Women’s 200m Butterfly - Laura Stephens is a World Champ in Fourth Appearance

British Swimming celebrated its first gold medalist of the World Aquatics Championships - Doha 2024 with 24-year-old Laura Stephens taking out the 200m butterfly at 2:07.35, elevating her seventh place finish from Fukuoka 2023 and eighth place in Gwangju 2019.

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Stephens, coached by Dave Hemmings at Loughborough, grabbed the lead early, holding a slight lead on Denmark’s Helena Bach at the 100m mark, as they were separated by 0.03, turning at 1:01.0 each. Stephens pushed her lead to 0.28 at the 150m, splitting 32.66 to Bach’s 32.91. On the last 50m, Bach fought back but Stephens held her own, splitting 33.65 to Bach’s 33.46, as Stephens got the touch.

“Being a world champion still hasn’t sunk in and I feel like it’s a weird dream,” Stephens said. “It’s been a long time coming in a race like this where I have been in similar positions and I have never been able to put it together. Today it all worked really well. I felt confident going in and now look at the result.”

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Bach, age 23, won the silver at 2:07.44 for her first Worlds medal after she was fifth in Fukuoka 2023 and seventh in Budapest 2022.

“It's my first international podium and it's an overwhelming feeling,” Bach said. “It was definitely a difficult swim and I had a lot of mixed feelings about it before the race. I’m happy that I won but I believe I could’ve done it faster.

“As I got into the pool in my mind I just followed the plan that my coaches had set for me. The butterfly is a difficult style when it comes to swimming but I enjoy it and I have been practicing it a lot to get faster and faster. I still have a lot of things to work on in order to get better and this medal motivates me to work with more enthusiasm towards my goals and ambitions. I am still just learning this and trying to have fun.”

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Last year’s World Juniors champion Lana Pudar (2:07.92) of Bosnia & Herzegovina won the bronze medal from lane eight, running down the likes of American Rachel Klinker (2:08.19)for the final spot on the podium. Pudar had been in the top four throughout, and rallied home in 33.44, tied for the fastest last 50m of the field, to win her first medal at the World Aquatics Championships in her third appearance at age 18 after she was fourth in Fukuoka last year.

Pudar was the swimmer of the championships last year at the World Juniors, and has been building a big profile back home in Bosnia & Herzegovina as she had a large local cheering contingent in the Aspire Dome chanting her name throughout the 200m butterfly final.

“I’m so happy to do this, I love doing this, I really love competing. The fans who came to support me really mean the world to me, and to win this medal, at this moment as this is the Olympic year, is very important. This is the best feeling ever. This gives a special meaning to all I’m doing. It's a really special moment."
By Lana Pudar

“I didn't know what to expect. I saw all those people and really didn’t want to disappoint them. Also this is my first world long course medal, first medal for my country, so it really means the world to me. There’s a lot of little kids who look up to me and I really want to keep doing good things and to be a good role model to all the young kids in my country. We need to make this country more known and better. We have a lot of talent.”

Klinker finished fourth in her first World Championships after being in the top three at the 150m. Ma Yonghui, the youngest of the field at age 17 from the People’s Republic of China, finished fifth at 2:08.77, ahead of Hungary’s Boglarka Kapas (2:08.81), who was the only swimmer in the finalist to have won a medal at the World Championships before this.

Hungary’s Dalma Sebestyen (2:09.80), and Republic of Korea’s Park Su-jin (2:10.09) also competed in the championship final.

Men’s 100m Freestyle - Pan Zhanle Etches World Champion onto His Profile

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Four days after setting the world record in the 100m freestyle, Pan Zhanle of the People’s Republic of China followed up the hype by winning the individual event on Thursday evening in Doha. After blasting 46.80 on Sunday night leading off the relay, all eyes were on Pan in his pursuit of the World title, but it did not come easy to the 19-year-old, who won the gold at 47.53.

Pan had been fourth at the last two World Championships in this event, and was sixth at the short course championships in 2022, so although he had his name attached to the world record, he hadn’t stood on the podium yet at a major international meet.

“I feel proud of winning this gold medal because this is my first individual medal. Even though the final time isn’t that great, I see it as a breakthrough. This is motivation and I will keep working hard. I believe I will break the world record again, but I don’t know when exactly. Maybe I will be able to achieve it during the Paris Olympics."
By Pan Zhanle

“I was super excited about breaking the world record for the relay and didn’t rest well and that is the reason why I felt stressed for this race. Unfortunately I failed to make another world record today. I still have a lot to work on compared to world-top athletes. I have only been competing at the World Championships for less than three years.”

Pan, coached by Zheng Kunliang led the field through the turn at 22.55, three tenths off his world record pace, with the likes of Hungary’s Nandor Nemeth (22.66), Great Britain’s Matthew Richards (22.82) and Italy’s Alessandro Miressi (22.82) lurking.

Out of the turn, it appeared Nemeth had taken the lead over Pan, with Richards and Korea’s Hwang Sun-woo closing hard with their patented 200 closing speed. But Pan found something on the final 25, pulling away to secure the gold medal and China’s first in the men’s 100m freestyle since 2015.

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The silver went the way of Miressi, who at age 25 won his first individual medal at the World Aquatics Championships after four medals in relays, touching at 47.72.

“It’s my first World Championships medal in an individual race so it makes me very happy,” Miressi said. “I tried to not go too fast in the first 50m and to push in the second part. The big prize is Paris, now I have some months to work hard and think about the Olympic Games.”

Nemeth also won his first individual medal in his fourth straight Worlds final after never being higher than sixth like he was in Budapest 2022 and Gwangju 2019. Nemeth won the bronze at 47.78.

“I was waiting for so long for this medal and I am over the moon to win it today,” Nemeth said. “This is the best motivation I could get. I am looking forward to the hard work towards summer. I want to be in Paris ready for the medal battle.

“The first 50m was pretty strong, maybe too fast for me. I wanted to start with 22.9/22.8 or something like that, but in the last 50m, I felt it was a strong start – it was very painful.”

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The last two 200m World champions were in the field, but were unable to get to the podium as Great Britain’s Richards (47.82) and Korea’s Hwang (47.93) finished fourth and fifth.

Serbia’s Andrej Barna (48.02), United States’s Matt King(48.06), and China’s Wang Haoyu (48.06) also competed in their first championship final individually.

Women’s 50m Backstroke - Claire Curzan Takes Backstroke Sprint in Podium Mirror

In a repeat finish of the 100m backstroke from Tuesday night, Claire Curzan of the United States won her second gold medal of the championships here in Doha, taking out the 50m backstroke final at 27.43 by just 0.02 over Australia’s Iona Anderson (27.45).

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With Canada’s Ingrid Wilm (27.61) winning the bronze medal, it was an exact mirror image of the 100m backstroke podium, with Curzan and Anderson winning the gold and silver.

Curzan, coached by Todd DeSorbo and Blaire Bachman, swam a new best time, winning her fourth medal in as many events at these championships, as she will be racing the 50m butterfly and 200m backstroke later on in the week, aiming for the backstroke hat trick.

“I think the 50m Backstroke is super fun,” Curzan said. “It’s very low pressure and it’s not an Olympic event so you can just really go out there and enjoy it. I’d say that bodes pretty well for my 100m Backstroke because I now know I can actually get out fast instead of relying on the final 50m.

“I think the mindset to win comes more from the ready room, knowing that you have it in your body somewhere and can go out there and execute. We do a lot of training and I rely on my muscle memory when the big moment comes - just knowing I can do it and execute.”

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Anderson, coached by Ben Higson, follows up her World Juniors title from last year to also lower her best time as the Western Australian is in her first World Aquatics Championships.

Wilm, coached by Dave Johnson in Alberta, won her second career individual medal at 27.61.

Great Britain’s Lauren Cox, who was last year’s bronze medalist in Fukuoka, finished fourth at 27.65, ahead of Greece’s Theodora Drakou (27.84), who is in her eighth World Aquatics Championships at age 32.

Adela Piskorska (28.09) of Poland, Kira Toussaint (28.18) of the Netherlands, and Louise Hansson (28.32) of Sweden also swam in the championship final.

Men’s 200m IM - Finlay Knox Pulls the Surprise

It appeared to be a United States sweep in the men’s 200m IM final as training mates Carson Foster and Shaine Casas were leading the final for 150 meters. Last year, both Foster and Casas raced in the final in Fukuoka, placing fifth and fourth, respectively, and were looking to sing the Star Spangled Banner on the podium together in Doha.

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But the freestyle leg proved to be a different race entirely for them, as Canada’s Finlay Knox came flying home in 27.79, moving from third to first to capture his first medal at the World Aquatics Championships at 1:56.64. Knox, age 23, finished 13th in Fukuoka 2023 and 17th in Budapest 2022, as he was in the top three the entire race in Doha. Knox, coached by Scott Talbot in Vancouver, broke his own national record to move up to tied for 21st on the all-time list.

“Having ‘world champion’ under my name is great but obviously there are quite a few big names that weren’t in the field tonight. For me it gave me the opportunity to step up and shine. For me it’s just a step forward. I am very happy to be in the spotlight tonight, but at the back of my mind, I know there are some faster swimmers out there and that keeps me hungry. I just trust in my abilities and my talent knowing that when I step up I am capable of putting up a performance like anyone else.”
By Finlay Knox

Knox had been a rising star in Canada, winning bronze in the 200m IM at the 2018 Youth Olympics, and silver in the 200m IM at the 2019 World Juniors. In his first major final internationally, he delivered to win Canada’s first 200m IM World title since Graham Smith won in 1978.

Foster won the silver at 1:56.97, his fourth career silver medal individually at the World Aquatics Championships after finishing second in Budapest 2022. He returned to the podium after getting fifth last year.

“I think for right now in the season it was a good race and I did perform well,” Foster said. “I think overall I can’t complain about a silver medal. I would’ve liked to be a little quicker but I think getting back on the podium, I can say I’m stepping in the right direction.

“My strength is the front end, I need to work on my back half and I believe it’s going to come as the season goes on. I get better as the season goes on, so I’m going to keep swimming in the same way and keep everything the same.”

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Casas faded to fifth on the freestyle leg at 1:57.73 as the bronze medal was won by Italy’s Alberto Razzetti (1:57.42). This is Razzetti’s second long course Worlds medal in his career as he won silver in the 200m butterfly last evening. Razzetti came from seventh at the 100m turn to fifth at the 150m, to bronze at the finish. It’s not a best time for Razzetti, but it improves on his ninth place finish in Fukuoka 2023 and tenth place in Budapest 2022. Razzetti is coached by Stefano Franceschi in Livorno.

“I was trying to get a medal at these championships,” Razzetti said. “Now I have two of them so of course it’s amazing. I wasn’t really sure about the medal today. I knew it was going to be a tough race, very close, so I’m just happy that I made it and I got another medal.”

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2019 World champ Daiya Seto of Japan finished fourth at 1:57.54, ahead of Casas, and last year’s silver medalist Duncan Scott (1:57.75) of Great Britain.

New Zealand’s Lewis Clareburt (1:58.66) and China’s Zhang Zhanshuo (1:59.17) also swam in the championship final.

Women’s 4x200m Freestyle - March of the Heroes: China Dominates 4x200m on Backs of Li’s 1:54 Split

The People’s Republic of China won its third World title in the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay and its first since 2009 as the team of Ai Yanhan (1:57.65), Gong Zhenqi (1:58.84), Li Bingjie (1:54.59), and Yang Peiqi (1:56.18) dominated to win gold in Doha at 7:47.26.

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“I thought about getting a good result but didn’t expect to be this good,” Li said. “We made lots of assumptions before the race, and finally came to an agreement that this was the best leg distribution for the team. Individual and relay races are different. This time, the relay shows how united and strong our team can be. That’s why I believe this gold medal is more special than the individual medal. And this medal is a sign that we will do better for the Paris Olympics.

“I’m always a go-getter, meaning if I’m lagging behind, I have to give 100% of my effort and chase,” Li continued. “We felt lots of pressure during the race, especially the Australian team who had the world record. Right before the race, I kept telling the girls not to be stressed and just try our best. Gong Zhenqi is only 14 years old, and I believe this is a huge milestone in her life. The first time the Chinese team won the women's 4x200m freestyle in the World Championships was 30 years ago; the second time, it was 15 years ago; and 15 years later, here we are. The time made it special for us.”

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The Chinese team won by nearly three full seconds over Great Britain (7:50.90) and Australia (7:51.41) as they were fifth at the halfway point, before Li swam the fastest split of any of the 32 swimmers in the final.

“Our goal for the first two legs was to make sure that we were not too far from other teams,” Ai said. “I still can’t believe we made it. This is officially the first time all four of us are in the same team to compete for the final. I have been competing for almost 9 years, and this is my first time winning. I had always been a participant, never really a winner.”

Great Britain won the silver for its first medal in this relay at the World Aquatics Championships as the team of Freya Colbert(1:57.14), Abbie Wood (1:56.65), Lucy Hope (1:58.71), and Medi Harris (1:58.40) won the second medal for Great Britain on the night and the fourth overall through five days of swimming in Doha.

Australia won the bronze with the team of Brianna Throssell(1:56.87), Shayna Jack (1:57.61), Abbey Harkin (1:58.92), and Kiah Melverton (1:58.01) for the nation’s fifth straight medal in this event at the Worlds. Australia now has ten total medals at these championships.

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Brazil (7:52.71) and New Zealand (7:53.02) put up a valiant fight for a medal, but finished fourth and fifth, respectively, while Canada (7:55.71), Netherlands (7:55.84), and Hungary (7:56.58) also swam in the championship final.

The quickest splits outside the medalists came from Marrit Steenbergen (1:54.89) of the Netherlands, Erika Fairweather(1:56.37) of New Zealand, Nikolett Padar (1:57.06) of Hungary, and Maria de Oliveira (1:57.30) of Brazil.

Semis Wrap

Women’s 100m Freestyle

Marrit Steenbergen of the Netherlands sprinted to an impressive 52.53 to move up to tenth all-time and lead the semifinalists as last year’s bronze medalist is looking to be the first 100m freestyle World champ for the Netherlands since Inge de Bruijn in 2001. The Netherlands has had a rich history in the women’s 100m freestyle, winning nine total medals at the World Aquatics Championships, but has not won higher than bronze since 2007.

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200m champ Siobhan Haughey of Hong Kong, China is seeded second at 52.92 as last year’s silver medalist will be looking to step up one more on tomorrow’s podium.

Great Britain’s Anna Hopkin (53.12) is looking for her first individual medal as the third seed has advanced to her first ever Worlds final in the 100m freestyle. She is seeded ahead of Australia’s Shayna Jack (53.16) and United States’s Kate Douglass (53.31), who have shown to have a lot of speed this week in Doha.

Czechia’s Barbora Seemanova (53.76), Poland’s Kornelia Fiedkiewicz (54.01), and Brazil’s Stephanie Balduccini (54.07) also advanced to tomorrow’s championship final.

Men’s 200m Breaststroke

Jake Foster of the United States showed out in a big way at his first World Aquatics Championships, taking out the 200m breaststroke semi finalists with a 2:08.78 to snag lane four for tomorrow’s final. Foster, age 23, is the older brother of the aforementioned Carson Foster as the two brothers train together with coaches Eddie Reese and Wyatt Collins at the University of Texas in Austin.

Foster will be joined by his Texas training mate in Caspar Corbeau (2:09.34) of the Netherlands, who was fifth in Fukuoka last year.

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World junior record holder Dong Zhihao (2:09.16) of the People’s Republic of China had the fastest last 50m of the semi-finalists, coming home in 32.00 as the only swimmer amongst the 16 to break 33 on the last lap. Dong, who was fourth in Fukuoka last year, is seeded second for tomorrow.

Olympic bronze medalist Matti Mattsson (2:09.43) of Finland is seeded fourth in his seventh World Championships, winning the bronze way back in Barcelona 2013. Nic Fink, who also competed back in Barcelona 2013, is seeded sixth at 2:09.87.

Japan’s Ikuru Hiroshima (2:09.43), Sweden’s Erik Persson(2:10.04), and Olympic silver medalist Arno Kamminga(2:10.30) of the Netherlands, also advanced to the championship final for tomorrow.

Women’s 200m Breaststroke

Tes Schouten of the Netherlands put together a strong swim at 2:21.50, lowering her own national record to sit 17th on the all-time list. Schouten won the bronze medal last year as she is looking to be the first Dutch World champion in the 200m breaststroke.

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Schouten’s biggest challenger will be Kate Douglass of the United States, who was 2:19 earlier this year in January and won the silver last year in Fukuoka. Douglass will also be doing the 100m freestyle final as well, but she has handled the double well through the first two rounds, turning in the 2:23.17 for the second fastest time through to tomorrow.

Canada’s Sydney Pickrem, who was the bronze medalist in 2019, is seeded third at 2:23.77 ahead of Alina Zmushka(2:24.14) and Switzerland’s Lisa Mamie (2:24.62).

Last year’s sixth place finisher Kotryna Teterevkova (2:24.69) of Lithuania, Mona McSharry (2:25.13) of Ireland, and Kristyna Horska (2:25.34) of Czechia, also advanced to the championship final.

Men’s 200m Backstroke

The men’s 200m backstroke gold medal for tomorrow is up for grabs as the semis were led by Jack Aikins of the United States, turning in the quickest time at 1:56.32 as last year’s Pan American Games gold medalist is making the most of his first World Aquatics Championships at age 21.

Spain’s Hugo Gonzalez (1:56.38), who won silver in the 100m earlier, is seeded second as he was seventh in last year’s final.

Last year’s bronze medalist, Switzerland’s Roman Mityukov, is seeded fifth at 1:56.72 and is looking to win Switzerland’s first ever gold medal at the World Aquatics Championships, as four nations have celebrated first time golds this week in Doha.

Korea’s Lee Ju-ho (1:56.40) advanced to his first career championship final as the third seed as he was 13th in Fukuoka 2023, 12th in Budapest 2022, and 11th in Gwangju 2019. Lee, age 29, could win Korea’s third swimming medal of these championships.

Hungary’s Adam Telegdy (1:56.65), Greece’s Apostolos Siskos(1:56.82), Netherlands’s Kai Van Westering (1:56.91), and South Africa’s Pieter Coetze (1:57.07) also advanced to the championship final, locking out Olympic bronze medalist Luke Greenbank (1:57.29) of Great Britain.

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