By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Sunday, July 21, 2019
GWANGJU, South Korea – The 18th FINA World Championships is underway at the Nambu University Aquatic Center.
As the United States team begins this meet, there are a few storylines to watch.
First, Katie Ledecky is on the cusp of surpassing fellow American Natalie Coughlin for the most all-time, career World Championship for women. Coughlin has 20 medals overall. Ledecky has 15 coming into this meet, and is slated to compete in four individual events. She will also swim in one relay for sure, with the possibility of others. Ledecky began her meet today with the prelims of the women’s 400m freestyle.
After winning seven gold medals at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, Caeleb Dressel is poised over the next eight days to become the seventh American male to win double-digit World Championship medals, joining the ranks of Michael Phelps (26), Ryan Lochte (18), Nathan Adrian (13), Aaron Peirsol (12), Matt Grevers (11) and Matt Biondi (11). Dressel will likely take a step toward that milestone tonight in the finals men’s 400m free relay.
Finally – and most importantly – the Americans are just 21 medals away from winning 500 World Championship medals all-time since the advent of the FINA World Championships in 1973. The chances of reaching this milestone look pretty good for the U.S., as it has won at least 20 medals at every World Championships since 1973.
This morning, the meet kicked off with prelims of the women’s 200m IM, men’s 400m freestyle, women’s 100m butterfly, men’s 50m butterfly, women’s 400m freestyle, men’s 100m breaststroke, women’s 400m free relay and men’s 400m free relay.
The top 16 swimmers in each event under 400 meters advance to tonight’s semifinals. The top eight swimmers in the 400-meter events advance to tonight’s finals.
Here’s a look at how the American swimmers fared:
Women’s 200m IM
Top Seed: Katinka Hosszu, Hungary, 2:07.02
Americans: Melanie Margalis, 3rd, 2:09.69; Ella Easton, 8th, 2:11.06.
A three-time World Championships veteran, Melanie Margalis will be looking for her first individual medal in this event. Teammate Ella Eastin will join her in tonight’s semi-finals. Eastin is competing in her first long-course World Championships but is no stranger to the international stage. She won silver in the 200m IM at the 2017 World University Games and at the 2016 Short Course World Championships.
The last time an American won gold in this event at Worlds was Ariana Kukors in 2009. The last time the U.S. medaled was a bronze from Madisyn Cox in 2017. The U.S. has won gold in the women’s 200m IM at four of the last eight World Championships.
Men’s 400m Freestyle
Top Seed: Sun Yang, China, 3:44.10
Americans: Zane Grothe, 6th, 3:45.83; Grant Shoults, 25th, 3:52.96
Zane Grothe, who is swimming in his second career World Championships, will also be going for his first individual World Champs medal in the final of tonight’s men’s 400m freestyle. He placed seventh in this event at Worlds in 2017. Grant Shoults, who is bouncing back from shoulder surgery earlier this year, missed qualifying for finals.
The last time an American won gold in this event at Worlds was Tim Shaw in 1975. Connor Jaeger was the last American to medal, taking bronze in 2013. Jaeger’s bronze was the first medal for the U.S. in the men’s 400m free since 1986.
Women’s 100m Butterfly
Top Seed: Sarah Sjoestroem, Sweden, 56.45
Americans: Kelsi Dahlia, 5th, 57.22; Katie McLaughlin, 8th, 56.67.
Competing at her second World Championships, Dahlia won bronze in the 100m butterfly at Worlds in 2017. She and teammate Katie McLaughlin qualified for tonight’s semifinals. McLaughlin is also swimming in her second World Championships. Back at her first in 2015, she finished sixth in the 200m butterfly.
The last time an American won gold in this event at Worlds was Dana Vollmer in 2011.
Men’s 50m Butterfly
Top Seed: Caeleb Dressel, USA, and Andrii Goverov, Ukraine, 22.84.
Americans: Michael Andrew, 5th, 23.09
Can Caeleb Dressel duplicate his seven-gold-medal performance from the 2017 World Championships? We will find out this week, but he’s off to a good start as the top seed (tied with world record-holder Andrii Goverov of Ukraine) for tonight’s semifinals of the 50m butterfly, his time of 22.84 just .08 off the American record he set in Budapest in 2017. This was the only event in which Dressel did not medal at the last Worlds. He finished fourth. Teammate Michael Andrew, competing at his first long course Worlds, is the fifth seed in tonight’s semis.
The U.S. has never won a gold medal in the men’s 50m fly at Worlds. Eugene Godsoe won silver in 2013.
Women’s 400m Freestyle
Top Seed: Katie Ledecky, USA, 4:01.84.
Americans: Leah Smith, 5th, 4:04.53.
Katie Ledecky has won the 400m freestyle at the last three World Championships. Not only is she the world record-holder in this event at 3:56.46, she holds 16 of the top 20 performances of all time. Only two other women have broken the 4-minute barrier in the 400 – Federica Pelligrini of Italy and Ariarne Titmus of Australia. Titmus qualified less than a second behind Ledecky for tonight’s finals in 4:02.42.
Ledecky’s teammate, Leah Smith, won silver in this event at Worlds in 2017 and is the fifth seed heading into tonight’s finals.
Men’s 100m Breaststroke
Top Seed: Adam Peaty, Great Britain, 57.59.
Americans: Andrew Wilson, 8th, 59.26; Michael Andrew, 19th, 1:00.04
Andrew Wilson is competing in his first World Championships but has some experience on the international stage. He tied for gold in the 100m breaststroke at the 2017 World University Games and finished eighth in the 100 breast at the 2018 Short Course World Championships. He qualified eighth for tonight’s semifinals. Teammate Michael Andrew, who is also competing at his first Worlds and swam the 50m butterfly prelims earlier this morning, missed qualifying for semifinals in 19th place.
Brendan Hansen was the last American to win gold in the 100m breast at Worlds in 2007. Kevin Cordes is the only American to win a medal in this event since then, a silver in 2015.
Women’s 400m Free Relay
Top Seed: Australia, 3:33.39
Americans: Allison Schmitt, Abbey Weitzeil, Margo Geer, Lia Neal, 4th, 3:36.13
The American women qualified fourth for tonight’s finals of the 400m free relay. Their splits were as follows: Schmitt, 55.04; Weitzeil, 53.07; Geer, 53.61; Neal 54.41. Sprinting aces Mallory Comerford and Simone Manuel will likely join the relay tonight. Final lineups will be announced a half hour before finals.
The U.S. won gold in this event in 2017.
Men’s 400m Free Relay
Top Seed: USA (Townley Haas, Blake Pieroni, Michael Chadwick, Zach Apple), 3:11.31.
The American men are the top seed heading into tonight’s finals of the 400m free relay, more than a second ahead of the No. 2 qualifier, Great Britain (3:12.42). Their splits were as follows: Haas, 48.60; Peironi, 47.32; Chadwick, 47.92; Apple, 47.47. Nathan Adrian and Caeleb Dressel will likely join the relay tonight, though the final lineups will not be announced until a half hour before the finals.
The U.S. won gold in this event at the last World Championships in 2017. Its last gold before that was in 2009.