjie, who ran down Australia’s Ariarne Titmus on the last 200 meters to secure silver for the first time since 2017. Li, age 21, moved to second all-time at 8:13.31 to break Ledecky’s stranglehold on the all-time performances list as Titmus tied her best time at 8:13.59 to win the bronze.
Li backs up her bronze medal from the 1500m freestyle on Tuesday. Titmus wins her fourth medal of the week.
“I thought I had a better swim but it's a big week backing up,” Titmus said. “I'm very busy. So to have an 800m Freestyle last is tough. It’s about just putting it all out in the line and trying to have fun. In a few areas of my race tonight I feel like I didn't execute well enough, but that's good. It means I've got things to work on.”
Mixed 4x100m Freestyle - Australia wins fourth relay in Fukuoka with world record
The sprint freestyle depth in Australia was on full display in closing night seven of the swimming program at the 2023 World Aquatics Championships as the team of Jack Cartwright (48.14), Kyle Chalmers (47.25), Shayna Jack (51.73) and Mollie O’Callaghan (51.71) smashed their own world record from 2022 with a 3:18.83. The swim took down the 3:19.38 they set last year in Budapest.
I really just wanted to set up tonight for the rest of the guys and put together a great race, that’s exactly what we did. We all put together great one-hundreds to become the best in the world.
The Americans and Brits were even with the Australians on the first two legs, but the Aussie women were too powerful as the only swimmers amongst the 16 women to split faster than 52 seconds. The Americans won silver with the team of Jack Alexy (47.68), Matt King (47.78), Abbey Weitzeil (52.94), and Kate Douglass (52.42) at 3:20.82 as this is their fourth relay silver medal of the week.
“I was a lot more ready this time,” King said. “I don't know what my split was but I felt like I was flying. I was more mentally prepared this time rather than the first time. It was kind of daunting on the first day, just going in there and jumping in. It definitely felt more comfortable and it was a fun race.”
“It was a great race,” Richards said. “I think we all put together a really good swim there for what’s been a busy meet for all four of us. Great to come away with a bronze in that. That’s the first time we have ever medaled in that as a country. So it's a great performance from the team and gives us plenty of momentum to build into the last day tomorrow.”
Women’s 50m Freestyle
In the span of 25 minutes on Saturday evening in Fukuoka, Japan, Sweden’s Sarah Sjostrom won her fifth gold medal in a row in the 50m butterfly, and swam the fastest time ever in the 50m freestyle at 23.61 to lower her own record from 2017 at 23.67.
“It feels amazing,” Sjostrom said. “It’s not the first time I’ve done this, I did the same in Budapest in 2017 when I did the final of the 50 fly and then the semi-final of the 50 free and broke the world record there. Many times during the season I’m not scared to do back to back races so I feel like I’m pretty good at it now. I actually enjoy doing back to back races and I feel better in the water. I’m not rushing or forcing it too much when I’m tired. So I guess I have to do back to back races tomorrow in the warm-up.”
Sjostrom will again be the odds on favorite to win the one lap event as she is going for her third World title in the last four championships, having won the gold in 2017 and 2022.
Australia’s Shayna Jack will be the second seed after a 24.01 in the semis to swim her best time. She is ahead of China’s Zhang Yufei (24.20), who also did the 50m butterfly/freestyle double with Sjostrom.
Women’s 50m Breaststroke
Lithuania’s Ruta Meilutyte swam the second world record of the night, tying Lilly King’s 29.30 from the 2017 World Championships in the semi-finals of the 50m breaststroke. Meilutyte gets at least a share of the world record for the first time since she set it ten years ago as a 16-year-old in 2013. Meilutyte will look to successfully defend her title from last year and double up in the 50m and 100m events.
King is seeded second at 29.72 after getting fourth in the 100m and 200m breaststroke. Last year’s bronze medalist Lara van Niekerk of South Africa, who was the last qualifier into the semi-finals, is seeded third at 29.91 ahead of two-time defending silver medalist Benedetta Pilato (30.09) of Italy.
Fukuoka’s very own Satomi Suzuki also qualified for the final as the eighth seed with a 30.33 in the semis.
Men’s 50m Backstroke
USA’s Justin Ress posted the top time in the semi-finals with a 24.35 to lead the qualifiers as he goes for his second straight gold in the 50m backstroke tomorrow night. Ress will be joined by last year’s silver medalist Hunter Armstrong (24.41) of the United States as he is tied with China’s Xu Jiayu (24.41).
Last year’s bronze medalist and World Junior champion from 2022, Ksawery Masiuk of Poland, will also be in the final as the fourth seed at 24.47.
100m silver medalist Thomas Ceccon (24.57) also advanced to tomorrow’s final along with Greece’s Apostolos Christou (24.57), Germany’s Ole Braunschweig (24.73) and New Zealand’s Andrew Jeffcoat (24.81).