By Emily Sampl//Contributor | Thursday, July 4, 2019
The 2019 World University Games kicked off today in Naples, Italy, with Team USA bringing home three gold medals in both the men’s and women’s 4x100m free relays and the women’s 400m IM, and taking down three World University Games records.
Americans Makayla Sargeant and Evie Pfeifer raced to a 1-2 finish in the women’s 400m IM, with Sargeant posting a 4:37.95 and Pfeifer a 4:40.16. Italy’s Ilaria Cusinato grabbed bronze in 4:40.18.
In the women’s 400m free relay, the U.S. quartet of Veronica Burchill, Claire Rasmus, Catie DeLoof and Gabby DeLoof destroyed the competition, winning by almost four seconds and setting a new World University Games record in the process with a 3:37.99. The U.S. had held the previous record of 3:38.12, set in 2015. Japan placed second in 3:41.74, just ahead of Italy’s 3:41.84.
It was a similar outcome in the men’s 400m free relay as Zach Apple, Dean Farris, Robert Howard and Tate Jackson of the U.S. touched more than four seconds ahead of the field with a 3:11.03. Brazil got to the wall second in 3:15.27, while Italy picked up another medal on the night with a 3:15.91 for third.
In other events, Indiana University’s Ian Finnerty lowered the World University Games record en route to the top qualifying time in the men’s 100m breast at 59.51.
The meet kicked off with finals of the men’s 400m free, with Japan’s Keisuke Yoshida stopping the clock first in 3:49.48. Matteo Ciampi gave the host Italians their first medal of the meet with a silver medal showing in 3:50.04, while Anton Nikitin of Russia grabbed bronze in 3:50.41. American Robert Freeman, who swims at the University of Florida, finished just outside the medals in 3:50.55.
Six semi-finals took up the bulk of the evening and a couple of Americans posted top qualifying swims. In the men’s 100m back, North Carolina State’s Justin Ress threw down a 53.47 to lead the top eight qualifiers into tomorrow’s finals; California’s Bryce Mefford will also compete in the final after posting a 54.34, the fourth-best time of the day.
Ukraine’s Igor Borysik set the previous record of 59.53 in 2009. Finnerty will have his hands full with South African Michael James Houlie, a University of Tennessee product who posted a 59.64 to qualify second.
In the women’s 200m back semi, Asia Seidt from the University of Kentucky clocked a 2:08.81, another World University Games record. Great Britain’s Stephanie Proud set the previous Games record of 2:08.91 back in 2009. Teammate Lisa Bratton from Texas A&M will be right on her heels in finals after posting a 2:09.29 to take second, the only two swims under 2:10.
Towson University’s Jack Saunderson (23.75) and North Carolina State’s Coleman Stewart (23.84) will both represent the U.S. in the men’s 50m fly final, with Australia’s William Yang posting the top qualifying swim of the afternoon at 23.39. No Americans qualified for the final in the women’s 50m fly, which should feature a tight race tomorrow between Koreans Soeun Jeong (26.50) and Yerin Park (26.57) and Japan’s Ai Soma (26.55). The University of Georgia’s Veronica Burchill placed seventh in the second semi-final at 27.20.
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