By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Monday, July 24, 2017
BUDAPEST – Two swimmers who finished out of the running for individual medals last year in Rio found themselves on the medal stand Monday at the 17th FINA World Championships.
Kevin Cordes and Kelsi Worrell both won medals in their respective events on day 2 of the competition – Cordes with a silver in the men’s 100m breaststroke and Worrell with a bronze in the women’s 100m butterfly.
A veteran of three long course World Championships, Cordes has had his ups and downs on the world stage. At his first World Championships in 2013, he finished seventh in the 100m breast, ninth in the 200m breast; 21st in the 50m breast and was a part of the U.S. 400m medley relay team that was disqualified in finals.
He bounced back at the 2015 Worlds, winning gold in the 400m medley relay, silver in the 200m breast and bronze in the 50m breast. Then in Rio, he finished fourth in the 100m breast and eighth in the 200m breast before winning gold swimming in the prelims of the 400m medley relay.
This year, Cordes has been back on track, winning the 100m breast and setting the American record last month at the Phillips 66 National Championships. Yesterday, he broke that record in the semifinals of the 100m breast in 58.64, setting him up for his swim tonight.
Cordes touched the wall in 58.79, behind defending World and Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Great Britain, who took gold in 57.47. Peaty also holds the world record, which he set last year at 57.13 in Rio. Kirill Prigoda of Russia was third in 59.05.
American Cody Miller, who won bronze in this event last year in Rio, was fourth in 59.10.
It marked the first time since 2007 that an American has medaled in the 100m breast at a World Championships.
“I felt a lot of confidence, definitely, especially coming off an Olympic year,” Cordes said. “The thing with Team USA and training camp is it gets you right back in it, right back re-motivated. I had nothing to lose, so I sort of just went for it.”
Worrell, who is competing in her first long course World Championships, cut her teeth on the international stage at the 2015 Pan American Games, where she won gold in both the 100m butterfly and the 400m medley relay. Last year in Rio, however, she failed to make the final in the 100 fly, placing ninth in semis, but later won gold swimming in the prelims of the 400m medley relay.
The first two days here in Budapest have already been a much different story. Last night, she won gold and helped set an American record in the 400m free relay. Then tonight she took bronze in the 100m butterfly in 56.37. She is the second-fastest American of all time in that event, behind Dana Vollmer’s gold medal-winning, world record-setting performance at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
It was the first time an American won a medal in the women’s 100m fly at Worlds since Vollmer won bronze in 2013.
“It’s just incredible,” Worrell said. “I’ve just been praying so much after last summer. That was really stressful, that semifinal (in Rio). I knew I had what it takes after being ninth last year. It’s really hard, but God’s grace is so good, and I’m just really thankful. That was an incredible field of girls, and I’m just really grateful I got my hand on the wall third.”
Madison Cox might not be as experienced as Cordes and Worrell in big meets, but she does have some credentials in international competition. She won silver in the 200m IM at the 2015 World University Games, then won bronze in the 200m and 400m IM at last year’s Short Course World Championships.
On Monday, she added to her resume with a bronze in the women’s 200m IM in 2:09.71. She was followed closely by teammate Melanie Margalis, who finished fourth in 2:09.82.
It’s been a while – six years to be exact – since an American won a medal in the women’s 200m IM at Worlds.
Afterward, Cox said she learned a lot about competing under the spotlight.
“I know the race isn’t always going to go as planned,” Cox said. “I added, I think, a half second from my prelims’ first 50 fly to my semis’ first 50 fly, and even though my time was better, I learned that wasn’t how I wanted to swim my race. I learned despite who you’re next to, despite what’s going on in the race, I always know that if I stick to my game plan everything will always work out.
“It’s another step forward. It’s a good launch in the right direction. It means I’ve got to go home and work even harder this time to move myself even higher. It’s a good stepping stone. It shows I’m right where I want to be, and I’ve got to keep moving forward from that.”
In other finals, Caeleb Dressel finished fourth in the men’s 50m butterfly in 22.89. He set the American record in last night’s semifinals in 22.76. Teammate Tim Phillips was eighth in 23.38.
The top eight swimmers in tonight’s semifinals advanced to tomorrow night’s finals of each event. Competing in the semifinals for the U.S. Monday were Ryan Murphy in the men’s 100m back (2nd, 52.95); Matt Grevers in the men’s 100m back (3rd, 52.97); Lilly King in the women’s 100m breast (2nd, 1:04.53); Katie Meili in the women’s 100m breast (4th, 1:05.48); Kathleen Baker in the women’s 100m back (3rd, 59.03); Olivia Smoliga in the women’s 100m back (4th, 59.07); Townley Haas in the men’s 200m IM (4th, 1:45.43); and Blake Pieroni in the men’s 200m free (1:47.08).
For more expert analysis and insight from the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, catch Deck Pass Live, right here on usaswimming.org. The show begins approximately one hour after finals. Also, follow our coverage from Hungary on Facebook and Twitter. #DeckPassLive.