Qin and McKeown won their ninth finals on the final night of the 2023 World Aquatics Swimming World Cup in Budapest while Zhang Yufei gave the 100m butterfly World Record a scare.
After two straight nights of World Records in Hungary for Australia’s Kaylee McKeown in the 50m and 100m backstroke, she set the World Cup Record on Sunday in the 200m backstroke at 2:04.81, securing her third triple crown of the Swimming World Cup.
McKeown’s time was quicker than she was the previous two weeks but off her own World Record of 2:03.14 set earlier this year. She was able to break her own World Cup Record, however, that she set last week in Athens at 2:06.02.
“I really wasn’t expecting this result,” McKeown said. “It's lovely and it's a great experience to take away from these world cups. It gives me extra motivation and some money from those last PBs. My coach said to be sure not to get in my own way and just pick yourself up in that third 50. It’s really nice to bring these results back home to Australia. We can't always be thinking about the Olympics because it can be overwhelming, so I often wake up thinking about training.”
McKeown, coached by Michael Bohl, secured the overall World Cup crown with 177.4 points by virtue of her wins and her two world records as she finished ahead of Hong Kong, China’s Siobhan Haughey (166.4) and China’s Zhang Yufei (166.2). This concludes an impressive 2023 for McKeown, who set three world records and won all three backstroke gold medals at the World Championships as she shifts her attention to next summer’s Olympics in Paris where she is the defending champion in both the 100m and 200m backstroke.
“My confidence level is probably where it was after this summer's World Championships,” McKeown said. “I still have a lot to do mentally and physically. If you are not learning you are not growing so I have to look for those 1% percenters that make a difference in my swimming.”
Zhang had probably the most impressive swim of the entire day in the Hungarian capital with a win in the 100m butterfly at 56.13, which was just 0.01 off her gold medal-winning swim from the World Championships in July. She went out under world record pace, but couldn’t match the back end as she still has the four fastest times in the world this year.
“I really liked racing the World Cup events, and was happy to win,” Zhang said. “The 200 is so much worse, but I am happy to win the 100 in Budapest. I hope to come back and race here again in the World Cup.”
Haughey had a solid swim in the 100m freestyle with a 52.24, just off her 52.0 Cup record set two weeks ago in Berlin as she swam the fifth fastest time in the world this year as she holds three of the five fastest times in this event.
“This past month has been an amazing time in just a month of racing,” Haughey said. “It's been really tiring, but it's the last stop in Budapest and I was able to swim some best times. I think I am in a better position than I thought I would be. It definitely gives me confidence and it sets me up really nicely for next year in some of my big races.”
“I am taking a week off and enjoy my time out of the pool and by the time I come back I will be recharged."
Haughey won her third straight 100m freestyle to secure second place overall, taking down the world record holder Sarah Sjostrom in the same pool she set the global mark in six years ago, as the Swede finished second tonight at 53.25.
“Overall second place,” Haughey said. “I knew it would be really close, and I wasn't thinking too much about it, but my coaches were telling me, ‘if you do this…’ and I said ‘That’s too much, please just let me focus on my racing.’ I am happy that I am done racing.”
China’s Qin Haiyang sealed the men’s overall crown with 175.4 points by virtue of his 200m breaststroke triple crown win on Sunday at 2:07.32, the sixth fastest time in the world this year and the third fastest for himself. Qin won ahead of the Dutch duo of Caspar Corbeau (2:08.63) and Arno Kamminga (2:08.87) as Kamminga moved up to #13 in the world rankings with that season best. Qin broke the World Cup Record he set at 2:07.45 two weeks ago in Berlin.
“I am really tired,” Qin said. “Yesterday I had some regrets that I did not set a World Cup Record, so today I was motivated for a winning time that was also a World Cup Record. This gives me greater confidence. I am pleased with the time.”
Qin, coached by Cui Dengrong remained perfect in breaststroke finals on this World Cup as he has not lost a breaststroke race since the World Short Course Championships in December 2022, cashing in a big payday at the end of nine total days of racing across three weeks. Qin seems to have been going non-stop since winning four gold medals at the World Championships in July, raking up more medals at the Summer Universiade in August and the Asian Games in September.
“I am going to tell my family that I appreciate them supporting me,” Qin said. “I am focused on swimming at the world championships and in the Olympic Games.”
Italy’s Thomas Ceccon finished second in the overall World Cup standings with 167.9 points as he won his bread-and-butter event on Sunday with a 52.58 in the 100m backstroke. Ceccon returned to the site where he won his first World title and set his first world record as he captured the 100m backstroke triple crown with a win over Greece’s Apostolos Christou (53.77) and World Juniors silver medallist Miroslav Knedla (53.78) of Czechia.
“It was always good to be racing with friends as part of the World Cup," Ceccon said. “I am really happy with another crown, but this was a good experience also. I’m happy after three weeks of racing to swim a bit faster.
“I’m also happy the series is over, here for 3 weeks and at altitude in Sierra Nevada for 3 weeks before the World Cup, so that’s a long time to be away. I need some rest and stay at home and train also. Of course, I am happy with the good results. It really gives me some confidence. But when I am chasing for a crown I don’t always get to swim the other events that are fun for me.”
South Africa’s Matthew Sates finished third overall with 166.8 points ahead of USA’s Michael Andrew (162.9) as Sates had a hard-fought win in the 400m IM at 4:15.68, off his season best of 4:13 from last week in Athens.
“That was a tough race,” Sates said. “I am broken, I am really broken. I am so happy to be finished with World Cup racing this season.
“Mentally it was really tough, of course physically this is a challenge, but mentally this is also really hard. I know that I am known for breaststroke dominance in the IM’s but he caught me because honestly, I couldn't feel my legs in the breaststroke. Thankfully I had a strong finish.
“Thanks to World Aquatics for putting on such a great event. Thanks to those in the audience supporting us.”
“It's good to be winning again,” Andrew said. “It's great to be swimming fast again. It was great to get a win in the last race.
“My 50 fly has been a little off. I think the time is still slower than I wanted, maybe I miscalculated where I am at. It all came together at the finish. The field is so tight, I did my best to put the blinders on and not think about who was swimming next to me. I haven't been out touched in the last two weeks and all I focus on is getting to the wall first.”
Australia’s Lani Pallister was able to close out her World Cup tour with a triple crown and a World Cup record in the 800m freestyle at 8:15.11, lowering her own best time to put her fourth in the world for 2023 and seventh all-time as she took her own personal best from 8:17 at the start of the World Cup down to 8:15.
This is a good sign for Pallister as she has never qualified for an Olympic Games and looks to be in a good spot to take a run at Paris qualification.
Pallister finished ahead of New Zealand’s Erika Fairweather (8:22.30).
Australia had another win on Sunday by virtue of newcomer Maximillian Giuliani in the 200m freestyle as the 20-year-old swam the fastest time by an Australian this year with a 1:45.42. Giuliani did not race for Australia at the World Championships, having finished eighth at their World Trials in the 200m freestyle and he is now tied for ninth in the world rankings with his swim here tonight.
“A year ago my best time wasn't faster than 1:50, so this time, a new PB is really great,” Giuliani said. “I lived in Tasmania my whole life, and I thought I was training properly down there, but I knew that I needed to do something different if I was going to swim faster. I needed to become more committed.
“This is my first proper international meet and my first time in Europe. I love to be racing with these boys, living it, I can’t complain, best time ever. It’s pretty exciting, I could not be happier to win a world cup event. Only about 6 weeks of work before this world cup series.”
Contributing: Gregory Eggert