By Jim Rusnak//Director of Editorial Properties | Friday, July 26, 2019
GWANGJU, South Korea – Things looked up for the United States on day 5 of the 18th FINA World Championships, as the team nearly doubled its medal count in one night. The U.S. won six medals Thursday – two gold, two silver and two bronze – to bring its total tally to 14 for the meet, including five gold, five silver and four bronze.
The U.S. was back in action Friday for prelims of the men’s 100m butterfly, women’s 200m backstroke, men’s 50m freestyle, women’s 50m butterfly, women’s 800m freestyle and men’s 800m free relay. The top eight swimmers from the women’s 800m freestyle will compete in tomorrow night’s finals. The top eight teams from the men’s 800m free relay will swim in tonight’s finals. The top 16 swimmers in the rest of the events will swim in tonight’s semifinals.
The biggest swim for the Americans Friday morning was Regan Smith breaking the world junior record in the women’s 200m backstroke in 2:06.01. Smith is the top seed heading into semifinals of that event tonight.
Other Americans competing in this morning’s prelims were Caeleb Dressel in the men’s 100m butterfly (1st, 50.28); Jack Conger in the men’s 100m butterfly (9th, 51.96); Kathleen Baker in the women’s 200m backstroke (9th, 2:10.08); Caeleb Dressel in the men’s 50m free (1st, 21.49); Michael Andrew in the men’s 50m free (7th, 21.82); Kelsi Dahlia in the women’s 50m butterfly (2nd, 25.70); Andrew Seliskar, Jack Conger, Jack le Vant and Zach Apple in the men’s 800m free relay (3rd, 7:06.86); Leah Smith in the women’s 800m free (1st, 8:17.23); and Katie Ledecky in the women’s 800m free (2nd, 8:17.42).
Swimmers will vie for medals tonight in the finals of the women’s 100m freestyle, the women’s 200m breaststroke, the men’s 200m backstroke, the men’s 200m breaststroke, and the men’s 800m free relay.
Here are some things to watch in tonight’s races:
Women’s 100m Free
Mallory Comerford is the Americans’ top qualifier. Comerford won five gold medals at the 2017 FINA World Championships – all in relays. She also finished fourth in the 100m free at that meet. So far this week, she’s won a silver in the women’s 400m free relay and in the mixed 400m medley relay (prelims).
Simone Manuel will be joining her in tonight’s finals, tied for the seventh seed. Manuel is the defending world and Olympic champion in the 100m free. Her gold in 2017 was the first for the U.S. in this event at Worlds since 1998. Manuel has won three silvers here in Gwangju, in the 400m free relay, mixed 400m medley relay and in the 800m free relay.
Women’s 200m Breaststroke
No American swimmers qualified for tonight’s finals in this event. Micah Sumrall finished 11th in last night’s semifinals, and Lilly King was disqualified for a non-simultaneous touch on a turn in prelims. The top seed is Yuliya Efimova of Russia in 2:21.20.
Men’s 200m Backstroke
Ryan Murphy and Jacob Pebley will represent the U.S. as the second and fourth seeds. Murphy is the Olympic champion in this event and finished second in the 200m back at the 2017 World Championships. At the 2015 World Championships, he was fifth. Pebley finished fifth in this event at the 2016 Olympic Games, and then won bronze at the 2017 World Championships. The U.S. has won eight of the last 10 World Championship titles in the 200 back.
Men’s 200m Breaststroke
Matthew Wilson of Australia broke the world record in last night’s semifinals, qualifying first in 2:06.67. The United States’ own Wilson – Andrew Wilson – qualified third in 2:07.86. Andrew Wilson, a first-timer here at long course worlds, is competing in his second event this week. He finished sixth in the 100m breast on Monday. While the U.S. has medaled in 13 of the last 17 World Championships in the 200m breast, the last time the Americans won a medal was Kevin Cordes with a silver in 2015. The last gold for the U.S. was Brendan Hansen in 2005.
Men’s 800m Free Relay
The men’s 800m free relay qualified third in this morning’s prelims, the team of Andrew Seliskar, Jack Conger, Jack le Vant and Zach Apple turning in a time of 7:06.86. Their splits were as follows: Seliskar, 1:45.71; Conger, 1:47.99; le Vant, 1:47.57; and Apple, 1:45.59. The lineup for tonight’s finals will be released shortly before the start of that session. Look for Blake Pieroni and Townley Haas to be in the mix. At the 2017 World Championships, the U.S. finished with a bronze medal. The last time they won gold in this event at worlds was the 2013.