By Jim Rusnak//Director of Media Properties | Thursday, July 25, 2019
GWANGJU, South Korea – Caeleb Dressel has measured up to expectations so far this week at the 18th FINA World Championships.
In the four days leading up to Thursday’s finals of the men’s 100m freestyle, Dressel had already won three medals, taking gold in the men’s 400m free relay and the 50m butterfly, and a silver in the mixed 400m medley relay. His time in the 50 fly was a meet and American record, and the Americans’ 400m free relay set the meet record as well.
Dressel added to those accomplishments again on Thursday, winning gold and setting an American record in the men’s 100m freestyle in 46.96.
With the win, Dressel successfully defended his 2017 World Championship title in that event and became the third-fastest swimmer of all time in the 100m free, behind Cesar Cielo of Brazil and Alain Bernard of France. His swim was just five-hundredths of a second off the world record set by Cielo at the 2009 FINA World Championships in Rome.
“I know I was just off the world record, but really the goal was just to swim the best race that I could,” Dressel said. “There were some things I could have cleaned up tonight, but I am extremely happy with it. It took 100 percent effort, and I had someone right there on my tail for me to race. That helped a lot having Kyle (Chalmers) right there.
“I’m excited. I thought it was something I was capable of and seeing it up on the scoreboard is pretty special.”
Dressel had a half-body-length lead on the field off the start and was first at the turn. He held off the Australian Chalmers down the homestretch for the win. Chalmers took silver in 47.08, followed by Vladislav Grinev of Russia for the bronze in 47.82. Dressel’s teammate, Blake Pieroni, missed out on a medal by just six-hundredths of a second in 47.88.
“It hurt really bad to be honest,” Dressel said. “You don’t always get that magical feeling every time. It was a fun race. I just let instinct and my training take over. The last 15 meters, I just put my head down, sacrificed the body and got my hand on the wall. I had a race plan going into it. I knew no matter how bad it hurt I was going to stick to my race plan.”
Coming into Thursday night’s finals, the U.S. had won eight medals overall – three gold, three silver and two bronze. Dressel and company nearly doubled that output on day 5, winning six medals total – two gold, two silver and two bronze.
Also winning gold for the U.S. was Olivia Smoliga in the women’s 50m backstroke. Smoliga broke her own American record in 27.33. The old mark stood at 27.43, which she set at the 2018 TYR Pro Swim Series meet in Mesa, Ariz. Etiene Medeiros of Brazil was second in 27.44, while Daria Vaskina of Russia was third in 27.51. American Kathleen Baker was sixth in 27.69.
“That’s kind of what I was hoping for,” Smoliga said. “What means more to swimmers, especially, is getting a better time than the last to show you’ve been working that season, just to improve yourself from the year prior. But of course, winning a gold medal is awesome as well.”
The American women’s 800m free relay did not win gold, but the team of Simone Manuel, Katie Ledecky, Melanie Margalis and Katie McLaughlin did swim faster than the former world record while winning silver in 7:41.81. It was an American record. Australia’s Ariarne Titmus, Madison Wilson, Brianna Throssel and Emma McKeon won gold and set the world record in 7:41.50. The old record, set by China at the 2009 World Championships, stood at 7:42.08.
In the race, Manuel maintained contact with Titmus leading off, and Ledecky put the U.S. in the lead in the second leg. Margalis maintained the lead, and McLaughlin was neck-and-neck with McKeon the whole way. Canada won the battle for bronze in 7:44.35.
“I think we always want to win very time we dive in the water,” Manuel said. “That’s what makes us so great. But that’s the best swim a set of four Americans have done, and it took them and us breaking a world record for that result. I think we’re really happy because we all swam our best, and we had fun and got to represent Team USA.”
Ledecky was back in the water after scratching from the prelims of the 200m freestyle and the finals of the 1500m freestyle on Tuesday.
“I don’t know what caused this all, but I was feeling the effects of dehydration, loss of appetite, light headedness – just a bunch of different things,” Ledecky said. “It kind of created the perfect storm to pull me out. It’s one of those things where you have to put your health first, and I just put my trust in our great medical staff, and they did a tremendous job of doing everything they could to help me.
“I didn’t get back into the water until last night, and we kept it really easy. We checked my heart rate nearly every 50, and doctors and the coaches felt that I was good to go if I felt that way. I slept on it and woke up and felt I was ready to race.”
In other races, Hali Flickinger and Katie Drabot finished 2-3 in the women’s 200m butterfly, marking the first time since 1978 that two American women have medaled in this event at Worlds. Flickinger’s time was 2:06.95, followed by Drabot in 2:07.04.
Chase Kalisz won bronze for the U.S. in the men’s 200m IM in 1:56.78. Daiya Seto of Japan won gold in 1:56.14, while Jeremy Desplanches of Switzerland took bronze in 1:56.56.
Semifinals were contested Thursday in the women’s 100m freestyle, men’s 200m breaststroke, women’s 200m breaststroke, and men’s 200m backstroke. Among the highlights in semifinals was Matthew Wilson of Australia setting the world record in the men’s 200m breast in 2:06.67.
The top 8 swimmers in each event will compete in tomorrow night’s finals.
American swimmers competing in tonight’s semis were Mallory Comerford in the women’s 100m free (5th, 53.10); Simone Manuel in the women’s 100m free (tie, 7th, 53.31); Andrew Wilson in the men’s 200m breast (3rd, 2:07.86); Josh Prenot in the men’s 200m breast (13th 2:08.77); Micah Sumrall in the women’s 200m breast (11th, 2:25.41); Ryan Murphy in the men’s 200m back (2nd, 1:56.25); and Jacob Pebley in the men’s 200m back (4th, 1:56.65).